20.04.2013 - 30.04.2013
Day 453 – Saturday 20th April
Another late and long blog update for you guys, hope you enjoy! Woke up today feeling a little bit worse for wear after last night’s antics, still a few missed calls and a couple of texts from the various girls I met last night is always a good way to perk up (sorry to sound like such a cunt!). After some food, we went off to a waterfall for some hangover relief, half way there though the bike started complaining most likely due to the fact that we’ve been driving with 3 on it at all times for the last couple of weeks. So we were forced to stop a bit early and spend the day at Chiang Rai beach instead which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Not so much a beach as a river bank, they’ve set up a load of little bamboo huts floating on the water’s edge with lots of nice women selling drinks. As usual it was very hot and so a day spent swimming in the river and sunbathing was the perfect thing to do. Spent a few hours there just chilling out before coming back home to write yet another mammoth blog entry, to think I managed to keep up with it every 3 days for the first 6 months or so! Noi and Chris sat watching a film as I did that and then we all went round to M’s to get some food, surprise surprise Tamara still hadn’t managed to make a move back to Chiang Mai (3 days after she’d originally planned to go) but she’s got a ticket sorted for tomorrow so we’ll see. Got chatting to M about our plan to go to Laos for a week and he’s on board which is good news, really looking forward to it now. More than anything it means no more girls! Being in a relationship definitely changed M, plus you all know how I feel about Noi and I’m very much looking forward to not having to listen to her anymore! Stuck around M’s for a couple of hours playing snooker with Chris before heading in to town for yet another night out. Started off in the night market again with a bottle of whiskey before going to our usual hang out of Face Bar. Unfortunately tonight seemed to be the gay night so even if there were some beautiful girls around they all had about 5 gay guys looking after them. Still the 3 of us had a really good night, not on a level with last night’s craziness but still a lot of fun!
Day 454 – Sunday 21st April
Woke up this morning with a cold, Noi’s been ill for a few days now and she seems to of passed that on to me, yet another benefit of having her stay here, not! We started off the day packing up all our stuff and getting the room all cleaned out as we might not be back in time from Laos to stay another night here before the month is up. After a lot of waiting around for Noi to pack up all her shit we all eventually got going to the bus station, Tamara had already left by the time we got up, so it was just me, Chris, Noi and M and M’s brother giving us a lift. Got to the bus station and said our goodbyes to Noi then got on a 2 hour or so long bus to Chiang Kong (the Thai town on the border with Laos). Despite being a bit of a quiet little town it was quite nice and we found a really good guest house on the river overlooking Laos on the other side of the Mekong. After dropping off our things we went out for some food and then walked around town looking for a bar with a pool table, and happened upon this really nice little bar with free pool and big TVs showing the football, haven’t seen a live match in forever seemingly and the 2 tonight were absolutely brilliant games. Long story short it looks like Man U should have the title wrapped up by tomorrow. All in all it was a really good night, first time hanging out with M and no Tamara for ages plus there were loads of other cool guys around, both Thai and western and everyone was very good at pool. Plus we could choose our own music so yeah a pretty good night and a very good send off from Thailand. For one reason or another I literally didn’t sleep a wink tonight, I guess I’m just feeling quite excited about going to a new country something I haven’t done in a really long time now!
Day 455 – Monday 22nd April
We all got up at 7 this morning as we have a few things to sort out before we go and potentially quite a lot of travelling to do once we get to the other side. M went off to the immigration office to see if he could sort himself a visa as he doesn’t have a passport and he might have a couple of problems with just an identity card. And me and Chris went off to find a bank to exchange some money into dollars to pay for the Laos visa, once again this turned out to be a bit of a mission. I just don’t understand why no Thai banks ever want to give you dollars, especially in a border town where on the other side of the river you need dollars to buy a visa! Either way after trying every bank we managed to get lucky on the last one and came back to find that M can only get a 2 day visa and he’s not allowed to leave Huay Xai (the border town on the other side) but we’ll try and sneak him on a bus as none of us want to hang around there. After that we went to the pier and hopped on a boat to the other side where we had the usual pissing about waiting for visas before getting in to Laos proper. First things first we went to a cash machine to get some Lao Kip and then bought a baguette, if there’s one thing I’ve been looking forward to in Laos it has to be baguettes but this one turned out to be a bit of a let-down. From what I hear though it’s the national dish so there will be plenty more to come. Got to the bus station and got M on the bus with no problems, first stop Luang Namtha where we change to another bus to Mueang Sing right up in the North near the border with China (and yes it was my idea, you all know how much I love anything Chinese). The first bus was around 2 and a half hours but it flew by as we had 2 beautiful girls sitting next to us who were very very interested in these 2 handsome blond white guys. The bus ride was bloody bumpy, another thing I’ve been told about Laos is that the roads are pretty awful and it’s almost guaranteed that at least 1 local will throw up on any bus longer than an hour. And sure enough one did and a few others looked on the verge! But the views on the way well and truly made up for that as the scenery here is jaw dropping and pretty unique too, well I haven’t seen too much like it before, and it’s a million times different to Thailand despite only being a couple hours away. Got in to Luang Namtha and followed those girls on to our second bus up to Mueang Sing, same story with the bad roads and good views, M slept pretty much the whole way though which seemed crazy to me as he’s only got a couple of days here and he shouldn’t really be missing it by sleeping. Eventually made it in to this very sleepy town and got checked in to a guest house, then got some food and went for a little walk to check out if there was anything to do. Given that this place is a tiny village in some sort of 50 year time warp it was unsurprising that there literally was nothing to do. So we were just forced to sit around the guest house, M doesn’t seem too happy with staying in a place as quiet as this and has no intention to join us on a trek tomorrow so he wasn’t in so good a mood and ended up just going to bed.
