Do the hippy hippy Laos!!

Hey, so here we are in beautiful Laos! I think I left you online on Friday 10th May when we met our newbies, Abbi, Hollie and Karen. They are all really nice and it’s great to have a new set of dynamics in the group. Abbi and Hollie are both 19 and Karen is 33 yrs old.

So…..are you sitting comfortably? I know I was at the time of writing this! I was sitting on a slow boat back to Thailand, 10 hours slow to be precise hah so as the boat ride got rather boring, I had a lot of time to kill….so, here goes….

Saturday 11th May – Vientiane

Today, it’s pack up, and on-board a flight to the final part of our tour…Laos. The que for the checking in was a knightmare, it took us so long to get through. Hmm…18.5 kilo’s! My invisible man’s weight is creeping up, I’m thinking that’s the same for my little rice belly too but hey ho! Anyways, an hour later and we’ve touched down at Laos airport. Visa’s don’t seem to take as long and 35 dollars lighter, we’re in!

Laos itself – wow, everything is so lush and green! It’s peaceful, beautiful and surrounded by mountains – limestone mountains in fact, there are more here on land than in Thailand…in Thailand, the limestone mountains are situated more in the oceans than on the land. So all in all, Laos is very hot and humid and also very jungle looking….immediately I love it!  Such a change from Hanoi, it’s just wonderful to be away from the hustle and bustle and back in the countryside. Infact until earlier this year, Laos was labelled a ‘Hippy town’! This is because it used to be legal to smoke weed, take opium oh and munch on magic mushrooms! If you try anything like that now, the police will come down extra hard on you!

Anyways, a short ride on the bus brings us to our hotel. We then had an explore of our surroundings and met for dinner. We experienced a traditional Laos dinner of Lap chicken – Lap is a special mix of herbs and spices that they mix with a meat of your choice. It was really nice actually, although we did all have a case of travellers trots the next day haha! We then had a walk around the night market and split up. Judith and I met an Australian guy who was travelling alone, Mike I believe was his name, a lone traveller who looked as though he hadn’t spoken to any english speaking folk for weeks hah, so he invited us for a beer. “You’ve got to try the happy shakes when you get to Vang Vieng! They are the best place to do them!” Mike excitedly blurted out…It didn’t take a genius to realise he was going on about the mushroom shakes that we’d heard about. “Um, no I don’t think so…the thought of being banged up abroad doesn’t really appeal!” I responded. Mike was explaining what it felt like and that was enough for us! We told our tour leader Albert about it afterwards and he said “Stay away from them. Not only do the local drug dealers try to set you up (apparently, they call the cops and say you bought a substance off them so you’re arrested and the drug dealers are rewarded…huh!), but also, Albert said the happy shakes will make you feel drunk for at least 2 days straight! Anyways, we had no intentions of taking anything, nor being set up and banged up abroad!

Sunday 12th

So in the morning, 9am, we’re booked onto a ‘Tuk Tuk’ tour which killed the 2hrs we had until departing for Vang Vieng. The tour was quite good actually, it was a good way (and the quickest way) to rush through some sites before moving on again. (so this was more of the same, temples and monuments etc). After the tuk tuk tour, it was another bus ride (4hrs!) to reach the hippy sleepy town of Vang Vieng.

4 hours later….Vang Vieng.

Wow this place is BEAUTIFUL! It’s like we’ve landed slap bang in the middle of the jungle – literally it’s as though someone has made a clearing right at the bottom of the of the mountains, put in a couple of straw and wooden houses, a few bars and shops and hey presto, you have a small village going on! The view from our hotel is amazing! We are surrounded by these lush limestone mountains – oh and there’s also a giant beehive in the tree right across the way! I’m tempted to through a stone in it just to see what happens but refrain haha! But seriously, I don’t want to leave this place ever! Life here seems so relaxed, the people are lovely and there is a vibe of ‘no fear, no worries, just chill!’. I’m sure Bob Marley could have happily retired here (well, even happier before they banned the consumption of weed I guess!).

