Saturday, 2 April 2011


Siem Reap

Well our fist stop in Cambodia was going to be Siem Reap, home to the Angkor Wat. We booked our bus through our guest house in Don Det and expected the journey to take aprox 14 hours. Oh how we were mistaken. We eventually made it there 17 hours later . It was 1:30am by the time we got  to a guest house reccommended by a guy from the bus. The hotel was surprisingly good with a nice pool. We managed to get a massive AC room with nice bathroom for $10 p/n which was a bargain. We spent our first day in Siem Reap having a look around the town centre which had a good market and loads of bars and restaraunts. That evening we went out for a meal and a few beers. Now beer is cheap most of the time, maybe £1 but here in Cambodia most places have crazy happy hours that start at 4pm till midnight offering draft beer for $0.50. We had arranged a tuk-tuk for the following day to take us to see the temples of Angkor so decided to have an earlyish night.

The Temples Of The Angkor

We had planned on doing the temples in two days as there was far too much to cram into one day. We organised a tuk-tuk driver and set off for day 1. After collecting our passes ($40 for 3 days) we headed off to the smaller temples surrounding the main areas containing Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat. After about 5 hours we were starting to get a bit templed out so we headed back to our hotel to spend the remaining few hours of sunlight near our pool. That evening we went into town for some street food and a few happy hour beers, well it'd be rude not to.

The Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom

Day 2 at the temples and we were up super early so to catch the sunrise over the Angkor Wat. We made it to the enterance about 6am and the sun was just starting to show, it was very busy around the main enterance with everyone waiting for that perfect shot. We spent about one hour wandering around the grounds and taking photo's and then decided to get some breakfast.

Angkor Wat Sunrise

After breakfast we got back in our tuk-tuk and travelled the few Km to the Angkor Thom area where there are several more temples enclosed within a walled complex. These Temples were of different designs and spaced out over several Km. We finished off our Temple tour by visiting the temple used in the tomb raider film. The temples really are an amazing sight to see. However, after 2 days of solid temple viewing and the previous 4 months we are both now well and trulytempled out. We spent the next few days chilling near our pool during the day and  eating out along pub street in the town centre.

Tomb Raider Temple

The 4000 Islands


We eventually made it to Paske after yet another classic tuk tuk scam. Ok, so this time we pull into a petrol station and the driver opens the door and a tuk tuk driver shouts "Pakse", so now this becomes the northern bus station. After all the fellow falang and ourselves disembarked and collected our bags we then found out that the bus was continuing towards Paske. So we all got back on board? We got off just outside the centre and although we still had to get on a tuk tuk it was only for a few km to the town centre. We didn't really do much whilst in Paske but were able to get some proper food, which is always a good point. We only spent two nights there before setting off to our final destination of Laos, The 4000 Islands.

Don Khong

Although we had vowed never to willingly get in the back of a Toyota minivan again, we found this the best option for the short 120km journey south. It took about 2 hours for us to reach the ferry crossing to the largest of the islands Don Khong. We did the short crossing on a small long tail boat and checked into one of the few guest houses along the Mekong. Don Khong is the largest island in the 4000 islands and we were expecting quiet and chilled. Well after having a trip around the island on a scooter we soon realised although very peaceful and beautiful it was also a bit too quiet. The whole island is just tiny bamboo villages, with the complementary over sized sky dish of course. We spent one night in Don Khong and the following day decided to take a 2 hour boat trip down river to one of the busier islands to see if there was more to do and see.

Don Det

We made it to Don Det early in the morning after a lovely boat trip down the Mekong. The area known as the 4000 islands is the widest part of the Mekong with loads of small islands, mainly inhabited by local farmers and fishermen. We were expecting it to be chilled out and it really was. We found a good guest house and a fairly good room for 90,000 kip, which is about £8. The majority of accommodation on Don Det seems to be sheds on stilts and although very cheap are totally basic and consist of a bed in a shed. No windows, just bars and pretty unstable looking. We spent our first day chilling out and that evening bumped into a couple we had met earlier in Paske. The next day we met up with Emma & Charlie and went on bike ride to some waterfalls on the next island, Don Kon. The waterfalls were pretty impressive considering that it was currently dry season. 

