Stolen computers, broken buses and glorious Angkor Wat Temples

The bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap is a relatively long and uneventful 8 hour journey. Or it would have been, but as often is the case here in S.E. Asia, unexpected situations arise to make things much more interesting. A good way to pass the time on a boring bus ride is to surf the internet using your little eggy wireless device thingy, in full view of everyone. The American students sitting across from us were doing just that. Four hours later, after a quick stop for lunch at a roadside canteen where everyone got off the bus to have a snack and stretch out our weary legs, the female American student boarded the bus, went to retrieve her Macbook Pro from the backpack she left on the bus and quickly discovered that woops! it wasn’t there! Her friend’s computer, however, an old (and inferior) PC, was not taken. The young girl was very peeved, to say the least. She subsequently raised hell, accused the bus drivers of stealing it (they probably did…they were super sketch), then proceeded to search the bags of every annoyed passenger on the bus, of course, to no avail. Did I mention she had no backups and no insurance? Ouch. This unfortunate episode left us much more wary of leaving anything on buses. I’m just glad we got to learn from someone else’s dumb mistake instead of our own.

Not too long after the computer thief episode, the bus started to become ridiculously hot and before you know it we were sitting on the side of the road eating mentos with a Cambodian family, waiting as the sketchy computer theiving drivers attempted to change the fan belt. Or something like that, I’m not a mechanic.

At some point we actually arrived at our destination, Siem Reap, gateway to the Angkor Wat Archaeological Complex. The town was actually a a lot nicer than I had expected, with the Siem Reap River running through it, 2 great night markets, and too many restaurants to count. Our hostel was great, more like a hotel, with A/C and…wait for it….a pool! Luxury. I even used my ever-growing bargaining skills to hack $9 off the price and gave impromptu English lessons to 2 young employees on the roof.

The next morning, at some ungodly hour, our tuk tuk driver Mr. Sieneth picked us up and we followed the steady stream of tuk tuks, tour buses and minibuses heading to Angkor Wat to watch the sun rise. If you’re ever in Siem Reap and need a reliable tuk tuk driver, give Mr. Sieneth a call on (+855)92 26 25 76/88 98 83 800 or flick him an email at praksineth@yahoo.com. I promised I’d advertise for him!

Our transportation for 2 days.

Our transportation for 2 days.

Mr. Sieneth. Making tuk tuks cool.

Mr. Sieneth. Making tuk tuks cool.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat was disappointing. Haha, just kidding. It was awesome. We spent a couple hours there and could have spent many more. It’s absolutely huge and full of gorgeously detailed bas reliefs. Throughout almost every temple there are children selling cheap postcards in packs of 10 (“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10! 10 postcards for you!”), artists selling water colour paintings and young boys selling temple rubbings, among other things. One of the best purchases we made was a fantastic book with information about each temple, a $30 book bought for dirt cheap and super useful. It also served as a sort of forcefield that when held in front of us, protected us from the onslaught of the other million would-be book sellers.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Such a quiet, little known temple.

Such a quiet, little known temple.

Lotus flowers at Angkor Wat.

Lotus flowers in the pond.

Bas Relief, The Churning of the Sea.

Bas Relief, The Churning of the Sea.

Long corridors everywhere!

Long corridors everywhere!

Looking towards the main entrance of Angkor Wat.

Looking towards the main entrance.

The back door.

The back door.

Shadows.

Shadows

Angkor from below.

Angkor from below.

Look! We were there, too!

Look! We were there, too! Hanging out at the back door.

Artist at Ta Prohm.

Artist at Ta Prohm.

Painting temple scenes.

Painting temple scenes.

Waiting to pounce.

Waiting to pounce.

Postcard kids...1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. 10!

Postcard kids…1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. 10!

We spent the next two days touring around the many many freaking amazing temples with Mr. Sieneth. It was blisteringly hot and humid, though, and by about 3 o’clock each day you could stick a fork in us. We were done!

And now for a look at some more of the gorgeousness…

Bridge at the South Gate at Angkor Thom

Bridge at the South Gate at Angkor Thom.

South Gate of Ankgor Thom

South Gate of Ankgor Thom

A good day to model with a rock god warrior thingy.

A good day to model with a rock god warrior thingy.

Reflection at Bayon.

Reflection at Bayon.

A tuk tuk is more comfortable.

A tuk tuk is more comfortable.

Faces faces everywhere! Bayon.

Faces faces everywhere! Bayon.

And we forgot our orange shirts. So embarrassing.

And we forgot our orange shirts. So embarrassing. Tourist groups at Bayon.

Ta Prohm - The Tomb Raider Temple

Ta Prohm – The Tomb Raider Temple

When nature takes over...Ta Prohm.

When nature takes over…Ta Prohm.

Beauty at Ta Prohm.

Reach for the sky! At Ta Prohm.

Reconstructing history at Ta Prohm.

Reconstructing history at Ta Prohm.

Baphon

Baphon

Reclining Buddha at Baphon

Reclining Buddha at Baphon

Picture perfect! At Baphon.

Picture perfect! At Baphon.

Triplets at Pre Rup

Triplets at Pre Rup

Teeny tiny and intricate Banteay Srei

Teeny tiny and intricate Banteay Srei

Tourist folk at Banteay Srei.

Tourist folk at Banteay Srei.

Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei

Ta Sohm

Ta Sohm

Greeeeeen. Preah Khan.

Greeeeeen. Preah Khan.

Preah Khan

Preah Khan

Lion heads. Preah Khan

Lion heads. Preah Khan

Official monk business at Preah Khan.

Official monk business at Preah Khan.

Doors and doors and doors at Preah Khan.

Doors and doors and doors at Preah Khan.

Karl and his crisps at East Mebon.

Karl and his crisps at East Mebon.

ODDITIES and AWESOMENESSES:

People really like flannel pyjamas here. 2 dogs really shouldn’t be stuck together like that. Remember not to look at dogs in Asia.

Every restaurant everywhere should include a mountain of herbs as a condiment.

Herb mole hill.

Herb mole hill.

Herb mountain on our lunch.

Herb mountain.

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tuol Sleng & The Killing Fields

Two places we had to visit in Phnom Penh were the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Choeng Euk Killing Fields. Both remnants of the Khmer Rouge regime. Word to the wise, unless you enjoy being overly depressed or you are some sort of robot, do not visit these sites on the same day.

