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Luang Prabang and Off to Vientiane

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

In the evening we all met at 7 to go out to dinner. I had been shopping in the night markets and had to run over to meet the gang. Dinner was really nice. We ate at some Laoatian restaurant located along that pesky Mekong river we have not be able to shake. I got some great local food, wasn’t enough but I mooched off others and survived. After dinner Andy knew of a good bar to go to that was usually hopping and fun. This is also when she first told us that Luang Prabang had a 12am curfew! That is nuts I thought to myself, even worse than Amherst, Mass which was 1am. We went to a place called the Hive and it was all westerners, but in the poorest country in SEA who else would be out at a bar on the river? I had a few drinks, but was really full from dinner and usually at this time of the night all the foods from the day started to digest and hurt my stomach. I really don’t like Beer Lao. People said it was the best beer in SE Asia, I fully and wholeheartedly disagree. It is too bitter for my liking, but maybe that is because we haven’t been able to find a truly “cold beer,” here in Laos. Most refrigerators aren’t always on and since it is so hot, at night the beer is usually chilled at best. I will save my awards for when I return home and reflect on my trip.

It was about 1130pm, when a tuk tuk driver told us of a place that we could go “after hours.” Through his broken english we figured out he was saying there was a bowling alley we could go to and drink. I was not feeling so good, but was convinced by the other ladies to jump in and give it a shot, so we did. We didn’t bowl because some of the others namely Deb “I’m too stingy,” said 15000 kip or a 1.50 a person was too much money, as the english and others say “bloody hell woman!” So we just sat down some had a beer, I had water. I was a little drunk and just really full and feeling the beer and drinks I had at the Hive and at dinner.

After the bowling alley we just hopped back in the tuk tuk to Thong Bay our hostel which was pretty close to the bowling alley. That is why the price seemed so cheap, oh well.

Wednesday May 30th – Today was the planned “chill day,” no waterfalls, no nothing, only optionals offered by travel agents which really didn’t appeal to me. I decided to hang out, tried to have a bit of a sleep in, but that didn’t work and ended up going in to town after others had done their own thing. I got a ride on the back of the sister of a guy who worked at the hostel of his motorbike. I love motorbikes they are fun to ride on. Motorbike, not cycle, there is a huge difference.

I got in to town, walked around for a bit and then settled on a cafe on the main strip to get some western food. I really was craving some sort of pizza, as the consumption of cheese on my trip to asia really had been far and few betwen. So I sat down in the outside portion of the cafe had a pizza, a soda and a water. The perfect combination. I brought out my book, had some food, drink and continued to read my book. I’m almost finished! It was great. After a while, Meredith came walking by and said some of the others were coming by as well. That was nice. I finished up, got my check and headed off with them down the street. Deb and I wanted to stay in the city to check email and wander, the others wanted to go back and hang out before they had to go to the ballet tonight. After going to several internet cafes, we finally found one that worked and that wasn’t full. We only spent a few minutes checking things, nothing major. After the internet cafe is when we found the “10 out of 10” bathroom. I didn’t go in, but others the next day did as well as Deb and from what they described it to be it seemed to be the best toliet in South East Asia. It will forever be known as the “10 out of 10” bathroom.

Oh before the internet all of us went to the bank to get some money. From there Deb and I tried to get a tuk tuk back to the city and eventually I just said “Phousy Market,” (pronounced anyway you want). That ended up being a local market further outside the city, but a successful trip as we got to see where the locals shopped and I got a bottle of shampoo I desperately needed and Deb got an umbrella she really wanted to get.

After that coffee run for deb and the bathroom run, Deb and I wanted to head home. We jumped in a tuk tuk and were off. SHe had planned to go to the ballet with the others, I had decided to pass on that and go back in to town later on and climb Mt. Pussy I mean Phousy at sunset as it was supposed to be quiet nice. So that is what I did. I negotiated a tuk tuk back in to town, walked around for a bit, climbed the mountain, then had a 2 hr massage at the famous Phousi Massage parlor which was nice and legit of course and then really just wandered some more, grabbed a soda at one of the cafes, checked internet again, and went back home. The internet is really cheap here, and since Luang Prabang really dies down around 10 there really isn’t much to do around that time. I was able to use skype and call a few people.

I got back home around 11ish and wasn’t that tired. Morrie was passed out as usual, I decided to break out my little MP4 player from Taipei City and watch some super troopers and pass out.

