10.02.2009 - 14.02.2009
Well well well, we have been busy!
After I last posted, we decided to try out a day “experience” called the “Flight of the Gibbons” – you go out into the jungle and fly down zip lines and rappel down trees. They sell is as the only way to be in tree canopies if you are not a scientist. In reality it’s a lot of zip lines, bridges, and ropes high up (very very high) in the jungle. It was very spendy for us, around £40 each but the reviews are all fantastic and it looked like a laugh.
(The wooden things are our "brakes")
A laugh it was. More like terrifying! You go so high up, and end up standing on small wooden platforms built in the trees. Trees which of course sway a bit as people slide down the wires. If you don’t like heights this is not the place for you. You really can’t tell how high it is in the pictures.
(If you look closely, our guide is out there on the wire - upside down)
(Same place, different person - Kirstin this time)
(and again, closer)
(Nice little bridge, miles up)
(Me going backwards on a baby one)
(Blurry, but you can see the fear :-) )
(Another lovely bridge)
(We came down that, on a rope)
(... like this)
We had such a laugh. The guides were fantastic and the scenery stunning. The most frightening part was the rappelling down the trees. The first one was a small one but it still felt horrible being dangled on a small rope. The second one was horrific. They said 50 meters, and it looked like it. You’ll have to judge from the video. The zip lines were fun, though the hard bit was actually stepping off a platform at dizzying heights. It just doesn’t feel right.
At the end of the day, we had a very welcome beer and calmed our nerves somewhat.
(... There was going to be a movie of the treetop experience here but the internet here is 128k at best and I've tried a gazillion times to upload it, so it will come in a later post when I find "real" ADSL! :-) )
The next day, we were set to hire a scooter and ride to Pai, 135Km away, but the company that hired one-way scooters had nothing available and we were fed up of waiting. On top of that, we heard “why go to Pai when you can go to Luang Prabang in Laos. So that’s what we did!
Initially we were going to take a package trip but found that we’d arrive on the border at 4am and get 3 hours sleep before embarking on a 2 day boat trip. We fancied going earlier, so went to the local bus station in Chiang Mai and grabbed seats on a bus departing in about an hour. Worked out well really!
The bus was “interesting”. We got assigned seats in a row of 3, and they were in no way wide enough for Western shoulders! – Kirstin ended up sitting in the middle with her seat fully reclined so she could “slot in” lol. Tough going for the first 3 and a half hours, but after that, lots of Thais got off, and the remaining 4 hours were easy, with lots of spare seats.
We arrived at the border town of Chiang Khong at 8pm and sank a few beers to get over the bus journey. Funny as hell, one guy drinking next to us suddenly disappeared! The floor collapsed and he went down, chair and all. We laughed. A lot. He was fine.
(There was a man sat there....)
The next morning, woken rudely at first by a cockerel, and then by monks bashing gongs, we sauntered down to the river Mekong, grabbed a coffee, and then exited Thailand, catching a quick ferry across the river to Loas.
After grabbing our Visas we had possibly the worst coffee in history – Loas coffee, and then bought tickets for the 2 day slow boat to Laung Prebang. You can take a speedboat that does the job in 6 hours – if you survive. People often don’t.
I’d done my research on the slow boats and knew we had to be there early to get good seats. Well, there are not any good seats, but some are less awful than others. We also bought cushions to ease the pain, plus some grub. A lot of the travellers’ reports regarding the journey are bad, as are the reports of the small village you stay overnight in…
Suitably prepared, we grabbed two seats that were on the side of the boat – so we were sitting one in front of the other. Our purchased cushions paid off big time. Some seats already had them so we had one for our bums and one for our backs, or leaning on, on the side of the boat.
(Nice seats for 2 days...... hmmm)
Sure enough the boat slowly filled up – to capacity, and then we set off – yay!
The journey was wonderful. Great scenery along the way, including elephants. We were comfortable enough too, you just have to move about occasionally to find a new position that relieves the cramp from the last position. There was even a bar on board, so we slowly got pissed and met lots of other travelers and generally had a good laugh.
Six hours later we arrived at PakBeng, a one street town that caters solely for the boat traffic. This would be our first real Loas experience. People have reported it to be a bit seedy. They must live very sheltered lives! It was fine. We secured a 200 Baht room (you can pay in Baht, Dollars, or Loas Kip over here) and slept well. Well enough until about 4 am when another bloody rooster woke us up. This is becoming a common theme.
(Nice way to arrive at Pakbeng)
Next morning we boarded our boat again, although this time it was a different boat, with slopey sides, so you could not lean on the railings. Still, we’d cope.
One American girl got on at 8.55 am (9am departure) and said, with some level of astonishment, “Like, Oh my God, there are like totally no cushions left!” – Like oh my God, get up earlier!
(Early morning mist in Pakbeng)
(Our boat awaits for day 2)
This was to be a much longer day, but again we had a good laugh. There was sod all leg room but we adapted, and after about noon, the beers started appearing and the party spirit kicked off. I even ended up playing someone’s’ guitar!
(Can you spot the elephants? hint - there are two on the rocks, being ridden)
(The speedboat option - not a great pic but they are all hunched up, wearing helmets, for 6 hours)
(Our boat, well, not really, but another one the same)
(The stone is to mark where rocks are, so you can imagine how high the water gets)
Some people were sleeping by the engine room – God only knows how. Deafening. One girl looked like she wanted to kill herself. Seriously – you’d get ear damage after half an hour. People are strange. Talking of which, there was a Canadian couple (hippy types) next to us this day, and they talked about Canada, bears, themselves, “horrible America” for the WHOLE journey. 8 hours. Kirstin helped Bree, a nice American girl we met, remove her hair extensions.
(Nice toilet on the boat. At least it had one)
We arrived in Luang Prebang at 5pm and quickly sorted a guest house for $20 US a night – got drunk, and crashed.
(Arriving at Luang Prebang)
(Having a rewarding beer upon arrival)
(With a nice sunset over the Mekong)
(Followed by some good local BBQ grub- pork on a stick!)
This morning we had a good explore, and have moved to a similar place, but with wifi and air con.
Laos is Very different to Thailand. They are very laid back here. Almost horizontal. We got woken AGAIN by a rooster – so hopefully, our new “sealed” room will be immune – we’ll know tomorrow – fingers crossed.
Oh – read this – standard Laos accommodation rules – particularly points No. 4, 5 and 6. We nearly fell over with laughter.
p.s. It’s pronounced “Lao” not “Laos” (which everyone gets wrong). The “S” comes from the French colonisation, where they would refer to the collection of islands and the mainland as “Les Laos” – the “s” being the French pleural, and consequently silent. No one under the age of 30, or American, understands or adheres to this fact.
(Local scenery in Luang Prebang)