A Travellerspoint blog

Muang Ngoi

Countryside, villages and warm welcomes

sunny 23 °C

We set off in a minibus to Mong Nohi its around4 hours.. we stopped off on route to the bus to buy snacks.. we didn't find anything that appertising but some apples and Kate decided to brave the fried coconut cake which she liked! Our bus was full of French people and two of them decided to speak French the whole way.. hmmm suprising how much I have forgotten since school! Mong Nohi is stunning, right on the river with breathtaking 360 degree views of cliff faces and mountains and a totally different pace of life.

Nong Khaiw

Nong Khaiw

We have a quick lunch there before getting a long tail boat to Muang Ngoi, a smaller village 1.5 hour up the river. Long tail boat is the only way to access this place.. perfect! The boat is low to the water, not very wide but long, 2 people can sit opposite each other just. We were both excited to finally be on the famous long tail boats of Laos! We passed white and black buffalo swimming in the water, villagers going about their daily life on the river and kids playing in the water..amazing! I was wondering if there was any crocks in the water.. I guess not but I didn't fancy jumping in to find out!

Our long tail boat ride

Our long tail boat ride

White and black water buffalo chilling as we go past!

White and black water buffalo chilling as we go past!

On arrival to our little paradise we are greeted by Penny ands her sister who run a guest house over looking the river, after some negotiation we agree on 40,0000 kip 3 pounds for a room for both of us. There are hammocks outside the room which I quickly jump into and start to listen to Penny's life story :)

View from our room

View from our room

View from the restaurant at our guest house

View from the restaurant at our guest house

Our guest house

Our guest house

We spend the rest of the day chilling out at the guest house sampling the excellant fruit shakes, made with coconut milk mm and eating the recommended pumpkin cirry which is amazing! Every main dish in Laos is served with sticky rice which is a staple in Laos. I presumed it was just overcooked rice but its actually made from a different rice plant and tastes sticky but firm just like the rice we are used to.

The next day we went to explore the village and get some breakfast. We realised that just behind where we are staying was a beautiful wat, past the wat was a one street village catering for tourists but not at all over developed, although I am sure it has changed a lot and it will change a lot more in years to come. Right now chickens and cows own the street just as much as the locals do!!

The rooster fight!!!

The rooster fight!!!

The english here is very poor and gives us some laughs as we attempt to decipher the English menus! We end up in a river front place that is family owned. They have 2 children a girl of around 8 and a boy of 2, they are both very cute and as soon as we finish we start to play with them both. They love the camera and take many photos of us all playing. We share no common language and there are no words but we end up having such a blast with them! They love Kates games from her teaching and join in quickly with the rules!

hahaha my new friend!

hahaha my new friend!

After brunch we head off on a short trek, much to my amusement we seem to adopt a dog along the way who takes us all the way to the cave and waterfall! He never lets us out of his site and waits expectantly for us when we stop. We arrive to a really nice waterfall and impressive cave, we chill for a bit and ss the susnsets we head back making a plan to go there tomorrow.

Our guide patiently waiting for us!

Our guide patiently waiting for us!

That night we talked and shared a massive pancake with a couple who are also staying at our place, their English is excellant and we spend the night debating life ans globalisation and the impacts on the world, it gets quite emotional but its a lot of fun.. we dont do this enough in everyday life anymore due to TV's and intenet a good debate is always such a great way to spend an evening!

The next day we walk further past the watefallthrough lots of muddy forests through lush paddy fields with men and women in triangular hats bashing the rice plants for the rice to fall out and through a village.

Village life

Village life

Kate in the paddy fields

Kate in the paddy fields

The village is a hive of activity mainly we see children playing together with flip flops! The best games we see is race the flip flo down the plank of wood which is a great source of entertainment for the 2 boys we pass!

Race the flip flop

Race the flip flop

We cross styles and streams and paddy fields and we end up next to a river with a small waterfall. We stop there for a while to take a dip and cool off! It is really hot in the sunshine so this is a refreshing break.