Day 456 – Tuesday 23rd April
M got up and left this morning at 6 without saying goodbye, so a very short lived holiday for him and another day spent on buses not too sure why he came when all he really wants is nightlife. No skin off our back and when we got up we did a bit of washing and then went off in search of some food. This place is so bizarre, it feels really Chinese but also just so far back in time with an almost North Korean village vibe. Ended up just walking through all the backstreets looking around and found a place to eat, then just went off on a walk around the surrounding countryside as we couldn’t afford to do a proper organised trek. It actually turned out to be a really awesome experience, not only was it really beautiful walking through all the rice paddies with the mountains in the distance but we happened upon a group of about 20 kids swimming in this little water hole. Really random thing to find out in the middle of this field and so I had to jump in and join in the fun. Got a few pictures of them as they shouted hello at us and did lots of backflips of the trees to give us a show before heading off deeper into the forest to see what else we could find. Ended up at a little stream hidden amongst the trees which we managed to navigate our way across and then we happened upon this little community of guys who gave us some water. Then we carried on our little jungle adventure seeing about a million butterflies all around us and loads of really creepy spiders. The jungle and the heat all got a bit too much and so when we passed the next village we decided to stop off for a drink at the local store where all the old ladies came out to say hello. Then we ended up just hanging out there chatting watching the village life go by with a couple of beers and some Chinese sunflower seeds (got addicted to this brand when I was there and it’s the first time I’ve seen them since I left China). Really random way to spend the day but we definitely had a way more unique experience than if we had just paid for a trek and walked up a mountain somewhere, and the best part of travelling has to be meeting all the locals which we did a lot of. We left there and came back to town around 5 when it started to rain and after passing a big wedding party we spent the rest of the night just chilling in the room recovering. Despite today being a good day there really is the square root of fuck all to do around here and so we’ll be back on the road tomorrow.
Day 457 – Wednesday 24th April
Literally didn’t sleep at all last night once again and we were up at the crack of dawn to get ourselves on a bus. Seemingly we weren’t the only people with that mind frame and we ended up on a packed minibus with about 16 people to 10 seats and given the horrendous road conditions it was a bloody bumpy and uncomfortable ride. Still it’s all part of the fun! When we got in to Luang Namtha we’d already missed the bus down to Luang Prabang (our next destination) and so we bought ourselves a ticket for the next bus to Oudomxay which is on the way. Hung around the bus station for a couple of hours having some food and waiting around before getting on yet another packed bus. The journey was pretty similar to all the others, very windy roads with incredible views and a couple of locals being sick on the way. One guy does deserve a special mention as he was standing up the whole way carrying his sleeping daughter whilst also having to take care of his very energetic puppy, impressive stuff! The driving probably has to be my favourite part of Laos, yes the roads are bumpy and the buses are terrible but the constant incredible views make it a pretty brilliant experience getting from point A to point B. Made it to Oudomxay which isn’t a particularly special town but it had a really nice and cheap hotel and it still had that China feel. Being here in North Laos has definitely reminded me just how much I miss that country and I’m really starting to think that I’ll be going there when I come back out rather than over to South America, but as with all my plans lots of things could change that! Anyway, found a nice Chinese restaurant and then went for a little walk around town but it really was far too hot to be doing anything and so we just ended up back in our room for cold showers. Chris then had a nap as I caught up on my diary, I’m definitely glad I’ve kept up with both that and the blog but given that I’ve been doing it for so long now they’ve both become a bit of a chore and it will be a nice relief to not have to think about writing when I’m back in London. Spent the night sitting watching a film while eating the very same Chinese pot noodles which I pretty much lived on for 3 months, I miss China!!
