Thursday, 23 February 2012

A Year In The Ring of Fire

Well I am Home, I have sorted my job applications for the day and other menial tasks one has to do at home so I thought I'd get this finalised....  enjoy

I have been plotting and planning this blog post ever since I got to South East Asia as to me that signals the end of the trip, despite still being 3 months away at the time it feels like nothing. This was not to say I wasn't keen to carry on travelling, I was. In fact when Welshman decided to head home I seriously considered the same thing but it was never a viable option. I know I would have regretted it, there were still adventures to be had, people to meet and experiences to well, experience. Cambodia proved it was the right choice, the warmth of the people and everything coming together at New Year. (I'm actually writing this still in Cambodia with a solid 45 days to go before I even finish my travels but what I can recall about the year starts now). Being the cynical grumpy bastard I pretend to be, this is actually quite hard, recollecting on everything that has happened, from the amazing scenery to the wonderful people I have met. It has been such an amazing year that I can't understand what I ever did to deserve it. In travelling around the World you learn that despite everything it isn't that big (anymore) and we are all the same. Despite this it is big enough that I have come nowhere near seeing everything and there is still so much more to see. I have seen the worlds highest mountain and sailed under the stars, slept in a temple, a farmers house and many other locations (including an airport). I crossed the international date line twice as well as making it to the Southern Hemisphere for the first time. At every step and turn, sometimes just when you began to lose faith you would meet or find something that made it all worthwhile. So, A year in the ring of fire, Sauntering 'Vaguely' Downwards the year that was.
The Very Beginning, Night One - Hong Kong.
I couldn't quite figure out how to mention everything so I will do brief recaps/highlights of countries, you can find the whole adventure in the previous blogs. Starting in China I fell in love all over again, the people, culture, food and everything. I did all the things I meant to and had time left for some new things. I slept in a temple on a mountain, saw the Li River and even made it to Tibet where I met people who had never seen the Sea. I have since met people who've never seen snow. China was a good reintroduction to the travel lifestyle as it is fairly familiar to me. I'll chuck Korea in here as I was only there a week, seeing Clare who I hadn't seen in a while which is always nice.
Stupa in Zhongdian

Japan came next, a complete culture shock from China. I drank too much sake and ate raw horse. I slept in traditional Ryokans with Tatami mats with sliding doors. I saw the illustrious snowcapped Mt.Fuji, got lost on the Tokyo metro and spent a majority of my time in the 'Onsen'. Arriving 2 months after the Fukushima disaster I saw a country in mourning and repair, yet still very upbeat. It is this pragmatism and cheer that teaches you obstacles can be overcome even with the threat of nuclear oblivion hovering over you.
Nara, Japan

