Monday, May 24, 2004

Laos - Lovely and laid back...
So laid back I haven't posted anything in a while. It all began with a hair-raising trip down the Mekong in what Abbey-the-yank described as a wooden canoe with a 16-valve Toyota engine strapped to the back. There is no exaggeration in that either. We got helmets and lifejackets, and a free pint of adrenaline as soon as the engine started.

6 hours later, 3 of which were spent hiding under our arms from the machinegun-like torrential rain, we emerged in Luang Prabang, but it could've been the south of France if you discount the buddhist temples everywhere (and the more obvious appearance of the locals). Possibly the nicest place I've been yet, its inhabitants have all the career motivation of an inanimate rod, and their attitude to life is not unlike mine in my college years. I like Laos. Waterfalls, caves and an amazing journey south through the mountains completed my time in the north.

Vang Vieng was the next stop. Well warned by Dr. Bridget Freyne (those doctors are everywhere) of its similarities to a black-hole, I still managed to spend 2 days there before realising I'd done nothing. In a town where the locals let you sleep on the couch seats in their bar cos they can't be bothered kicking you out, and the only 5-year plan seems to be the leave schedule for the local communist guards, it was inevitable. The local sport seemed to be floating down the river in tractor tyres catching beers and supplies thrown by locals and being pulled in by bamboo sticks to try "Beer Lao Jumping" (have a guess what that one entailed). So of course we gave that a try, not wanting to upset the locals. T'would've been rude not to really.

Our bike excursion the next day was interrupted by the ever punctual rain, so we took shelter in a paddy-field shack with Nam-Yang the farmer, and talked in broken sign language about his cocunut & rice crop. (He's got 4 fields of rice, my sign language ain't the best.) Played tin whistle at a little rest stop on the way back for the entire 3 generations of family that manned it, and showed a little boy and his monkey their digital picture, which made his day I reckon.

So there you go. A longer one, but there's pictures to accompany it. Click the Laos link under photos to the right to see them. I'm in Vientaine now waiting for a visa to Vietnam, and then I'll be heading to southern Laos to brush up on my laidbackness...

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Chiang Mai - Trekking with Tarantulas
Set off into the hills of Northern Thailand 4 days ago with 4 doctors and a lawyer, covered for all eventualities. The sister and her friends were welcome company for the week and made it all the more fun, particularly as the guide insisted on addressing only me when issuing orders. I'd like to think his actions were due to my authoritative demeanor, but unfortunately I think I just have an easy name to remember.

Hiked up and down on our way to the hilltribes where we got scammed by the local children for photos and "entertainment", which proved to be a tad conceited as they couldn't take their eyes off the money we had collected for them for the entire performance. Our rendition of Molly Malone didn't impress either, need to work on my tin whistle skills. Dr. Fiona McGee befriended a tarantula, and then while it was lulled into a false sense of security had it grilled and eaten. (Tastes nothing like chicken.)

A bit of swimming in waterfalls, white water rafting in 1ft-deep water (discovered the depth the hard way attempting a scuba dive entrance from the boat. Ouch.), and some elephant trekking later and we were back in a hostel nursing our aching limbs. Not too happy about the elephants in captivity like that, but I had to see for myself.

The pictures are up, comments are welcome. More to follow. Heading to the Laos border today. Lets see if the kids there are as business savvy as the Thais...

Monday, May 10, 2004

Krabi - Budhha, bands and beaches
With a few days to kill before heading to Bangkok to meet the sister I headed for Krabi, gateway to Koh Phi Phi and home of rock climbing. After an introductory walk around the town following a late night arrival I stumbled upon a group of locals out for the night. A local girl from Derry and another from Bolton acted as my translators on a little tour involving a Thai Reggae band's version of "Zombie" by the cranberries, and a late night snack of boiled chicken feet (mmmmm, feeetie).

In an effort to work off the previous night's excesses, (or create custom for the local cardiac unit) I joined a bald kerryman and his lovely lady in climbing 1275 steps to see why Buddha was sitting on top of a mountain. Conducted in the midday sun, chased up by monkeys intent on showing us their arses, and laughed at by the locals on their way down, there were many references to Buddha and his reasons for sitting that far up in the first place. The view was worth it though, peering out onto the awesome limestone outcrops erupting from the sea around Koh Phi Phi and the surrounding rubber plantations.

However, the expletives used during the ascent proved to work against me at the summit as Buddha directed me straight into a low-lying ceiling. The bump on my head is lasting evidence of instant karma in action... be nice to buddha.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Koh Phangan, lunar laughs...

Well, now that was a laugh. The night started tamely enough with a bit of the locally brewed rum and a light mixer. :o) Bumped into pretty much everyone I've met over the last 2 weeks on the islands during the night, including members of UCC swimming club, another UCC acquaintance, and her sister who rode horses with my brother. Small world my arse, 'tis like a village.

In-keeping with Full Moon traditions, 3 hours into the night I had been relieved of my wallet and lost all friends. The next couple of hours were spent roaming the beach looking for a friendly farang to help quench my thirst, clutching what was left of my bucket of beverage. It wasn't until the sun was coming up that I found said corkonians and ozzies and danced our way into the thunder storm that had just graced the beach until 9am. Green waters, torrential rain, and a very sober view of the morning madness brought my full moon experience to a soggy end... sure 'twas great craic boy.

Off to Krabi now to look at the monkeys...

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?