A Travellerspoint blog

Living the diving dream

Dive master highlights!!!

sunny 30 °C

The bucket list

When I set out on this year off I had a "bucket list" of things I wanted to do and dive master was right near the top of the list. I decided last Jan while on a live aboard looking at the stars one night in Cairns that getting my DM would be a good thing to do and now here I am!! As a dive master you can lead people under water and conduct scuba reviews. The course entails assisting instructors on all the PADI courses, stamina tests and guiding and lasts about 6-8 weeks.

The Blue Planet Office

The Blue Planet Office

My fellow DMT's

Lynne a beautiful lady from Florida, just quit her job in Cirque de Soleil, Kristine (aka Champu - pink in Thai) from Norway a fellow traveller and Kristina a lovely lady from Poland. I am dutifully informed on my first day that as last one in I am the "DMT bitch" which basically means the sh!t rolls down hill and as the newest member of the team I get all the rubbish jobs and everything is my fault!

Me with Lynn and Champu

Me with Lynn and Champu

Life on Lanta can only be described as a bubble, day to day is packed full of exciting things to do.. Mostly diving, running, sun bathing, chatting, drinking and partying.. Tough life but someone has to do it!! Your living on an island so the "real world" is a world away and feels it especially when you are so busy having FUN!

Lanta is a wonderful island, chilled and sprawling.. A party can always be found but you have to know where to look! The beaches are amazing, the beach I spent my time on mostly was Khlong Dao, family friendly, 3k,s in length - I ran up and down it often, fab bars to enjoy a sundowner and fantastic thai and western food! The beaches south of kd are also nice, long beach has some fab bars and the further south u go the more chilled and quieter u get...

So.. I ended up spending 100 amazing days in Lanta, I met some AMAZING people - you know who you are ;-) drank far too much, partied like a crazy women, got a ridiculous tan, got some guns (muscles) ate the most amazing thai food and became a DIVEMASTER eeek!! I have no idea how to even start summarising my time on Lanta but I will try!

Doing what I do best <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Doing what I do best :)

Home <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Home :)

DMT bitch

As DMT bitch - last one in is always given this gracious title I had my work cut out for me as I am swiftly informed anything that goes wrong is my fault and I get the worst jobs - seriously! Bring it on I’m up for the challenge. I signed up for a partial intern course which meant I would pay for half my course and work for the rest of it.. Work involved selling dive packages at the shop in the south or boat master managing the boat.

All the DMT's lived in the same apartment block and quickly became friends.. We spent many an evening sharing our joys and frustrations about the day’s events! As a dive master you are responsible to guide customers under the water - sounds simple right?!? I was about to work out how much more involved it can be!!

DMT BITCH

DMT BITCH

Sunset over Saladan

Sunset over Saladan

The perfect assistant?!

My first day didn’t go too well.. It turns out I like to talk a lot?!? Hehehe the instructor I was assisting was not too impressed when me and his student talked most of the way to the dive site and we didn’t have time to complete the test the student needed to complete.. Oops!? I soon worked out that timing is very important on a dive boat!! It turns out I improved from that point on and I really enjoyed helping out on the courses especially the open water courses when the students do their first dive it’s so nice to see people discovering the underwater world :-D

My favourite course was one I sold making some sweet commission a lady from Canada that hadn't dove in 31 years!! The equipment was totally different than what she had learnt in.. I took her through everything again. Under the water I demonstrated all the skills she had to do a first for me and she did really really well :-)

Ko haaaaaaa 1

Ko haaaaaaa 1

Sat nav anyone?!!

Hmm so those of you that know me well know that my sense of direction is terrible.. So this was the biggest challenge for me actually working out where the hell I was and making sure we were going in the right direction and getting back to the boat!! Initially I was totally lost under the water and was really pleased I was just diving at the back.. You start at the back of a group until you feel confident to lead.

The office <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

The office :)

My first guiding experience was guiding an instructor we were at hin Daeng a very famous beautiful dive site 4 hours from koh lanta.. I was very proud of myself I made it back to the boat! and while my profile was not perfect I was pleased with my efforts! I did get lost a few times, hehe another dive master was thankfully there pointing me in the right direction phew!!