So Sunday was a mix of exploration and eating really! Food included eating local rice (which was very nice!), dinner on the Mekong River followed by watching one of the street food stalls knock up sweet pancakes for us…Oh Pha Chow (Omg), YUMMY! Banana and chocolate for me! Albert said it was worth a good few thousand calories so it would take a while to burn off haha! Then we took a walk to the local tour operators office and booked an activity for the Monday. Everyone opted for the Kayaking and Tubing down the river but Judith and I wanted to do something different as we went Kayaking on my birthday. We opted for a 9 to 5 mountain and jungle trek, woo hoo! I remembered how much I loved trekking through the jungle in Chaing Mai so I thought, how hard can this one be? Oh how wrong was I…….!!!

Monday 13th – Mountain and Jungle trek day!

Ok, so it’s up and breakfasted and then meeting our trekking guide in the hotel lobby. I remember pulling on my hiking boots thinking ‘Fab, I’m perfectly equipped for this!’…..again, oh how wrong was I haha!

So it’s 9am and our trekking guide and truck are waiting for us…on we get and off we go! The bus stopped in a small tribes village and Judith and I were then formerly introduced to our guide and what we were to expect for the day. Alan, our guide, was a 30 something, happy (but cheeky!) kind of fella. He seemed to be very knowledgeable and had done this trek many times before which made us feel at ease. “So, we will be trekking up, over and down 2 mountains today. The first one is the longest trek but the 2nd mountain is the steepest. We will then trek through the jungle reaching a tribes village at the other end.”  2 mountains! Oh Pah Chow…”We can do this Judith, it’ll be fine!” As we walked through the village, Judith and I were eyeing up (and sizing up) which mountains we were meant to be climbing up…so we had to ask didn’t we…first one in sight! Ok, so it doesn’t look so bad haha…we walked past fish farms, rice fields and crops of sweet potatoes. Ok, so here we are at the base of the first mountain….We can do this!!

WOAH – we’ve under estimated how hard this is going to be…I’m not sure about Judith but I’m already starting to feel it after the first few steps up but my god it’s steep! But we keep going. Alan is ahead leading the way and using his machete to clear a way through the overhanging leaves and branches..he then stops and cuts Judith and I a walking stick…hey don’t laugh, it actually really helped!

Wow the rocks are so hard to climb! I felt like I was clambering rather than climbing and walking. Phew, we stop for a quick breather. It had felt like we were walking for ages but nope, Alan said we were only a quarter of the way….WHAT!! Oh jeez, how were we going to last until 5pm!!? Sweat was already dripping from all over but we marched on! By now the view were incredible, just breath-taking! We knew it was going to be worth it up top. Each break we had, I was thinking we must be half way by now, then finally a clearing brought us to the check point…..WOOOOWWW!! It felt like we could see for miles already! Again, we soldiered on keeping each other going. We trekked over flat rocks, big rocks, steep and sharp rocks, small and straight clearings, thick and dense ant (GIANT) infested jungle and were determined to keep going. Alan said people have given up about half way but we knew we were tougher than that, it’s more about the endurance and I knew I had a lot of that! But this was by far tougher than the Chaing Mai jungle trek for sure, it was because it was denser, steeper and a hell of a lot rockier but hey, that’s cos we were climbing up a limestone mountain!! Ouch…I kept whacking my legs on the rocks by mistake so I’d lost count of the amount of bruises that would appear later on that day! Sweat was rolling down my back and even my face which I never get…it stung as it dripped off my brow and into my eyes and causing my vision to cloud up for a few moments…but that wasn’t going to stop me in my tracks! Along the way, we were getting to know Alan and saying how lucky he is to live in such beautiful surroundings! He pointed out a few funny shaped rocks which actually looked like um…parts of the male anatomy so of course, we had to stop for a few photographic opportunities!