One of the bridges on our beautiful walk

One of the bridges on our beautiful walk

On the way back we stop off in the village we passed on the way at the 1 restaurant! It is ran by an old women and turns out most of the menu isn't available, she cook us up a storm anywayand we sit down hungrily in the most spectacular setting ever to enjoy the delicacies she has prepared! Underneath where we are eating is a stream duck and geese are playing in the water along side the local children the pace of life here is wonderful! We bid goodbye to the grandmother and family and walk back to the main "town" just before the light fades!

Our lunch!

Our lunch!

The next day after a quick breakfast we head back in the first long boat of the day surrounded by locals, tourists and fresh fish that have been caught that morning. The only bus leaving the station at that time is an open air pick up truck, it looks a bit uncomfortable for a 4 hour journey but space and nothing compares to the transport I was taking in Tanzania so we hop in and leave shortly after. We end up having a great time in the truck, the locals find it very ammusing we are taking the local bus rather than an ac mini van and all wave at us a long route. There is a really cute family grandparents and grandson travelling with us too as well as other tourists and 2 monks.

He was so scared of us!

He was so scared of us!

After a fantastic time in the country and villages we make a safe return back to LP..

Posted by angcoleman 20:32 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

A quick stop in Vientiane and then onto Luan Prabang - Laos

Laos the country of many smiles, happy welcoming people and beautiful countryside


View Year off on angcoleman's travel map.

Vientiane

We arrived in V after crossing the short friendship bridge - a random but very useful donation from the Australians. We arrived in the evening to a party in full swing, the river festivities were on both sides of the Mekong. After checking into a LP recommended guest house we headed to the waterfront where it was all kicking off! We were met by hoards and hoards of Laos people. There was a kind of market going on with crazy blaring music and announcements and cheap clothes and food for sale. We first needed an ATM - kip is the new currency to get used to.. its 12,000 kip to the pound so we became instant millionaires with one trip to the ATM!!

Luan Prabang

We took another sleeper bus to LP - its a great way to travel assuming you can sleep, which i usually can! We met lots of French people on the bus who helped us navigate the meal stop so that we didn't eat meat this time! We arrived early in LP and got a tuk tuk into town. it stopped next to the recommended hostel which Kate and I were dubious about at first not wanting to take the first one but we went and took a look and were pleasantly surprised. it was run by a family and sprawled over a few different houses. There was a communal area for guests with free tea, coffee, bananas and internet. The communal area became a great place to hang and we very quickly met a great group of people that were just about to leave for the waterfalls. We were pretty shattered but decided to join them, they seemed a lovely international group and we wanted to see them and much cheaper to do it in a group.

Downtown LP

Downtown LP



The waterfalls

We took a 45 min tuk tuk from town, we got on well with our new Global friends between the 8 of us there was many different nationalities American, Thai, Canadian, British and South African! We shared travel stories with interest each of us with tales of different places around the globe. We picked up some food on route and then begun our short walk through the forest excited about eating and then swimming in the water after our long journey! On route you pass a brown bear sanctuary.. very random but cool to see! i expect that their there as its a guaranteed tourist spot! The waterfall was spectacular, not a patch on Iguazu in South America but still a treat! While I was eating lunch I suddenly realised I had a very small leach on my foot eek! I flicked it off and it came away easily leaving no mark phew.. one of a few leach stories in Laos!!

The amazing waterfall

The amazing waterfall

The swimming area was equally as amazing, a pool of water fed by 3 waterfalls. the water was cool and if you stopped for a second shrimps that were in the pool would start biting you feet, a free fish doctor!! That night both of us were running on empty but we still went to the night market. There is a food part were you can get a plate of veggie food for 10,000 kip (80p) we quickly learnt to pile our plate as high as possible! the night market was stalls and stalls of merchandise and gifts to buy. I ended up spending some of my nieces pocket money on a few things.. she is a clever 1 year old wiring money from Australia to Loas for shopping!! :0

The next morning I went for a run to explore, the city is lovely its UNESCO so is preserved well and has amazing scenery everywhere you look, again it is on the Mekong, a river I could never get bored of running next to! There is wats on every corner and the whole city has a French feel. That day we hired bikes with our new found friends and went in search of a few of the temples.