A view from the boat of Koh Haaaaaa

A view from the boat of Koh Haaaaaa



Do that one again

We all love doing and redoing the underwater skills right.. Hmmmm. My favourite skill is fin pivot why the f do I have the floattyest feet in the world and why can’t I seem to straighten my legs blah... I have no problem taking my mask off, hovering, recovering my mask but fin pivot is not my strongest point.. As part of dmt you must demonstrate all the skills to very high standard and if u can’t you must repeat until u can.. I had to redo my pivot a few times! On one occasion we did our skills at the local beach and the viz was so bad we could hardly see our hands in front of our faces let alone complete skills good training apparently!! On another I had a little fish from hell biting me while I was trying to complete a skill I was jumping up and down in the water like a jack in the box.. Less than professional apparently!!

Physics eeek

Theory wasn't too bad.. Watching more padi videos cheesy but painless but then I heard about the physics that we had to do!? Science has never been more strong point and so this as going to be a challenge.. mellisa taught us and thankfully she was a good teacher and very patient! She explained it so it was easy to understand and we aced our test so we must have been listening!!

Another bikini ANYONE?!?

I was not too concerned about the stamina tests.. I’m fit and I can swim.. Easy right.. How wrong could I have been?!? The first test was just a 15 min float.. No issues there passed easily check! The next was the "Mickey mouse porno push" otherwise known as the tired diver tow! Involving pushing a victim back to the boat with their feet on your shoulders.. Hence the commonly termed mickey mouse name!! I ended up pushing James our lovely boat master.. Just happens to be over 6ft,! Initially I pulled rather than pushed oops wake up me.. I then realised and stared pushing back to the boat.. I made it although I’m sure the boat was slowly moving further and further away :-) the next was the swim... Omg I did not choose the right bikini for this one!! Much to the delight of everyone on the boat I spent the majority of my 7 laps round the boat yanking my bikini top up!! Eek! I did consider dumping the top and getting a better time but it would not have been worth the stick I would have got for it! The penultimate stamina test was the 800m swim with fins but no arms.. Sounds easy huh?? I found this one of the hardest to do.. Me and champu grabbed Carolina and headed to the beach to do this, the conditions were perfect and I was pretty confident of a good time until I found out you couldn’t use ur arms.. We made a start for it heads in the water and kick kick kick.. I popped my head out of the water after the first few mins to find out I was heading back to land argh!! Wasted effort.. I spent the next 800 m zig zagging my way to land and back out to sea.. Im sure I covered a massive distance in the end!! The stress test was the final icing on the cake.. Officially this is known as equipment exchange.. Hmmm the unofficial story is that u should be able to deal with stressful situations and so while exchanging equipment there is other staff hanging around throwing sand, grabbing your equipment, blowing bubbles from their reg in ur face and generally being a nightmare while you are exchanging your gear while sharing a regulator with your buddy.. Arg!! This ended up being one of the hardest things I have ever done.. But after a couple of un successful attempts I managed it with my most amazing buddy Krys!! :-) the only thing left now was the snorkel test!!

Boat briefing!

Boat briefing!

The blue planet Boat

The blue planet Boat

Ladies night

After 6 long weeks, some amazing diving, The last unofficial stamina test to complete was the snorkel test, downing a renowned bucket of alcohol and mixer through a snorkel!! The blue planet snorkel parties a renowned on the island and this one did not disappoint. The 4 of us did it together and the night was named ladies night, we were to come in our best dresses to complete some fun games and then take the snorkel. We arrived to a fluorescent cocktail and the night just went downhill from there! Lynne was up first and remarkably took the whole bucket trough the snorkel and then a full beer.. The rest of us did not do so well but I managed a respectable amount. I was the last one standing that night after plenty more drinks, fun and dancing the night away in celebration of surviving!

We all woke up the next day with stinking hangovers but pleased to now all have survived our training and initiation we were all now newly qualified dive masters!!

A big thank you to Melissa the owner of Blue Planet and all the instructors who helped me through the course! You all know who you are couldn’t have done it without you, I learnt so much!!

My snorkel!!!

My snorkel!!!

Lynn's snorkel...

Lynn's snorkel...

]

The team after the snorkel test

The team after the snorkel test

]

You’re coming diving with me and I get paid for this?!