Canada was once again completely different(obviously) to Asia. I watched Ice hockey, predicted a riot and was impressed with the clean up effort afterwards; the best and worst of humanity in 24 hours. It was apparent it wasn't the Vancouvans who had really rioted as they spoke out against it. I saw a humpback whale with Mercedes and saw the most beautiful lake in the world, before walking on a glacier and witnessing bears in the wild(an everyday occurrence for Canadians). Canada was a land of natural wonder and odd food (Poutine)
Lake Louise
Continuing South I walked across Niagara falls where I learnt how incompetent bus companies in America are. I met my friend Welshie for some well needed companionship. We joked with police officers and visited most of the 'great american cities'. In America I was amazed at how generous Welshie's friends were with putting not just him up, but me a stranger too on the logic 'any friend of yours'. They not only put us up but often took us on tours or arranged them for us when they couldn't. It really made me address my half assed attitude to the same thing back home. They repeatedly went the extra mile at every turn. We met Savage and drove up the west coast witnessing beautiful nature and having hilarious adventures (the stripper, the lesbian and the transgender). I returned to Yosemite and it truly is one of the most beautiful places in the world. We saw both man and natures dark sides again, forest fires in Nevada and gambling addiction in Reno.
Lake Victoria
I parted ways with Welshman as me and Savage headed to Panama. We practised our Spanish with the hostel staff and had drunken conversations at 3am in the pool with lightning flashing above us. My naivety kicked in here as a I realised there is no land route from Panama to Colombia in order to get to Peru(the plan). In one of those amazing coincidences I learnt to you could sail to Colombia and so I ended up spending five days at sea sailing to Colombia which was one of the best experiences of the whole trip, and true to the subtitle I hadn't intended to visit Colombia but in the end I did, and I think I needed to. I fell in love with the way Colombian women move on the dancefloor and made it to Peru.
Puerto Lindo
Peru was easily one of my favourite places.Culturally I saw ancient lines, in a hilariously dangerous plane(now its hilarious), climbed Machu Picchu and hung out with monkeys in the Jungle. I cut short Chile just to adventure more in Peru. I met some truly amazing people and was invited to Peruvian birthday parties left right and centre. It wasn't all gravy in Peru there were times I questioned what I was doing and for a few days became unmotivated, but I think this was largely due to not having a proper coversation with anyone for about a week.  However everything transpired to turn the last couple of weeks in Peru in to another amazing time, returning to a hostel 1 month and a half later to still be recognised is a fantastic feeling. This continued in the few days I had in Chile, once again peoples generosity shone through. I met a girl who despite not having ever met agreed to meet and give me tips for Santiago(her mum works with my mum, so in typical mum meddling she passed on the details)
Local Peruvians
In New Zealand it was once again time to meet the Welshman, with a new companion the Stonelake. Old hockey boys from the Plymouth days. New Zealand is again a country of natural beauty. Driving around was a great way to see it as we could stop where and whenever. Once again the Welshmans contacts sorted us out with incredible hospitality, sometimes turning up no less than half an hour before and being lavished with wine. I popped in on my cousin Doug who has a house with a stunning view over South Wellington and the sea. I became frustrated with the New Zealand hostel system, a moniker of "for backpackers by backpackers" is clearly crap when every little thing is charged extra (and it isn't cheap to begin with). Despite this we had a great time in New Zealand, partied with Orlando Bloom (not really) and marvelled at the sites. Visiting Christchurch we saw the destruction from the Earthquake and it was sad to see that the centre has been ruined and the mood in town was rather solemn, while in Thailand we learnt that it had been hit with yet another Earthquake which is never good news. Australia was a write off because I can not afford to spend 3 weeks there.
Some River
Looking forward to returning to Asia, Thailand was both welcome but a bit of a disappointment at times. The rampant over commercialisation found in parts is almost exactly why one wants to leave England. I also found the backpackers weren't so much here to see things, experience culture but more get as drunk as possible. Despite this we met some incredible people, some stunning sites and amazing experiences. It is often when I became disheartened that the best things happen, there are definitely places in Thailand I would return to. I spent my first Christmas away from home, which was a quiet time for reflexion of the previous year and what was to come. Although I spent Christmas eve and Christmas day alone (apart from Kevin)  it never really felt depressing to be alone at this time due to being surrounded by beautiful beaches and relaxed beach bars with fireworks. I wondered if people were thinking "What kind of decisions do you have to make to end up alone at Christmas?"; in my case pretty good ones. However I shared a thought for those whose Christmasses weren't so good, and recounted some of the sights/stories I've seen or heard that were not so uplifting. The second half of Thailand made me think I had been a little too harsh on it as first as I discovered the other, nicer quieter side to it. The Welshman decided to go home midway through and three months early and I can understand why. Either way I eventually re-found my zest and headed to Cambodia.
Rai Leh, Ao Son Tai beach
I almost instantly fell in love with Cambodia. I celebrated an amazing New Year on the beach with new and (new) old friends with fireworks galore. I finally got my sailing fix on and enjoyed some incredible seafood before I left beaches behind for good. I witnessed the dark history of Cambodia and then the incredible sight that is Angkor Wat. The people in Cambodia were amazing and some of the friendliest on the whole trip. With time running out I had to leave Cambodia, rather reluctantly and it is an almost definite return location.
Fishing at Sunset in Cambodia
With time running out the next stop was Vietnam. I started by taking a boat trip down this part of the worlds most important/famous river the Mekong to the Delta area. I acclimatised to the hustle of Saigon and learn't more about the Vietnam war than I had really previously looked in to and learnt the horrors of Napalm and Agent Orange. I headed north in to what was a cold and wet climate. Tet got in the way of a lot of my plans but I met friends from home and made many new ones, which is what its all about. I visited the scenic sights of  Halong bay and the Hai Van Pass before finishing Vietnam in the  UNESCO heritage town of Hoi An, I enjoyed my time in Vietnam but I had met others who had not had such a great time, being scammed as such it reminded one to always be aware and how different experiences shape your opinions.
At Halong Bay
Laos was the next and last new country I would visit on the trip making it country number 15. For a period of time in Nam I had considered skipping Laos due to time constraints but in the end after everyone I know who had been telling me I had to I found the time to include it and was glad I did. Half of all travelling is relying on word of mouth for places and you get an opinion that even the best guide book would fail to provide. I skipped Vientiane and headed to party capital Vang Vieng where I randomly met people I had met all around South East Asia, once again ramming home the 'it's a small world' theory. After leaving Vang Vieng it was time for cultural time in another UNESCO heritage city where I took in temples and met lots of elephants. Laos was a stunning country and I am disappointed I had so little time to explore, there are many sights I would have liked to get in but this is the nature and inevitably when time has become short. The last few months in Asia were almost a contrast to the first three where I had plenty of time and I operated at a slower pace but still managed to take (almost) everything in.
Temple, Laos
Returning to Thailand almost felt like a home coming, not just because it is the only country I revisited on the trip, and nor because I was returning to a familiar location (I was not, Chiang Mai was totally new to me) it was because it was the end, I had the prospect of seeing old faces with little agenda except to prepare for heading back to rainy England. I needn't say a lot here because it is all covered in the previous blog post. What I can say is that obviously being so close to returning home I spent a lot of time thinking about what I will do when back home and seeing If I have come any closer on figuring out what to do with myself. So far the answer is no. I was ready to return not because I am bored/sick of travelling but just because I am looking forward to familiarity and staying in the same place for a while. This is what I came to crave towards the end, stability.
Elephants by the river