The biggest amazing wat

The biggest amazing wat

Our last day in LP we woke up extra early to see the monks collecting alms from the locals. They do this everyday walking silently past in barefoot. the local women wait outside of their shops and houses and fill the bowls of the monks with food. It was an impressive sight to see, we then watched the sun rise over the Mekong, seeing different animals in the clouds.

We now plan to regretfully leave LP to go further North to Non Khiaw and onto Mong Nohi in search of relaxation, trekking, village life and countryside!

Posted by angcoleman 21:26 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Nong Khai

Naga's, fireballs and the kindness of strangers Photos to follow

overcast 20 °C

The very very long journey

We decided not to take the mini bus from Pai and make our own way by bus to NK.. we may live to regret this decision.. We got into Chang Mai and found there was no direct bus to NK someone had forgot to tell Lonely Planet! after lots of broken English conversations we found a nice guy who told us to head to Chon Khen and from there we would be able to get to NK.. We booked ourselves on a sleeper bus and headed back into Chang Mai for a last minute fruit shake and a spot of shopping in the night bizarre..

We were at the back of the bus next to the loo.. eeek! just as we were about to leave 2 women got on and as there were no seats left the sat behind our seats until it got dark and had to move so we could put our seats back to sleep, they ended up getting off a little later..

It was steaming hot in Chon Khen after a quick run to the loo and more broken English conversations we got a ticket, not to NK but to Udon and from there we hoped that we could get to Nk!1 It was a bundle to get on the bus accept the crowds suddenly parted and Kate and I got VIP treatment onto the bus, much to our embarrassment and surprise! we got a seat right at the front but ended up sharing it with a mother and daughter it ended up being a crazy squash all the 4 hours there. there was one other western women on our bus we quickly made friends and on our stop in udon we had a brief lunch together. Katrine from the Netherlands had volunteered in NK for a HIV charity and was returning for the festival. She was concerned we wouldn't see anything front he city centre and so invited us out to the village she was going to with the family of one of her patients. We finally arrived in NK after 24 hours of travel.. mmm in hindsight a direct 12 hour bus ride from Pai may have been the way to go!!!

The Mekong

NK is right on the Mekong river, I couldn't get over the fact I was looking at the Mekong it sounded so exotic, something out of David Attenborough's travel shows! We stayed at a great guest house overlooking the Mekong Mut Mee. Our first night we watched a breath taking sunset from just outside the guest house looking over the Mekong river.

Sunset over the Mekong, not my photo - mine are better <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Sunset over the Mekong, not my photo - mine are better :)



The Naga

That night we went out to watch the Naga Festivities. The Naga is a dragon that according to history lives in the Mekong at NK, every year at October full moon the drago breathes fire balls into the air, apparently an unexplained phenomenon! There is 3 days of partying to celebrate this and the whole of Thailand descend on NK to watch the fireballs. We ate dinner overlooking the Mekong in a lovely family owned plce. The cuisine in NK is very influenced by the Laos neighbours - they are almost in spitting distance, so the menu here is very different to what we have seen in the rest of Thailand. Sticky rice is available with everything and the soups and salads are served Laos style. There were boats playing music along the Mekong, kids were setting off fireworks, traditional Thai style lanterns were being launched into the air all around us and a huge amount of Thais were walking in all directions. After dinner we headed further along the Mekong and saw the most amazing dance, music and light performance, they went all out on the bling in their costumes! It was a great performance, all in Thai but we kind of got the gist of it!


Sala Kaeo Ku

The next day we went in search of the famous status garden, I ran and Kate biked to see it, the festivities were still going on along the water front as I ran passed.

