An Almost Half-Moon & Back to Bangkok

My posts dropped off. There’s a good reason for that, I ended up getting very, very sick. For the remainder of my days on Koh Phangan I remained in bed. No eating. No beach. No Half-Moon Party. I do have the tank-top to prove that I almost made it though.

The girls did at least!
   

I was to leave on the 27th back to Bangkok and then to start the long flight home to Nova Scotia. Plans got switched around somewhere and the girls decided to visit neighbouring Ko Tao instead of heading back to Bangkok with me and continuing on to Cambodia. When they saw me to the ferry terminal to say our goodbyes I was too out of it to even care at that point.

Walking to the end of the pier by myself, all I could think is, “This is going to be one long trip to do sick.” And it was.

From the get-go, there ended up being issues. My night train was three hours late, so I slept on the platform until 2 a.m. Then the train was backed up another three hours on the Bangkok end.

after some confusion of what bus to catch to the sky train to the airport, I made it. Then settled in for a 15 hours wait. Finally it was time to go through the gate, only to find the United’s systems has crashed worldwide.

After a 35 hour flight home, I’ve never been so happy to walk into Jesse’s arms.

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Para-Para-Paradise

When planning our trip we were originally supposed to begin it on Ko Pha Ngan, but because of the original complications we ended up doing the opposite loop intended for my month here and I will be skipping Cambodia.

Although we ended up gearing in reverse, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s literally paradise here. Most people know about the island because of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Beach.

Since getting here we’ve been spending our days in the sun on the beach with our new friends, Collin (USA), Fabian, and Benni (Germany). They took us out yesterday and taught us how to ride mopeds. We rode around the island for hours, stopping at different places along the way – homemade ice cream, a Chinese Temple, and more beach.

Tomorrow we’re going to the Half Moon party, and I leave the girls here by train on the 27th.

It will be bittersweet.

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View from our new home

View from our new home

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I Ordered a Mudslide… I Meant the Drink

We’ve now been in Vang Vieng for four nights. It was bittersweet leaving Luangprabang (our favorite place thus far). My time is SEA is quickly expiring, so we have to continue moving along. Vang Vieng itself is only about three streets. The town is based around an abandoned airstrip that the US had used when invading Vietnam.

Getting here from Luangprabang was no easy feat. What was supposed to be a six hour bus ride, turned into almost 30 hours. We took the night bus, leaving around 8 p.m. We thought it would be a breeze as we were travelling VIP; meaning food, water, and air conditioning was to be provided – it wasn’t. Around 1 a.m. the bus pulled to the side of the road for what we thought was a break. Looking ahead when we got off, we knew something was wrong. Buses and cars were lined up as far as we could see. It turns out that a mudslide had taken out the road ahead of us. What were told would be a two hour wait turned quickly to fourteen hours sitting in the sweltering heat.

Since getting here we’ve had a fantastic time. We’ve been both kayaking tubing (an experience in itself) down the Nam Song River. We’ve hit up the Bucket Bar several times to let loose. There were Laos women with toddlers one night. It was a bit surreal considering they were letting drunk patrons pick up their children while dancing. A bit of a culture shock moment to say the least. While tubing I tore the ligaments in my knee (again). The current is very strong in places and there are hidden rocks below the water.

We leave tomorrow at 9 a.m. for Bangkok. From there we’ll be taking a bus and ferry combo to Koh Phangan. It’ll be nice to get to the ocean, take in a half moon party, and bum around the beach.

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Strictly Big Balls in Luangprabang

Luangprabang may be the most happily lazy town which I’ve ever been in. We’ve been staying at a wonderful little place called the Mojo Guest House. Nat and I discovered it on our first night by the live music wafting from the common room. Noi, the owner, it originally from Chiang Mai, Thailand – and is obsessed with jazz and blues. The walls of Mojo are covered in the jazz and blues greats. All day, everyday, he and his friend practice in the common area. There is a French woman who has been staying there since before we arrived with one the sweetest and most unique voice which we’ve ever heard. Every night of the week Noi and his friends have an open mic. We’ve heard tons of talented people play in the last three days.

When many arrive in Luangprabang, they either haven’t read or have forgotten that the small city has a curfew of 12 p.m. Therefore, all businesses must close by 11:30 p.m. at the latest to accommodate their employees. It’s quite a feat considering that the main streets are lined with clubs and restaurants. The catch is, that only a 10 minute tuk-tuk drive away there is a bowling alley which is outside of town limits and stays open serving alcohol until 4 a.m. Our book told us that it’s a great local hangout… not quite. Being the first three to arrive was great. About and hour later it was swamped with about a 100 other incredibly drunk backpackers. It’s a nice little tip though if you’re looking to continue your night after the 2-for-1 cocktails that all of the bars offer.

