From Krabi we took a 12 hour uncomfortable bus ride to Bangkok, we arrived 5.30am, we spent all day in the city and went on a riverboat cruise, the drivers were pretty rough ! every time they arrived at a jetty bang bang the whole boat jolted from side to side. I accidentally knocked into a monk MAAAANNN was he shitty, he gave me the death stare (probably had to go home and wash himself seven times) we also went in search of some rock climbing shoes and didn't find any, the rock climbing shop doesn't stock shoes...bizarre. Walking around we also saw exotic birds like Macaws and African grey parrots in small cages, right by the polluted roadside, one parrot had his feathers missing, he was obviously stressed about his lifestyle.
We caught an evening sleeper train to the northern border of Thailand Nong Khai which took about 14 hours to do 621km, I think the driver stopped off in different places to catch up with his friends or something, oh well at least we could lie down in air conditioned comfort. From Nong Kai we walked to the border paid $64 American to get visas and found a bus the locals take, to get to Laos, about 4km across the friendship bridge. When we arrived in Vientiane, Laos we walked until we saw a local bus coming and waved him down, then we found a hostel to stay in.We spent 4 days exploring Vientiane on bicycles. Here, we had to get use to riding on the right side of the road. There was an interesting center we went to where we learnt all about the unexploded ordanants that the Americans dropped on Laos during Vietnam war. We met an interesting 20yr old called Peterkim who at the age of 17 yrs picked up one unexploded ordanent and it blew up in his face, blinding him for life, and blew his hands off. He wanted me to help him, read out messages from his friends on facebook, I had to describe photos for him, setting a scene in his mind. I wonder if he visualises in colour, if he remembers what his family look like.. he has a wicked sense of humour, and I helped him with a speech he was due to give a German delegate from the ASEAN conference in Vientiene. Here are some facts for those who are interested..
*Lao is the most heavily bombed country in the world per capita in history
* More than 580,000 bombing missions were conducted over Laoduring the Vietnam war between 1964 and 1973
*More than 270 million bombies were dropped onto Lao
*Up to 30% (approx 80million bombies) failed to detonate and remained in Lao after the war
*All 17 provinces in Lao suffer from UXO contamination
*Today approx 100 new casualties still occur annually
*Usual activities causing UXO-related accidents
Handling of UXO/ searching for scrap metal 24%
Forest products collection 14%
Lighting fires, cooking and other domestic activities 12%
Playing with UXO 11%
There weren't many old temples or statues around, coz the Siam (Thais) came in and destroyed them
years ago. After hanging out around a few cool temples and meeting a few Monks who call themselves novice Monks because they still have to do more learning to become a fully fledged monk we caught a sleeper bus to Luang Prabang.
Dudley and I got a top bunk right at the front bus window so we had a good view when the sun was coming up. This bus was definitely made for the short person in mind, so when we were lying down we couldn't stretch our legs. I was lying next to a Thai and a Vietnamese guy. Sleeper bus is not recommended. About an hour into our journey we all could smell something burning and smoke was curling around the lower beds. We yelled stop the bus stop the bus!!I banged on the front window and finally the driver pulled over, we all got off the bus and it took him about 20mins to fix the problem (not sure what the problem was), but didn't give us much confidence!! We kept saying to the bus driver Mai pen rai ka? no problems/worries? and he said yeah get back on the bus. We made sure we knew where the emergency exit was and needless to say we didn't sleep much on the windy potholed narrow road to central Laos.
The alms ceremony would have been cool if it wasn't for the locals trying to make money out of it. The alms ceremony occurs every morning about 6.30am and the monks line up on the street with their bowls and get given free food by people, It is supposed to bring the person who gives the food good luck.
So we arrive on the street about 6am and a local comes along with a basket tray saying feed the monks feed the monks, she shoves the tray in my hand and commands me to sit down, how innocent am I , we sit down and wait for like five minutes and then figure out that we actually will have to pay her money to do this, so we think screw that, and put our trays down on the street and take off. Tourists start arriving by the busload and the locals come up to them, depending on how rich the tourist looks depends on how much they will be charged for a tray... what a gay experience, something traditional turned into a money making scheme.
We were pleased to get out of this place and took a bus 10 hours north to Luang Namtha, a smaller town, far less touristy. Where we explore by bicycle and scooter many different villages, this was a cool experience and reminded me of the primitive villages in Papua New Guinea, but these guys haven't seen too many tourists yet. We went 60km to a place off the beaten track called Muang Sing, stayed the night in a guest house, we got a feel for the small town and their food which leaves allot to be desired! Ewww gross, unless you like intestines,stomach linings, grasshoppers, unidentifiable bugs, dogs, cute little things that look like guinea pigs but aren't, small whole birds with beaks, eyes and all...
So our diet consisted of sticky rice with plain baguette, we tried their noodle soup without the liver kidneys etc and it was gross Dudley got sick from it, and has been feeling unwell since...
They are a very stoic people who I think don't welcome us tourists too easily, I guess they want to keep their way of life, without being corrupted by us. The kids are the best and they yell out Sabaidee!! (Hello) they want for nothing, a few ask for pens, but that is all. They are all hard workers, even the little ones are carrying baskets on their backs to collect firewood, they are busy working in the rice paddy fields and growing bananas for export. So refreshing to see young kids playing outside-jump rope, climbing trees kicking around a bamboo ball etc no one had phones or computers. There are a few battery operated bicycles around the place, it was awesome to be able to see China with our own eyes. Muang Sing is about 4km from the Chinese border, so we took our bike right to the border. If only we had organised our visas to get into China, oh well another time. In Luang Namtha we see a few serious looking camper trucks pass through, the people who own them have travelled overland from Europe, so for all you grey nomads out there, instead of touring round Aussie, start from Europe, that would be cool!