Day 458 – Thursday 25th April
Another night of barely any sleep and another ridiculously early wake up to make sure we got ourselves on the morning bus down to Luang Prabang. Got to the bus station with a bit of time to spare so we just hung around trying to wake up a bit, went for a piss in the bushes as I didn’t want to pay for the bus station toilet (biggest problem with Laos is that everything is just so expensive!) and a random Laos guy came round and walked pretty much into me quite literally with my trousers down. We had a good laugh about it! Bus left late, around 9 and the road was pretty poor, a bit surprising given that the last couple of hours on the way in last night was on really good roads, not really sure why they haven’t just done up the whole stretch down South as this is the biggest road in Laos. Pretty uneventful bus apart from one funny anecdote, had one stop on the way where all the locals were buying the same thing from these little stalls in a village and I decided to buy a bag assuming it was some sort of snack, but it just turned out to be some random uncooked vegetable so I looked like a right mug buying it. Ended up just handing off my bag to this girl that was staring at me and Chris the whole way. Eventually made it in to Luang Prabang and my first impressions were that it was much smaller and much less French than I was expecting, I was picturing some French Riviera town in my head (as this place is pretty renowned for having lots of French influence still around) but it was a pretty typical little touristy style Asian town with a few French remnants, but not much of an overwhelming vibe of the frogs. Went for a little walk around to find a cheap guest house and were soon rewarded with a fairly standard hotel for a good price right in the thick of the action. Both of us were starving and so we went out looking for baguettes, but we ended up just walking around town for almost an hour without finding anyone selling them, definitely not the picture that had been painted by other people for me of this place, and we ended up just having to have noodles as we couldn’t handle walking any longer. Managed to get bloody lost on the way back as well, always the best place to see a town properly! After that we had showers and a quick update on the internet for the first time since we got here, I say update but really it took about 30 minutes to load one webpage, definitely miles behind the Thai standards I’m used to. Then we went out for some dinner and this time asked for directions and got pointed towards the night market where there were baguettes galore (jackpot!) as well as an ice coffee with oreo and banana shake, way less sickly than it sounds! After that we went out to utopia bar, a place we’d heard a bit about, and it was really nice with a perfect setting overlooking the Mekong and the full moon, the only problem was the place was packed with westerners, something I’ve managed to avoid for quite a while now. I managed to get myself in the right mind frame for it and we got chatting to a group of guys and one thing led to another and soon we were all drinking more than I would’ve liked given the fact that I’ve barely slept for quite a while now. In Luang Prabang there’s a curfew at 11pm (bloody communists!) and so we all got kicked out then and everyone started jumping in taxis to the bowling alley. Still don’t really understand why but this place doesn’t adhere to the curfew rules and is where all the westerners hang out after hours to get royally pissed and stick up a middle finger to the regime and culture, my idea of a nightmare! But after a cheap bottle of whiskey and a couple of games of bowling I changed my mind and ended up having a brilliant night, definitely not proud of how wasted we all got but it was around other non-Laos people so I don’t feel too bad! All in all it was an experience and I won 2 out of 3 games of bowling so I can’t complain, still I’m not in a rush to go back there!
Day 459 – Friday 26th April
Woke up today with one of the worst hangovers of my life, drank far too much last night and coupled with the severe sleep deprivation and long days my body really couldn’t handle it. And so the first few hours of the day were spent lying in bed desperately trying to feel a bit better. After a good 4 hours or so lying around and having cold showers I had the strength to leave our hotel and me and Chris went on a little walk around to try and see what we could find. We ended up just going on a really long walk along the river where I jumped in, easily the best way to get rid of a hangover, a good dunk in a really cold river with a ridiculously strong current. We also found ourselves a really nice guest house on the river which we will move in to tomorrow and had some food on the river. Definitely changed my perspective on this place, it’s much calmer and way more beautiful down by the Mekong and I’m certainly looking forward to moving in tomorrow. After that we just spent the evening hanging around our place on the internet, as we had about an hour spell where it was working, barely! Then we went out to Utopia bar again but this time just for a relaxed drink as we watched the full moon come up over the Mekong. Only other thing to mention is the absolutely insane storm that woke us up in the middle of the night, the thunder quite literally rocked the guest house and the lightning completely lit up the whole place it was absolutely nuts and a pretty terrifying way to get woken up!