I was quickly put to work as a dm as I was informed my first customers were a lovely family of 3 from Canada.. Melissa told me if I played my cards right and they liked me I would get to guide them for the 4 days they were diving with us. The first dive was pretty intense, the father of the family was a professional commercial diver and they had a child of 10 who had just learnt to dive.. But overall they really enjoyed it, I enjoyed showing them the best of the dive sites in Lanta and at the end I got some great feedback and my first tip :-)

Comments from my first guiding <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Comments from my first guiding :)

Whale shark at Hin Daeng[/b]

After just 2 weeks on Lanta I got to head out to the famous hd I was not diving but was boat master, managing the boat and making sure everyone went into the water, got down safely and came up ok and got out ok.. After about 30 mins of the first dive I saw a head pop up and I immediately recognised it as one of our divers.. I was getting ready to tell the boat staff when I realised they had seen but it turned out the diver was signalling to us that there was something massive on the surface. After a few seconds we realised it was a whale shark!! I was initially concerned about leaving the boat to see it but the captain practically pushed me off the boat to go snorkelling with it :-) there was just 2 of us at the surface for 20 mins while this baby 5m whale shark inquisitively circled us AMAZING AMAZING site, one I will never forget :-)

The whale shark - Photo taken by Kev

The whale shark - Photo taken by Kev

Whale shark - photo taken by Kev

Whale shark - photo taken by Kev

So a roundup of my time on Koh Lanta would not be complete without a mention of the extremely yummy food and drink consumed so here goes...

My fav restaurants and drinking spots and why..

Breakfast is a close call between two western places either baans next to the dive shop in saladan serving fantastic coffee and sandwiches or the German bakery on the main rd near klong dao beach again great coffee, bread and eggs! Many many hours spent in both of these places catching up on the lanta gossip!

German <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

German :)

Dinner thai is san on the main road at klong dao does the most amazing red curry with shrimp it’s worth the very very long wait.. They have a juke box in a fridge.. Random but true which plays a lot of random tunes anything from ymca, thru john denver rhine stone cowboy hahah and some more later stuff. Tom yam salad papaya salad is served best at lap royet and was a great takeaway option for the nights I wanted a chilled one in or a catch up with lynn on the green rooms balcony. Western food is great at koala bar pizzas are amazing and they are also good at Ling uan. Bamboo restaurant on the KD beach is a great option for dinner on the beach and do great pad thai! I spent one very special night going to the nicest restaurant in town red snapper I would definitely recommend it the food is divine especially if you have been on the island for a while and are craving scrummy food the wine was great and the company wasn’t bad either :-)

Pad Thai <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Pad Thai :)

Shanti, Shanti my fav ice cream place!

Shanti, Shanti my fav ice cream place!

Favourite drinking spots the balcony at green rooms where we live was a fav hangout for all us dmts :-) many a night spent catching up on gossip, putting the world to writes and talking about our days.

Lynne on the balcony at Green rooms

Lynne on the balcony at Green rooms

Indian on the beach a bar found by Lynn while googling something else served the great wine just by where we lived and perfect for sundowners.

A bucket of wine at the Indian

A bucket of wine at the Indian

The best moijitos on lanta are served at lin uans although warning if there is a free bar which there was once while I was there don’t consume your body weight in moijitos it makes for a rough hangover the next day!!

Partying has to be done at the Irish bar a great quiz on a Monday and great as a warm up place for going on somewhere else. The blue planet team spent many a night dancing to cheesy 80s music here way after all the other dive shops were tucked up in bed.:-)

A standard party at the Irish

A standard party at the Irish

Saturday nights is corner bar, a great bar on the beach. Don’t get persuaded into drinking buckets you never know where you night will end up!!

Korner Bar with part of the Blue Planet team <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Korner Bar with part of the Blue Planet team :)

The rest of the stories and experiences will stay on Koh Lanta - to be revisited next season :))

Lionfish gazing - thanks Christoph <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Lionfish gazing - thanks Christoph :)

Me with an Octopus!! - Taken by Christoph

Me with an Octopus!! - Taken by Christoph

Bat fish - my favourite - Taken by me <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Bat fish - my favourite - Taken by me :)

Ralphs snorkel test

Ralphs snorkel test

Posted by angcoleman 00:57 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

First few days in Koh Lanta

Rescue and EFR with Blue Planet

sunny 26 °C

Settling into Koh Lanta

Home <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Home :)

I walked through the door of Blue Planet to be greeted by many friendly faces and big welcomes, right then I knew that this would be the place I would do my rescue and dive master course and stay for the next few months!

Within a few hours I was set up with accommodation, an idea on when I would get a bike (im going for a healthy push bike.. although others are wondering how long this will last!!) and dinner plans :)

My bike <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

My bike :)

Green rooms, my balcony.. where the partys happen <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Green rooms, my balcony.. where the partys happen :)

My palace!