Ahh wow, we can hear a waterfall coming up!  The ground under our feet is becoming softer, wetter and now near on muddy! My boots are now so clogged up that they are no longer gripping so I’m finding it harder to maneouvre up and over..Judith was amazing at this, while my boots were becoming more of a hindrance, her long legs in her trainers were effortlessly gliding her over the uneven terrain and landing her gently back on both feet ready to climb again whereas me, a booted Bridget Jones was slipping and sliding and yep, I did misplace my left boot and took a little tumble and slid on the soft yellow, orangey mud and whacked my butt cheek on a sharp rock!! Yeouch!! Well, that I can tell you that became a lovely shade of purple and blue haha!

We follow the sound of the waterfall and finally, we’re there! What a sight! Alan lets us rest while he cooks us up a BBQ lunch…chicken skewers with rice and bread served up in a banana leaf, yummy!

Full bellied, we journeyed on to now descend the mountain…Getting out of the waterfall was a bit scary…now clean and shiny boots meant wet and slippery boots! I do not recommend wearing walking boots over rocky terrain! It’s harder I think because my size 8’s (don’t worry, I’m not actually a size 8, hiking boots come up larger, I’m a 6 by day ok!) were getting stuck in the smallest of cracks so each time I tried to pull my foot out, I was stuck haha! I needed to use extra force or I would fall and face plant the nearest rock or bush but of course that didn’t happen! Walking through the jungled areas felt like we’d just landed in Jurassic Park! Judith and I were whistling the sound track and teaching it to Alan haha! There were giant ants everywhere, yellow ones, red ones, black ones and even red AND black ones! The red and black ones were the ones to avoid as these were bullet ants! I remember seeing these on a David Attenborough programme – think they get their names because of the powerful bite they deliver so naturally we wanted to avoid them. Alan said he’d been bitten by them before on the arm…his whole arm and hand swelled up and he claimed he couldn’t stretch his arm out properly for almost 2 weeks! OMG! Anyways, these ants were everywhere and you couldn’t avoid them easily, especially when you are crouching and walking through a ‘jungle’ alleyway – critters cling on to you from when you brush against the leaves etc…Well, just when I thought I had avoided the critters, OUCH, something bit me on the shoulder! I felt the pincers of the giant ant pierce my skin hah! Great, a nice red bump comes up, later of course, I have more over my legs!!

Hang on a minute, something doesn’t feel right with my leg…I can feel something sharp digging into my leg….”Hang on a second” I shout ahead to Alan and Judith to hold on for a second..so I’ve rolled up my right trouser leg and to my utter horror – there is a huge leech latched on just below my knee!! Ok, where did that come from, how did it get all the way up my leg without me feeling it, will I get some kind of jungle disease?! “AARRGGHH!!” I just stared at it screaming like a little girl (of course!), Alan came straight over and pulled it off! It took a few attempts as it was stuck on there good and proper but then blood was trickling down my leg and it kept coming! It was pretty gross! Alan wiped some funny looking leaf over the wound and then Judith gave me a plaster which got soaked pretty quickly and later fell off in the jungle somewhere haha! It was such a weird feeling..like a sharp but small scratch and then a stingy feeling. Well after that I was so paranoid..’what if there are more that I don’t know about? What if I take my shoes off later and I find 1 or 2 full fat bellied, blood bulging leeches?!’ So I checked myself thoroughly and yep, spotted another alien like leech crawling in a caterpillar motion up my other trouser leg! “Argh, get it off, get it off!” I screeched! Again, Alan to the rescue and no more leeches in sight! Even though the other one had been removed and then battered to death by Alan, I remember thinking, I wished I had taken a photo of it to show Mum and Dad just to freak them out haha! Nevermind.

Hours later and much of the terrain conquered (oh and a 2nd mountain down)..we then reached a tribal village. We trekked through finally reaching our air-conned minibus to flop into. Wow, 9 to 5! What a fantastic day, more to the point, what a feat! We were so proud of ourselves for surviving the limestone mountains and the Jurassic Park bug infested jungle but DAM, it was worth it!!