If you’re not familiar with the hell Cambodians experienced from 1975-1979 under the rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, for a very brief introduction watch “The Killing Fields”, a fantastic film I’ve seen a dozen times. You can also read the book “First They Killed my Father” by Loung Ung, a firsthand account of the horrors she and her family went through at the time. I think every tourist we encountered in Cambodia was reading it.

We visited Tuol Sleng first. Now a museum, Tuol Sleng used to be a high school, but was converted to “Security Prison 21” by the Khmer Rouge and used as an execution centre from 1975-1979. Visiting this place is a haunting, sombre and thoroughly depressing experience, one that will hit you hard and stay with you. When we finished there, we desperately needed some cheering up so off we tuk tuk-ed to the mall where we picked the silliest movie on offer – “Hotel Transylvania” – laughed ourselves back to semi-happiness and enjoyed the freezing cold A/C.

The next day, we journeyed 45min outside of the city by tuk tuk (learn from our dusty experience and take a taxi instead) to visit the Choeung Euk Killing Fields. Choeung Euk is only one of many “killing fields” where the Khmer Rouge executed about 1 million Cambodians, but it is the best known. The site itself is deceivingly beautiful, which makes it even more haunting. Multiple mass graves containing almost 9000 bodies were discovered here, many of them prisoners transported from Tuol Sleng. The site is a beautiful memorial to those who were killed and is best accompanied by the extremely well done audio tour, that allows you to wander the grounds with dozens of others in silence, lost in your own thoughts.

WARNING! Below you can find photos from both Tuol Sleng and Choeung Euk, but since they deal with some terribly sad subject matter, feel free to skip them if you don’t think you can handle it.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Cell "14"

Wooden cell “14”

Looking into a cell

Looking into a wooden cell

Wooden prison cells

Wooden prison cells

Brick prison cells

Brick prison cells

Brick cell wall

Brick cell wall

Doors knocked out of the classroom walls

Doors knocked out of the classroom walls

Barbed wire to prevent escapes and suicides

Barbed wire to prevent escapes and suicides

Rooms displaying photos of the prisoners

Rooms displaying photos of the prisoners

Female prisoners

Female prisoners

Bars over the shutters

Bars over the shutters

Entrances to rooms holding prison cells

Entrances to rooms used for torture

Torture instruments

Torture instruments

Classroom converted to torture room

Classroom converted to torture room

Bed frame used for torture

Bed frame used for torture

Tuol Sleng

Outside of the building

Front Gate to Choeung Euk Genocidal Centre

Front Gate to Choeung Euk Genocidal Centre

Ryan listening to the audio tour at Cheoung Euk Killing Field

Ryan listening to the audio tour

Memorial Stupa filled with over 5000 skulls

Memorial Stupa filled with over 5000 skulls

Sign on the memorial stupa

Sign on the memorial stupa

Beauty at the Killing Fields

Beauty at the Killing Fields

Razor sharp barbed plant used as a weapon

Razor sharp barbed plant used as a weapon

Listening and contemplating the memorial stupa

Listening and contemplating the memorial stupa

Cheoung Euk wee museum in the background

Cheoung Euk wee museum in the background

"Please don't walk through the mass grave"

“Please don’t walk through the mass grave!”

Clothing remains left as they are after coming up in the rain

Clothing remains left as they are

Magic Tree

“Magic Tree – the tree was used as a tool to hang a loudspeaker which make sound louder to avoid the moan of victims while they were being executed”

Ducks enjoying the peacefulness

Ducks enjoying the peacefulness

Skull fragments

Skull fragments

Mass graves

Mass graves

"Killing tree against which executioners beat children". Covered in bracelets and flowers.

“Killing tree against which executioners beat children”. Covered in bracelets and flowers to honour the dead.

Bracelets on the Killing Tree

Bracelets on the Killing Tree

In front of the Killing tree and mass grave of women and children.

In front of the Killing tree and mass grave of women and children.

Bracelets left on the fence of the mass grave containing women and children.

Bracelets left on the fence of the mass grave containing women and children.

Bracelets left on mass graves to honour the dead

Bracelets left on mass graves to honour the dead

Mass graves

Mass graves

Bracelets visitors leave to honour the dead

Bracelets on mass grave fence

Mass grave of 166 victims without heads

“Mass grave of 166 victims without heads”

A place to contemplate

A place to contemplate

The path around the pond

The path around the pond

Looking beyond the Killing Fields

Looking beyond the Killing Fields

Pond at Choeung Euk

Pond at Choeung Euk

Silence is key

Silence is key

Remains of clothes that wash up when it rains

Remains of clothes that wash up when it rains

Mass grave of over 4500 victims

“Mass grave of over 450 victims”

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The King is Dead – Welcome to Cambodia!

Anyone that has taken the bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane or vice versa will tell you that it is a harrowing journey at best, even with the comfort of a full length bed. The road was so incredibly bumpy and twisty, any form of sleep was near impossible. It was a big relief when we finally arrived 12 hours later.
After hanging out for hours at the tiny Vientiane airport, a place that seems to have more staff than actual passengers, we flew in style – blankets, leg room, and even a meal! (we are way too used to budget airlines) – to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, ready for a new country and new adventures.

Ryan enjoying our bed before the twisty begins.

Ryan enjoying our bed before the twisty began.

The night bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane

The night bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane

First and foremost observation about Cambodia – it is HOT. Freaking hot. Hot as balls, one might say. Hence began a week of profuse sweating from every pore in our bodies.

Our guesthouse neglected to send the tuk tuk to the airport as we had arranged, but luckily we grabbed a cab driven by Chatty McChatterson, a friendly old man who shared with us the recent big news – turns out Cambodia’s much beloved King Sihanouk died last week. The city (country?) has been in a state of mourning for the past seven days, with all businesses shut and thousands upon thousands of monks and laypeople alike flocking to the Royal Palace to pay their respects. The day we arrived was the first day things reopened, phew! Had we arrived yesterday, apparently we would have been stranded at the airport as the roads were jammed all the way into the city centre.

Pictures of the King hung from almost every building and although most of those who came into the city to mourn had left, the lawns outside the Royal Palace were still a hub of activity. It could have been a festival. There were hundreds of people and monks chanting, lighting candles and incense, and buying flowers to lay at the palace doors. Vendors were everywhere, taking advantage of the situation by selling photos of the king, ribbons adorned with the King’s portait, toys, balloons, food, you name it. So while the atmosphere was sad, it was also quite uplifting. Families were eating together on the grass and children were chasing pigeons and playing. Of course, because of this, the Royal Palace was closed to visitors, but seeing this was a much richer experience. Plus, it was people picture-taking heaven for me (and thus, boredom for Ryan).

