Cooking!

Just finished a one day cooking course and I am totally full that I don’t know if I can manage grilled fish on a stick. The cuorse was really good and we cooked stacks of food.

On the internet at the moment checking in for my flights home. Gotta check in now so that I can get a aisle seat and top deck seat for the A380.

Going to hover around town tomorrow before heading of to the airport mid afternoon. Hopefully Hanoi traffic isn’t too bad and I’m back at my hotel before 7pm. Going to try and have a nice meal (unfortunatley by myself), then hopefully the night market is open as there’s some things I wouldn’t mind looking for. Maybe will check out the lake area as well and see what is happening for NYE.

That’s it for now… see you from Hanoi (or breakfast tomorrow maybe?)

A fish nibbled my toes…

Today headed out to the Kuang Si Falls which are about 30KM out of Luang Prabung. The waterfall was quite impressive with many pools with clear blue water, some of which swimming was allowed. After walking up what seemed like a million stairs to the top, we came back down and went for a swim. The water at first seemed quite cold but soon became bearable and was in fact rather refreshing.

That is until I stood still a little too long and a fish nibbled at my left big toe. It hurt. Soon later something nibbled on my right foot after which I decided if my feet were on the ground they were going to be constantly moving.

Got back to Luang Prabung mid afternoon and went and booked myself on a one day cooking course tomorrow. I was deciding between two places, however by the time I came back my first choice was booked out, so luckily for me my second choice had one spot left. So I’ll be spending 10am – 5pm tomorrow cooking… maybe I’ll pick up some culinary skills to add to my somewhat limited food skillset?

Anyways got to catch up on some internet… was planning on using free wifi, but there was a power blackout and I’d already eaten and didn’t want to eat again so at an internet place…

Where the Buddhas go…

Yesterday made a boat trip out to the Pak Ou caves. Pak Ou is a series of caves above 25KM up the Mekong from Luang Prabung where there are thousands of Buddhas. These are Buddhas that have been damaged, or ‘superseded’.

This morning though, woke up super early to watch the monks collect their alms. It’s packed with tourists and makes me wonder (as I have read elsewhere before), whether this daily ritual is indeed part of normalcy or a result of tourism.

other than that going out to the Kuang Si falls later this morning where hopefully it will not be too cold to swim. Then in the afternoon I might scout around for a cooking course to go on tomorrow before trawling the night markets

In Luang Prabung

So survived a rather epic and windy journey from Vang Vieng to arrive in Luang Prabung mid this afternoon. After trawling a heap of guesthouses which turned out to be full we found a nice reasonable one down a side lane. Much better than the ones that did have availability which are best described as damp, stinky and mouldy.

Luang Prabung is a UNESCO world heritage listed town and has a nice feel bout it (similar to Hoi An in some ways). There’s a pretty good night market and the buildings in the old town are all quite nice looking. Am here for quite a few days so plan to check out this waterfall and this cave up the Mekong. Also get in more shopping and drinking of coconut shakes!

That’s it for now… sorry for the lack of pics from Laos but internet is slower that Vietnam…

Floating down the Nam Song river on Christmas Day

Spent today floating down the Nam Song river in a tube. Took quite a while as some parts we had to paddle and I was terrible at paddling – blame it on the short arms I say.

Other than that Vang Vieng is the most backpacker-ish place in Laos we’ve been so far, but it’s not overly too backpacker-ish as I had expected. Going to be here another day then up to Luang Prabung for a few days and them I’m back to Hanoi and onwards to Sydney via Singapore.

Relaxing in Si Phan Don

So just wasting time in Pakse in an internet cafe before catching the overnight sleeping bus back to Vientiane. So let me hop back a few days for the round up.

Caught the night sleeping bus down to Pakse. Sleeping bus was a pretty cool experience. It was actually quite comfortable even though the beds were somewhat small – though being shortish it wasn’t too much a problem for me. Oh this bus was totally decorated out as well, with flashing lights down the aisle complete with little rubber duckies under the see through aisle. Also our sleeping bus was one where you had to share the bed (which might have only been with width of a single, or slightly larger only?) So me an Em had 10 hours of rather close confinement. Still was comfortable and I definitely slept well… but then again I can sleep anywhere quite easily.

Arrived in Pakse early morning and had some food, then caught another bus down to Si Phan Don (4000 islands), where we then caught a boat over to Don Det. Don Det is supposed to be the ‘backpacker island’, but you wouldn’t have known. It’s still really quiet and you don’t see many tourists/backpackers around either. We got some bungalows on the ‘sunset’ side of the island and had a look around the first day. Also watched a pretty impressive sunset, though no pics from here on in as it’s internet cafes from now on.

Next day we booked out tickets back to Vientiane and got free bicycle hire, so we cycled around to Don Khon which is connected by a colonial era railroad bridge the French built.