The road I ran on next to the Mekong

The road I ran on next to the Mekong

The statue garden, Sala Kaeo Ku, can be seen from the road, huge Buddhas looming over the landscape. The most impressive statue is seven stories high and is of seven serpent heads with buddha sitting underneath. It was imposing and kept dragging my attention back to it. There was also a status garden within the main garden representing the different stages of life from birth to death. there is even a business women. All amazing and well preserved.

The seven storey serpent statue

The seven storey serpent statue

The Naga Festivities

We met Katrine early that afternoon and got a tuk tuk to the volunteer house and met 3 other lovely Dutch volunteers we would be spending the rest of the night with. We went to the village in the NGO's pick up truck. the traffic to the village was incredible, the whole of Thailand is here to see the fireballs! it was surprising how many fancy cars are on the road, all new 4x4's with entire families in the back. Apparently Thais have started buying these impressive new cars getting the families into huge mounts of debt.. keeping up with the Jones's is alive and well here also! The festive spirit is definitely alive with waves and smiles from all the locals and free water for all when we go through one village!

The family live in the middle of no where, their house is a traditional style Thai house on stilts. We get a warm welcome and before long we all sit down to eat a huge meal of fish, chicken, sticky rice, fruit, snacks and yummy rice with different sweet fillings wrapped in banana leaf. As soon as we finish it is dark and time to head down to the water for some Naga action! From where we are we can walk. Katrine brought some sparklers so for the first time in years I wrote my name in the air with a sparkler!

As soon as we got down to the water from the locals begin wooping with joy and there I see the fireballs! 3 of them in the air, they look like silent round purple balls of fire - kind of like a firework but different. In total i saw 5 which later I found out means 5 years of good luck! That evening we also launched some lanterns with all our good wishes inside and put some offerings into made of beautiful flowers and incense sticks into the water. A perfect evening spent in wonderful company. So generous to invite us and to have us there!

Fireballs - not my photo

Fireballs - not my photo

The next morning we bid a regretful goodbye to our adventures in Nong Khai and headed over the friendship bridge to Laos....

My photos to follow peeps!.....

Posted by angcoleman 00:14 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Pai

Our escape into the countryside!

sunny 25 °C

We took a short 3 hour mini van ride to Pai. We had heard great things about beautiful countryside so we were both excited about getting out of the city and seeing it! We met 2 great guys on the bus Simon and Antone, we shared laughs, traveling stories, life histories and chocolate digestives!! The route up to Pai was windy and breathtaking, the mountains were beautiful!

We followed Simon and Antone to their guest house - Paddy Fields - it was a great place the only way I can describe our room was a small tree house! We paid $3 each which was a total bargain including internet.

Pai has apparently changed a lot over the years. there is a few main streets full of restaurants and bars and shops. It has a small town feel and once you meet someone you continually bump into them! I ate my signature green curry, while Kate got excited about the availability of mango sticky rice and the animal hats that were available to buy from the many street vendors!

We relaxed into Pai and its pace quickly. The next morning while Kate went to yoga i headed out for the most breathtaking run - it takes less than 10 mins to get out into the mountains and paddy fields of Pai. I ran past so many butterfly, remote guest houses, reggae bars up and down the hills. I turned round after a rather aggressive dog decided he did not want me to run past his house! I got, nicely, lost on the way back and ended up running for 1.5 hours across paddy fields the scenery was so nice I didn't care about being lost or how long I had been!

amazing Countryside

amazing Countryside

We hired a scooter that afternoon, we were both super excited about having wheels, and we went in search of the sites.

We have wheels!!

We have wheels!!

The biking team!

The biking team!

First stop was the canyon which had some fantastic views across the valley and countryside. We met a random Thai women picking mushrooms, she was scaling the cliffs to get them!
View from the Canyon

View from the Canyon

Back on our bike and now in search of the waterfalls, we were pleased with what we found, waterfalls in the forest. It was too late to swim but we went for a paddle in the first one and left exploring the other two tiers for another day...

That night we headed out with Simone and Antone to a BBQ and camp fire at their friend Ga's house. It ended up turning into a really amazing night with jamming sessions by Bos a friend of Antone's from home - he was very very good! We got lost on the way home with Simon, Ga lives in the middle of nowhere and had to stop a few times for directions.