As soon as we got back to the hotel, we promptly put our dirty washing into the hotels laundrette and then collapsed on our beds until 7pm when we met the others for dinner.

Tuesday 14th May – Journey to Luang Prabang

Oh Pah Chow! Judith and I have woken up today super achey! A massage would be so nice right now but then again, we were so achey it might actually hurt so we leave it! Besides, today we had a 7hr bus journey for our next destination ‘Luang Prabang’.

Wow, the bus drivers a maniac, not only is he driving superfast up, down and round all the twists and turns in the road, there are huge crater sized pot holes! Today Judith is really sick so she’s braving it and keeping it down hah! I hold off taking my malaria tablet until later as they make me feel sick and I just knew a windey and very bumpy bus ride would be a sure guarantee for an up chuck!

Finally we arrive in Luang Prabang and again it’s just beautiful! Another sleepy town with a chilled atmosphere. Albert shows us around and we watched the night marketers setting up their stalls ready to open for business. Karen and I decided to take a walk up to the view point (over 200 hundred steps up) which over looked Luang Prabang. My poor legs were cursing me but again, it sure was worth it! We then took a walk around the market. A set of wooden chopsticks and a few T-shirts later, we headed back to the hotel for it was an early start in the morning…5am to be precise. We were going to feed the monks! (well, the correct way of saying it is..giving alms).

Wednesday 15th May – Chasing monks and waterfalls

Oooh, seriously early start today, ouch! We’ve all left the hotel to take a walk into town. Already we can see monks from the various temples walking along with their pots ready to receive their offerings.

We rushed to one of the nearest streets, paid 10,000 kip for a small bowl of sticky rice and all lined up and kneeled on the payment in wait. Before the monks arrive, you hold the bowl up to your forehead and make a wish which of course I cannot tell you for it won’t come true right!? Here they come! A line of monks wearing orange robes clasping golden pots slowly walk towards us and one by one we reach into our bowls of hot sticky rice and scoop as much as we can to offer the monks. Yeouch!! The rice is SO hot that we are burning our fingers! I felt like I was being really stingey but of course I wasn’t, I just couldn’t scoop enough before I felt that hot painful burn for me to sharply withdraw my hand from my bowl again hah! Afterwards, the monks all stand before you and chant a blessing so that you have a lucky day. Phew, with singed fingers, tired eyes and hungry bellies, it’s off to find brekkie.

Later on, we meet at 12 for our bus to take us to our next afternoon outing, Sii Waterfalls. 45 minutes later, we’re there…WOW! Again, another BEAUTIFUL sight. This is just like something out of a movie, or the Discovery Channel should I say! I have goosebumps just typing this now it was that incredible.

As soon as we get in, you come across a Bear Sanctuary. The sanctuary was SO cute! We could see around 6 bears who all looked really happy! they’d all been rescued from horrible fates and are now being looked after. Such cuties, it looked like you could go in and hug them but of course, we didn’t want to try it haha! After many snaps later, we then ventured on to see the waterfalls…OMG! Just gorgeous. The water had to be the clearest water I’ve ever seen! It didn’t have a colour! You could see right to the bottom. There were loads of people from all over…locals and tourists all swimming, jumping, dive bombing or rope swinging into the crystal clear waters!