People will probably ask me if I've changed or if I learnt anything on my travels. I am not sure if I have changed, I feel my perspective has slightly changed and I hope I am a bit more welcoming and can repay some of the hospitality I have experienced on my travels. Before I finally round up this year long review I thought I'd include some statistics/figures ranging from countries visited, books read to items lost/stolen;

Total countries visited: 15
Books read: over 30

I have taken over 20,0000 pictures.
I have gone through; 3 pairs of shoes, 2 side bags, 3 pairs of flip flops, 1 pair of shorts and 3 pairs of swim shorts.
I have lost; 2 phones, 1 towel and wash bag, a padlock and chain, 1 speaker, 2 t-shirts and most of my socks (Seriously I started with about 7 pairs, bought more along the way and I have about 3 left) :/
I have broken; 2 pairs of headphones, a pair of chopsticks.

On top of this I have mailed two boxes home and sent more stuff home with Welshie.

So to finish, I wrote the majority of this in Cambodia while I waited for a bus, it was an emotional recollection from the lows to the highs, but mostly due to the highs I got emotional. Setting out alone I could never have envisioned what was to come, before I set out I was apprehensive and wondered if I could actually make it a year. Some people think I'm brave for heading out on my own for a year, often I will hear "alone, wow I couldn't..." etc. Truth is, I am little fish in a big ocean with no direction and it was often other peoples faith in me that when stranded in a little village in Panama or in Peru in a tiny town at 3am for instance, that I didn't panic or throw it to the wall and carried on. I've met people who've been through much more hardship than I have ever had to endure and these people are inspiration, at home and abroad. They know who they are and if I tried to name them I'd feel bad if I forgot someone. At New Year in Cambodia we were asked, if there was one thing in 2011 we would have changed about the year, my answer "absolutely nothing" So as I wrote this in a bar in Cambodia back in January getting teary and not really caring who knew, thinking about it all, I'd do it all again in an instant (after a couple of months rest :P).