Travel Day – Thursday May 31st. Today we all got up and had to meet Andy at 815am to head to the National Museum in the city. Some of the gang decided to get up at 515am and watch the handing of the alms by the monks in town. Basically they leave the monistery and walk down the street and people just hand them things; money, food, whatever as a donation to the monks I think for good luck. I said “sorry I’ll pass on that one!” Morrie’s alarm was so loud it woke me up at 515 am, time for the trusty ear plugs. Ear plugs are one thing I have learned is a must when traveling, I mean an absolute must! When you sleep in Bungalows with wildlife making noise, running around, monks banging drums, ringing gongs, and people snorring, it can really make for a delightful sleep if you have ear plugs.

I managed to dooze off to sleep for another few hours and woke up around 7am because people in the kitchen and around the hostel were just so loud, man do they get an early start.

I packed up my stuff, had a shower, and was off. Chan showed us around the national museum, I was feeling tired and really just wanted to sit down, eat some breakfast and relax. Laos has really taken over my body. Things really work at a slow pace around Laos. It is awesome and I love it. Chan did a great job as usual explaining all of the exhibits and things to see. After the museum we headed off to the bank, and back home. We had an hour to kill and I begged the people at the desk for some food. I got two rolls and one piece of cheese for 6,000 kip or roughly 60 cents. Not bad, I was desperate. I used the first piece of cheese on one of the rolls and borrowed Morrie’s vegemite for the second piece. I love vegemite now. I have always enjoyed it. Not only does it really get you over those cravings for salty things (hold the jokes), it is an incredible hangover special. The vitamin B in it completely cures the hangover after like 4-5 pieces of toast your golden. I have tried it already on my trip and it worked wonders, as I have mentioned before.

It was finally time to take off to the airport and head to Vientiane the capital of Laos. We were flying Laos Airlines. The airport was tiny and really cute. I took several photos of it. The plane was delayed about an hour, which gave us a chance to get some food across the street. I had noodles and beef with some other garnishes like mint leaves and other wobbly bits I am unaware off. Elizabeth and I tried to make it the way Chan made it for us at the waterfalls. We reckon we got close, it was sure spicy enough and covered in MSG. It was a nice cheap meal and well worth it. Unfortunately my stomach does not agree and I cannot wait to use the facilities after I finish this entry from the internet cafe.

We finally boarded our twin propeller engine plane and we were off. I was a little scared, since I hadn’t been on one these since Tennesse and what is considered the worst string of flights in my families life. But I turned on Super Troopers again (man I could watch that for ages), and before I knew it we had landed in Vietianne. We gathered our bags from the ghetto baggage conveyor thingy, met our driver and we were off. The hotel we are staying in is called Riverside because it is right off of the river. It is great and has satelitte tv; hbo and espn woohoo!

The plan for tonight is to meet up at 6pm for some pre dinner drinks and then find a nice french restaurant. If anyone didn’t know France occupied Laos during the early to mid 1900’s, so a lot of the country has french influence. Tomorrow is a full chill day. There are a few things I want to see around here, and I will have to read up on them later tonight. The day after that we leave early and start our 7 hr drive to the homestay, and then after that another full day of driving and then some till we get to Halong Bay!

Hope all is well back home.

Congratulations to Brian on his Bar Mitzvah which will be this weekend. Sorry again to the family for missing out, I miss you all, and hope everyone has a fantastic time. I hope to see you guys and gals in the coming months!



Day 2 Floating Down the Mekong River + Luang Prabang, Laos

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

That night’s sleep was hot.  The fan shut off around 1030PM and went back on around 4am or so.  I seemed to sleep alright but the sheets came off the bed and as I tried to get up my back literally was stuck to the plastic mattress.  I had to pry myself off it to get up, it was pretty funny.  So we had brekkie from the hostel, the same dude was there waiting to take my bag back to the boat for the same 10,000 kip, no worries and we were off.  I decided today to break open the book that mom had gotten me for the trip.  I nagged her for days about this book so I figured it was time to read it, and what better time than when you are floating down this magnificent river with nothing better to do.  I should also mention that any electronic thing I owned was dead.  Batteries could not be charged as Morrie hogs the only outlets charging his batteries and fiddling around with the computer.  He brought an extension but only has australian adapters, only one of which I have on my trip.  Anyway the book is called “A Long Way Gone,” it is by Ismael Beah.  It is a tale of a young boy in Sierre Leone Africa who grows up and is part of the war in the middle nineties.  At that point I had only read the first 16 pages of the book but was really captivated by it and was waiting for the perfect time to read it.  It is a short book only about 220 pages, so I knew once this book was gone there would be nothing left to read with a lot of traveling still left to do.

