A Travellerspoint blog

Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar (Burma) by me (Justin).

Ciprofloxacin, its magic.

sunny 35 °C

After an easy hop from Bangkok with AirAsia we landed in one of the most oppressive military junta regimes in the world. Aung San Suu Kyi is now asking people to visit and this combined with the up coming elections was enough to morally justify our trip to ourselves. And we really wanted to go too.

Despite the short flight, the country immediately feels very different to the other ASEAN countries. There is little to no street lighting as we drive from the airport in the guesthouses relic of a bus. It seems most cars on the road are 20-year-old Toyotas. The men wear traditional longyi (sarongs) and the women have their faces painted in thanaka (pale yellow make up that acts as a sun block). The reality of stepping back into a third world country stuck in a strange time warp slowly unfolds. “This is Burma”, wrote Rudyard Kipling, “quite unlike any place you know about.”

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Street scene in Yangon. Everything has a thick layer of mould.

Our 5th country Burma is the size of France with a population of ???, well nobody knows as the last census was done in 1983, perhaps about 70 million. It borders Thailand, Laos, China and India. Once the richest country in the region it could be again with vast natural gas reserves, which it already exports to India, China and Thailand.

A quick history lesson. The British gained control of Burma in three moves in 1824, 1852 and 1885 and then brought in many Indians as civil servants and encourage migration and trade with China leading to the melting pot that you now see in Burma. The British got rich on trading rice and teak. During the WWII the Japanese allied themselves with the Burmese Independent Army and drove the British out. However the Japanese treated the Burmese appallingly and soon the Burmese Army joined the Allies and fought back. General Aung San (Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, who many Burmese feel is the reincarnation of the General) led the country out of the war and held elections following Independence in 1948.

Before he could take office he was assassinated along with most of his cabinet. The following decade saw conflict from many tribal groups against the then ruling Bamar majority. Then in 1962 General Ne Win lead a left wing military take over and set the country on the “Burmese way to socialism”. He nationalized everything and the country slowly ground to a halt completely stagnating in 1987. The people had had enough and revolted. In the ensuing crack down the government killed over 3000 people. Finally the monks had had enough too and turned their alms bowels upside down and insisted the general go. He finally did in July 1988 but remained behind the scenes of power.

The shaken government formed the very Orwellian-sounding SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council), imposed martial law and promised to hold democratic elections in 1989. The country united behind the National League for Democracy lead by Aung San Suu Kyi. SLORC became increasingly nervous and placed Aung San under house arrest. Despite this and many other dirty tactics the NLD won 85% of the vote. SLORC refused to let the NLD into parliament and arrested the vast majority. Aung San remained under house arrest. Then things started to change a bit last year. I’ll leave the rest for Lynne in another blog.

How do you follow such tragedy? Well with a bowel complaint of course. After proudly proclaiming two days earlier that I hadn’t had even the slightest problems with my gut I came down with a nasty bout of Montezuma’s revenge. Sparing readers the full-blown details I will merely say that I didn’t really eat anything for two days. Truly the sign of a sick Woolley. However after 48 hours and no signs of improvement I went to the Cipro and within two doses I was feeling much better. Highly recommended. I may have to add it to trip advisor.

I add this brief interlude not only for its huge scientific interest (250mg bd) but also to say that our start to Burma wasn’t ideal. I was a bit under the weather and a bit grumpy. And, well, Lynne had to put up with that.

The first job of the day in Yangon was to sort out getting out of the place. We walked to the train station past a strange mixture of 60’s concrete apartment blocks, more modern 80’s things and massive colonial relics. When we got to the train station we stepped into the mad house. After asking at the first counter for an overnight birth to Mandalay for the next day we were directed to another counter. Here we met the same guy who told us the train we were after was fully booked and we couldn’t buy second class tickets as we were tourists. How about a day train rather than an overnight train? Yes, he had these. But we had to go to another window. Here the same guy asked for our passports, which I hadn’t brought with me. End game.

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Another Street scene. An indian area of Yangon.

Next step was to get some local currency. Much is made of this in the books and websites. The banks, guesthouses and black market have now almost the same rates but the same rules apply at all. The dollars must be perfect. They must not have been folded or the slightest tear or smudge. They must be the newest “big head” dollars. They must not have a serial number beginning with RD. There are no ATM’s in Burma. The 5 star hotels will let you withdraw cash against your credit card at 15% commission. You could bring in $2000 dollars into Burma. Have folded them into your wallet and then find them worthless in Burma.