Cigarettes here are about 50 cents per pack, while a larger beer will put you back $1.50 CDN. The confusing part comes with the Laos currency, kip. Laotians have faced a 1500% increase in property taxes over the last several years let alone massive inflation. The money is printed in 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10 000, 20 000, and 50, 000 increments. Because of this we’re constantly confused, and can now say that we’ve paid $4000 kip dollars for a pack of cigarettes and $10 000 for a huge beer.

 

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Updated: Having a Judy Dench Moment

On the plane, they had played a movie starring Judy Dench about a move to India (called the Something, Something magnificent Magnolia Hotel – sorry I fell asleep). The last scene I remember is of her laying elegantly in the back of a tuk-tuk, taking in her surroundings. Today, we had many of those moments.

We boarded the slow boat to Laos this morning. So far it’s been the most relaxing method of travel by far. When we left the port, we were not prepared immense beauty of Laos. We passed through a valley of mountains surrounding us, which hs yet to stop. We’re now at a guest house on the shore of the Mekong River, and we will be reaching Luangprabang tomorrow evening. The boat ride has been fantastic thus far other than a thunder and lightning storm half way through (which was exciting!).

As a sidenote, i have about a 100 mosquito bites below the knee on each leg. Itchy torture. When we got to guest house even the locals looked at my legs and went, “Ohhhhh. Ewwww.”

*Updated*

We’re now in Luangprabang at a beautiful, splurgy guest house. Tonight we didn’t care. Waking up this morning, my feet were so swollen that they couldn’t even fit into my sandals. Then a rash started… on Nat too. We had the same breakfast this morning, and now the same allergic reaction. Head to toe. Once we got to Luangprabang, we were all about a pharmacy opposed to looking for somewhere to stay.

A few photos of the longest itchy boat ride known to man…

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Same Same but Different

Well, we just arrived back to Mojito Garden from our three day trek… AND WE SURVIVED! We literally just climbed the highest mountain in Thailand! A full 12 km that first day. It was an amazing adventure full of huffing and puffing, falls (both water and literal) and amazing nature.

We can’t thank our host, Aoi at Mojito Garden enough. For years before she owned the guesthouse she was a trek guide. She made sure that every activity that we did on our trek was human to both animals and people.

Day 1

We first met an elephant friend, Poumee. Nat and Keng were able be captains and ride on his head. Poumee wouldn’t stop at a stand for me to get on. After we stayed the night in a Karen village with other trekkers. Our guide, Mr. P, was amazing and knowledgable. He grew up in the village that we were staying in for the night. It’s been on the mountain for about 200 years, and is a population of about 100 people made up of Anihists, Buddhists, and Christians.

Day 2

After breakfast, Mr. P left us and continued on with the rest of our group. Most of who were only doing a one day trek. A man named Kin or as he like to be referred to, Jungle Man, came a fetched the three of us and our two Korean girl friends. We walked for 5 hours through the jungle and rice fields. Stopping at a hut for lunch we made a little friend. Kin carved us chopsticks and hair pieces from bamboo, and then dropped us at out next hut for the night.
               
       

Day 3

Mr. P’s son was our guide for the last day. It was was an easier day with only about 4 hours of walking. We stopped at a water fall on our treak down the mountain. When we got to the bottom, I awarded myself with a beer (in true NS fashion) before hopping on the back of a truck to go bamboo rafting. We don’t have any picturesof the rafting because we didn’t want our cameras to get wet. Our guide on the raft let me stand and steer. I didn’t know at the time, but he was tipping the raft and playing head games, making me think that I was about to slip all of us. At one point when he did it, I fell flat on my ass in front of a lunch spot. About 50 tourist saw me do this and started clapping… not embaressing at all… 🙂

  

We’re now back at Mojito Garden cleaning up and getting ready to go to New Delhi (the most amazing Indian restaurant we’ve ever ate at) and then going dancing at a reggae bar. Tomorrow morning we leave for a three day boat trip to Laos, so we’ll be out of touch, I hope everyone’s Natal Day weekend was filled with sun, friends and drinks!

I’ll leave you with some wise words from Mr.P:

“It is same-same but different.” (A popular Thai saying)
“Oh my Buddha.”
“Enjoy your life, enjoy everything!”
“Have a good dream!”

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