A while later, we had lunch, explored some more and then a few of us (including myself), bought ‘Free the bears’ T-shirts. But…hang on…before we go, a Helen bug hunt is in order! I bet there are some interesting creepy critters to be found here! Hunting around, I wasn’t disappointed! Just moments into my solo hunting frenzy….JEEZ…I spotted above me, THE biggest web! Proudly sat in the centre was a huge dinner plate sized spider!! Awesome! It had long spindly legs and a long yellow and black body! As I got closer, it would lift up a leg as if to say ‘You come any closer and I’ll jump you!’ I backed off when it got to 3 but I stole some great snaps of him! Then I turned to go and I’m thinking ‘I must keep looking up then’ and WOAH, there’s another one again, with another huge spider sat waiting for it’s prey to just ‘fly on in’ ! Blimey, I’d better keep looking up then, I’d hate to be casually walking along and accidentally stumble into that web and then get stuck in it or worse still, wrapped up and dragged into the trees and cocooned into some kind of white webby prison just like they do in that film, Arachnophobia! So I’m snapping away and then hear my name being called..bug hunting is over for one day as I was beckoned back to the bus to head back! What a great bug hunt! Later on in the evening, we all went for a BBQ dinner and an early night for it was another early start…6.30am this time. Thursday morning we were destined to head for our next location, Pak Beng on our slow boat (yes, very very slow…10 hrs in fact!). Pak Beng was our night in a very basic homestay village. We were prepped on how very basic it would be and that we’d pretty much be sleeping on the floor..!

Friday 17th May

What a night! Back on board the boat for at least 12hrs, we’re headed for the Thai border today to embark on our route back down to Bangkok. I’m half looking forward to going back to Bangkok because I’ll be on my own time again and I can carry on with my own personal journey however, I am also beginning to fret. For one, we will all be departing ways and I will be on my todd once more after enjoying the company of others and getting to know them. I find that with the travelling you do make fast and intense friendships because you are all travelling together and you are literally in the same boat hah! You pull each other through the homesick days and keep everyone going but when you’re on your own again, you have to deal with it yourself in your own way. I know for sure that I am a people person and I guess I almost need people around me to be myself…to be the entertainer and make people laugh! I guess the thing I’m scared of most is the fact I don’t seem to have any direction after this tour. Apart from staying in the monastery, I have no plans, no rooms booked etc…where am I going, what am I doing?! I can’t stay in Thailand, I must carry on..I came out to explore and so that is what I must do. Ahh I know, yes, I do want to see the island where the ‘Beach’ was filmed, of course that is something you have to do when you come to Thailand right! Great, I’ll see the islands then who knows! One thing I am learning here is ‘Don’t worry, things always seem to work out’ which more often than not, they do!

Sorry, so anyways, mind wandering off as usual…back to last nights home stay. Right, we pull up at our village home stay around 5.30pm and we are immediately shown around. Wow, this village seems to differ from the tribes villages I visited in Chaing Mai. Life seems even more basic. We’re told it’s been around 5mths since the villagers have seen any foreigners or even white people so we’re to expect them to be really shy – they probably won’t even approach us.

So, as I mentioned above, our boats pulls up on the shore and we’re relieved to feel the warm sand under our feet instead of the hard, creaky wooden boards of the boat. Our guides, Albert and excuse me for saying this, um ‘bum-hole’ (that is exactly what it sounds like!) lead us up and into the village to meet the residents. A walk through takes us past the usual looking wooden bungalow / straw like huts and houses and gives us a glimpse into the villagers daily lives. All seemingly self efficient. Pigs, chickens, crops, they don’t need anything else. A strong and seemingly very happy community. We walk past children playing what looks like volley ball and also a make do bowls lane which looks really popular amoungst the young kids which is great to see. Half naked and dusty looking children running around laughing and playing, dogs tending their almost freshly looking born puppies, piglets snuffling their snouts under muddy puddles and women tending chickens. It’s so wonderful to see people living and surviving this way. We then get shown the local school, wow, it’s incredibly basic! Dark and dingy rooms with wooden tables and chairs that look like they need a seriously good refurb oh and a blackboard! I haven’t seen one of those for years! Suddenly I feel compelled to teach english so I soon make this known to bumhole…they do have a lack of english teachers in these villages..hmmm..Maybe I should really consider it, even if not here but somewhere like this??

