A Travellerspoint blog

Melbourne

sunny 23 °C

We arrived in Melbourne early on the 2nd May. Despite having to declare some food and muddy boots (which were cleaned for free!) we weren't exciting enough to be filmed by the Border Force camera crew! We took the exorbitantly priced bus to the town centre and then a tram and bus to Steve and Louise's (friends from Edinburgh) where we happily spent a couple of hours on their balcony catching up. We then went into the city centre to organise bank accounts, sim cards etc and to walk around the CBD. The house is a 3 storey townhouse with 3 balconies and we were lucky enough to be able to stay in the en-suite guest room with an amazing power shower! Definitely one of the better places we have stayed at so far.

We both took to Melbourne immediately and the weather in our first few days definitely helped - it was sunny with no humidity which was a welcomed change from sticky Asia. The city is very relaxed and seems to offer everything...parks in the city centre, great public transport, close to mountains, beaches and sea, amazing bars and restaurants. Sport plays a big part in life here with cyclists and Aussie rules footy pitches everywhere.

Originally we planned to stay here for a couple of months, find some work and settle in one place however plans quickly changed...Alice got a bar job trial on day one and thought she had it in the bag but almost as quick as she got the trial she was told she was no longer needed. I applied for some office jobs but failed to get any so we cut our losses and decided to move onto plan B. We'd loosely thought about working in the countryside before arriving here and after the challenges of getting a city based job for such a short time we found a small organic farm about an hour and a half outside the city happy for us to do some work in return for board and food for a couple of weeks. We're quite excited about doing this adventure as we would never do this at home! We'll update you on this and how it goes in a couple of weeks!

Back to Melbourne, having changed our plans we intensified our sightseeing to cram it all into a few days. Despite Melbourne being in late Autumn the weather for our first week was mid 20s so we took advantage of this to do several self-guided walking tours, exploring the CBD, waterfront, botanic gardens and sport precinct. They were really good tours with enough info about the city to keep you entertained. We also hit some of the museums in town which were interesting. Our favourites were the immigration museum and old gaol but the Ian Potter Centre (art museum) was also very good. We happened to time our visit with a free guided tour so a lovely old lady took us through Aboriginal art and more modern Australian art explaining it. It only lasted about an hour which was enough for us but was nice to get a bit more background about a few paintings.

We've loved the contrast of the Queen Victoria market to Asian markets which we had had enough of by the end. Here you can buy fresh fruit, veg, fish, meat etc and we've had fun shopping there for a couple of meals.

Last week we did a road trip outside the City (see next entry) and yesterday, our last day in Melbourne, we cooked Steve and Louise an Asian extravaganza and then went to the MCG to see an Aussie rules game between Collingwood and Geelong. The stadium, which holds 100,000, was amazing and was over two thirds full. The game proved very entertaining with only one goal between the teams and the lead changing numerous times in the last quarter. Definitely a sport I could sit and watch for hours and hours and wouldn't mind giving it a try!

We're both sad to be leaving Melbourne as it seems like an amazing place to live, definitely one of our favourite cities.

Posted by duncan-alice 18:08 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Singapore

sunny 33 °C

So we are yet again very much behind with the blog...apologies to all of our readers! Also, sorry no pics at the mo, we are having problems uploading them again, but will try to add some at a later date. We are now in Melbourne, which is a fantastic city. But more of that later, first of all I had better update about another fantastic city and our last port of call in Asia...Singapore.

We spent a great two days in Singapore. Really liked the city, which had a very relaxed, modern atmosphere compared to other Asian cities. We arrived on the 30th April late morning and a short hop over the Causeway from Johor Bahru in Malaysia. Spent the first day exploring the colonial area of the city. Checked out the Raffles Hotel, walked down the Padang to the riverside and along to Clarke Quay and then relaxed for a while in the park at Fort Canning. Then we headed across town for a short tour round Little India before heading back to the hostel.