Pigeons in front of the Royal Palace

Pigeons in front of the Royal Palace

Tuk tuks passing by the palace.

Tuk tuks passing by the palace.

Monks watching from afar.

Monks watching from afar.

Who knew pigeons were so interesting?

Who knew pigeons were so interesting?

Smiling over the king's portrait.

Smiling over the king’s portrait.

Tuk tuk drivers waiting to take mourners home.

Tuk tuk drivers waiting to take mourners home.

Nun's chanting.

Nun’s chanting.

Nun's praying with monk's behind.

Nun’s praying with monks behind.

Monks chanting.

Monks chanting.

Mourners in front of the King's portrait at the Royal Palace.

Mourners in front of the king’s portrait at the Royal Palace.

Taking a break.

Taking a break.

Mourning for the king.

Mourning for the king.

Praying

Praying

Incense

Incense

Monk lighting incense.

Monk lighting incense.

Buttons with the king's portrait.

Buttons with the king’s portrait.

Framed photos of the king for sale.

Framed photos of the king for sale.

Which photo to buy?

Which photo to buy?

Happenings at the palace.

Flowers for the king.

Keeping an eye on the goings on.

Keeping an eye on the goings on.

Fascinated!

Fascinated!

Young girl enjoying the pigeons.

Young girl enjoying the pigeons.

The Royal Palace at sunset.

The Royal Palace at sunset.

Royal Palace by night.

Royal Palace by night.

Despite the tuk tuk mishap, the staff at our guesthouse were out of this world friendly, a trait we later noticed was common to almost all Cambodians. The young staff were fun to chat with and did sweet things like offer us iced tea and dessert at various times. The owner of the guesthouse recently returned to Phnom Penh from France, where he had lived for 30 years after his family fled during the war. His oldest daughter still goes to school there and lives with his parents. The guesthouse was nice and central, but was unfortunately located on what appeared to be brothel/hooker street, filled with scantily clad ladies sitting outside bars with names such as “Horny Bar”, “Candy Bar”, “Pussy Bar”, “Club 69” and “Hooters”.

Horny street!

Horny street!

Shops on Sisowath Quay.

Shops on Sisowath Quay.

Candy Bar on our street.

Candy Bar on our street.

Horny Bar. How can you misinterpret that?

Horny Bar. How can you misinterpret that?

We actually weren’t expecting to like Phnom Penh as much as we did! In general, we tend not to like big Asian cities, but Phnom Penh had a nice atmosphere to it. Like I said before, the people are ridibulously friendly, even the annoying tuk tuk drivers asking “Tuk Tuk?” every 2 seconds. A “No, thank you” accompanied by a smile usually elicited a huge smile back and a “O.K! Maybe tomorrow!” reply. Sisowath Quay, the riverside promenade, was really beautiful and lovely to stroll along. We were warned that there would be a lot of children beggars there, but we encountered only one and weren’t hassled by anyone else. There are quite a few “friendship” parks around the city centre, creating a lot of green space. Throughout the day you can find men there and on the riverside playing a hacky-sack like game for hours on end. In the mornings and evenings, when it’s “cooler” or at least a little less like being in the depths of hell’s raging inferno, the parks host group aerobics and dance classes, which are way too much fun not to stop and watch for a while. And yes, they danced to Gangnam Style. I know you were wondering.

The riverside.

The riverside.

Street near our guesthouse.

Street near our guesthouse.

Tuk tuk and cafes along the riverside.

Tuk tuk and cafes along the riverside.

Traffic on Sisowath Quay.

Traffic on Sisowath Quay.

Temple near riverside.

Temple near riverside.

Temple

Temple

Break dancing at Sisowath Quay.

Break dancing at Sisowath Quay.

Hello Mr. Toilet!

Hello Mr. Toilet!

They have authority.

They have authority.

Chilling on the riverside.

Chilling on the riverside.

Some sort of delicious rice sugar treat.

Some sort of delicious rice sugar treat.

The riverside in the evening.

The riverside in the evening.

The one thing we did not like about the city was the overabundance of fat, old American and European men with lovely petit Cambodian women hanging on their arms. Oh yeah, and did I mention it is stupidly hot here? Ah well, you take the good with the bad.

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Monks & Markets

Luang Prabang is a place travellers tend to linger for days or even weeks, soaking up the good vibes and enjoying the tranquility of the little town by the Mekong.

One really special experience was waking up at 5:30am to wander the empty streets and to observe the morning alms ceremony at dawn. Every morning, monks from each temple walk through the streets, lined up in order of age, to accept sticky rice and other food from the local villagers. The men give their alms standing, while women must kneel and both must wear a sash. Poor young children also kneel amongst the villagers with empty boxes or baskets, hands held in prayer, asking the monks for a share of the food. Other children follow in step with the monks, boxes held out in front. Hungry dogs trail behind, hoping to catch any rice that might tumble to the ground.

The ceremony is beautiful to witness, but, unfortunately, has been turned into a bit of a tourist circus over the years. They follow the monks around with their cameras like paparazzi, getting right into their faces sometimes. Also, interspersed between the local villagers giving alms are tourists doing the same with sticky rice bought from pushy women selling it on the streets. You are warned not to buy this rice as it’s cheap and yucky and not good nourishment for the monks. You are also urged only to participate in the alms giving if it is meaningful for you and not simply a photo opportunity. There’s been loads written about the what a zoo the ceremony has turned into, and so as not to add to it myself, I left my camera at home (harder than it sounds!) and watched as respectfully as I could from across the street as I walked. Ryan used the opportunity to sleep in. After he woke up we visited one of the main temples, Wat Xien Thong.

Ornate Buddha

Ornate Buddha at Wat Xien Thong Temple

Another angle!

Wat Xien Thong

Wat Xieng Thong roof

Temple roof

Sticky rice offerings at the temple

Sticky rice offerings

Temple roof

Pointy roof

Beautiful mosaics!

Beautiful mosaics!

Wall of the temple

Wall of the temple

Sparkling Elephants

Sparkling elephants

Wat Xieng Thong Temple

Wat Xieng Thong Temple

Cute monk feet

Cute monk feet

Monk friends!