I then caught the eye of a rather cute little girl..’Now there’s a Kodak moment’ I thought promptly getting the zoom lens out and attached! We were told we had to ask permission before we took a photo and better still, it’s polite to show the villagers the photo afterwards. So I asked bumhole if it was ok for me to snap this cute little girl. “Yes of course”. Great, so ready with the camera…oh hang on…where has she gone? Oh there she is, behind the tree. So I’m focused, zoomed in and ready to click but she smiles and runs away! Oh dammit! I find her again, focus, aim….Readdy and…She then lets out a cheeky little laugh and runs away again haha! This time she is joined by a friend, another little girl who also finds this game of ‘Pap and mouse’ all rather exciting! They were so incredibly cute and I felt we were sharing a ‘moment’ (a Kodak moment boom boom!) but a moment without language, an interaction of back to basics primal human emotion! Well, this went on for a while but I managed to get some cute shots of them both peering from around a wooden door. I was waiting with my camera poised and then suddenly, a small hand stretched out holding a small yellow banana as if they were saying ‘here you go’ haha! It was all part of the game.

Moving on, we then walked past a few more villagers homes. One of the windows of a nearby hut was open and you could see 3 children peering out at us all no doubt wondering who we were and what we were doing there. The window was propped open by a wooden stick which was balanced horizontally from the hut keeping the ‘thatched’ latch open. I took a couple of photos (of course getting their ok) and I then showed them the results – they looked fascinated! It reminded me of New Hope back in Cambodia when the childrens bewildered faces looked into my camera almost trying to work out ‘how’ their mugshots were captured inside this small black box! But then suddenly, the wooden stick that was holding the window latch up fell from it’s post…WHACKKKK, right into their little faces! Slamming shut, the window sharply ended our brief non linguistic encounter! The first thing I selfishly shouted was “It wasn’t me!” haha! So we got the stick back and the window latch propped open again for them. The children all came out their home to meet me and look at their photo again. I wish I could have spent more time mingling with the villagers. They seemed so ‘untainted’ by the modernistic’s of life that we could possibly even be burdened with..They were used to the simple life..they were literally at the bottom of the ‘pyramid of needs’ and that’s all they needed and wanted. I quickly taught them the thumbs up and also the ‘Ok’ hand gestures and then rushed back to rejoin the group.

We then all met the Chief of the village. His house of course was the biggest and the most centralised. We all sat round his outside table and shared a can of Sprite together and were then divided into pairs. Men and women aren’t allowed to sleep in the same room / houses even if they’re married! The villagers believe it brings them bad luck so sexes are always separated. So it was x 2 girls and x 2 boys per house. The Chief showed us around the available accommodations of which families agreed it would be ok to put 2 of us up for the night. The first one we came to, Judith and I snapped it up! We were to sleep on basic (and thin) mattresses on the floor protected by a pink mozzie net, yep, def a girls room hah! The toilet is in the out-house so Judith and I agree to wake each other up during the night if we wanted to use it so we could brave it together haha! The out-house looked horrendous! It was dark, dirty looking and seriously un-hygienic but hey, that’s what they’re used to right. So with our room picked, we were then shown where the others would be. Hey, hang on…the next house looked more lush!! This house had a better layout, it looked cleaner and well, just had more of a ‘wow factor’ than our one which looked like it could fall apart at any moment! Karen and Ingrid had definitely checked into the Hilton hut of the village and we’d landed the Travelodge but hey ho! So, accommodation all picked, it was back to the boat for dinner. By now, the light had faded, the bugs were out in force and each of us were preparing for a night in the village. But oh dear, it was only 8pm by the time we’d gobbled our dinners haha! Judith and I downed a beer to help encourage heavy eyes to want to sleep.