"You live and learn. At any rate, you live" - Douglas Adams
"Some things never change...some things do.." Morpheus - The Matrix
My longest travel companion, Kevin & me in Vietnam at Hai Van Pass

Monday, 20 February 2012

Thailand: Reloaded

So the last leg of the trip was a return to Thailand, the only country I will visit twice on the trip. I set off in good spirits from Luang Prabang to begin the end of the trip. The bus journey over, it was rather pleasant except for the worst karaoke videos ever, worst film ever and then said karaoke songs played on repeat. The only other niggly detail was the 'free dinner' only had a limit of 10,000 kip ($1) and the only things on the menu under that were 'rice' and 'vegetable soup'. Either way I returned to Thailand with relative ease, did the usual; found my hostel and got orientated. In the evening I headed out for a beer with some fellow west country people I knew from Cambodia. I am currently chasing them around (Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang and Chiang Mai & Bangkok it would seem). We wandered to the night market where I behaved like a small child wanting to play with all the things I should have grown out of: laser pens, bb guns, lighters, knives etc! We found some cheap ish food and headed to respective homes.

The first days plan was basically "Orientation number 2, trekking research and temple time" I had agreed to pick Loes up from the airport in the evening so this was also planned, due to this I did my favourite new activity of hiring a moped, which led me to venture out of town to the Temple known as "Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep" on my new wheels. It was an interesting ride especially as my new wheels decided not to work, so I returned and got a better newer bike that worked this time. The temple was (when I eventually reached it) quite nice, perched on the hill but far too touristy (as usual).

I returned to Chiang Mai proper, parked off my bike and went for a wander visiting the temples I had originally planned to visit. My favourite time to visit a temple is late afternoon, because it is usually quieter and more inviting. I have visited like a million temples now, my favourite is probably still Potala Palace (although not technically a temple) nothing can compare to it or Zenkoji in Nagano because it was so quiet when I visited it. My point really is that I do enjoy wandering around them, although I am no buddhist these temples do seem to have a calming effect, and on this adventure it was no different and this time I did something I hadn't done in a long time (even with all the temple visits) and just listened to the monks chanting. My head clear I got dinner and practised my Zen by waiting around for Loes to arrive from the airport and fulfil my chauffeur duties. 
Monk Painting

Temple Square

Loes arrived and we headed back to the hostel before heading out to meet Helen (another friend from Koh Phangan) in a Thai restaurant/bar/live music venue/club/whatever the otherside of town. It was pretty awesome to say the least, the live cover band were excellent, whacking out the usual pop classics but with some gusto and talent that even those bands fail to achieve at times. Kick out was at 2am and so we searched for other places to continue, the preferred place had been shut down by the police so our next line of adventure was a tuk tuk driver who promised to take us to a place we could buy drinks, he fulfilled his promise by taking us to a...  brothel. Loes broke a vase inside and we decided it was too expensive and shoved 6 people in to one tuk tuk. Ironically we then found an open bar about 100 metres from our hostel.

The next day was time for 'Flight of the Gibbon' a series of ziplines high up in the Jungle. This was immensely fun and at times scary (leap of faith superman zip, 40 metre mission impossible style rappelling) - mainly cause I don't like heights unless I'm roped up (I was). A quieter night followed where I watched England win the Rugby(possibly the only one cheering them in an Irish bar) and we shared stories of what happened in the period between our first meeting at the full moon party and the second in Chiang Mai. On the last day me and Loes wandered around looking for a electronic shop (unsuccessfully) and took in the temples before a quick goodbye with Helen and Marie before Loes left and we all went back to relax after a hectic weekend.