My palace!

EFR Course

I was keen to get started on all the theory I had to do for the emergency first response course and rescue so day 1 I took my new books to the beach and then to restaurant who do the BEST sandwiches on the island. I had vague recollections of the emergency procedures from back in the day when I have taken this course before but this was a good refresher..

Kev my instructor, Krystina his beautiful DMT assistant and I then endured the videos and some one on one Annie time! I have included a photo of Annie for those of you who don't know her. She is the rescue doll, looks the same all over the world and you practice your rescue compressions and breathing on her.

Annie - is she alive yet????????

Annie - is she alive yet????????

After successfully reviving Annie, watching the crazy American videos and rescuing Annie and Kev from a staged emergency situation I am now an Emergency First Responder :) As I was walking home from the shop that afternoon I could just see up and coming accidents the whole time - this course does make you super paraniod.. thankfully I made it home without having to utter the words "My name is Angela I am a emergency first responder can I help you.." :0)

Rescue

I now had to endure the American Padi videos - for anyone who has not had to sit through these they are super super cheesy and sterotypical American. The goofy guy is back doing some crazy stunts which are just a little but unbelievable but brings me to reminiss about my open water videos in Dahab with Debs and Jen in 2004! Wow how time flys!

"Diver, Diver PLEASE remove your weight belt"

Once all the theory is out the way it is now time for the practical pool session! The swimming pool we use is out the back of the Tavern a local Western restaurant, now I have been here for a while I have found out they do great Nachos and fantastic pool partys! The pool session is to go through all the rescue skills in a confined safe environment. We begin the role plays with Krystina acting as the victim and me as the rescuer. One of the first scenarios is a panicked diver. Before you approach them you are meant to shout out to let them know to drop their weight belt so they become more buoyant and easier to rescue. So I shout across the pool "diver, diver please remove your weight belt" Kev breaks out into a fit of giggles but just tells me make it louder and a bit more forecful so I shout "DIVER DIVER PLEASE REMOVE YOUR WEIGHT BELT", Kev and Kris are both killing themselves laughing, apparently I am the politest rescue diver Blue Planet has ever had!! :)

The next day is rescue skills in the sea, I realise that my lack of muscles may be a slight issue on this day and I turn out not to be wrong! I have since built up my muscles but initially I was struggling to carry my tank on my back and I had no hope of carrying 2 tanks!! The rescue skills in the sea went OK except there is so much to remember when you are rescuing a unconscious diver from the sea floor, removing kit while doing rescue breaths every 5 seconds and towing seemed to be a stretch for me but I got it eventually after a few re-do's!! The hardest part was lifting Krysina out of the water.. again my muscles or lack of muscles let me down! Long beach has a extra big step to get out of the sea and no matter how many times I tried lifting Kris (who is tiny!) out of the water over the step was just too much!!!

They make it look so easy...

They make it look so easy...

Scenario day

The final day of the rescue course is scenario day, looking back a very fun day but on the actual day its flipping stressful! All day you are on tenter hooks awaiting for rescue situations that you have to manage.. Lynne was the assistant for the day and gave me a very warm welcome to the boat showing me around and making me feel at ease. I spent the whole day in my wetsuit following Kev and Lynne around expecting things to kick off at any moment. I succesfully rescued Kev from an "accidental" jump off the top deck of the boat and James my unconscious diver. The second dive Kev was roll playing a open water diver who got his cert from cowboy divers.com!! We had some fun that dive including loosing a fin, breaking a mask, feeding fish with his reg etc etc! At the end of the day I was knackered and ready for a much needed sleep before the start of my dive master!!!

Special thanks to Kev my wonderful instructor, Kris my fantastic initial victim and Lynne my scenario day victim you were all fantastic!!!

Blue Planet boat the scene of the scenario day <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Blue Planet boat the scene of the scenario day :)

Posted by angcoleman 23:21 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Back to Thailand, quick stop in Koh Lipe and Malaysia!!

Travel.com

sunny 27 °C

  • *** Sorry for not writing for ages! I have settled in Koh Lanta diving and will get this blog up to date ASAP!!*****

Back to Bangkok

I arrived in Bangkok on 26th October at the height of the disasterous floods.. I had a great nights sleep on the sleeper train and was preparing myself for the worst when I arrived. Thank fully the train got into the station OK as the floods hadnt hit that area yet, I saw signs of flooding coming in but nothing like what I had seen on the news.