Ok, so we trek back into the village, find our volunteered families and climb up the steps to our room and into bed. Under our pink mozzie nets, we quickly get into our jammies and complain how hot and sweaty we are and also how so NOT tired we are! Wow, this is the earliest I’ve been to bed in a long time, it’s 9 PM!!!! Of course, we’re not in bed at this time by choice. The village run on limited electricity adn they encourage all power (and noise) to be stopped and shut off by 9pm. We don’t even have a fan so the air’s not moving, the heat is just engulfing us. I can feel things landing on me, tiny bugs…how did they get in here!? So on goes the torch and out comes the bug spray again! Great, so I’m now hot, sticky, sweaty and irritated! Eyes shut and I’m starting to drift off..I can hear dogs scrapping, pigs squealing and the odd village noises (oh and bug noises!) fade away as I fall into the land of nod.
…..4.30AM, I stretch and roll over and shut my eyes again. “Helen, are you awake?” whispers Judith. “Sort of!” haha…”I really need to pee and have done since 11.30pm!” “Ok, lets go”. So dressed, we head downstairs and outside. Torches in hand we reach the out-house but hold up…it’s locked!! What! Oh great! Right, we’re gonna have to pee with the cows..so we did! They were just staring at us the whole time, I was wondering if they’d charge us haha! Phew, that over with, we went and packed up and re-joined everyone to get back on our slow boat outta here!

Friday 17th May

So it’s 5am and we’re all back on our boat. Yep, 12 hours time and we’ll be crossing the Thai border! Wow, we can’t believe we’ll be back in Thailand. It’s quite sad that we’ve done most of the tour now. I am looking forward to heading back to Chaing Mai though, I love it there. And we’ll be going back to the ‘Zoe Bar’, well, it’s a first for these lot but I’m the one who’s recommended it to them! Woo hoo! But first things first, once we’ve crossed the border, we’ll be going to our hotel in Chaing Khong for Chaing Mai is Saturday.

Ok, so we made it to the Thai border and phew! We literally only just made it. We rushed to the check out office and then had to grab a tuk tuk to ‘check in’ to Thailand again – the office closed at 6pm and we rolled in AT 6pm! Almost had to stay another night in um…Thailand but officially as ‘illegals’ and off the radar I guess?! Anyways, stamped in, we then go onto our hotel. At the hotel, I’m reminded of my time at Poseidon Bungalows, from the inside anyways. It’s quite basic and there are huge giant ants crawling about the place, great! A quick dip in the pool then freshen up, it’s out for dinner. Everything’s back in Baht so we’re all trying to get used to the currency once again. Yummy, Massamam curry..get in my belly! Back to the hotel for another early night for it’s yet another early start!

Saturday 18th May

So we’ve checked out super early and are on the road by 6.30am. We have a 5hrs drive to Chaing Mai. Our own private mini van, fab, I can switch off and listen to my ipod, oh well, with one ear piece anyways and the other ones packed up!!
We stopped half way to admire the White Temple which is a very interesting sight to see. It’s more like a piece of art than a temple and certainly worth seeing. It has some rather interesting and political opinions inside. As you walk into the temple, you are ‘walking into Heaven’. They believe as you reach the gates, you will see 2 demons one on either side. The demons will basically see if you are worthy of entering and then ‘eat’ your sins. Model hands were reaching up from out under the bridge as if to coax you in or ask for your help to get them out! It all felt rather ‘fantasy’. Inside there is a huge painting depicting the life (and fall) of a person and their cycle of reaching Heaven. At the bottom of the painting were famous icons and well known people including Michael Jackson, Bin Laden, Freddie Kruger…so strange! Albert explained it meant to have a pure life, you can’t have distractions or be glued to material things etc…the top of the painting had pictures of a Buddha, a person (who looked like they’d reached enlightenment) and a skull. The skull meant death of course. After much ‘temple-ing’ it was back on the bus to carry on our way to Chaing Mai. Albert put on a dvd for the rest of the way! Fab, so a pimped up mini van with a drop down TV and dvd player woo hoo!