Bizzare. Why? No one is quite sure. One person told us that all the dollars are taken to Singapore by the government and placed in banks there and they don’t want to get there and then find them no good. But this story doesn’t quite make sense. Anyway with bated breath we handed over our $100 bills with slight pencils marks in the top corner (the rate is different for each sized note, $100 the best, $1 the worst). After careful inspection we were given the all clear, and directed to the next counter. With nearly a million Kyat in our pocket we trouped back to the hostel for a break from the heat.

Later in the afternoon we got a taxi to the greatest Paya in Burma: Shwedagon Paya. 2500 years old and rumored to encase eight of Budhha’s hairs the central zedi has been added to by successive kings and has grown to 98m tall and supposedly covered in 53 tons of gold leaf. The top of the spire is encrusted in 5000 diamonds and 2000 others stones. It was quite beautiful in the late afternoon sun.

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Super Stupa

After this we went for a stroll around the center of town and down to the waterfront. The grand colonial buildings here, while not as grand as the Liver building, certainly reminded us of a dilapidated Liverpool. Buildings of a once great age when sea trade ruled the world. After a quick Chinese meal where I managed only a few mouthfuls we headed back to the hostel. Here we bumped into the Taiwanese group we had gone Kayaking with in Vang Vieng...which was nice apart from the fact I had to rush off to the toilet.

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Old and New "colonial buildings".

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The port at dusk and water taxis.

In the end we plumped for the bus to Mandalay. At least this meant the government weren’t getting any of the money (a constant battle, hostels have to have a license and give a percentage to the government). The next morning we were deposited at the bus station by a taxi, which felt like the bus village. As the only falang in sight we were of much interest. The Burmese love Lynne’s skin, and of course find my height hilarious. We hopped on board a brand new luxury Saab bus and pulled out into the best roads of our trip around SEA. The army government in their internal wisdom has built a new capital midway up the country after getting a rather rough astrological prediction a few years back.

Can you imagine basing your countries policy on superstition? Oh yeah, Blair took us to war because God told him to in a dream. Anyway they built a new motorway for themselves right up the spine of the country to connect their new capital. Most strange was how empty this giant road was. At points it was 3-5 lanes on each side but we only passed another car or bus every few minutes. 9 hours later and with our backs slowly crumpling to oblivion we arrive in Mandalay (a place Kipling never actually went to).

Posted by Justin Woolley 04:00 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Bye bye Laos...hello Bangkok

Flashpacking flights and fold away beds on trains...whatever next?

sunny 32 °C

Reluctantly we start to make our way south towards Bangkok. We have run out of time to explore northern Laos and cross the border to Northern Thailand. We decide to avoid the overnight 12-hour bus journey back to Vientiane and jump on a 30-minute flashpacking flight. We have time before we leave to go to our favourite street stall in Luang Prabang and pick up some fresh baguettes. Lu, the stallholder, also makes up two supersized Oreo shakes for us and we say a very sad goodbye to Lu, her family and Laos.

Yes...I want to supersize my Oreo shake

Yes...I want to supersize my Oreo shake

Rachel, who lives in Laos with her husband David, meets us at the airport. They have very kindly offered us a night’s accommodation. We settle down for an evening meal that includes two of my favourite foods (real cheese and potatoes I’ve missed you so much) as well as a lovely fresh salad, baguettes, duck and wine. We spend the evening chatting about Laos, working / living abroad and travelling in Asia before settling down into the most comfortable nights sleep we have had since leaving Manchester…thank you!

In the morning Justin meets up with David to find out more about his work at the infectious disease unit at the hospital, whilst I head to a much-needed bum-ache inducing Pilates class with Rachel. Afterwards we have a delicious Laos lunch with Rachel in a little restaurant surrounded by beautiful hanging flowers before saying our goodbyes. Justin has had a fascinating insight into medicine abroad and talks about the lack of life saving antibiotics as well as the hospitals three goats, which they use to make the blood agar plates (you can’t just order them from GSK!).

The Thai border from Laos

The Thai border from Laos

We jump in a taxi to the border train. It is a 15-minute sweaty journey over the border bridge to passport control in Thailand. At the border posters listing the penalties for trafficking people surround us. One of my friends from Agecroft Rowing Club has just completed a 45-day, 3000 mile crossing of the Atlantic Ocean as part of the Row for Freedom crew. Row for Freedom is a five-women rowing team raising awareness and fundraising for two anti-trafficking charities.