After a quick double check on the internet I booked another sleeper train that night for Hat Yai which was just one stop from my final destination of Koh Lipe - the new phi phi island.. Thankfully this train was also running, I now had 6 hours in Bangkok before my train left.. what to do?!?! After a very fruitless stop at immigration to extend my visa (apparently I should have done this in Laos DOH!!) I decide to go SHOP :) I hit MBK shopping mall and spent an impressive amount of money in a short time getting some vitals for the beach!

I arrived back in the train station and it was total chaos. it seemed that they had moved half of Bangkok's peeps effected by the flooding into the train station.. I still hadn't seen that much of the effects of the flooding but I could tell that things were not good and I needed to get out asap.As I was standing on the platform I heard a loud announcement in Thai and then everyone started rushing out of the train station.. I gathered that we may be getting a bus connection. There is a massive bundle for the buses but I get on with my massive backpack, with no clue how long we may be on the bus for, if the train is going to meet us somewhere and what time I may get to Hat yai!

The bus connection ended up being about 4 hours and was because of the terrible flooding through central Bangkok, apparently I found out later the trains can't get to the train station due to the water on the tracks. I see some shocking sights out of the window sand bagsand temporary walls in preperation for huge amounts of water, concerned faces, shops shutting early, shops closed for days I see just a little amount of surface water but I can imagine everyone is very concerned about what is still to come... One sight that does make me chuckle is a van wrapped up in black polythene with sellotape.. not sure this is going to protect it against a flood.. only in Thailand!

Only in Thailand......... not sure if thats going to save the van

Only in Thailand......... not sure if thats going to save the van

Preparing the sand bags....

Preparing the sand bags....

flooding in bangkok

flooding in bangkok

The train was very similar to the train journey into Bangkok except this one is packed full of Thais making an exit from the city.. There is an unbelievable amount of food sellers on the train passing by every minute offereing different Thai delicacies. There is a really cute old man and daughter next to me that seem to be a sucer for everything and they buy so many snacks! They end up sharing some with me.. I tried a thai sweet whcih was pretty gross a combo of raw jelly and blamanche very bizarre I only just managed to swallow before she offered me the rest of the packet which I politely decline!!

On arrival in Hat yai I know I need to get a mini bus to Pak Bara and then a boat to Lipe. I decide as a money saving technique to jump on the back of a moto taxi rather than a Tuk Tuk.. Only problem is I have my big bag on my back! I kind of look like a crazy out of proportion snail trying to stay on the back of this bike as it winds at top speed through the streets of Hat Yai Very funny sight! I arrive in the mini bus station and after going from desk to desk I get told that the last bus has already left.. after further questioning I find out I can get a bus today but need to go 10k to the other mini bus station! So I jump on another moto and head there.

Koh Lipe

I meet a lovely German diving instructor in the queue for the mini bus, she is also going to Koh Lipe so now I have company on the journey and we talk diving all the way to the ferry. We take a hour speed boat to Lipe and land in paradise!

My first view of Koh Lipe!

My first view of Koh Lipe!

Paradise - Koh Lipe

Paradise - Koh Lipe

On the boat trip over I also meet a girl from San Fransisco, we get on well and decide to go hunting for accomodation together, we find a great place at the end of the beach with the most amazing views over the whole beach! Koh Lipe is a lovely island, it really has the deserted island feel about it it is touristy but not over the top and has a great vibe but everything is a lot more expensive than the main land.

View from my balcony

View from my balcony

In search of a dive master course...

The next morning I start out early in search of a dive master course.. I don't really know the questions to ask or what im looking for but I know I want to take a while doing my DM, find a fun shop to do it with and pay as little money as possible. I start out on Pataya beach it turns out there is 7 dive shops on the island so I decide to go see all of them and work out which one is the best. One guy tells me I can do my dive master and rescue in 3 weeks - it sounds super fast but I like the guy and he guarentees me work afterwards. The next shop is a small new dive shop the owner Kris is lovely and I am very tempted to go with her but she can't guarentee how busy she will be and there is just her and one other guy working there,, could be a bit boring... I talk to a few others and work out I should spend some time doing this course so when I finally get customers I am fully ready for anything they throw at me.

Decisions...

After talking with 6 of the 7 dive shops - one is closed despite my 2 hour walk to get there as its over the other side of the island (ergh!) I decide to get off the island go sort my visa out and go and check out a recommended dive shop in Koh Lanta - just to throw another option into the mix!