Went back out into the city in the evening, and had a lovely night down by the river. The buildings looked impressive lit up at night, and there was a great atmosphere with lots of people out and about. We both felt a little underdressed though, next to all the Singapore ladies out in dresses and high heels on a Tuesday night! The restaurants along the river looked fantastic, unfortunately our budget didn't quite stretch that far so we ended up with a pretty decent meal in a mall food court for a fraction of the price!

Second day in Singapore we started out with a trip to the Changi prison museum. The museum gave a good history of the life of POWs under Japanese rule during WW2, but I didn't find it as emotive as some of the other similar museums we have visited, such as the Death Railway one in Thailand. Back into the city for the afternoon, and a wander round China Town, with lunch at the 'Hawker market'. Then we finished the day with a trip to Orchard Road to see the infamous shopping district...there certainly were a lot of malls! Didn't buy anything, but it was nice to wander round in the AC for a little while.

Then off to the airport for our evening flight to Melbourne, goodbye Asia...hello Aus!

Posted by duncan-alice 18:07 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Malaysia

sunny 32 °C

We are nearing the end of our trip around Asia, currently in Melaka in Southern Malaysia before heading to Singapore in 2 days time for our flight out to Australia. We have had a fantastic couple of weeks travelling through Malaysia. Neither of us knew much about this country before we arrived so had few expectations, but we have both been impressed by the different mix of cultures, interesting places and fantastic food we have found here.

Penang (11th April -13th April)

Our Malaysian adventure started with a couple of days in Penang, a small island on the East coast. We spent our first day in the city of Georgetown, wandering around the old Fort, commercial district and Chinese areas. There is an interesting mix of cultures here, with Chinese and Hindu temples next to mosques and churches. The city in general had a fairly run down appearance, but it also has an authentic, charming atmosphere. We also found some cool street art around the city, thanks to a 'art walking tour' map we found in the tourist information. One highlight of the day was definitely when Duncan finally decided to get a beard trim...in a very old school barbers shop! We also had a fantastic evening meal in the Indian quarter, at a place called Kapitan's. The food was fantastic, and it was a really nice change to have an Indian curry!
Our second day in Penang we headed out of the city to the national park, and had an enjoyable (but very sweaty!) walk to Monkey beach - where there were monkeys. Then stopped at the spice garden on the way back, and were amazed by all the different plants there with medicinal uses. We ended the day back at Kapitan's for another delicious Indian meal.

P1050483.jpgP1050503.jpg90_P1050551.jpg

Cameron Highlands (14th April -16th April)

Next stop the Cameron Highlands, for some refreshingly cool weather. I even got my jeans and jumper out for the evening, it was bliss! The first day we followed one of the local trails from Tanah Rata (the town we stayed in) up a nearby hill. Unfortunately the view from the top was pretty poor as the cloud level was quite low, but there were lots of pretty orchids and plants to see on the way up. Next day we joined an organised tour to see more of the highlands. The tour started with a drive to the highest point in the highlands. Thankfully no cloud this morning, so we had fantastic views across the hills. Then a visit to the Boh tea plantation, one of the largest in Malaysia, and a strawberry farm. The amount of agriculture in the highlands was impressive, almost every scrap of land was covered in greenhouses growing veg, strawberries and flowers.

P1050642.jpgP1050657.jpg

Perhentian Islands (17th April -19th April)

After a long trip across the country and by minivan and ferry we arrived at Perhentian Besar. We were the only travellers going to Besar (as opposed to the smaller island Cecil), and arrived at a quiet white sandy beach with only a handful of other people there already, a true tropical paradise! We spent our 3 days in the Perhentians doing our advanced dive course, and are now certified to 30m deep. The water was really clear, and we had some good dives. The best ones were the 'wreck dive', around 3 sunken police boats, which were full of schools of barracuda, and had sting rays swimming beneath the bows, and our final dive, which we did not have to practice any skills on, so we just got to see the fish and corals, including a school of pipe-fish and a reef shark, very cool!