This is the toughest rowing race in the world (more people have climbed Everest or gone to space than rowed an ocean). They set two new world records (The fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by an all-female team and the first five-woman team to row any ocean), raised a lot of money and helped create a lot of column space on this important issue. I’ve included some notes at the bottom if you are interested. Well done Helen and crew! You can find out more at:
http://www.rowforfreedom.com/
http://www.ecpat.org.uk/
http://www.thea21campaign.org/

We jump on the night train to Bangkok. We start off with seats but the guard comes along as it goes dark to transform the seats into bunk beds. We are only on the train for a short time before we see the yellow arches of McDonalds and the fluorescent signs of the malls… it suddenly dawns on us that we haven’t seen any of these for the last five weeks.

From a seat...

From a seat...

...into a dining room...

...into a dining room...

...into a bed!

...into a bed!

Arriving into central Bangkok, we head to the MK mall on the super clean metro for a day. We stock up on luxuries (razors that work, mosquito spray, pizza!), and watch a movie in a giant air con theatre.
Pizza...yay...hhhmmm not as good I was hoping...now I feel sick...

Pizza...yay...hhhmmm not as good I was hoping...now I feel sick...

Closed due to public holiday...doh!

Closed due to public holiday...doh!

It is a very surreal experience after Laos. I loved Laos so much. Some of the most breath-taking scenery I have ever seen, tasty food and friendly people We hope that when we come back the standard of living has improved and that the gap between rich and poor hasn’t exploded. As one NGO worker we spoke to said “There is a fine line between developing and losing your own identity” and I hope Laos can get the balance right.

---------------------------------------------------------
Human trafficking is one of the largest global organised crimes today. In 2008 traffickers made an estimated $31 billion buying and selling humans. In same year approximately 0.5% of this figure was spent combatting trafficking. Today an estimated 27 million people are slaves (and half of these are children). I’ve had a read through some of the websites around trafficking in the Mekong Delta and found http://www.no-trafficking.org/ interesting:
Human trafficking – essentially the recruitment, transport, receipt and harboring of people for the purpose of exploiting their labor – affects almost all parts of the world and is widely believed to be increasing in both scale and gravity, though statistics are still quite incomplete. Although trafficking has existed for centuries, the uneven effects of globalization have, in recent times, contributed to an environment in which trafficking has been able to flourish into a highly profitable and generally low risk criminal business.

The Mekong region compared to many other parts of the world contains very diverse patterns of human trafficking – internal and cross-border; highly organized and also small-scale; sex and labor, through both formal and informal recruitment mechanisms; and involving the victimization of men, women, boys, girls, and families. Examples include:
• Trafficking of men, women, children, and families into Thailand from neighboring Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia – against a background of widespread irregular migration – for forced prostitution, domestic servitude, or forced labor into sweatshops or onto fishing boats, construction sites, plantations, or farms;
• Trafficking of children from Cambodian or Myanmar border areas or rural Vietnamese or Chinese areas to beg or sell flowers on the streets of larger cities;
• Trafficking of Vietnamese girls and young women for sexual exploitation in Cambodia;
• Trafficking from rural China, Myanmar, or Vietnam into the interior of China for forced marriage leading to domestic servitude and/or sexual exploitation.

COMMIT is a multi-lateral agreement signed by the governments of Cambodia, China, Lao, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. It is designed to implement strategies addressing human trafficking from a regional perspective. You can find out more about their initiatives on the above website.

Posted by Lynne Woolley 03:55 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Luang Prabang

sunny 34 °C

After our seven hour journey on a tourist bus from Vang Vieng we arrived in Luang Prabang…our fifth UNESCO-protected stop off. The scenery along the way was stunning, with huge limestone karsts looming out of the haze. I tried to take some pictures but unfortunately our driver liked to slam his brakes on at every opportunity before accelerating hard.

We spent most of the journey hanging onto our seats whilst we swerved from one corner to the next. We spotted a couple of cyclists on the route battling against the dusty roads and sharp corners…it looked painful and we gave one couple a round of applause and some honks for their pure determination in scaling what must have been a never ending dust cloud.
Stunning views on the way to Luang Prabang...unfortunately very difficult to take pictures as you get bounced up and down and thrown to the side...

Stunning views on the way to Luang Prabang...unfortunately very difficult to take pictures as you get bounced up and down and thrown to the side...