Malaysia visa run

Because of my lack of up to date research and because Thailand has recently made it impossible for Frang (Tourists) to stay without jumping through hoops I head to head out of the country to get a 2 month visa. It ended up being very easy to get to Penang in Malysia it just took some time.. I took at mini bus from the ferry all the way to the border - it was fine just full of crazy Malysian women who had just been on a cheap shopping spree in Thailand - they didn't stop talking all the way to Penang but were very friendly and lovely and keen to hear all about my travels!

Penang itself is pretty non descript I stay in the new Banana guest house which is as cheap as chips but reminds me of a cardboard box.. very bizarre but ok for a night. The next morning I hand my passport to the guest house and book myself onto the bus to Krabi at 4pm with the promise my visa will be back... Its tight but they hold the bus waiting for my visa to be processed, We leave about 10 mins late but I now have a shinning new 2 month visa in my passport! :) The bus journey back takes 9 hours but I spend the whole journey talking to an American chef who is lovely and time passes quickly.

Krabi

We arrive in Krabi just after 1am and I realised that per usual I have no hotel room so I jump in the chefs tuk tuk and hope that there is room in his hotel, im in luck and I check into a great room for some much needed sleep before my next trip to Koh Lanta! the next morning I spend a few hours in Krabi getting breakfast and exploring the local produce market - it reminds me a lot of the markets in Tanzania busy, smelly and all types of food you can imagine for sale.

Next stop Blue Planet dive school in Koh Lanta!!!

Posted by angcoleman 01:46 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Vang Vieng

The real side to Vang Vieng!

sunny 28 °C

The real side to Vang Vien

This is an infamous party town, known for its tubing along the river, wild bars and “happy” shakes, whiskey buckets and drug concoctions of your choice are available in every bar lining the street. Friends and family guy is blaring from all the TV’s in most of the bars and all I can think of is this is a typical paradise for the stereotypical “brit abroad”. Its shocking to realize that this town welcomed its first car just 8 years ago and now its tourist mecha – what a transformation…

I was some what hesitant to make the VV stop on my travels, I was still on detox and for those of you who know me well you will know the drug scene isn’t anything im interested in and im not that interested in being with people who are into that scene.. however something was drawing me to the place and I had heard the scenery around was spectacular so I went for it and I am pleased I did!

New European Friends

After a sad goodbye to Kate I was really excited about meeting cool new people and I didn’t have to wait long! Alex a lovely girl from Switzerland was sitting next to me on the mini bus journey, we got on very well and talked all the way south around 4 hours. We both had the same idea about skipping the partys and had different recommendations for where to stay, we ended up agreeing on staying in town for the first night and did a deal on a triple room in Pans place – a very nice place to stay I would recommend it for the budget traveler! I also met a lovely girl from Belgium, Natalie on the tuk tuk into VV and so we quickly became the 3 amigos!  It’s bizarre how well we get on, we all weren’t sure about coming and have a similar mind set about why we are there.. The 3 amigos trying to escape the “brits abroad” crowd 

Organic Farm

On our first day we headed out for brunch to a lovely place down by the river, Banana bar – this quickly became our local – the fruit shakes and food were amazing! All of the seating is on cushions on the floor, super comfy and relaxing atmosphere. We could hear different episodes of friends from the bar but thankfully they didn’t play it – must be the only bar in town that doesn’t. After brunch we hired bikes and headed out to an organic farm that I had been recommended. The farm was lovely but unfortunately the farm is right on the river next to the pumping bars, which were just getting going when we arrived, you seriously can’t hear yourself think over the noise its mind numbing! Call me old but this is not a place I could stay for an hour let alone a week! I would guess, judging by the spiders, that the farm hasn’t had anyone staying for a while.. such a shame as its such a nice idea and a nice spot by the river.

The tubing crowd

The tubing crowd

Blue Lagoon

We next head in search of the blue lagoon, Nats our navigator and she does a great job! We pass a Wat which turns out to be a crazy psychedelic temple very different to any of the one I have seen before

The psychedelic wat

The psychedelic wat

We cycle up and down rough cobbly roads in the searing heat, we go past quaint villages still stuck back in time, rice paddys with people working in them in triangular hats – this is the real Asia, and bamboo houses with children playing outside, families of cows including day old calves walk past us unfased by us being there – so nice to see them roaming!

eeek how cute?!?!

eeek how cute?!?!