Monk friends!

Another really cool thing you can do in Luang Prabang is volunteer your time to help locals practise their conversational English. There is an organization called Big Brother Mouse that distributes books to children in small villages to promote literacy. Check them out: http://www.bigbrothermouse.com/. You can make donations to help or buy books yourself to take when trekking or visiting remote locations. However, they also organize English conversation classes twice a day for two hours, where local people have the opportunity to meet travellers from around the world and practise their English. The morning we went, there were about 10 travellers and 17 locals, mostly high school and college students and young monks, with a range of English levels. It was fun learning about their lives and telling them about ours. Ryan got a juicy story from one man full of love triangles and tragedy!

A climb up Phousi Hill for a view of the city and the sunset is another must. Unfortunately, this means everyone does it! So along with about 250 others on a very narrow hill top, we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset over Luang Prabang and the Mekong River.

Phousi Hill walk

Phousi Hill walk

Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha

View over Luang Prabang

View over Luang Prabang

Looking towards the Mekong

Looking towards the Mekong

Sunset over the Mekong

Sunset over the Mekong

Offerings on Phousi Hill

Offerings on Phousi Hill

Sunset

Sunset

Royal Palace

Royal Palace

Finally, you haven’t really done everything in Luang Prabang until you’ve spent time (and money) at the night market. To energize ourselves for the inevitable haggling, we first visited the meat man. He’s got meat and fish on a stick and lots of it! Divine. Afterwards, it was time to stroll up and down the long rows of scarves, shoes, puffy pants, jewellery, baby bibs, paintings, carvings, dresses and more to find a souvenir from Laos that caught our eye!

Sandals!

Sandals at the night market!

Stuff and things

Stuff and things

Checking out the night market

Checking out the night market

Cakes!

Cakes!

Food section of the night market

Food section of the night market

Fish on a stick was my favorite!

Fish on a stick was my favorite!

The meat man!

The meat man!

Night market with Royal Palace Temple behind

Night market with Royal Palace temple behind

We really enjoyed our 2 weeks in Laos and wish we could have stayed longer, but Cambodia awaits!

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Gettin’ our cook on

Another MUST when in Luang Prabang is full day cooking class with Tamarind Restaurant.

We shared the class with 2 older Aussie couples, a Mexican chef in training, a French couple, a Swiss couple and an American man who was the headmaster of a new international school in town.

After meeting at the restaurant, we piled into a couple tuk tuks bound for the Phosy market for a tour. We wandered through a maze of vegetables, fruit, meat and mysterious foods. My favourites were the jelly blocks of congealed blood and the whole baby cow (calf, if you will).

Phosy market veggie section

Phosy market veggie section

Vegetables

Vegetables

A box of duckies anyone?

Box of duckies anyone?

Meat ladies

Meat ladies

Cutting chicken

Cutting chicken

Bamboo

Bamboo

Rices

Rices

Spices

Spices

Eggses

Eggses

Fresh greens

Fresh greens

They eat mimosa, the sensitive plant!

They eat mimosa, the sensitive plant!

The tuk tuks then drove us to Tamarind’s beautiful open air cooking school just out of town, complete with their own herb garden and 2 fish ponds. Our teacher, Chai, spoke great English and had a fantastic sense of humour. Chai has been cooking at Tamarind for 1 year, but he’s actually just graduated from vet school and also works for his father, who is a vet, too.

The cooking school

The cooking school

Our ingredients

Our ingredients

Chai explaining a dish

Chai explaining a dish

Washing purple rice

Washing purple rice

Chai learning us how to cook

Chai learning us how to cook

We cooked 5 ridiculously delicious dishes, each using tons of fresh herbs and eaten with sticky rice. There’s a lot of mortar and pestle action involved with cooking Lao style. You definitely need a lot of muscle! Once all of our dishes were ready, we sat down to the glorious lunch we created and stuffed ourselves into oblivion! Here is what we cooked: 1) chilli sauce with either a tomato or eggplant base; 2) herbed fish steamed in a bamboo leaf; 3) lemongrass stuffed with chicken (not an easy task to stuff something into lemongrass!); 4) Laab – medium rare water buffalo mince with herbs and greens; 5) coconut purple sticky rice with fresh tropical fruits; and 6) sticky rice!

Stuffing herbed chicken into lemon grass

Stuffing herbed chicken into lemon grass

Cutting the fish

Cutting the fish

Chicken stuffed lemon grass coated in egg and deep fried

Chicken stuffed lemon grass coated in egg and deep fried

The feast!

The feast!

Dessert fruits

Dessert fruits

Certified chefs!

Certified chefs!

Categories: Laos | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Near Death & Kuang Si Falls

Luang Prabang turned out to be the place for reunions! In addition to meeting up with Gary/Hans, we randomly bumped into one of our other hiking pals, Carlos from Catalan. Together we made plans to rent motorcycles and ride up to Kuang Si waterfall, about a 25km drive. I’m not sure where the confidence that we would be able to properly drive a manual motorcycle came from since I’ve never driven one and the closest Ryan has come was a quad bike as a child. But it’s all part of the experience, right!?

After grabbing some subs from the sub lady for lunch (and free bananas!), we were ready to mount our hogs. Ryan and I on one, Carlos on the other. The bikes started out on the footpath, so the first trick was to get the bike onto the busy road, which Ryan did without starting the bike. Then it was my turn to get on. If Ryan was nervous, he didn’t show it, but I should have learned from the snorkelling incident in the Philippines that this didn’t necessarily mean he knew exactly what he was doing. Well, we started off racing! I’d say Ryan gave it a bit too much throttle as I was very nearly thrown right off the back of the bike in the first few seconds. You know when you fall back and your legs go up in the air? Yeah, like that. Somehow, I managed to hang on for dear life, only to watch us miss hitting the parked car in front of us by a hair, then swerve madly into the narrowest of openings between the parked cars and the moving traffic. All of this while the rental company employees watch on, terrified. I’m still not sure how we didn’t hit any of the many obstacles around us. Luckily, after our initial near death experience, Ryan got the hang of it and it was (sort of) smooth sailing the rest of the way. We eventually caught up to Carlos (a seasoned motorcyclist) at the gas station, who thankfully wasn’t there to witness the debacle.