This was also the time where I had a lot of time to think, which meant grades!  Grades from school were going to be due in a few days and I started to get that nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever the thought of grades came to mind.  I quickly got over it, and went back to my book so I didn’t have to think about what would happen if I didn’t do well.  At this point I also had to go to the bathroom.  But number 2, not number 1 which was easy on the squatter.  Up to this point on my trip I have yet to use a squatter for number 2.  A squatter is basically a nonexistant western toliet with a hole on the ground where you have to literally squat to use.  It is hard often as there aren’t handles around so it is all about the leg muscles.  I will take a dump in one of them before I leave South East Asia that is a promise.

Our first stop of day 2 on the Mekong was at the 1000 Buddha Caves.  Chan again gave us a very extensive background and history of the caves which was nice, we walked around, snapped photos, visited the upper cave where I walked around with the son on the boat named Li and that was fun.  Interacting with locals is the best part of the trip especially when I don’t speak Lao and he doesn’t speak english.  We just joked around, I took a few funny photos of us and it was back on the boat to Luang Prabang.  I got through about 85-90 pages on the boat.  I am a slow reader, plus I kept falling asleep as it was so peaceful, perfect weather and just really easy to nod off.  My two days consisted of eating, reading, peeing, sleeping.  Tough life I know!

We finally arrived Luang Prabang around 430ish.  We met our driver BK, short for something I don’t know and we were off to our guesthouse.  It was a little bit out of town but Andy said it was worth it.  Well it was.  The guesthouse was basic but amazing.  Beautifully decorated in rustic village and jungle type things.  Our room featured a fan, a big bed for myself, a refrigerator, and a huge bathroom.  We dropped our stuff, I took a quick shower, as it had been 3 days since my last one, haha and we were off to town.  Andy gave us a little time to walk around and we all decided to meet at this lovely little restaurant called Khmu.  Andy said they had awesome steaks and I was keen on some beef, because “hey it’s whats for dinner!”  I checked my email and stuff, wrote a quick blog entry and email and met the rest of the gang for dinner.  The steak was lovely.  I had beef steak with mustered sauce, bread, and veggies, hmmmm.  I was really full but still ordered sticky rice to top it off and shared some of Elizabeth’s mango and sweet rice which had become our trips favorite dessert.  I was really full and could not eat anything more.  I had a sharp pain on my side and was so stupid to be so full because I really did not want to do anything besides go home.  A few of us decided though to walk around the town at night and check it out.  It was pretty quiet, a few bars scattered throughout, some really expensive shops which only wanted American Dollars (I felt exploited as a tourist personally), and that was really it.  Deb was itching for a cool brew but I told her I couldn’t fit anything else in my stomach, she said alright and then we took a tuk tuk/jumbo back to the hostel.  I negotiated the excellent price of 5,000 Kip each or 50 cents each back to the hostel.  That was sweet.

I got back and really did not want to go to sleep as it was only 10pm, but decided that since it had started to rain that I should just get some sleep and be ready for tomorrow.  I took some nyquil and was ready for bed before the giant spider!  I went to take my nightly urination and there he was.  This huge spider in the corner of the bathroom.  Before I could take a photo I shouted for Morrie to come in to take care of this huge spider.  He grabbed one of his flip flops and came running in.  He tried to slap it with his flip flop but that did not work.  He said it ran out of the bathroom and that was that.  That was part I of the animal/insect/reptile experience of the night.

During the middle of the night I heard this extremely loud and shocking noise similar to a fire alarm or a tornado warning alarm. I popped up and Morrie popped up as well.  We both said “what the hell is that?”  I thought it was some sort of animal in the room, but as it turns out it was a secada.  These are not your ordinary run of the mill secada’s we get back in America.  These produce the loudest noise you have ever heard from such a small bug.  We heard it one more time more towards the sunrise of the day, and that was it.

Today is Tuesday and I am finally up to date with my blog, well for now!  Today I had nothing in the immediate morning planned so I had a bit of a sleep in and read my book.  It was lovely to sit out on my porch in the morning, reading my book, and getting breakfast brought to me around 915am.  Omelette and pancakes it was, with some freshly squeezed orange juice hmmm.  The book is amazing.  Again it is a biography of this child’s journey through Sierre Leone during the war.  Eventually he gets taken in by the army and turned in to a child soldier.  I have about 55 pages left and cannot wait to finish it.

At around 11am Andy, Meredith and I headed in to town, driven by BK.  We stopped at the bank so we could exchange some money.  I turned in 50 USD.  I hate exchanging USD and would much rather take out from the bank, you get the better rate, but had no choice as there were no ATM’s in Luang Prabang and I needed some cashola.  I ended up getting a better rate than what we got at the border.  About 9550 KIP to the dollar.  I ended up getting about 477,000 Kip, and coupled with my remaining money I had over 500,000 Kip, pretty wild, I know.