The following day we decided to go on a Kayak trip down the Mekong. We set off in our double open top canoe early and after an hour or so we got out and had a 5 min walk to the waterfalls that we had been the previous day. We walked a bit further and eventually came to our kayaks which had been transported down river by locals. Back in the canoe and we continued downstream for a few mins. We stopped again, but this time it was to climb to the top of this massive rock and jump off into the river below. We were assured that the water was deep and the guide was first to go. It was high! Well, we all made it off safely and then back to the canoes. We continued on down stream though some mini rapids and after a little more than an hour we made it to our lunch spot, a small rock in the middle of the Mekong. This spot was also the rare Irrawaddy Dolphin viewing spot. We did manage to catch a far off glimpse of the dolphins but it was very far away. After lunch and a quick swim it was back in the canoes for another journey down river. After a hour or so we made it to the Laos main land near the boarder with Cambodia and got out of our canoes. After a short break we all got on a big tuk-tuk with our canoes strapped on the roof and headed off to the biggest waterfall in South East Asia. Now this was impressive, the sound was really loud and it was huge. The day finished with a trip further up river and then we canoed back to Don Det. We were shattered! A nice dinner and few drinks completed a really good day trip.

We decide to spend two more days in Laos before heading south to Cambodia. We went tubing one day, but this time we got taken upstream in a boat and left to float back, it was really peaceful. On our last day we just spent all morning lazing about in hammocks near the river. In the afternoon Chris had arranged a 3 hour fishing trip. He returned back about 5 hours later with no fish. The following day we were off to Siem Reap in Cambodia.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Tha Kheak

 The town itself is very small and basic with only a few similar places to get food, BBQ or noodle soup was the local food stuff. That's breakfast, lunch and dinner. Well we didn't visit Tha Kheak for the sights but for the loop.

The Loop

The loop is a "road loop" of approx 500km+ it starts and finishes in Tha Kheak and goes past various caves on-route. We planned on doing it in 3-4 days so with our hand drawn map we set off on our Kalao 100cc super scooter. We started out early and by 8:30 we had made it to our first cave Buddha cave. Guess what? it's full of Buddhas. We continued on our bike visiting various small caves throughout the morning and eventually made it to a large deep cave that had some amazing rock formations. After lunch we decided to get to the next main town and start thinking about somewhere to sleep that night. The bike was starting to get a bit empty and luckily the next town definitely had a petrol station. Well it had two but no petrol! We had to continue. We made it to the end of the road and were now driving on loose dirt and gravel. To say the road was bad would be a joke and we where now running on fumes and decided to stop at the next small village. We found an old man and asked him if there was any petrol anywhere. He said no and just as we were about to continue I noticed a big barrel full of the stuff attached to a hand pump. Ahhhh petrol, yes he now says? Well we filled up and now had to decided, do we continue? or head back to find somewhere to sleep that night? Well we had driven at least 30km down the road that we were warned about. The guy who rented the bike to us and gave us the map had said it would take between 4-5 hours to complete the 78km "road" which we now found ourselves nearly half way down. Well it was 1:30pm and the sun goes down at 5ish so that gave us about 3.5 hours to do 50km. Easy, I mean how bad can a road get? We where already on a pretty poor excuse for a road but then with about 40km to go it got really really bad. We were now driving on boulders and pot holes. This continued on and on for what seemed like an endless road and it was now starting to get too close to sundown. We hadn't seen any sort of place to stay for at least 5 hours and were now starting to worry a bit. The road slowly got a bit better and then we found a lonely guest house by the side of the road, the room was basic and the only place to eat was across the road were we enjoyed some noodle soup before going to sleep.

Day 2

We had decided that we would now head directly for the main attraction, Kong Lo caves. We set of early and no further than 2km down the road we found a small town called Luksao, with loads of shops and hotels! We stopped and had some really good fried rice and omelet breakfast. Mmmmhh! And then continued on the bike for a few hours driving through paddy fields and limestone mountains. The road was now back to black tarmac with only the odd pothole and we completed the 120km journey by early afternoon. When we arrived at the cave area we found a lovely guest house and checked in. It was still early and we decided to take the trip through the cave that day.