Taman Negara (20th April -22nd April)

Next stop, the jungle! Having picked up a map at the national park head quarters, we decided to go for a self-organised 2 day jungle trek, walking 12km to stay in a hide overnight. We have been doing a lot of walking while we are away and thought 12km would not be a problem for us...we completely underestimated the trek! We set out with 7 litres of water, several packets of curry and rice and samosas from the stalls in town, and a torch and roll-mat we had hired in town. The path started out as a board walk, but after about 1.5km the board walk ended at a sign saying 'do not pass this point without a guide', which we ignored, continuing on the path into the jungle proper. After the first hour we were soaked through with sweat and already feeling tired. We stopped for lunch after 3 hours, absolutely exhausted from the continuous up and down, climbing over and under trees, and constantly watching our feet as we stepped round tree roots and mud! Even at this point we were thinking we should have brought more food and water with us. After 6 hours we finally reached the hide, just as the rain started - a wooden hut on stilts, with 12 wooden benches for beds, no water and no electricity, not exactly the comfort we were looking for after a long day walking. We were sharing with a French family and their 2 guides, who looked a lot fresher than we did. It was also a little unnerving that the guides said they had heard a tiger twice just as we arrived at the hide!
After a change of clothes and some food we felt a lot more human, and settled down to a quiet evening, playing cards and staring out of the hide window looking for wildlife, in the rain. Didn't see much, a couple of glow-worms, and a civet cat, which was quite cool.
Up early in the morning for round 2 of trekking. Took a different route back, which thankfully turned out to be much easier, with far fewer ups and downs, although still a fairly tiring, very sweaty trek. Unfortunately though the rain had brought out the leeches, and our ankles were soon covered in them, by the time we got back to the park entrance I had 12 bites and Dunc had 9, eurgh! We both felt a sense of achievement from out jungle trek, but definitely not something we plan to repeat anytime soon. Bumped into the French family back in town, who told us their guides had found tiger footprints only 8m from the hide in the morning...shame we didn't see the tiger from the hide, but I'm glad we didn't bump into it walking back!

P1050696.jpg90_P1050699.jpg

Kuala Lumpur (23rd April - 26th April)

Back to civilisation in the fantastic city of KL. Spent a nice couple of days here, again doing a lot of walking around the city. Chinatown was particularly interesting, and we even got a free lunch from one of the Chinese temples. Also had a look around the National mosque, dressed in attractive purple robes, and had an interesting chat with a Muslim lady at the mosque about Islam in Malaysia. Lots of cool architecture in KL, with a mix of colonial buildings in the old centre, Chinese shop houses and modern buildings. The Petronas towers were impressive, although unfortunately our budget didn't stretch to a trip up to the sky-bridge.
We also did a couple of trips out of KL, first to the Batu caves, a selection of Hindu temples inside caves about 30min from downtown KL. Although this is meant to be a major tourist attraction, we found them a little disappointing, and they only kept us entertained for about 30min. Our other trip was an overnight stay in Kuala Selangor, North of KL, to see fire-flies. This area is one of only 2 in the world with such a large population of fire-flies, and they made an impressive sight. We took a boat trip along the river at night, and all the bushes along the banks were lit up and flashing like they were covered in Christmas tree lights, I thought it was amazing! In the morning we went for a walk in the nature park at Kuala Selangor, spotting macaques, sliver-leaf monkeys, a hawk, stork and monitor lizard before our bus at 10am...not a bad start to the day! I think I enjoyed it more than Duncan though, who was not very comfortable with our close proximity to the wildlife!

P1050720.jpg90_P1050733.jpg90_P1050768.jpg

Melaka (27th April - 29th April)

Which brings us to our final stop in Malaysia, Melaka. So far this city seems pretty cool, with a wide mix of Chinese, Indian, Muslim, Portuguese, Dutch and British history and culture. Spent this morning in the old colonial district and went to some interesting maritime and history museums, and the afternoon in the Chinese quarter over the river. Tried the infamous chicken and rice balls from Chop Chung Wah for lunch today. The food didn't look much, but tasted good, and seems to be the Melaka version of Nando's! Also was brave enough to have a taste of durian, the famous Malaysian fruit which smells awful and the taste is questionable (see photos below) but apparently gets better with repeated tasting!