We find a little guesthouse on the peninsular in the centre of Luang Prabang and head out to have a look around. The peninsular is cradled in a beautiful sweeping bend of the Mekong River. The peninsular itself is full to the brim with historic building and golden wats. Dilapidated traditional houses sit alongside high-end boutiques in beautifully restored French villas. This is where Angelina Jolie brings the family for a holiday.

Justin has been joking for a few weeks that we are flashpacking instead of backpacking, but this place is a whole different level. We are suddenly surrounded by tourists wearing Prada, Chanel and Gucci – a bit of a shock after a week of farmland and backpacker pants.

We spend the next couple of days wandering around looking at the beautiful buildings and visiting temples, including Phu Si at the top of a 100m hill and the stunning Wat Xieng Thong. We head out on some bikes through a number of villages, each of which has its own temple and handicraft stalls as well as overexcited children, who chase us down the road.

Beautiful streets - traditional, French style and mixed villas in the centre of Luang Prabang's UNESCO area

Beautiful streets - traditional, French style and mixed villas in the centre of Luang Prabang's UNESCO area

Colonial architecture - boutique hotel

Colonial architecture - boutique hotel

Main street Luang Prabang

Main street Luang Prabang

Beautiful timber door carvings

Beautiful timber door carvings

Wat Xieng Thong

Wat Xieng Thong

Wat XIeng Thong under restoration in Luang Prabang

Wat XIeng Thong under restoration in Luang Prabang

Phu Si at sunset

Phu Si at sunset

We wake up at 5:30am to watch the Tak Bat from a window in our guesthouse. This is a series of processions where monks leave their monastery to take alms from devotees. Each monk carries a large bowl on a shoulder strap. The monks walk in single file and silently take gifts of sticky rice and bananas from devotees.

Unfortunately despite the signs many tourists have started to disturb this ceremony. We heard stories of tourists asking monks to pose for pictures during the ceremony and one story about a tourist walking up to a monk taking the top off his alms bowl and emptying a pack of cookies in before patting him (women shouldn’t touch male monks at all). We saw one group of Australian tourists cracking open a set of beers on top of Phu Si, one of the most religious sites in Luang Prabang…seriously!!
Tak Bat - I've downloaded this picture from the tourism webpages as I didn't want to take pictures of the monks during the ceremony

Tak Bat - I've downloaded this picture from the tourism webpages as I didn't want to take pictures of the monks during the ceremony

We spend the rest of our time visiting some of the local museums, community projects and the night market. We spend a morning visiting the Ock Pop Tok textile centre, where we finally work out how some of the things we have bought have been made. We watch the ladies working away on the looms making silk scarves and blankets. A detailed patterned scarf takes weeks to make and you suddenly realise why they are so expensive to buy! In the afternoon we visit the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, which has a lovely exhibition on marriage ceremonies with lots of personal stories…including some fake kidnappings. In the evenings we wander around the market and spend a couple of hours at English language and reading projects (www.bigbrothermouse, www.lao-kids.org and the Children’s Cultural Centre).

Books are few and far between in Laos. One of the teenagers we spoke to explained that their school only has one English book to share among the pupils. There are a number of organisations that write and distribute bi-lingual / Laos books or set up libraries. Many of the session participants had travelled by bike or walked for at least 45 minutes to improve their English (most of which was self taught by talking to tourists) so that they could get a better job or go to university. Made me feel very lazy with my languages.

Last but not least...after much mocking on Facebook Justin finally went for a haircut, which involved the longest hair wash I have ever seen (including an eyebrow and ear wash!).
The night market in Luang Prabang

The night market in Luang Prabang

Traditional clothing at the Ethnology Centre

Traditional clothing at the Ethnology Centre

Silk drying in the sun

Silk drying in the sun


Justin's new haircut

Justin's new haircut

As my dad has noticed we spend quite a bit of time eating food. Luang Prabang is like a foodie heaven with beautiful restaurants serving champagne and streetfood vendors serving Oreo cookie shakes! We spend a happy few days sampling as many dishes as we can…obviously for blog research purposes. Everything from River Algae crackers to slightly dodgy looking street food noodles. We evidently had to try the local delicacy of Oreo cookie shakes (they were really good by the way!).
Chicken cooked with lemongrass in bamboo

Chicken cooked with lemongrass in bamboo

RIce cakes drying in the sun

RIce cakes drying in the sun

River algae crackers drying out in the sun

River algae crackers drying out in the sun

River algae crackers (with sun dried tomatoes, seeds and ginger)

River algae crackers (with sun dried tomatoes, seeds and ginger)

My new favourite curry...it even comes with potatoes

My new favourite curry...it even comes with potatoes

Hhhmmmm...what won't give me food poisoning. Eating off the street in Luang Prabang for £1!