Strapped up

Flying Backwards

Elephant Statue

Tulips(Loes was shocked by them)
The following day I did nothing except book buses and a 2 day trek. In the evening I met Helen and massage crew for dinner and 'quick' drink that turned in to a late night. I woke up for my trek and headed off to a local market before we set off on a 4 hour trek in lush jungle via a waterfall slide to eventually reach a mountainside village which was our home for the night. All tour guides are slightly crazy and this one was no exception, at the market he had asked a girl "How much for Bang Bang?!" (Turns out he was joking an it was a chocolate called "Beng Beng"). He would stop every few minutes to cut down some bamboo and either make a vuvuzela or a slingshot. In the evening he cooked an amazing dinner with far too much food. Later we got out the guitar around the fire and drank horrible Thai Rice 'Whiskey'. He also drew us caricatures in his book, in all he was one of the best tour guides I have had, look him up "Mr Ping Pong".

Second day was a fun trip down to a waterfall for a "swim" and shower before bouldering further down to the Elephant camp for lunch and a ride before we went white water rafting down some rapids with a peaceful bamboo raft to finish. I returned to Chiang Mai to meet Helen one last time for a farewell dinner.
Waterfall Slide

Valley of Green

Guides singing around the fire
Can you guess which one I am?
Champion of the Waterfall

Elephant rides with baby elephant too

It was time for Bangkok, the final 'proper' destination. (Not including a brief trip to london). Easy as night bus which arrived at 530am, not breaking a cardinal rule this time as I am familiar with Bangkok I knew exactly where I was and walked down my road and got a beer while I waited for a reasonable time to check in to my hotel. Which they actually let me do around 7am, so I went to bed for a few hours. I did some totally boring admin stuff for when I am home, job stuff, transport etc before I headed off to see my last set of temples and the Grand Palace which me and Welsh had not done the first time around. Both large and impressive sets of temples I enjoyed them but truly am now all templed out. 
A recurring theme in South East Asia I waited to meet Loes who is practically based in Bangkok for her internship and we headed out for dinner near the infamous Khao San road before heading to the Reggae bar for a bucket. This place reminded me of the Star and Garter (if the Star did buckets) before we headed up to roof bar on Khao San to drink before hitting 'the club'. Without having much else to do in Bangkok on saturday went to Chatuchak Market, a huge market open on the weekends before going to the cinema. The lack of choice was a bit disappointing but we settled for "Safe House" a film where Denzel Washington basically drank nice wine and ran away from 6 million bullets. It made little sense but was enjoyable enough.

In the evening we went back to Khao San road for the same old shenanigans, buckets and street dancing. Sunday was a pretty lazy day which was spent in Lumpini park. In the evening had a curry before parting ways with Loes yet again. Last remaining things to do include buying new shorts (I know england is freezing but I have lots of jeans) and MAYBE buying some gifts for people.

Grand Palace Temples

Gargoyle things

Reclining Buddha
Bangkok near Chatuchak Market
So that was the last two weeks of the whole thing. I'm definitely ready to go home now, it has been an amazing year which I have written a review of which I will post shortly, probably when back in the UK and it will cover everything. Now to make my way home over a few days, stopping in London if anyones about...

Addendum: The Journey Home and the End.
I thought I'd add this here rather than in the review of the year. I ended the trip the exact same way I started the trip in more ways than one. A rather sleepless night an I got my airport transfer at 6am before a quick breakfast to burn the last of my Thai money on a Dairy Queen breakfast.... grimm. Easy enough flight to Mumbai complete with Bollywood film and a second breakfast (of omelette and curry). After an incompetent security check at the transfer in Mumbai and I bordered the second and longest flight of the day. This time a personal screen I went in to travel mode and watched a lot of films; Contagion (better than the advert), In Time, Puss in Boots and Moneyball. The flight was otherwise uneventful apart from the worst landing so far and some poor service.