Back in time the real Asia

Back in time the real Asia

Amazing view from our bike ride

Amazing view from our bike ride

The road then suddenly becomes a mud bath.. the only way forward is through the middle of the mud! So flip flops off we walk our bikes through the mud it comes half way up our calfes and now makes riding in flip flops almost impossible, each time we push the peddles our feet go sliding around! We finally see a sign for blue lagoon, as we turn in we are greeted with a sight that makes all the effort worth it! Stunning! Nobody other than the water buffalo, geese and a small Loas lady in the local “restaurant” is there, we have the place to ourselves! There is a water buffalo and a few geese bathing in the stream that runs next to the lagoon almost like gate keepers to the beautiful lagoon! I quickly cross the bridge right next to the water buffalo trying not to make eye contact with it – still nervous after my close encounters in Kenya with buffalo!

The gate keepers

The gate keepers

The lagoon is amazing and the water is so blue and refreshing after our ride! The view from the lagoon is also spectacular  After a long dip I get out just in time to see 8 buffalo walk out of the forest some to join the other bathing in the water and some to graze in the field behind us. All too soon it is time to go as the sun is setting and we are a long way from home! We are all braver on the way back and cycle through the mud and flood, we all get totally covered in mud hahaha!

The beautiful blue lagoon

The beautiful blue lagoon

The view from the lagoon

The view from the lagoon

The bikes

The bikes

Waterfalls

Day 2 brings a different mode of transport we decide to hire a scooter and head to an amazing waterfall we have heard about – apparently it is 25m high, the landlord of our guest house challenges us to stand under it apparently the water pressure is intense underneath! It turned out to be quite a challenge, but we both managed it, the waterfalls were in an amazing forest one massive one and lots of smaller ones. We headed straight for the tall waterfall both of us up for completing our challenge! I went first, the water pressure even at the side was unbelievable I managed to pull myself under the main part of the fall using the rocks and stood there for a while with the water hammering down from above! Challenge complete 

Me under the 25m waterfall!!!

Me under the 25m waterfall!!!

We spent the rest of the afternoon there watching the butterfly birds and taking in the amazing scenery. On the way back was the most amazing spectacular sunset under dragon shaped pink clouds. I also tried my hand at riding the scooter, something I hadn’t done before so I was super proud of myself getting the hang of it and I took us both all the way home – almost incident free – (turning is not my forte!)

The butterfly birds

The butterfly birds

Sunset over VV

Sunset over VV

Our last day we spend at a cave, in order to get there you have to climb this huge staircase but the view at the top is amazing!

The gang on the way up

The gang on the way up

Amazing view from the top

Amazing view from the top

We spend our last night in the bar next to banana drinking yummy fruit shakes, eating curry and painting our nails proper girls night.

Girls Night!

Girls Night!

I ended up spending 4 lovely nights in VV it was super nice to put my bag down and not move it for a few days and lovely to meet such nice people and share an amazing place with them, I am convinced we have seen a very different side to VV from the typical tourist and I have enjoyed very minute of it!

Sunset on our last night

Sunset on our last night

European friends

European friends

Leaving Laos

Chris, the lovely guest house owner, had told me the budget way to get to Bangkok which involves 2 buses, 2 tuk tuk’s, 1 border crossing and one overnight train! We all decide t leave together – we started out early, our bus was due to leave at 7am. We crossed the old airfield – used by the US army during their “secret” bombing of Laos back in the 80’s during the Vietnam war.

As we arrived there was an old bus waiting on the road, wow flash back to the Tanzanian busses  The bus driver was just stopping to get.. wait for it… a beer! Eeek! I hadn’t noticed but Nat pointed it out as we boarded the bus. We al look at each other with slight panic, but then I reason with them im sure this bus driver knows these roads better than anyone.. right?! So I smile confidently and do my best to clamber over a huge package – that Alex reckons a body! – taking up the whole of the aisle in the middle of the bus making it impossible to pass… The seats at the back of the bus are pretty bashed up – most of them are missing actual seats and are just the iron frames… We set off along a dusty road bumping over every pot hole! I am working on re-threading my bikini – an impossible task it turns out and Alex and Nat are now relaxing into the journey. We stop off a number of times and then thud the sound of us driving over something and then the unmistakable sound of a flat tire!!! I then recalled a note in the guide book warning to bring extra snacks on local busses as it will inevitably break down at least once! We stop briefly to check out the damage and then we start again limping on for miles with the sound of the metal scarping the ground and the smell of burning rubber – surely we can’t go all the way to Vientiene like this?!?! We eventually stop at a tire repair place there seems to be a few on route and Alex darts out for a pee break and I go in hunt of snacks. I find some char grilled green bananas which are lovely and a perfect healthy snack for us all. The rest of the journey is uneventful and we make good time to Vientiene. Once there I bid another regretful goodbye to my good European friends, realizing that one quick planned night in the centre of VV turned into 4 fun filled days with wonderful ladies! I do a quick money exchange with Alex to pay for the tuk tuk and begin the next chapter of my adventure on my own in search of the international bus back across the friendship bridge to Thailand.