Kong Lo cave

The trip through Kong Lo on board a small long tail boat was something we had both been looking forwards to. The 7.5 km trip through the cave is mainly in darkness with only a small headlamp to illuminate the surroundings. It feels like a giant ghost train tunnel that never ends with a river running through it. It's amazing how the boat driver can know which way to steer because it is that dark. About half way through the winding cave which reaches nearly 100m high in places, I mean it's massive, we came to a landing spot where we got out and had a look around some of the amazing formations. This area was well lit and we walked for about 5 mins, taking some photo's and then got back in the boat. We got back into the boat and continued, the river was quite low and at some points we had to get out out and walk with the boat upstream. After a few more km we came to the end of the cave and had a little trip up river where we stopped for a drink. Then we got back in the boat and returned through the cave back to where we had started from. It may sound quite good but it was amazing, you'll have to visit sometime? We chilled for the rest of the night and enjoyed a lovely dinner back at our accommodation.

Day 3

Our last day would be simple all the bad roads were now done, the 190km journey starts with a steady climb on winding roads. We made it to the top were there was an amazing view of the surrounding landscape and took some photo's that really don't do it any Justice. The remainder of the journey was just straight roads back to Tha Kheak. We made it back early afternoon and checked back into our guest house. We had made it and unexpectedly no punchers!! "touch wood". Well the next day we were off again, this time to Pakse which we would visit to break the journey south.

Vang Vieng & Vientiane

Vang Vieng

We met some people on the mini bus here and ended up staying at the same guest house. We had arrived late afternoon so quick change then we all went out to eat.  Went in the first place we came across which happened to be the bucket bar where they give you a free bucket of whisky cocktail with every 2 meals.  Vang Vieng is very touristy and people only really go there to get drunk and go tubing so there is a lot of very drunk tourists staggering around in the evenings, but its hard to stay sober when the bars are giving buckets away.  After a couple more buckets and a few games of pool we headed back to the guest house.

The next day we met up with the others and walked to the river to join the rest of the tourists tubing for the day.  Tubing is basically drifting down the river in an inner tube of a tracktor tyre. We got our tubes then got driven a couple of miles up the river and droped off.  We had about 5 hours to drift back to the start. But when tubing in's all about swinging and sliding and drinking. To be honest we didn't really need the tube to get from bar to bar and we probably nly made it 500m on the tube in 5 hours. The day was mostly spent swinging on massive rope swings and drinking in the sun with 100's of other "falang". We made it back to the tube station via a tuk tuk which we got from the place they had dropped us off 5 hours ealier. Tubing is great! The next day we both felt a little sore and decided to chill out so headed off to a litle bar and watched some friends. Friends to Vang Vieng is like octopussy for Udaipur, its played everywhere on-loop all day. The next day we caught a bus to Vientiane.


Well there wasn't much good said by other travellers about this city and we had only planned on visiting to break our journey while heading south to Tha Kheak. We had a little walk around the centre and down the Mekong but as expected there was little to do or see. The next day we boarded a proper VIP bus to Tha Kheak where we planned on visiting Kong Lo cave. The journey was good and we made it to the town outskirts about 7pm. There seems to be a little system going on between the bus drivers and the tuk tuks, they seem to drop you off in strange locations where there's always a tuk tuk or 2. Anyways after another 30 mins we made it to a little Guest house near the river front. We had come to Tha Kheak to do the loop.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

Well we left Chiang Rai early in the morning heading to Chiang Khong the place we would be crossing into Laos. We had planned on spending that night in Chiang Khong but upon arrival we soon realised that there was nothing to do there so decided to cross the "boarder" into Laos. Our boarder crossing was simple and all we had to do was jump in a little long tail boat and cross the 30m of Mekong between Thailand and Laos. I've never seen such a relaxed immigration office and they seemed more concerned with their $1 processing fee (tip) than anything else. Well no longer than 10 mins from Thailand to Laos and that included filling the forms out and waiting in line. We had made it, our fourth country and one that we had both been looking forwards to after hearing so many good things about it. After having a look around the small boarder town we decided rather than waste time we should get on the move to our first destination, Luang Pranbang. So we booked a VIP bus that departed that evening at 5pm arriving at 5am. The VIP bus that we had booked seats on was a complete joke! Possibly one of my worst all time travel experience's ever. Not only were there extra people sitting on plastic garden chairs in the aisle but the guy next to me (in the aisle) was trying to put his feet on me and we were in a constant battle for MY chair arm, that's not to mention that the roads don't go in any sort of a straight line for more than 5m. The journey was really rough and although only 12 hours it seemed like a lifetime.