270_DSC01942.jpg270_DSC01943.jpg270_DSC01944.jpg

Only 3 days left in Asia now, so we are starting to plan our time in Aus. In the internet cafe writing this before updating my CV and starting to look for jobs, eek, back to reality!!!

Posted by duncan-alice 02:09 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Thailand

sunny 38 °C

Finally back in a hostel with a computer so this is going to be an huge blog filling you in on the 3 weeks we spent in Thailand. Alice did northern and southern Thailand.

Northern Thailand (17th March - 24th March)

The trip to Chiang Mai from Luang Prabang was very long and very surreal. Starting off with a 14 hours bus ride to the border overnight. Almost every single Lao person on the bus was being sick on the windy roads and we had to stop every hour for them to recover and throw their bags of sick off the bus. For some reason the driver thought that playing a video of Korean techno music all night would keep them occupied and stop them being sick so much...it didn't but meant a sleepless night for the rest of us! When we finally got to the border it was a quick 5min boat ride across the river to Thailand to meet another bus. Eventually arriving in Chaing Mai after 22 hours, our longest journey yet.

We spent four days in Chiang Mai with my friends from Cardiff (Holly, Rachel and Sonia). Was really nice to see them, and gave both me and Dunc a little break from just speaking to each other for a few days :) Spent the first day wandering around the old town of Chiang Mai, not a huge amount to see, but a lot of Wats, then had a very painful Thai massage and did a cooking class. We can now make proper Thai curry, Pad Thai and papaya salad, so can look forward to trying that again when we get back. We did a big day trip with the girls, including elephant riding, trekking to a waterfall, orchid farm, white water rafting and bamboo rafting. Really fun (and busy) day out. The elephants were really cool, but our elephant didn't want to go anywhere though and it was quite sad to see the guide dragging it along. I think it would have been better to spend more money and go to one of the proper elephant farms where they are treated better. Final day we spent cycling round the outskirts of Chiang Mai, although not a lot to see. Overall Chiang Mai did not live up to my high expectations, it was not as charming and interesting as other places we have visited or as other travellers had told us.

270_DSC01577.jpg 270_DSC01561.jpg

From Chiang Mai we headed further north to Mae Hong Son, a small town up in the mountains. Had a fantastic day trip up there, hiring motorbikes and taking the road up towards the Burmese border along mountain roads. It was nice to have our own transport, stopping along the way at waterfalls, a cave and a palace. The town at the top of the road, Ban Rak Thai, was beautiful, bamboo houses around a blue surrounded by mountains. The village had a strong Chinese influence, set-up originally by anti-communist Chinese immigrants, and a lot of the buildings had Chinese artwork on the plaster, bringing back memories of Yunnan province. We stopped for lunch before heading back on the bikes.

270_DSC01583.jpg

Next stop was Pai, a hippy town between Chiang Mai and Mai Hong Son. The town was nice enough, plenty of cafes and bars set alongside the Pai river. Full of Western hippies who were into yoga, meditation and chanting...I quite liked it but I think Dunc felt a bit out of place. Hired bikes for a day to explore the surrounding area. I didn't really enjoy this as was feeling pretty rubbish, but the stop at the Pai Canyon was good. Didn't quite live up the claim of being the 'Grand Canyon of Asia' but impressive none the less.

Central Thailand (25th March -31st March)

Sukhothai (25th March - 26th March)

The journey from Pai to Sukhothai took 10 hours with a stop in Chiang Mai. We only spent two nights here so only really had one day to explore the place. The main reason for coming here was to see the ruins from the Siam and Khmer empires as Sukhothai was an ancient capital of Thailand. We hired bikes to ride around the central area, deciding not to venture to any of the outlying areas as the central was the best and we are "templed out". On the way back we went for a nosy in a nearby temple where there was a large party happening with two live bands playing music while circling the temple with groups of people following and leading them, dancing as they went - very strange!