The real fun started in immigration, a huge queue insured with obknoxious shouty man getting all upset over having to queue. He lost his rag when a woman with two young children who had been in the wrong queue was asked to move to right one, nobody minded letting her in except this massive tool who shouted too all who would listen, ie nobody before security came over and politely told him to shut his massive fucking gob.... he did not. He continued to rant at the lady and then anybody else who was in his vicinity, then the racism came out "go back to India, Indians". Welcome back to England and people wonder why people leave. Obviously not all English people are like this, an my thought was can't we kick him out? The immigration officer joked about the 'entertainment' with a disdainful look on his face, typical sarcasm it was ace. 

I put my warm clothes on and filtered out to the tube and listened to "London Calling" as I felt it was rather appropriate before eventually arriving at Jacobs for a catch up, bangers and mash and to drink some Thai Whiskey/Rum. Thus ending the trip exactly as I had begun it (minus a lunch with Natalie).

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Land of a Million Elephants

I was apprehensive about this bus journey to Laos as in researching it I had read many nightmarish stories, for example this one here. Other than the pick up being an hour late I had no other problems, unless you count sitting on a stool for a period or little children being sick, but I'm so use to this its almost not a bus trip unless someone is ill. I started my journey at 6am (7am); four buses, one motorbike and one truck later I arrived in Vientiane at the excellent time of 3am. I found what appeared to be the only open/vacant hotel an got myself a room for $20. When I awoke I couldn't really be bothered to find a cheaper hotel as all seemed full, my hotel staff were friendly an asked "what are you doing today" in my "i've no idea" response they suggested they sell me a bus ticket, so on I got on a bus to Vang Vieng (where I was going next anyway). A bumpy ride that was rewarded with some nice views and green mountains a whole 3 days ahead of schedule (which is important as I am out of time).

Vang Vieng is billed as 'Koh Phangan on steroids' but I think this is unfair as its also kind of quiet but also stunning. It reminds me of Yangshuo, except Yangshuo hasn't been discovered by all the knobheads yet. The town itself is quiet because the main activities happen further up the river or an island in the river next to town. It is a town almost solely revolving around backpackers. The main activity is to 'tube' down the river, in an inflatable rubber ring; however this is for amateurs or 'noobs'. I did it once and I went all the way down, I mean its why I came here, right? - to quote a friend of mine "Nobody does that!" Which is true, most people don't even bother with the tube and just drink at the many bars along the river.

This is where the infamous "Phangan on Steroids" is located. Every bar gives you a wristband and usually a free shot of god awful whiskey. Each bar has a slightly different gimic, from zip lines to water slides, one bar even had some puppies (the Drum n Bass bar actually). However most people just drink an play the usual silliness of beer pong or dance that silly inbetweeners "Bon Bon" dance (as it is apparently known) as demonstrated by these drunk idiots. Having mentioned the idiots and stupid water features, this place apparently has a death rate of 3 a month, you can see why: alcohol + water + stupid water features = Damage. Not being that stupid I stayed well clear of the zip lines etc. I saw plenty of people on crutches and lots of cuts and bruises. Despite this the vibe is good and I met people I'd met in Cambodia, Vietnam and a few new people too.

In the evening the party moves over to the Island next to town and usually starts with a free bucket at the aptly named "Bucket Bar" before that closes around 12am and moves to Limbo bar, where people fail to pull off a simple duck under, It was no Koh Phangan effort I am sad to report. This carries on around the fire until it is time for bed.

When everyone is done partying the town is so geared towards backpackers they only play two tv shows in the restaurants.... Family Guy or Friends. I got kind of ill in Vang Vieng (No, not hungover ill) so I spent a day watching like 3 whole seasons of Friends, a feat E4 manage is about the same amount of time. Anyway party time over I headed off to Luang Prabang but not before taking some pictures of mist around the mountains. 
Vang Vieng and the misty mountains

Bridge to the Otherside

A view from the Bridge
I left for Luang Prabang on another supposedly bumpy ride. It started bumpy but soon became rather windy, with stunning backdrops of green karsts and endless valleys. I would love to come back and trek in this area as it was stunning. Also I don't have a pictures to show you.