After that we were off to some waterfalls about an hour outside of LP in the mountains.  The three of us rode in the rain in the back of the open Jumbo for about an hour.  It was really uncomfortable but cool at the same time as we got to see a lot of local villages along the road, water buffalo etc…

We finally arrived and met the others who had trekked to the waterfalls, which took them about 2.5 hours, led my Chan.  I was still happy about my choice to read my book and enjoy the morning and take the Jumbo to the falls.

The falls were breathtaking.  We saw like 5-6 falls which culminated with a huge falls.  Mom you would have loved it.  We had a swim at the second falls for a while, and the water was cold, but refreshing.  We also saw some bears that had been nursed and saved from the bear trade and a tiger named Phet.  A few of us bought a shirt from this girl selling shirts that supposedly were to benefit the bears for 5 USD or 50,000 KIP which is a lot of money in Lao for a shirt.  Andy was skeptical that the money would go to the bears as she had never seen this girl selling shirts before.  Nonetheless we bought them, I liked it and just had to hope that the money would get to the bears for food and supplies, plus it was a cool shirt and yes 5 dollars was expensive.  I hadn’t paid 5 USD for any one item on my whole trip I don’t think!

After the falls, and the others eating at the local market, we had to all squeeze back in to the Jumbo and head back to town.  It was raining pretty hard and we elected to put the covers along the sides of the open-aired jumbo.  I was still getting wet but had brought my anorak with me so I was alright for now.  The ride was really uncomfortable again but I managed.  I got dropped off in town and the others headed back to do whatever before meeting for dinner at 7.  I was keen on buying a sim card for the remaining 5 nights and checking out the town.  It started to pour but I didn’t care.  I wanted some free time to myself to just wander and whatnot.  So here I am all caught up with my blog sitting in an internet shop paying 100 kip a minute.  I even called Nate on Skype in Australia just to say hi as I saw he was on.  Always nice to chat with him.

Ok well that is all for now.  I have run for well over an hour at the internet cafe and the bill is running up.  It might be a whole dollar by now!  Everything is good.  I will be here for another two nights before flying to Vietanne the capital of Laos.  There for a few nights then it is a 2.5 day drive all the way to Halong Bay in Vietnam.

Hope all is well back home.  Picture count is well over 4000 and going, yikes



Chiang Kong, Thailand to Laos

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007
The next morning I awoke feeling a little queezy after mixing several different alcohols and beers the night before. We had to get up early and get over to Laos to start our journey down the mighty Mekong River. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Chiang Mai + Chiang Rai + Chiang Kong, Thailand

Monday, May 28th, 2007
Well we arrived in Chiang Mai after the long train journey, got our bags, found our driver and made it in to town for some breakfast. We stopped at some hotel and got some quality western food. It ... [Continue reading this entry]

Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Saturday, May 26th, 2007
After getting off the internet, we lounged around the hotel killing time before we headed off to the train station. I got a chocolate sundae which was delightful after spending the whole day walking through the hot sun. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Bangkok Continued

Thursday, May 24th, 2007
Tuesday -  Actually slept pretty well...It is not often I sleep past 830 or 9am but today was one of them.  I think it was because I knew that I wasn't doing a whole lot.  I went downstairs had a little ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hong Kong To Bangkok; First few days of Bangkok

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007
Sunday – I managed to wake up before 5am yet again and was ready to go.  I gathered up my final things, Strong was not even back yet from partying probably in jail somewhere or in the hospital, crazy dude.  Bob ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hong Kong Part Deux

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007
Saturday – last full day in Hong Kong/Macau I met Raymond at IFC and he was a little late which seemed to be the theme of the week.  He kept telling me to meet him at a specific time and then ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hong Kong Part Deux

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007
Friday - As mentioned earlier Friday's plan was to meet raymond and his buddies at like 530PM at his office so we could all go to the chinese buffet.  Apparently there would be more collegues and friends joining us, which was ... [Continue reading this entry]


Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007
Sorry to everyone who checks my blog. I have my updated blog entries saved on my computer but have had a hard time getting it on. I have my final two days of hong kong done and my ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hong Kong Part Deux

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

Hong Kong Part Deux

Thursday -

The plan for day 2 was simple; rest.  The plan was nice on paper, but unfortunately for me it wasn’t the case.  I woke up at 847AM scratching like effing ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hong Kong Part Deux