Biker dudes

Biker dudes

Sexy biker

Sexy biker

The road to the waterfall was fun, twisty (and paved thank Jeebus) and beautiful. We passed small villages and farms, stopped to allow water buffalo to cross and followed a working elephant.

Local kids

Local kids

Carlos and the water buffalo

Carlos and the water buffalo

Elephant ahoy!

Elephant ahoy!

At the entrance to the waterfall is the “Free the Bears Fund” organization that rescues and rehabilitates Asian moon bears that have been abused for medicinal or other vile purposes. Check out their website: http://www.freethebears.org.au/web/Projects/Laos/. There’s over a dozen bears in the facility. Their big fluffy cheeks are so loveable.

Moon bear

Moon bear

Sleepy moon bear

Sleepy moon bear

Moon claws. Rawr!

Moon claws. Rawr!

One of these things is not like the other.

One of these things is not like the other.

We also found a panda!

We also found a panda!

Just past the bears, the waterfall begins. Pools of milky blue water cascading through the trees into more pools and more and more. The gorgeous pools go on for ages before you come to the main event. Stunning. Kuang Si falls is tall and majestic and you can even walk up the side of it. The water streams over the stairs as you climb up, very very carefully. The top of the falls is quiet and peaceful. The water spreads out into a lagoon with only a small wooden fence to keep you from plummeting over the edge.

Lovely!

Pools at the bottom

Too pretty!

Lovely!

Cascading water

Cascading water

Trees at the falls

Trees at the falls

Ryan, Carlos and I in front of Kuang Si

Ryan, Carlos and I in front of Kuang Si

Kuang Si falls

Kuang Si falls

Up the stairs we go!

Up the stairs we go!

Beauty everywhere

Beauty everywhere

Looking out from the waterfall

Looking out from the waterfall

Going up!

Going up!

Lagoons at the top of the falls

Lagoons at the top of the falls

Carlos looking down from the top

Carlos looking down from the top

Vegetation

Vegetation

Back at the bottom of the falls, we swam for a while in the refreshingly cold milky pools and had a few turns at the rope swing. As the day went on, the pool with the rope swing became increasingly crowded with young backpackers toting crates of beer. That was our cue to leave.

I’m happy to say we made it back to Luang Prabang in one piece and without a scratch on the bike! Success!

Getting ready to fly

Getting ready to fly

Carlos the monkey man!

Carlos the monkey man!

Woops!

Ryan’s turn

Just like Tarzan

Me. Just like Tarzan.

Let the drinking begin!

Let the drink fest begin!

THINGS CORI LOST TODAY: I left my quick dry towel at the rope swing. Oh well, it wasn’t quick dry anyways. Stupid Kathmandu.

Categories: Laos | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Luang Prabang – first impressions

We woke up with the chickens again in Muang Ngoi Neua and had a lovely “falang roll” for breakfast. Literally translated as “foreigner roll”, it was like a sushi roll but with peanut butter and banana and drizzled with honey. Nom nom nom.

Falang roll

Falang roll

Our boat back to semi-civilisation was a tad overloaded with people and sat very low in the water, so at each set of rapids we were splashed through the cracks in the boat. Lisa, our fellow Christchurchian, dive-bombed a banana into the river at one point and completely soaked 3 people beside her. Hilariousness. Oh, yeah, did I mention the boat driver was a one-armed man? Awesome.

Our journey to Luang Prabang was hot and crammed in a small mini-van but luckily it was a relatively short 3 hour journey. We loved Luang Prabang immediately. It’s beautiful and charming, small but not too small, touristy, but not annoying. There are myriad guesthouses, restaurants, bars, temples, monks and an amazing night market on every night.

Gary/Hans, our Dutch hiking buddy, also happened to be in town and much time was spent either enjoying beer and stealing wifi by the river or stuffing our faces with the way too delicious submarine sandwiches (I still daydream about them) from our special sub lady at the market.

We loved Luang Prabang so much that we spent 5 glorious days there and almost got killed in the process. More on that later!

Luang Prabang typical street

Luang Prabang typical street

Let's go biking!

Let’s go biking!

Young monk

Young monk

Chillies drying in the sun

Chillies drying in the sun

Monks on the street

Monks on the street

Beauty in the water

Beauty in the water

Our guesthouse, Chanthanome, on the right

Our guesthouse, Chanthanome, on the right

Gary and Karl, chillin' and stealing wifi by the Mekong

Gary and Karl, chillin’ and stealing wifi by the Mekong

More drinks by the Mekong

More drinks by the Mekong

STOP!

STOP!

Our favorite sub lady

Our favorite sub lady

Fruit shakes galore!

Fruit shakes galore!

Buddhist temple at Haw Kham, the Royal Palace.

Buddhist temple at Haw Kham, the Royal Palace.

View over the Mekong

View over the Mekong

Sounds healthy to me!

Sounds healthy to me! I freaking love smoothlys.

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The Good Life in Nong Khiaw & Muang Ngoi Neua

Our journey to Nong Khiaw started off a bit rocky after the young girls at the kiwi-run Forest Retreat ran out of mayonnaise and couldn’t figure out what to do with the sandwiches we ordered for about 20 minutes while we waited for a tuk tuk to take us to the bus station. Once I started to pay attention and told them “Really, it’s OK, don’t worry about it”, their mayonnaise finding fury calmed down and we were off (albeit in the commotion, Ryan’s sandwich order was fumbled. Karl = unhappy).

The roads in Laos had been surprisingly smooth up until our trip from Luan Nam Tha to Pak Mong, whereupon we transferred back to a tuk tuk to take us to Non Khiaw. Tuk Tuks (locally called sǎwngthǎew, but that’s pretty much unpronounceable to me) in Laos are basically small pick-up trucks with benches along either side in the back and a canopy overhead. My solution to these fun-filled twisty roads, as I may have mentioned earlier, is to pop an anti-nauseant and sleep the ride away. Unfortunately, I miss most of the scenery, but at least I’m not vomiting all over myself and the other passengers.

Nong Khiaw was only our gateway to Muang Ngoi Neua, but it turned out to be a beautiful spot that we wished we had more time to spend in. The town is spread on either side of the Ou River and surrounded by mountains all around. Our little bungalow was bare bones but had a nice view of the river and a hammock outside. I think we paid $4 NZD. Love you, Laos! Plus, this is the sign we found in our room:

“4. Do not bring any illegalthings come in to hotles, guesthouses and resorts, it is not allow include ammunitions, except the official who have the permission only

5. Do not any drugs, clamblings or bring bothwomen and men which is not your own husband or wife into the room for making love

6. Do not allow domestic and international tourist bring prostate and others into your accommodation to make sex movies in our room, it is restriction.”