P1050044.jpg 90_P1050002.jpg 90_P1050034.jpg

Ayutthaya (27th March - 28th March)

Ayutthaya is another former capital of Thailand however unlike Sukhothai (where the ruins are 15km away) the modern city has been built around the temples which gives a nice feel to the city. It took us a whole morning to arrive and then we had a fleeting visit to a Tesco Lotus and large shopping centre (we were dropped by the bus beside them) so had lunch here. The one memory we have of Ayutthaya is the heat and it was 36C+ the whole time so an afternoon of walking round temples was more sweaty than we would have liked! At night we had an amazing BBQ'd fish from the night market which you ate within a piece of lettuce with some noodles and sauce - amazing! I am also grateful Alice is fond of dogs as twice stray dogs came and barked at us but she managed to ward them off! On the second day we hired bikes to explore the floating market and temples further outside. In the searing heat it was very uncomfortable. Moreover, the floating market wasn't open when we arrived and we never found any of the temples we had hoped to see as a result of a poor map. By mid morning we decided to cut our losses and head to Kanchanaburi.

90_P1050079.jpgP1050098.jpg

Kanchanaburi (28th March - 31st March)

Another stinking hot place as Alice described it - over 38C all the days we were there. On our first afternoon we went to the War Museum which documented the building of the Death Railway which was constructed by the Japanese in 1942/43 by prisoners of wars and forced Asian workers. It was a very well documented museum which put this part of the war into context which we had never heard of before. It was a shame we only had an hour to spend there but the day after we took the railway as far as it went and then a taxi to a memorial built by the Australian government at Hellfire Pass, the section of the line with the highest death toll during construction. This wasn't surprising given the men had to dig 25m through solid rock with few tools, being in the middle of the two terminuses (the men had to walk here), and lastly the heat! For dinner we tried a Thai BBQ which was similar to a Cambodian BBQ but at the bottom there was a lip where you made a broth and boiled veg and noodles. The bonus here was it was buffet BBQ! The next day we spent at Erewan falls which is a 7 tier waterfall full of clear turquoise water. We had the opportunity to experience an "authentic" fish spa as the fish would nibble on the dead skin on your feet while you dipped them in - very strange ticklish experience! Our last day in Kanchanaburi we spent by having a look at the extremely well looked after war cemetries and the railway bridge was very touristy (tacky). In the afternoon we caught a bus to Bangkok where we had planned to take a night train down the coast. The bus was supposed to take 3 hours to Bangkok and then we had planned for an hour to get us to the train station by another bus so we, in theory, had an hour cushion. It soon became apparent to us both that the first bus would take a lot longer than 3 hours and we found ourselves at the bus station in Bangkok only 40 mins before our train. Luckily there was a taxi rank with an English speaking attendant who told us it would take 1 hour in a taxi. That wasn't going to work but he soon called over 2 motorbike taxis who offered to take us on a "high speed" trip to the train station in less than 40 mins! We both quickly nodded realising this was our only choice if we were to make the train. Once we had found helmets to wear we hopped on the back and sped off into the city leaving the bus station by some side exit, going the wrong way down a dual carriageway, pulling several U turns etc etc. Within 2 minutes I had lost sight of Alice as she had gotten the more aggressive driver. It took my driver 30 mins to get to the station, weaving in among traffic, going through red lights, going the wrong way down streets etc etc. Worst case scenarios were going through my head about where Alice could be but thankfully I arrived at the station and saw her straightaway. If I thought my driver had been quick, Alice had already been at the station for 5 mins and bought some drinks etc. We ran onto the train (which incidentally left 10 mins late) and spent the next half hour comparing notes on our journeys, adrenaline still running through our bodies!!!