Day 460 – Saturday 27th April
Got up in time for check out this morning and then got ourselves moved in to our much nicer guest house by the river before having a very good pancake with ice cream for breakfast. Thankfully the internet actually works at our new place and so we both spent a couple hours catching up on everything, most importantly I finally managed to watch the highlights of the last Man U game and boy did Van Persie really prove his worth, potentially the best goal I’ve ever seen although Rooney’s bicycle against city is always going to be hard to beat! After that we went out on a little exploration mission and ended up finding this really rickety bamboo bridge across the river to a little island just the other side. There was a perfect white sand beach with one of the most beautiful views of the river and all the mountains behind, and absolutely no tourists! All the bloody westerners seem to hang out in the middle of town and completely miss out on the best part of this place which is the surrounding beauty. Safe to say it was a perfect place to spend the afternoon keeping nice and cool swimming in the river and sunbathing on the beach with the views of the limestone mountains in the background. My pictures really don’t do it justice, but we were so lucky to find this little spot. Had some food in one of the restaurants overlooking the river as the sun went down before coming back to chill in our room. Later on had dinner at the night market and had a quiet night in.
Day 461 – Sunday 28th April
Finally had a decent lie in today! Once we did make it out of bed we went off in search of food and bumped into Kate (an Aussie girl we were out with that first night in the bowling alley) she’s a really nice girl and so we went and had some food with her and a fruit shake. After that we walked around a bit looking for a bar with a pool table as it looked like the rain was coming in (rainy season starts around May and he we are!) and ended up finding this empty bar with a free pool table and very cheap bottles of whiskey. The rest as they say is history, we had 2 bottles and lots of games of pool and a bloody good laugh and managed to spend literally the entire afternoon hanging out in this really cool bar with the whole place to ourselves! Apart from a quick break to get a baguette (can’t stop myself) we must’ve spent a good 4 hours there as the rain poured down. Unfortunately Kate had to get back to her hotel at 7 for a bus down to Vang Vieng and so we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Unsurprisingly we were pretty wasted after all that and so me and Chris went and jumped in the river to try and sober up a bit, ended up clinging on to the side of a boat as the crazy current tried to whisk us away down to Cambodia. Once we were dried off we headed back out and ended up in Utopia bar once again where we met this really cool German guy, Sebastian, and had a couple of beers then chilled at our place for a little while before a very late night.
Day 462 – Monday 29th April
Had to get up in time for check out this morning as we will be leaving Laos on a night bus tonight. Once we were all packed and ready, Sebastian dropped by with a breakfast of beers to say thanks for last night. Then we sorted out our bus ticket for tonight which was easier said than done as we’d run out of the local currency and needed to pay in Thai baht. After that we went out for a proper breakfast, yes you’ve guessed it, baguettes, where we happened to bump into Bim who was a Dutch guy on our very first bus in Laos this time last week. As it was so bloody hot today we suggested going to that little beach we found the other day and spending the day there, the other guys were on board and so we hit the road. There’s no need for me to go into any more detail about this little piece of paradise so I’ll just say that we spent the whole afternoon there chatting and left just before sunset as some pretty mean looking clouds started to come in. After one last baguette, me and Chris got in to some dry clothes and headed off to the bus station to catch the 12 hour bus back to the border town and get back to Thailand. This week has felt very rushed and definitely hasn’t given me a real impression of Laos, but given the fact my flight is in a week and I have about 3 days travelling to get down to Bangkok I really don’t have the time to hang out here any longer without having to rush my way through Thailand and straight on a plane home. But it’s been a very busy and fun week!
Day 463 – Tuesday 30th April
We got in to Huay Xai around 8 this morning after a very long and bumpy bus journey which absolutely zero sleep! Got a taxi to the pier, then got a boat back across to Thailand, got issued with yet another 2 week visa and got ourselves back on a bus to Chiang Rai. The month is up on our room today and so we’ll be spending our time in a guest house in town instead, plus M happens to be in Chiang Mai at the moment and so there’s no real benefit to staying out in the countryside. After dropping off our bags and having a much needed shower and some food all we could really manage was a sleep. And so we spent the whole afternoon in bed! Once we got up, we went out to a little bar with a free pool table (yes we are addicted to it) and spent ages there strutting our stuff before getting a bottle of whiskey and going back out to the night market for free drinks and then back to Face Bar yet again for another night out with the local uni students. Certain things just have to be done when you’ve only got a couple of days in Chiang Rai! Didn’t get home until about 4 unsurprisingly completely knackered after the last week, but very happy to be back in Thailand!