Friday, May 18th, 2007

My flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong was rather early in 945 so like many times in the past on this trip I had to get up really early.  Instead of going to bed early and being fresh, I ... [Continue reading this entry]

Tokyo, Japan Continued – Hong Kong to come

Thursday, May 17th, 2007
Today I was off to Nagano rather early. I tried to get a real early train but the bullet train was all booked. So I got the 954 which would arrive at only 1125. That is damn ... [Continue reading this entry]

Tokyo, Japan continued

Monday, May 14th, 2007
So this was officially Day 3 in Tokyo, Japan.  This was my scheduled sightseeing day, Josh style, which meant, lots to see and do in a short amount of time.  Now if I had more time I would have done ... [Continue reading this entry]

Welcome and Viewing Previous Entries

Monday, May 14th, 2007
Just wanted to quickly say hi to the new readers of my blog, and welcome back to my dedicated ones. For the new, if you want to read my blog from Hong Kong and the beginning, what you do is ... [Continue reading this entry]

Tokyo, Japan continued

Monday, May 14th, 2007
So after waking up at 855am, this officially was day 2 in Tokyo.  I was a little tired but not that bad.  I mean I learned back in Australia in '04 at the Uni games, that if i get between ... [Continue reading this entry]

Tokyo, Japan

Monday, May 14th, 2007
The club was called Atom.  It was extremely hard to find.  Before we had left the hostel we got directions from this Canadian named Kelly.  She gave Adam some bootleg directions drawn on two sides of a small piece of ... [Continue reading this entry]

Tokyo, Japan

Saturday, May 12th, 2007
The travel day between Taipei and Tokyo was a relatively late one for me.  I didn't have to wake up at 4am, it wasn't rushed, I was able to get breakfast from the local vendors and take my time.  I ... [Continue reading this entry]

Taipei, Taiwan continued

Thursday, May 10th, 2007
Our first stop was some daoist temple. This was the second or third Daoist temple I had seen on my trip so far. They are really cool. The temples are so colorful, the incense that burn throughout ... [Continue reading this entry]

Taipei, Taiwan continued

Thursday, May 10th, 2007
So after taking two subways the brown line to the blue line we got off at the very popular station of Taipei main station. There are several lines you can connect to, people are running around, going to their ... [Continue reading this entry]

Taipei, Taiwan; Day 13/14

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007
Taipei, Taiwan

Well once again I had to wake up before 5am to catch my bus to the airport in Seoul.  The airport bus takes about 60-90 minutes depending on traffic and since I didn’t know when the bus was actually ... [Continue reading this entry]

Seoul, Korea Days 9, 10, 11, 12

Monday, May 7th, 2007

I was wondering if Julia and Plum would make it to the airport on time to meet me and tell me how to get to my hostel.  But like clockwork they were there waiting for me as I cleared customs ... [Continue reading this entry]

KL to Seoul, Korea

Monday, May 7th, 2007
The alarm clock is ringing, it is 430 am and it is time to get up and get ready to head to the airport.  Clara had gotten in at like 330am and said she wanted one hour of sleep before ... [Continue reading this entry]

Kuala Lumpur Day 8/9

Sunday, May 6th, 2007
Not every place I pick to visit or tour to go to will be excellent.  Day 2 of Kuala Lumpur proved that theory.  The day before I had decided to go to the Genting Highlands, about 1 hour outside of ... [Continue reading this entry]

Kuala Lumpur Days 7/8 continued

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007
To go up to the observatory was a little expensive, but I figured that it was one of the tallest towers in the world and just something I had to do.  So I begrudgingly paid the fee to go up, ... [Continue reading this entry]

Kuala Lumpur Days 7/8

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007
So the train was off and I had about eight hours left before the arrival to KL.  I actually was able to fall asleep for a good amount of time, only waking up when the train made some abrupt stop ... [Continue reading this entry]

Singapore – Kuala Lumpur Days 6/7/8

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007
So last I left you all I was deciding what to do during the last half of my day in Singapore.  I decided that I was going to go to Chinatown and buy some stuff because I had not bought ... [Continue reading this entry]

Singapore Day 6

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007
Today I woke up early as usual.  I haven't been able to sleep past eight thirty yet, early on.  I am officially over the jet lag, woohoo, because it sucked wanting desperately to go to sleep at three thirty or ... [Continue reading this entry]

Singapore Day 5 continued

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007
So after Frederick, Arnold and I came back from walking ALL over the city, we chilled out for a little bit, I proceeded to call Thailand book my flight to New York, call Intrepid book my tour and then we ... [Continue reading this entry]