P1050142.jpg 90_P1050205.jpg P1050212.jpg

Southern Thailand (1st April -10th April)

Koh Tao (1st April - 4th April)

Finally arrived in Koh Tao for our open water dive course with Big Blue. The course took 4 days, although the first day was just a short intro session. The second day we did a lot of theory in the morning, with a lot of physics and biology, then spent the afternoon practising with the equipment in the pool. There was a lot to remember, and the equipment was pretty awkward, even breathing properly took a lot of concentration, and I had problems with my ears even just 2m deep. Finished day 2 thinking that diving might not be the sport for me as I hadn't really enjoyed being in the pool. Day three started with more theory and an easy multiple choice exam. Then the real diving began, with our first two open water dives in the afternoon. We went out on the dive boat to 2 sites near Koh Tao: Mango Bay and Twins. After struggling with equalising the pressure in my ears to get underwater we made it down to the bottom and I finally started to feel the fun and excitement of diving. The corals and fish were incredible, so many of them and so colourful! We saw all sorts of cool stuff, schools of baracuda, anglefish, butterfly fish, banner fish, clown fish (Nemo!), parrot fish, trigger fish, Christmas tree worms and loads of other cool unnamed fish. Still not so keen on the actually diving, it is a lot of effort getting in and out, but the funky fishes make it all worth while! The next day we finished the course with 2 more dives, at Green Rock and White Rock. These dives were even better, the water was clearer and we went down to the deepest depth for open water course of 18m. I took some decongestants before diving which really helped my ears equalise so it was a lot more pleasant going up and down as well. Saw loads more cool fish, which I couldn't get enough of, and the highlight was following a turtle swimming across the dive site...amazing! Our final day was filmed, and screened in the bar in the evening. It made the dive look great, and we even looked quite cool so we had to buy it. So now proud to say we are qualified divers...and have caught the bug so will hopefully be doing our advanced course in a couple of weeks in Malaysia, can't wait!

Koh Phang Nang (5th April - 6th April)

Moved on to Koh Phang Nang next for a couple of days relaxing. We stayed in a quiet fishing village (Chalok Lam) at the north of the island. There was a beautiful white sandy beach and hardly any people. Spent the first day just chilling out. Had an amazing meal that evening, all you can eat BBQ buffet, in a restaurant run by a South African couple. Not local cuisine, but really tasty. I had 5 types of meat, and loads of salad, including pasta for the first time in 4 months, absolutely stuffed ourselves! Next day we worked it off with a walk along the headland to the next beach, called Bottle Beach after the bottles marking the trail. This turned out to be a more arduous walk than expected, a tiny path going up and down through the jungle requiring hands and feet to scramble along. The map had suggested it should take 1hr, but took us 2.5 and we aren't that unfit! Bottle Beach was lovely when we finally made it, very secluded (no road access) with just a couple of bars and bungalows. Had some lunch and a well deserved rest before taking the taxi boat back round the headland.

90_P1050253.jpg P1050224.jpg

Khao Sok National Park (7th April - 9th April)

Next stop Khao Sok National Park, halfway between the two coasts. Went a 2 day tour in the park, spending a night on the rafthouses on Cheow Lam Lake. The lake had stunning scenery, turquoise waters surrounded by karst rock formations and jungle. It was huge, took us over and hour to get to out raft house by boat, and apparently is 150m deep in places. Unfortunately the rafthouses were not as idyllic as the pictures showed, they were in a great secluded location in the park, but could have done with some TLC. There were nails and wood sticking out all over the place, and a guy on our tour fell through the rotting walkway between huts. Also the toilets were miles away over the most precarious bit of walkway and up a steep hill...too dangerous to go at night in the pitch black so off the side of the raft house was the only option! Did do a great trek to Namtaloo cave as part of our tour. The cave is home to hundreds of bats and spiders and has a river running through it, which we had to wade through up to out necks to reach the exit! Very wet, but a lot of fun. The tour also included a night safari - we saw nothing, and a dawn safari - we saw monkeys and gibbons but so far away they were just black spots, a little bit disappointing :( Overall we had a good time though, and it was amazing to stay in a place with such breathtaking scenery.

P1050389.jpg P1050340.jpg

Krabi (10th April)

We left Khao Sok for our final stop in Thailand, Krabi. The town is pleasant enough but not much here. Went to Ao Nang beach in afternoon, but soon got bored as we couldn't go snorkelling as we had planned...Dunc and I have decided we are not really beach people as neither of us likes to sunbathe much, so not going to go to any more of the islands. Next stop Malaysia........