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

Our camp fire party :)

The next day we all headed out together to explore a waterfall, but after a few mins Antone and I lost Kate and Simon so decided to go in search for them at the waterfall we went to on the first day. they weren't there but we had a great time anyway. We got up to the second tier, it was paradise and there was no other tourists there!

The waterfall

The waterfall

All too soon it was time to go back to Pai and find Kate and Simon.. on the return we saw an amazing rainbow an end to a perfect trip! We found Kate and Simon and then bid farewell to the boys who were heading to Laos.

I can see a rainbow!

I can see a rainbow!

Me and Antone

Me and Antone

That night we went on a beautiful sunset ride into the countryside to see where Kate and Simon went before we had to reluctantly hand our bike back.

Red and purple sky at night equals shepherds Pai!!!!

Red and purple sky at night equals shepherds Pai!!!!

The road we biked on

The road we biked on

The amazing sky from our sunset ride

The amazing sky from our sunset ride

We then went to look at the street vendors, Kate fell in love with some shoes - she has it worse than me with shoes!I sat on the side of the road while she deliberated. then a girl with a guitar stopped by, Britney, and ended up having an impromptu jamming session with Kate on the side of the road! We later went to see her play at a bar she was excellent.

On our last day I headed out for a long run in search of the elephants Kate had found on her ride with Simon the day before, I finally found the 3 elephants 7 ks away on the side of the road in a farm where tourists can pay to ride them. They were all chained up and looking miserable, I am sure they are well looked after although I hear that people who keep elephants for work whip the elephants and they are always pretty miserable being chained up 90% of the day..

We ate our last meal in our favorite restaurant

Our last meal in Pai yum,!

Our last meal in Pai yum,!

And then jumped on the bus back to Chang Mai and then on to Nong Khai in search of the Naga festival...

Posted by angcoleman 21:11 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Bangkok and Chang Mai

sunny 23 °C
View Year off on angcoleman's travel map.

New Friends

After vipassana I met some amazing people that I had been meditating with fr the last 10 days but couldn't even say hi to! We spent 2 lovely days and an evening together after the course kindly hosted by Sanjay. We ate a lot chatted about our experiences during the course, laughed, shared stories, checked emails and discussed our plans for where next.. I was tossing two plans for where next in my head the options where to the North to do Chang Mai OR South to the islands to start my diving course.. then Kate suggested we both head to Chang Mai and travel together into Laos - I decided that was a great idea and we excitedly made our plans together - Carpe Diem!!

Before we left Bangkok i had one of the best massages I have ever had at a company called health land - check them out if you are ever in Bangkok - 5GBP for a 2 hour massage mmm!!

314465_117..45257_n.jpg

Buses, Tuk Tuk's and meat

We made it back to central Bangkok just in the nick of time, the travel agent we went into on the Koh San told us the last bus North was leaving in 10 minutes and we had to leave right away!! We had a should we, shouldn't we moment before deciding to go for it! We got in the taxi and then realised we had no ticket, no idea where the bus station was and no idea the name of the bus, oh and also we had no money and no food!!.. mm the tour agent had talked to the taxi driver and he seemed to know where he was dropping us so we just went with it.. The taxi dropped us in front of a random hotel with no bus in sight, he spoke no English but kind of pointed us up the road!! We started walking in that direction and asking and finally we found the office for the bus we got tickets and got told to run for the bus as it was about to leave!! Laughing all the way we made it onto the last 2 seats on the bus with money from a quick ATM stop! We were off!! Kate had come from India and me from Africa so we were pleasantly surprised with the luxury of the bus, reclining seats, air con and free snacks!!

We hadn't eaten all evening so we were pleased when the bus finally stopped at midnight to get food. The stop was kind of like a service station. plastic wrapped snacks were at one end and food stalls at the other. We spotted what we thought was tofu and had that in a soup. We are now convinced that the tofu was actually lumps of pork eek!!

eek the pork balls! We didn't realise at the time and were happy with getting some food!!

eek the pork balls! We didn't realise at the time and were happy with getting some food!!