Fair enough.

Fair enough.

Nong Khiaw

Nong Khiaw

Beauty of the Ou River

Beauty of the Ou River

The amazing butterflies of Laos

The amazing butterflies of Laos

The hammock on our deck in Nong Khiaw

The hammock on our deck in Nong Khiaw

The next morning, we shared a small boat to Muang Ngoi Neua with 3 local Laos women, Nitsan the Israeli and 2 Spaniards. It was a beautiful ride upstream, complete with water buffalo wading on the shores and children jumping off the banks. Muang Ngoi Neua is a tiny town an hour and 15 min up the river Ou from Nong Khiaw, completely inaccessible by car, which is, of course, part of its charm. Electricity is only by (noisy) generator from 6-10pm everyday. The town is replete with guesthouses, but unfortunately not enough tourists seem to be coming to fill them and many are closing.  However, our bungalow this time was even more fantabulous (and a grand total of $3 NZD). Although it was really basic, the bed was large and soft and the hammocks were in the room just beyond a wall that opened completely to a beautiful mountain view.

Jetty where we caught our boat to Muang Ngoi Neua

Jetty where we caught our boat to Muang Ngoi Neua

Our boat to Muang Ngoi Neua

Our boat

Water buffalo enjoying the river

Water buffalo enjoying the river

Muang Ngoi Neua

Muang Ngoi Neua

Muang Ngoi Neua main street

Muang Ngoi Neua main street

View from our bungalow.

View from our bungalow.

View of Our river from Muang Ngoi Neua

View of Ou river from Muang Ngoi Neua

View from our bungalow.

View from our bungalow.

Ryan chilling in the hammock.

Ryan chilling in his hammock.

That night we ate dinner with 18 year old Nitsan, who spoke 4 different languages, and had our ear talked off by Penny, the owner of a local guesthouse and all you can eat restaurant. Signs around the village proclaimed “Drink a lot in the day like Laos people and still get a full night’s sleep!”. It’s a fishing town and as such, the inhabitants wake early and go to bed early, and they encourage tourists to do the same.

Monks on the river front

Monks on the river front

Ou river front

Ou river front

There’s really no choice but to wake up early when there’s roosters living under your bungalow who begin cockadoodling at 4:15am. Ah, the rural life! The pouring rain began soon after and although it ruined our plans for a morning walk, it was nice to chill out and read while watching it come down. The locals say that if it doesn’t stop raining by 11am, it’s not going to. Luckily at 11am exactly, the rain let up and we were able to start our adventuring.

Rain rain go away!

Rain rain go away!

Twenty minutes walk from our guesthouse up very steep and slippery rocks, makeshift ladders and tiny bridges were the Pha Noi Caves. The first cave was small, but beautiful and sparkly with creepy rock formations. The second cave, although it had a small, almost caved in opening, was much bigger. With only one headlamp we crept deeper and deeper into the twisty turny pitch black, bats flying overhead and leeches falling from the ceiling. After about 20min of me goading Ryan into continuing around the next corner, then the next (Ryan had recently watched “The Descent”, which I haven’t seen, and was. naturally, terrified of mutant cave creatures coming to eat us), we encountered a broken gas lantern next to a bamboo ladder leading up into a small crack in the rocks. I attempted a couple of the stairs, then we both heard a strange noise and decided to hightail it outta there while we still had battery power. Thoroughly freaked out by our cave experience, and yet again, feet covered in leeches, we hiked up the rest of the slippy rocks and stairs to the top where we got a gorgeous view of Muang Ngoi Neua and the surrounding valley.

Up the wobbly steps.

Up the wobbly steps.

Exit of cave #1

Entrance to cave #1

Inside cave number 1.

Inside cave number 1.

Ryan roaming around in the darkness of the second cave.

Ryan roaming around in the darkness of the second cave.

Broken gas lamp in cave #2.

Broken gas lamp in cave #2.

Bamboo ladder leading into creepiness.

Bamboo ladder leading into creepiness.

View of Muang Ngoi Neua.

View of Muang Ngoi Neua.

Get a room!

Get a room!

Leeches strike again!

Leeches strike again!

View from the top in the other direction

View from the top in the other direction

Treacherousness.

Treacherousness.

Thirty minutes walk in the other direction brought us to another larger and scarier cave, that we were not as curious to explore. There was a beautiful clear stream running through, however and I was eager to enjoy it, so as I was carefully making my way down the super muddy slope, I slipped and slid all the way in. Somehow, I managed to land feet first and not submerge my camera. The Spanish guy behind me was luckier and stopped halfway after his unfortunate slide. At the bottom, Ryan shrieked like a real man when he discovered a ginormous cave spidery creature thing. To be fair, it was freaking scary and huge, but we couldn’t get close enough to it for comparisons sake!

Entrance to Tham Kang cave

Entrance to Tham Kang cave

Hiding in the cave

Hiding in the cave

Freaky spider creature

Freaky spider creature

Tham Kang cave entrance from within

Tham Kang cave entrance from within

Bridge near the cave

Bamboo bridge near the cave

We ended the day in great Laos fashion sharing beers by the river with a great couple on their honeymoon who just happened to be from the neighborhood in Christchurch next to ours. Small small world, I tell you!

Categories: Laos | Tags: , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Into Laos

The border crossing from Vietnam into Laos was in a gorgeous location along a twisty dirt road, complete with fresh land slips. Although the trip could probably be done in 2-3 hours, in actuality it takes 7 due to the extremely frequent stops. Getting through immigration was fairly breezy, and the one dollar H1N1 “check” (read: thermometer applied to your forehead) provided much amusement, although we were held up a bit by a young Dutch man who refused to pay the dollar on principle that we were being extorted. Of course we were, but come on, pick your battles. They almost didn’t let him in the country.

We met some interesting characters on the bus! Another young 18 year old kid from England was travelling around Asia with only the clothes on his back and a plastic bag with a few other belongings, having sold his backpack and other worldly possessions shortly after starting his trip. To each his own!