Posted by duncan-alice 01:31 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Laos

Vientiane / Luang Prabang

sunny 30 °C

Vientiane (10th March - 12th March)

We only spent a couple of days in Vientiane, but this was more than enough. The town is nice, and very quiet (especially for a capital city!) but there are not many sights and attractions. Our first day we spent the morning at the Thai embassy filling in visa applications, then headed back into the town centre to look around. Vientiane certainly has more than enough Wats for it's size. We went in about 6, and walked past several more. My favorite was Wat Sisaket which had hundreds of Buddha statues, ranging from about 5cm ones perched in cuby-holes in the walls to 10m high ones in the centre of the temple. Other than temples not much else in the town centre, so we decided to go for a tradiational Lao massage. This was a interesting, if not an entirely enjoyable, experience. Some of it was relaxing, but at other points our bodies were stretched into positions they shouldn't go, and the little Laos lady was sat on top of me digging her elbows into my back...not so nice! The second day in Vientiane we hired bikes to see some of the sights further out from the centre. Our first stop was the COPE centre, which was probably the most interesting place we visited here. It was a visitor exhibition set up alongside a centre which helped disabled people, especially those with amputations caused by unexploded ordance (UXO) from the wars, by giving them prosthetics and rehabilitation programs. The exhibition was very moving, and really highlighted what a huge problem UXO is in south east Asia. After the COPE centre we headed out of town to Wat That Luang, the huge golden temple that is the symbol of Laos, and to the Lao version of the Arc de Triomphe. Finally we picked up our Thai visas and passports before getting on to the overnight bus to Luang Prabang...needless to say this was another sleepless night!

Luang Prabang (13th March -16th March)

After a morning nap we set out to explore Luang Prabang, and were very impressed by this small town. It has a lot of character and a really relaxed atmosphere, so we decided to stay for a few nights (instead of our original plan to move on after only 2 nights). The town is situated on a peninsula of land between the Mekong and another river, with many temples cafes and restaurants...we had great food throughout our stay here. On our first afternoon we explored the town, going into Wat Xieng Toung which was beautifully decorated and crossing the river to walk around the villages and temples on the other side of the Mekong.

The second day we rented mountain bikes and set out on an epic bike ride to see the famous Kuang Si waterfall. We set off early to avoid the worst of the heat on the 30km cycle through the scenic countryside and villages. However I was not prepared for the amount of uphill on this route, and by the time we got to the last 5km I was exhausted! Although we walked most of the last hill, we jumped back on for the last 100m into the car park just to impress all the other sensible tourists that had taken a minibus out there! The ride was worth it, Kuang Si is probably the most impressive waterfall I have ever visited, with around 60 levels of turquoise water, and a huge fall at the top end. It was amazing to swim in the pools, especially when we first arrived and there was only a handful of other people there. We left quite early to cycle back, which thankfully had a lot more downhill than the route out.

We rented bikes again to visit another waterfall, Tad Thong, the next day, although much closer to town this time. However, after the previous days ride even the 6km to this one (uphill again!) really hurt. Tad Thong was much quieter than Kuang Si, and also much less impressive. In fact there was hardly any water in the falls as we were there in dry season. But I had fun walking along the jungle paths trying to take pictures of the butterflies. I got a few good pics, but the biggest, most colourful ones never wanted to land near the path :( There was also a great cafe at the falls, where we enjoyed a fruit shake sat in a bamboo hut next to the lake, very chilled out! Ended the day with some shopping in the fantastic night market, full of hand made local goods, although I think I enjoyed the shopping more than Dunc.

After our exertions the previous two days we spend out final day in Luang Prabang having a lie in and wandering round town again, with a delicious lunch at Tamarind restaurant trying the sample platters of local food. The different sauces and dips were interesting, and the chjilli paste was especially good. Then back on the road again for our longest trip so far, a 21hr bus ride to Chang Mai in Thailand to meet up with Holly, Rach and Sonia for a few days.

Posted by duncan-alice 07:07 Archived in Laos Comments (1)

(Entries 16 - 20 of 36) « Page 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 7 8 »