Hhhmmmm...what won't give me food poisoning. Eating off the street in Luang Prabang for £1!

My new favourite drink of lime juice (not Oreo shake) overlooking the Mekong

My new favourite drink of lime juice (not Oreo shake) overlooking the Mekong

Next stop Myanmar...

Posted by Lynne Woolley 08:42 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Elephant village

“They’ll never believe us back in the shire that we saw elefonts, Merry"

sunny 32 °C

So we booked a two-day Mahout course at the elephant village and were picked up in the morning to be driven out. We undertook the now routine procession around the guesthouses for 30 minutes before being deposited at the office we had booked at, some 300m from our guesthouse.

We did arrive though and by 11am we were being the taught the basics of Mahouting (or being an elephant driver). Seven basic commands and a list of do’s and don’t and we got our first taste of elephant riding. A 30 year old elephant called Mang Sae bends her right leg and while putting pressure on the base of the right ear I clamber up to sit on the neck. It feels a long way up and as the Mang Sae starts walking under the command of “pie pie” her giant shoulder blades move up and down under my bum. Its only a 5 minute lap but is magical. Lynne does hers and we can’t wipe the smiles off our faces.

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Clabbering up

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Lynne's first ride.

After checking in to our rooms and a quick bite to eat we get an hour ride on the back of the elephants in the chairs. Half way down the first hill the elephants real Mahout turns around and asks me to swap with him since I’m on the two day course. Its actually quite unnerving at times as the elephants, slowly but with very sure feet, tackle very steep gradients and sharp turns down the river bank. By the time we swap I have left some very sweaty leg marks on the back of the elephants neck. She doesn’t seem to mind.

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Manhout Justin

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View from the ground.

The elephants are all ex-logging elephants where they worked long hard days pulling timber in difficult environments. A few have lost an eye in accidents. Others had been fed amphetamines to make them work longer hours. Three hours of tourists riding on their backs a day, two washes and all the food they want is a relative life of luxury for these beautiful animals.

When we get back from the ride we get to feed them bananas as treats. The dexterity of the elephant’s trunks are amazing as they pick up individual bananas and roll them into their mouths. These elephants are all females (males are too big and strong willed) and weigh between 2.5-3.5 tones. They eat 250 kg of food a day and drink 200 litres of water. The sanctuary buys in 1.5 tons of food a day for them!

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Munch munch

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Loooong trunk

The elephants only work a half day and after they have been washed we meet up with them on the far side of the bank and ride them 30 mins into the jungle where they are left over night to roam within the protected forest valley and eat. They wear leg chains to stop them roaming into farmland and villages and getting hurt. We hear later that one of the Mahouts didn’t put the pin in the chain properly and one of the elephants has escaped. Some local fishermen come up and say she is roaming free along the bank. She is soon ridden back to the jungle for the night by her Mahout. (Did you know elephants live to 90 years old, only sleep one hour a night and are as clever as monkeys and dolphins with self-regard and use of tools, as well as a huge range of emotion).

After spending the rest of the afternoon by the pool and having a lovely dinner by the river with our group (a very cool set of Germans, Dutch and French) we retire for the night.

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Chillin

The next morning we are up early to pick up the elephants and take them for their morning bath. It’s amazing how quickly your initial fear subsides around these animals and I hop straight up (despite being given the largest elephant) and start riding her down to the river.

Lynne however pretty quickly gets a reminder of how powerful and willful these animals are as her elephant starts running and veering into the jungle with the elephant’s Mahout behind Lynne shouting while holding Lynne on by the cameras shoulder strap. However the elephant quickly settles down and we soon reach the river and wade in and start scrubbing. Some of the elephants like their baths, some aren’t so keen, two of them like nothing better than to dive under the water with only their trunks showing as all the other Mahouts roar with laughter as the elephants Mahout get very wet. They have such a range of personalities.

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Scrubbing

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Balancing.

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Not balancing.

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Riding out.

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Saying good bye.

We had such an incredible time at the village and loved every second of being around such magnificent creatures. The village does a great job looking after them with an onsite vet. The future for elephants is very bleak though as their natural habitat is logged and burnt, and those left in the logging industry are being replaced by machines. Well run centers like this offer some form of hope for ex-logging elephants but it is predicted Asian elephants will be extinct in the wild in 50 years.