Two days, one boat ride and two buses later, we found ourselves in Luang Nam Tha, gateway town for trekking trips into the jungle of western Laos. Right away, we could tell Laos was very different to Vietnam. Whereas in Vietnam everyone seems to be yelling at each other constantly and always trying to get us to part with our money in one tricky way or another, the people of Laos are so totally chilled out and seem to just be happy that you are there.

Because the trekking trips are cheaper the more people you have, we soon formed an eclectic group of awesome folks we met in town and signed up for 3D/2N with a company called Green Discovery. Our group included: Hans (aka Gary), a tall dutch bloke who loves beer and speaks like a Kiwi from spending a year in NZ; Gulla and Anna, 2 cool chicas from “downtown” Iceland, travelling the world; Carlos, a super fit and uber friendly man from Catalan, whose English improved immensely during our time together; Tom, our English speaking guide; and Wong, our Laotian guide.

Day 1

As seems to be the rule for trekking trips, the journey began with a bumpy twisty dirt road ride to a small village where we played with the kids for a while before hopping in a boat across the river. Shortly after starting the hike, we got our first taste of what was to be the best trekking food we’ve had thus far. In true Laos style we ate on the ground using 2 large banana leaves as our table. Each person has their own huge package of sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf that they use to scoop up various other things including bamboo, eggplant, rattan, cucumber, tomato and pepper dishes. Most often the dishes were spicy and included a LOT of garlic. Just how I like it!

Village where we began our trek. Man repairing fishing net.

Village where we began our trek. Man repairing fishing net.

Gary getting acquainted with the village kids.

Gary getting acquainted with the village kids.

Village kiddies

Village kiddies

Gulla and Anna crossing the river

Gulla and Anna crossing the river

The boys turn on the boat

The boys turn on the boat

Carlos, Ryan and Tom eyeing up our tasty lunch

Carlos, Ryan and Tom eyeing up our tasty lunch

Our trek through the jungle was fairly up and down and of course, extremely hot and sweaty. The scenery was beautiful though and filled with butterflies and large creepy crawlies. Laos has the most butterflies I have ever seen and the most varieties. Laos for the win!

Into the wild

Into the wild

Butterflies butterflies everywhere!

Butterflies butterflies everywhere!

Millipede Love In

Millipede Love In

Our ant friends

Our ant friends

When we arrived at our jungle camp, which consisted of essentially a large lean-to made of bamboo, we cleaned ourselves up in the stream nearby and played a great card game called Yanneh until dinner. I wish I could remember the rules! Dinner was similar to lunch and equally delicious, complete with bamboo chopsticks Tom carved for us on the spot.

After dinner came the Lao Loa, an extremely strong whisky made from sticky rice. We all took turns shooting the clear liquid from a bamboo shot glass, also carved by Tom. Apparently, the rule is that once started, the whole bottle must be drained, so the Lao Lao shots continued, while Tom told us local ghost stories and myths and finished up with James Blunt ballads. I don’t make this stuff up people. The stories included a ghost monkey with backwards feet, a “ground ghost”, a small water elephant that is bad luck and lives near ponds, and something about putting a crab on the fire, which is also bad luck. Duh. Everyone knows that.

Our jungle camp. Featuring: Karl, Carlos, Tom, Gary, Anna and Gulla

Our jungle camp, featuring: Ryan, Carlos, Tom, Gary, Anna and Gulla

Freshly carved bamboo chopsticks next to our package of sticky rice

Freshly carved bamboo chopsticks next to our package of sticky rice

MEN! FIRE!

MEN! FIRE!

Gulla loves the Lao Lao

Gulla loves the Lao Lao

Wong, Gary and Tom gettin' into the Lao Lao during storytime

Wong, Gary and Tom gettin’ into the Lao Lao during storytime

Day 2

I’m not quite sure when it began, but at some point during the trek Gary decided that Ryan resembled (mostly in appearance, but slightly in character), Karl Pilkington from “An Idiot Abroad”. Thus, from then on, Ryan became known as Karl, who is ever concerned about his boiler back home, and I, Susan, his humble wife.

Ryan Hoetmer (L) and Karl Pilkington (R). Uncanny.

Ryan Hoetmer (L) and Karl Pilkington (R). Uncanny.

The jungle became very bamboo-y today, different varieties lining the trail and encroaching upon it little by little until we had to crawl through bamboo tunnels. We walked in the heat and a bit of rain for 4-5 hours before we came to the first village, populated by the Lanten tribe. According to Tom, this particular village used to farm opium and now have only a small rice field. As a result, they have no rice storage and therefore must buy most of their rice. Perhaps due to the opium farming, they are apparently also not very hard working, and the state of the village and appearance of the people definitely reflected this. Our stay in their village was brief, just long enough to purchase a few handicrafts and drinks they thrust on us immediately upon our arrival.

Break time!

Break time!

Crab we found in the morning that Tom threatened to put on the fire. Noooo!

Crab we found in the morning that Tom threatened to put on the fire. Noooo!

Lanten village

Lanten village

Lanten villagers displaying their handicrafts

Lanten villagers displaying their handicrafts

Piggies!

Piggies!

The second village we encountered, and our resting place for the evening, was a mere 15min walk away, but had a very different vibe. The people of this village were of the Khmu tribe and are rice farmers. They have a significant amount of rice storage and are a hardworking and friendly bunch, obvious to us by their beautifully taken care of village and loads of previously made roofs, walls, etc. ready to go whenever someone’s house may be in need. The village has a very lucrative agreement with Green Discovery to allow tourists to stay and experience village life. Each time a trekking group comes through, 2 different families are assigned to look after the group (e.g. cook dinner, make a fire, and otherwise tend to our needs) and paid around 500 000 kip ($63 US dollars) which is then shared among the entire village.

Khmu village in the evening light

Khmu village in the evening light

Piggies in hiding

Piggies in hiding

Upon arriving at our “lodge”, a lovely bamboo hut directly next to the Nam Ha river, most of us discovered that our feet were slowly being drained of all their life-giving blood by disgusting leeches we must have picked up walking through the jungle. Yay! After relieving ourselves of their unwanted presence and taking a bath in the peaceful Nam Ha, we explored the village in the evening sun. The light was so perfect it made the whole village glow. I spent most of my time playing with the children who were fascinated by the videos and photos I took of them. In the meantime, Karl and some of the others got a bit of a lesson in the schoolhouse by a few young school children. Gary and Karl later taught the kids to play jump rope with the water hose. I’m not sure if their parents were impressed, but the kids were in heaven!