Plastic snacks!

Plastic snacks!

The bus journey was around 12 hours, we talked a lot of the way but managed to fall asleep after getting told to be quiet!!

The beautiful old city of Chang Mai

We arrived into Chang Mai early, tired and hungry. We met a local with a crazy mustache and beard, one that twists off at the end :) he told us we were lucky not to have been there yesterday as there was major flooding and the water was up to his knees! I experienced the crazy rains in Vipassana and I can now see why there is such a huge amount of water in Thailand right now, the rains are intense for nearly the whole day.. We found a guest house from the guide book, dumped our bags and went to explore. We quickly found food in a local street cafe, we saw our "tofu" balls and established they were pork so decided salad was the way forward! When it arrived we ate hungrily until Kate said "Ang you do realise your eating fish brains" eek there was whole fried small fish in the salad gross!!!

Chang Mai is split into an old and new city. The old city is separated by a moat that runs all the way along the outside. The pace inside the old city walls is different, people seemed very relaxed and happy, there is an old beautiful temple on every street corner almost, the streets are small and windy and there is very little traffic as cars are not allowed inside the old city. Outside the city walls the cars buzz along the perimeter, there is a lot of traffic and noise and it seems a totally different place.

Chang Mai's moat

Chang Mai's moat

The beautiful moat!

The beautiful moat!

A beautiful statue garden we found in the old city

A beautiful statue garden we found in the old city

Kate is into yoga so I decided to join her for her first yoga class, i am obviously a total novice but I managed to complete the easy class which ended in handstand practice which I did!! On the way back from yoga we dived into a lovely cafe in the middle of a beautiful botanical gardens to escape the rain! We sipped tea Kate with her signature iced green tea frappe and me with a normal green tea and relaxed and discussed life. We had so many amazing conversations about life, love the past and the future!

In the lovely Cafe

In the lovely Cafe

Kate with her signature drink!!

Kate with her signature drink!!

We found a lovely area in the old city with a great vibe and found a great guest house called smile with a pool and yoga just round the corner! That night we headed to the famous night market, there was everything there you could want from fake mont blanc pens to clothes, jewelery and even a fish tank for fish to clean your feet very random! We had a fruit shake - one of many :) and had a good look round. Much to Kate's amusement I secured some great bargains haggling hard with the locals!! haha my purchasing experience really comes in use sometimes! The next morning I ran around the old city there was a lovely path next to the moat all the way round, it was so nice but interestingly i didn't see anyone else running this route - im guessing Thais don't enjoy running us much as we do?!

The area we stayed in was lovely quite boutiquey and alternative but still touristy. We found a amazing salad bar there which we could make our own salad.. it had been a while since we had both had a good salad so we both went for it and made enormous salads full of spinach, beets, egg, etc etc.. yum!

Yummy salad!

Yummy salad!

One of the cafes on our fav street

One of the cafes on our fav street

One late afternoon we were in a beautiful old wat meditating when we heard a gong and then an older monk came through the door, we suddenly realised that we may be sitting on the monks mats and quickly got up and apologised! he was OK about it and invited us to stay and listen to the evening chanting and to come back in 2 days for a teaching in meditation! The chanting was amazing, so moving in such an old location. We went back to meet the monk on our last day, it was amazing he talked to us all about our vipassana course and answered some of our questions we had about the practice. the most profound thing he shared with us and what i took away was "I don't want happiness. I want peace. This is greater than happiness. And without peace, how can anyone be truly happy? "

The Monks inside the temple chanting

The Monks inside the temple chanting

The largest wat in the city

The largest wat in the city

Inside the temple

Inside the temple

The buddha under the tree outside the Wat

The buddha under the tree outside the Wat

We both loved Chang Mai but it was regretfully time to say goodbye and continue our adventures to the countryside of beautiful Pai just a 3 hour bus journey..

Posted by angcoleman 19:49 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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