Posted by Justin Woolley 08:00 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Vang Vieng

Paradise lost or found?

sunny 35 °C

5 hours later and I suspect we have taken the best Laos roads have go to offer. It would almost be better if they were just dirt roads but the constant acceleration over short stretches of tarmac before heavy breaking and bouncing over pitted dirt patches is worse. Add in the fact no road can be straight for more than 150m and mountains and you have a pretty good recipe for motions sickness. Perhaps I shouldn’t have had that can of Pepsi at the lunch stop. But anyway I digress. We arrive in Vang Vieng. Infamous for tubing.

I feel I have already been here, as it seems most “travellers” have a number of tubing branded items of clothing. And here we are in the place it all began with a hundred shops selling the tat. What I wasn't expecting were the tens of pharmacies clearly doing a roaring trade in bandages and rehydration salts.

VV has long been a stopping off point between Vientiane and Luang Prabang in Laos but was generally a sleepy village on the Nam Song river. Then some bright spark had the idea of sticking westerners in a truck inner tube a few kilometers out of town and letting them float down the river. But the real magic comes when you sell them large amounts of alcohol and drugs and build giant rope swings and slides off make shift bars perched on the river side. Heaven for some. Hell for others.

We got out of town, just far enough away not to be able to hear the “party island” in the middle of the river. We found an amazing hostel called Maylyn run by an Irish chap called Jo. Beautiful villas in his garden over looking the river and the surrounding limestone karsts are magical.

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The view from our balcony.

The best way to describe Laos is Halong Bay on land, on steroids. Huge, sheer limestone mountains pierce the flat flood plane in all manner of shapes. Dripping with foliage they are an amazing sight. And we had the best seat in town. So I dragged Lynne off to do some tubing spotting.

The center of the town has become a traveller haven with a hundred identical bars serving the same food (the menus are actually identical). The only difference seems to be whether they are showing Family Guy, Friends or both at the same time. Not the traditional Loas culture we had travelled around the world to see. I firmly believe in giving everything a go (or at least a long furtive glance before making sweeping generalisation) but had had enough after two episodes of family guy and we booked a kayaking trip for the next day before getting the shaky bamboo bridge out of there.

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Family guy in the bar. The one where Louis does Karate and beats everyone up. A good episode!

The next day we headed off in the back of a truck and found that the roads could get worse, if you were in the back of a truck. After 14k and bottoms leaving seats a few times as we hit particularly big holes, we arrived at our first cave. Tubing cave! You get an inner tube and head torch and then pull yourself along the rope through the cave. I was half expecting it to be over in a few minutes but after 30mins we were still going deeper and deeper with stalactites hanging from the ceiling (no helmet, health and safety is non existent in Laos- which is good if you want to make rope swings!). Then you hit the end and everyone goes back out again. It was actually quite fun and neat.

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Caving Justin. Always ready for the lights to go out. As long as it isn't too cold.

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The cave entrance.

Then the kayaking! Lynne and I got our own kayaks after professing our brilliance and off we went down the Nam Song. The guides seemed intent on turning it into a massive water fight, which was fine in the 35+ degree heat. The water was cool and crystal clear. After an hour of paddling through the spectacular countryside we hit the start of the tubing run, a very surreal place. Lots of bamboo bars/clubs blearing out music with crazy slides and zip wires. We joined the tubers for the rest of the trip but there were very few and those that were there seemed a bit drunk to be getting in the way much. We spent an hour at one of the bars further down the run, watching the world go by and then headed back into town.

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Crazy fun kayakers!!!!

We spent the evening enjoying a lovely Laos curry in Maylyn Guesthouse after watching the sun set and the butterflys flutter around and then fell asleep to the sounds of the countryside.

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The bridge over the Nam Song. Of course there was a charge to cross. Old bombs were the markers at each end.

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Beautiful Vang Vieng.

In conclusion: If I was on a stag do and could forget I was in a deeply Buddhist country of kind and gentle people then Vang Vieng would be an absolute blast. However the image of half dressed teenagers with their first beard growth, vomiting on the doorstep of a poor mans shack before staggering off swearing makes me think that most of Vang Vieng is paradise lost. Get out of town and enjoy the spectacular countryside.

Posted by Justin Woolley 06:22 Archived in Laos Comments (1)

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