Luang Prabang is a pretty town with UNESCO World Heritage status. It is easy to see why, it is quiet, laid back and houses much old style buildings as well as newer French colonial buildings which sit surprisingly well amongst of the temples, of which there are many. It mostly lies on a peninsula formed by two rivers (one the Mekong) and has a small hill protruding in the middle of which three temples sit atop.

I spent my first day here wandering around the old town, climbing the hill and taking in all of the temples as physically possible before the heat got to me and I was reduced to figuring out what to do with the rest of my time. I booked my ticket to Chiang Mai (a day earlier than 'scheduled') and a two day Biking/Trekking/Kayaking excursion in to the surrounding countryside.

Down River

Temple of Circular Gold
The first part of my two day excursion was biking through the hills, not so strenuous we stopped at a few local sites, temples and local trader stalls where they also had looms to make the fabrics I see in the markets. On one hill we came past a Snake, a guy had pulled up his truck and subsequently threw a big rock on its head, an then a second time to make sure before picking it up and taking it home, presumably to eat. We eventually reached our first destination, Elephant Village.
Laos used to be called 'Land of a Miliion Elephants' (hence the blog title) and although the amount of elephants alive today may have significantly dropped there are still plenty. Elephant Village is a combined project that aims to give homes to older/ill elephants once they have become too useless for the logging industry. In order to facilitate this, there only current duty is to ferry tourists around at their own pace a few times a day. The logging industry is unfortunately a terrible life for an elephant and much work is being done to reduce this, what you can do if you want to help is a) not buy any wood products that come from Laos or b) buy an elephant (The village can afford to look after them but not buy them from the loggers as even an ill elephants has a worth due to its meat value.) Information on all this can be found at Elephant Village. Anyway here are some pictures of happy elephants free from logging!
Big Smile

Petting the Elephant

Reaching for food!

Exploring with their trunks
I will probably get (even) closer to elephants in Thailand where I plan to do more days trekking and maybe even ride elephants. Elephant time over we took a short boat ride down to the next stop off for lunch at Tad Sea Waterfall, more impressive in wet season (I am told) it was still quite majestic, in a lower pool elephants go bathing, solely for the purpose of getting tourists wet. Lunch was followed by a trek to the Village where we would stay the night in the Chiefs hut. On route the guide told us all about the local widlife, ie the dangerous ones from snakes to leeches! We popped in on the school on the way in to the village and arrived at our hut. A dinner of sticky rice and two dishes of vegetables followed, I say two, one dish was the vegetables in a soup, the other; the same vegetables this time in a sauce. It was however very nice and tasty.
Water Buffalo

Tad Sae Waterfall

Bath Time

Schools Out
The hut also had a baby monkey as a pet. This happened because some of the younger hunters had shot a monkey in the jungle and when they found its carcass found the baby still clinging to it. They had wanted to sell it in the town but the chief decided not to and keep it as a plaything for the 'tourists'. I'm not sure which plan is better really. We left in the morning for a short trek to the kayaking point, on route we saw what I think is a Green Tree Pit Viper (according to my research). Once we had reached the Kayak point it was a long and hot three hour trip down river to the end of the trek. A good if short two days in the countryside around Luang Prabang. In the evening I had a farewell dinner with the two Dutch Girls I knew from Vietnam as our paths will stop criss crossing now. It was a cheap street buffet jobby for all of a dollar. Joined by yet another Dutch Girl (everyone seems to be Dutch at the moment, the two others on my trek were also Dutch) we drank Beer Lao and ended up talking about embarrassing stories from our childhoods and somehow also Pokemon. As tonight is my 19 hour trip to Thailand today is a prep day, which means blogging and photo time.
Baby Monkey

Itsssssaaaaaa Snaakeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Kayaks Galore!
Less than two weeks to go! One last jaunt in Thailand seeing friends from Thailand, I am both excited for that and then to go home, it's been an amazing 11 plus months but I am ready to go back now, expect one last Thailand blog and then an INCREDIBLY long year review to look forward to!
Bye for now.