Eventually we made it, well to a car park on the outskirts of town. It was about 5:30am and we had no idea where we where or were to go so we jumped in a Tuk-Tuk and headed into the centre. Luckily we found a guest house that was letting someone out to catch an early morning plane and managed to get the owner to clean the room there and then. The room was small but really clean and the bed was mega comfy. We had a much needed shower and then settled into a 3 hour kip.

We spent our first day wandering around the town in the baking heat stopping off for fruit shakes along the river and popping into some of the many tourist shops to check out some of the tours and excursions on offer. My first impression of Laos was wow, I mean the location and the buildings in Luang Prabang are so nice. There's like big french teak villas hugging the Mekong river. And it's so quiet compared to Thailand and there's loads of monks walking around the streets. That night we had dinner from one of the street stalls near the night market and went home for an early night.

The following day we decided to rent some bicycles from our guest house and explore the rest of Luang Prabang. Well what we hadn't realised was how small the town centre actually was and it soon dawned upon us that we had walked almost everywhere the previous day. So we headed off across a little bridge and had a cycle around the surrounding area. It was getting hot, too hot so we chilled for a bit near the river and then went to get ready for our dinner. That evening we went for a few drinks in one of the many quiet river bars and then went for a Lao style BBQ. Now a Lao BBQ is your own table BBQ were you cook your dinner, which consists of a spicy, garlicky vegetable noodle soup and lots of meat. The waiter simply shows you how to cook ur first bowl and then the rests up to you. It was well tasty!


The next day when we woke up it was raining. But it never rains this time of year in Laos, it's just unheard of. Well it does when me and Tracey are in town, as it has done with every country we have visited. So we had a late breakfast, chilled in our room for a bit and then visited the Palace Museum. To top off our super lazy day after dinner we grabbed some cakes and tea from the local bakery and watched a film in our room.

After a good rest and a super lazy day we decided to get up early the following day and ride to the waterfalls 35km outside of Luang Prabang. We had been assured that although it was going to be hot and sweaty that the journey should take no more than 2-2.5 hrs. Easy! So after breakfast we hired some mountain bikes and headed off out of town. We rode out down a long road and soon found ourselves in the countryside with the odd small bamboo village to pass through. It was getting hot now and the road was starting to climb, that's when it happened. Tracey's bike was broken! She couldn't get the gears to shift, after a close inspection I realised that the cable was broken and we would have to turn back. I reckoned we had made it at least halfway. We got back to the town about 11:30am and decided to get a Tuk-Tuk to the waterfalls instead. Am I glad that bike broke!! We probably made it about 1/3 of the way there and that was by far the easiest third. The Tuk-Tuk took nearly an hour to get there! Once we made it there we walked up a really steep trail to the top of the waterfall and then went swimming in the cool pools, there was also a bear sanctuary there which was pretty cool and the bears looked like they were pretty well cared for.

Our last full day in Luang Prabang and we decided to book a tour to the Caves & Elephant camp.  We were picked up and taken to the elephant camp where we were introduced to our elephant and helped onto her.  We sat on a bench type thing on her back and went for a walk on the elephant through the jungle for bout an hour, it was quite hilly and thought we might fall off (its higher up there than i thought) but managed to hang on. After heading back to camp we were taken in a boat to a cave.  There were lots of steps to climb and a few Buddha statue's but that's about all, its wasn't great.  The best part was after lunch, back at the camp we were back on the elephants, this time without the aid something to stand on or a bench to sit in, getting on an elephant is harder than it looks.  When we were finally on, they walked us to the river where our elephant got in to bath.  She got all the way in and sprayed water all over her back soaking us in the process. The boys from the elephant camp got in the river too and got the elephants to try to shake us off it was brill.  On the way back from the camp we stopped off at Whisky village to sample some local snake whisky it was disgusting!

The next day we got a mini bus to Vang Vieng.