Back to Thailand

I board the bus after spending my last few kip and make it across the boarder with ease and back into Nong Khai – with only a 15 day visa in hand.. apparently Thailand have changed their visa policies for foreigners blah.. I will now need to sort this out fast as I want to stay in Thailand for another 3 months,

My first stop in Thailand is the train station, because of all the flooding I am hoping that the train back to Bangkok is still possible – turns out im in luck and I book onto the sleeper train for that night, I get a top bunk its cheaper and I prefer it.. hopefully there will be no falling out! I then head over to immigration which is a short walk. I thought it is possible to get a visa extension there but turns out I should have got it in Laos.. eek! Note for self research up to date visa information BEFORE entering a country!

I do a quick revisit of Nong Khai and pick up a spicy salad take away from our favorite family restaurant which proceeds to drain every where – why do I always have that kind of thing happen?! I board the train excited to be doing my first Asian sleeper train experience! The trin is pretty quiet, I am sure this is because of the disastrous flooding in Bangkok I can imagine no one wants to be heading that way of they can help it… Before I know it the chairs are being turned into beds – I very efficient service, I eat my sticky salad and bid goodnight to my fellow travelers eager to get some sleep before an early wake up call in Bangkok!

Posted by angcoleman 01:15 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Luan Prabang the return

We finally made it back to LP which would be mine and Kate's final destination together.. :( Kate was heading to Cambodia on a monster mission through the South of Laos and I was still a bit undecided as to what was next for me.. the flooding in Thailand is a bit concerning and I want to get to the beach but I also hear the Vang Vieng is also very nice, there is a huge party scene there which I am not up for right now but I also hear it is great for the scenery and the surrounding countryside and if I dont like it I can just keep going to Bangkok and then to the islands.. decisions decisions!!

The nice thing about going back to a place is you know exactly where is good to stay and where is good to eat, so we quickly got sorted back in our guest house with free hot drinks and bananas and tucked into our dirt cheap veggie buffet!

Big Brother Mouse

We had heard about a teaching project in Vientene and LP called Big brother mouse, its an organisation set up by locals that basically helps teenagers and young adults to read and write English, they also publish childrens book in Laos and English for children in poorer villages who wouldn't otherwise have story books. Evry morning you can go and volunteer for 2 hours litening to the young adults read or talking to them in English. I spent my time the next morning with a young monk of 16 and a local boy of 18. Both of them only had very basic English, we ended up spending the time talking in English I taught them the word favourite which they practiced a lot, we also played games including "I went to Laos and I brought" we got up to 21 consecutive items! :) More info on the org can be found on their website http://www.bigbrothermouse.com/about.html

My students

My students

After lunch we met up with a guy we had met the previous evening and a girl called Cheryl who was from Bristol! They were going to a waterfall and we decided to join them at the last minute.. We assumed it was the same waterfall we went to the last time we were in LP but it turned out to be another amazing waterfall much closer to town.. It was amazing, we took a short long tail boat to reach it and we were very pleased we decded to come! There was a massive pool to swim in and the trees surrounding the whole site were amazing very wild!

So beautiful

So beautiful

Taking a dip <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Taking a dip :)

At the waterfall

At the waterfall

The team!

The team!

Me and Kate on our long boat

Me and Kate on our long boat

Regretful goodbyes..

Kate and I spent our last sunset overlooking the Mekong with fruit shakes - such a tradition!

Our last sunset <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_sad.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':(' title='' />

Our last sunset :(

When you meet someone travelling you get very close very fast so saying goodbye is very hard, not wanting things to change but knowing they have to.. so at 6:15 am I waved Kate off sadly, I know we will see each other again in the not too distant future - Barcelona is in the plan already for spring 2012, we have shared some amazing times and she has taught me a lot and I will miss her very much.. Right now to focus on my next adventure!!!

Posted by angcoleman 18:29 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

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