We cycled out to Somphamit falls, then on to some beach where we chartered a boat out to Khone Phapheng Falls. Coincidentally on the way back we saw a irraawaddy dolphin of the Mekong. These are freshwater dolphins and are considered highly endangered. Apparently there are less than 30 left in the Mekong so it’s somewhat extreme luck that we spotted one.

Now it’s back to Vientiane tonight, where we will spend one day/night before heading to Vang Vieng. Perhaps the ‘backpacker place’ in Laos. A slightly oddity where backpackers have perhaps changed the town for worse. Though who can turn down tubing down a river lined with makeshift bars on Christmas Day?

Hello from Laos

In Laos at internet cafe. Isn’t really free wi-fi here so will not be posting as much the next few weeks. Managed to book overnight bus to 4000 islands so leaving for there tonight.

Seen a few sights in Vientiane. It’s a rather laid back town. Barely any cars (let alone any horning), and everything’s just rather peaceful and quiet.

Till next time…

Bye Vietnam, see you again in 2 weeks!

At the airport waiting for my flight to Vientiane, Laos. Got about 30 min to go till boarding. All things going to plan should land in Vientiane round 9:30am and try to find Emily at the airport,

Other than that I think Wizard blocked my credit card. Probably didn’t help that the first time I used it I put like 3 transactions in one day totaling a few hundred dollars. I think they might have tried and ring me but I cancelled the call as it costs me to answer. Might try to find a payphone…

Probably going quiet for a few days too as going to try and head to Si Phan Don (4000 islands) and they only just got electricity last month.

Interesting convos and eating some froggy

So over the last 24 hours or so I’ve had quite a few interesting conversations with people. Starting back in Sapa, after lunch we headed up to the square as the sun finally came out and I wanted to sit in the sun to warm up. Sitting in the square makes you a target for hill tribe ladies to sell you goods though.

However this time I had a rather engaging conversation with a Man May a lady from I think it was the Red Dao (Dzao) tribe. She did try and sell me some stuff and I did bargain for something I saw that I liked, but apart from that our 2 hour conversation was really interesting. Plus she indirectly shielded us from others who also tried to get us to buy from them.

It was interesting to find out lots of little bits of information that I otherwise wouldn’t know. Like buying a water buffalo costs about 10 million dong (approx 540ish USD). Man May had water buffalo in the past however in Sapa because it is very cold in winter sometimes the water buffalo die. After having lost a few buffalo to the cold she said that they no longer have their own water buffalo as it is too expensive. Instead if they need a buffalo to help plow the fields they can borrow one from a friend for 200,000 – 300,000 VND a day. Or that the rice crops they grow these days grow to maturity in 4 months whereas in the past it took 6 months… Another interesting thing was her showing me the different type of stitching they do for their sewing handicrafts and the age groups that a girl starts learning a particular type of stitch as some are harder than others. We eventually parted ways as Man May was getting hungry. She asked us to wait for her to come back but we had to go get ready to leave for Lao Cai so we wished each other goodbye and went our separate ways.

Next interesting convo was on the night train. Met a Belgium woman who currently lives in Hong Kong with her family as her husbands job is in HK for the time being. Had a couple of interesting conversations with her about random things from her time in HK to her love of Asian food more than Western food to the difficulties children of expats face when moving to a country where the language spoken is not their native language.

And lastly, today we had two girls from Hanoikids take us out to Bat Trang and show us around. Got to play around with some clay and try and make something – have come to the conclusion that I will never be an artist of any sorts though. It was quite engaging to be able to talk to young locals who were helpful and knowledgeable about their city and country whilst also being able to share information about Australia and help improve the conversational and English skills of these two girls.

Oh and as for the froggy, took the girls out for lunch as a thank you and went to a Vietnamese place that definitely was more authentic. Froggy was part of one of our dishes and it did taste somewhat like chicken if not a little more chewy. Not sure if it’s my cup of tea though… Next stop crickets?

All in all it’s been a rather interesting last day or so and I’m really glad I had the chance to talk to such a diverse group of people.

Sitting the fog out in Sapa

So we’ve checked out of our hotel and are kind of lazying around not doing much. Our ride back to Lao Cai to catch the train isn’t till 4:30pm though. Could’ve done another walk and was slightly toying with getting a moto out to Thac Bac (Silver Waterfall) and walking to the fall but it’s a bit out of town and the weather today is rather gloomy. It’s definitely winter weather today as the town is covered in fog and visibility is under 15 metres. Asked a few locals and with this kind of weather the fog stays around all day. So not really the kind of weather to be trekking/walking up hills down stairs and all. Nice weather to be holed up in a cafe with coffee/tea and a book… except that I’ve finished my book and most of the books available in Sapa are in French… Maybe I’ll try and get one in Hanoi or trade mine in…

Anyways going to finish my tea and decide what to do… it’s kind of a really small town and you can walk from one side to another in like 10 minutes or so… maybe I should go buy a knock off North Face jacket… (except I don’t want to carry it around for the next 2 weeks…)…

Next stop Hanoi for 2 days then it’s onwards to Laos!