Our "lodge" in the Khmu village

Our “lodge” in the Khmu village with Nam Ha river in back

Mooooo. Cows/buffalo at the river where we bathed

Mooooo. Cows/buffalo at the river where we bathed

The aftermath of the leeches

The aftermath of the leeches

Baby goodness

Baby goodness

Cross-stitching a bag

Cross-stitching a bag

Peek-a-boo!

Peek-a-boo!

Village kiddo

Village kiddo

Little ones writing their names in the sand

Little ones writing their names in the sand

Skipping rope with the hose is fun!

Skipping rope with the hose is fun! Just don’t tell mom.

Dinner was yummy of course, but by this time Gary was getting mighty sick of sticky rice. What comes after dinner? Lao Lao of course!! Significantly more Lao Lao was drank this night, in addition to a few beers. The night got interesting when we met 25 year old Yom, the only bachelor in town, who was wasted out of his tree from a wedding he attended in the afternoon. As we sat around the fire, taking turns singing songs from our respective countries (Karl and I sang the intro to “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” – come on, pretty good, no? – Tom broke out the James Blunt again), Yom took a liking to Gulla and I’m pretty sure they might have gotten married at some point during the evening. Yom and Tom eventually retired and we were left playing “Guess That Tune” with songs from Gary’s iPhone. Carlos, Gulla and Gary rocked that game!

Fireside goofiness

Fireside goofiness

Oooooo freaky.

Oooooo freaky.

Day 3

A beautiful little girl about 7 years old followed me around in the morning as I took photos of butterflies. Each time I took a photo I showed her and she nodded her head in approval. Although she never smiled, she was very curious. Gary decided to give the young girl “Annabel”, his stuffed monkey (version 3.0) that she had been infatuated with since we got there. She was overjoyed (at least we think) and quickly shared the monkey with the other children.

Butterflies!

Butterflies!

Dragonfly or mayfly. Who knows?

Dragonfly or mayfly. Who knows?

My Nat Geo shot of the never-smiler. Shame about the blue undies.

My Nat Geo shot of the never-smiler. Shame about the blue undies.

The never-smiler with Annabel. Can't you see the joy?

The never-smiler with Annabel. Can’t you see the joy?

The trek out was fairly short, but plenty hot and we welcomed the brief rain showers when they came. During the walk, Gary regaled us with stories of his many horrific injuries and Tom and Wong fed us various jungle foods.

We arrived back at Luang Nam Tha in the early afternoon, dirty, sweaty and covered in bug and leech bites, but extremely happy with the successful trip and ready for a beer at the Kiwi-owned bar across the street!

Jungle bridges

Jungle bridges

Trying to remain inconspicuous, but we found him!

Trying to remain inconspicuous, but we found him!

Eggplant

Eggplant

Water buffalo bathing in our trail

Water buffalo bathing in our trail

Khmu village where we ended our trek

Khmu village where we ended our trek

The crew!

The crew!

 

Categories: Laos | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Bus Gone Wild!

Unfortunately, because we wanted to spend a good 2 weeks in Laos, we had to hightail it out of Hanoi by bus, and what a bus it was! It was a gloriously long 12 hour drive, so we took a sleeper bus that left at 5:30pm, but we arrived super early since the woman at our guesthouse insisted that it would take at least an hour. Twenty minutes later we were there! Sleeper buses in Vietnam are quite interesting things. There are 3 rows of bed-seats in 2 levels along the entire length of the bus, with two aisles in between. The seats in the back are all connected, lending itself to more of a slumber party type atmosphere. However, the BEST part of the bus was the entertainment provided.

Problem: What in the world are we going to do for 90min while we wait for the bus to depart?

Solution: Oggle the boobies and hoohoos on the Ibiza party video (think “Girls Gone Wild) playing on a huge screen directly in front of Ryan at one million decibels, while enjoying the dance party lights running the length of the bus.

Ryan = happy camper. Cori = intrigued for 5min then annoyed.

Luckily, when the bus started rolling, they turned off the jubblies. Unluckily, they replaced them with really old and horribly over-the-top gory Chinese Kung-Fu movies (think hand punches through chest and pulls out heart) dubbed in Vietnamese, using the same woman’s voice for all the characters. I’m still not sure which videos I preferred.

Ryan enjoying the show on our party bus

Ryan enjoying the show on our party bus

Being the only white folk on the bus with no English speakers in sight, when we stopped at 9pm at a rundown roadside shack in the middle of nowhere for food and wees, things got a bit confusing. After weeing in a concrete room with the other ladies (OK, just me, not Ryan), we were beckoned to join the others at the tables for food, which they all seemed to be sharing. We assumed we’d have to pay for the meal, and since we had brought our own food, we declined. They continued to insist and we continued to decline. Finally we sat at a table to wait for the bus to go and were brought 2 individual meals. Turns out the meals were included in the price of the bus ticket. So what it ended up looking like, was that we were just too cool to join the others at the communal tables! Oops!

Eight hours after the meal debacle, we arrived at our destination, Dien Bien Phu, the gateway town to the Laos border and site of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 of the First Indochina War. Here the French were defeated by Viet Minh communist national revolutionaries. However, we were dead asleep and didn’t actually realize we had arrived until about 20min later after everyone had already disembarked. As we groggily stepped off the bus and grabbed our luggage, we watched the bus to Laos pull away, leaving us stuck in DBP until the next day. Hoorah! Good bus times.

We slept for a few hours at a guest house across the road where “social evils are not permitted in the room” on some springs held together by thin cotton and then decided to embrace the city. This is what we saw when the city woke up from its 2 hour mid-day siesta:

Fixin's for breakfast pho

Fixin’s for breakfast pho

Downtown Dien Bien Phu

Downtown Dien Bien Phu

Steps leading to the Statue of Victory

Steps leading to the Statue of Victory

View of Dien Bien Phu

View of Dien Bien Phu

D1 hill, French defence site

D1 hill, French defence site

Along main street

Along main street

Military cemetery

Military cemetery

Names of those who died

Names of those who died

After our sightseeing, while we were enjoying a disgusting salty lemon drink and some sort of gross melony beverage, a lovely Taiwanese artist-cyclist befriended us and we spent the evening together drinking bia hoi by the river and admiring his water-colour art. One of the employees took a liking to Ryan’s sunnies and strutted his stuff lookin’ cool as.

Time in DBP well-spent!

Categories: Vietnam | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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