Hooray, we arrive at Chaing Mai. After checking in and freshening up, we re-convened in the lobby to see what everyone wanted to do. Everyone (apart from Judith and I) went off to visit Tiger Kingdom and go for Elephant rides so we decided to stick around and visit some temples.
Later on when everyone’s back, it’s out for dinner and then P.A.R.T.Y time!! Yep Zoe bar! Everyone wants to go too after I’ve bigged it up so much! But oh dear, I was rather intoxicated last time and everything’s great when you’ve had too many haha! But hey, once we were there, everyone loved it and enjoyed themselves! We all bought ‘Oh my Buddha’ bracelets and then danced the night away…Judith and I made it to the end, well, it was closing time in fact haha!

Sunday 19th May

Hungover and tired, we all head out for brekkie. Ingrid, George, Karen and I go to the nearest cafe but oh boy, I can only stomach a banana! After brekkie, Karen and I went for a massage, my first ever one! And well…some of it was nice but some of it not so good! There’s no way you can fall asleep during a Thai massage either that’s for sure! You get pulled around all over the place! A leg in the back, arms (and legs) a kimbo..Crikey, I heard things pop and snap and even my back crunched! Phew, kinda feel a bit better afterwards though. Then it’s back to the hotel to chill and pack for we were headed for the night train back to stinky Bangkok!

Monday 20th May

Slept surprisingly well for the night train. We’re all woken around 5.30am by a Thai guy repeating the same line over and over…maybe he’s saying we’re here? Pulling back the curtain, it’s a train attendant selling orange juice! Ah well, may as well just get up and ready to go now. Then the ‘Bed Master’ lady comes around and orders us up so she can turn the bed back into a seating area. I called her the ‘Evil dorm lady’ haha. She obviously had no idea what I was saying which is the funniest thing! Finally, 7am odd and we reach Bangkok. Hmm, not so sure we’re happy to be back. We get off the train and it’s the usual “Excuse me Miss, you want tuk tuk?” The same old stinky stenches filling our noses and stray dogs wandering about. Reaching our hotel, we’ve checked in and chill out! We then did the usual..Albert met us later on and took us all for a walk around China town and showed us some sights. Then we had dinner together in the evening. As we couldn’t celebrate Ingrids Birthday on the night train, we did tonight instead..Albert whipped out a huge and scrummy-licious cake after dinner and we then enjoyed a cocktail on Koh Sarn Road!

Tuesday 21st May

Our last day together! Today we all took a trip to the Grand Palace as I had missed the opportunity to see this fine temple previously. Wow! You HAVE to see this place if you’re ever in Bangkok. Later on in the evening, once more we had dinner together but this time for the last time! We then hit the Saxophone Bar! A FAB place for jazz, the artists in there are just so talented! My Dad would definitely love this place! He’d be in his element if they had an open mic night!

Wednesday 22nd May

Today nothing much happened to be honest! Judith and I checked into a hostel 2 doors down and everyone departed ways! It was so sad! But life goes on hey and you take the memories with you. It has been so wonderful meeting all these people and being part of their adventures too just like they have in mine 😉

Judith and I both have a few days to kill before we too go our separate ways so we decide to book a mini relaxing break away together on the island of Ko Samet. Ko Samet is a small but not so far off tiny island where the Thai’s mostly head for a weekend retreat so we thought perfect, this will do us nicely.

But I still can’t help notice that ever rising feeling of ‘fear’ creeping it’s way back up inside. One minute you’re ok and then ‘BOOM’ that panicky, hyperventilating feeling tries to remind you that you’ll soon be alone in the world once more…

Later in the evening, Judith and I rented a movie from the front desk, grabbed a couple of bottles of beer and chilled in the ‘play room’ of our hostel.
And hey, things can’t all be that bad…yes the tour is over and some great friends once again have now all moved on but tomorrow was the start of a new adventure…for tomorrow, we were off to the island of Ko Samet remember! A few days of paradise and stunning beaches, what a way to reward ourselves for all our early starts and always being on the go! It will be a nice way to unwind before we move on.

Well, we were soon to be proved very wrong….!!

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