Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Gearing up for the journey home. We arrived in Bangkok and found it to be not as crazy as we had expected upon hearing stories from other travellers. When we first arrived we didn't spend any time here, just flew out straight away to the southern islands. We got a hotel near Koh San Road and it is supposedly the big shopping and partying district. We did some of both but when we went to a megamall to pick up a bunch of things we both quickly realised that, yes, we still hate shopping. Seriously.
We really haven't done a whole lot of sightseeing and that's because we're strapped for time. Our flight leaves in about 10 hours to Seoul, South Korea. We then wait there for 12 hours and fly across the Pacific to Seattle, another 2 hour wait, and then Calgary. We are pretty much expecting a parade and Deerfoot to be shut down with a few limos and security personnel to escort us to our homes. If these circumstances end up not reflecting reality than those who are (at least my) family members are bad people.
Thanks to everyone who gave a damn and read this blog, it definitely made me more willing to write when I knew people were reading. On Andrew's getjealous website (getjealous.com/andrew18) there is a map of our route you can see. It is fairly ridiculous.
We'll see you soon.
Location: Luong Prabang, Laos
Our trip is rounding up nicely and in approximately 2 hours we will be boarding a plane with Bangkok as its destination. The last couple days have been great. We met Steph and Bryan again and swapped stories about each other's absences when we went to the Gibbon Experience and they went through an ordeal. They ended up taking a "VIP bus" which included 15 people in a small van and hours of bumpy road. Suckers. That will teach them for letting fears get in the way. Just kidding.
That night was pretty relaxing and the next day we got up to go to the waterfall which every damn Tuk Tuk driver offers to take you to along a 5 minute walk up a street. It is extraordinary, these falls, but you really need to see the pictures as confirmation. I'm not sure I have the descriptive skills to give you the right idea, but basically there is one large waterfall in the middle of a jungle and includes 3 sets of individual short falls. Hopefully that makes sense, but we managed to hike in and around one of the landings where a pool had congregated. You could hop off the ledge into the pool and the water's movement was gentle enough that you were never in danger of falling over the edge (which would have sucked I assume). We did some mini cliff jumps into these pond things. At the bottom of these falls was another pool where a tree overhung the water and a rope was there so you could swing from it and land in the water. This pool was loaded with tourists and by the time we got there nobody felt like getting wet again. We were attacked by some strange Canadians. Some seriously weird people. One guy from Quebec noticed Bryan's backpack had the flag on it and inquired where in Canada we were from. We talked with him for about 5 to 10 minutes and while we talked with him 3 different people at different intervals slithered their way into the conversation and explained where in Canada they were from. It was quite odd because, well, they were weird. Example, when we asked one guy from Toronto who invited himself to the convo if he was liking Laos he responded that "yeah, it's a little different from Toronto though". Really? It is? Man I was WAY off, I thought they would have been quite similar myself.
We escaped from the strange Canadians by this pond and walked past a tiger cage. It was no more than 3 feet away from me and the only thing between us was a chain link fence. The good news is that it looked bored and not hungry. Those cats are... what's the word... sizable? He yawned and we got a look at his teeth. Now those things could kick some ass!
We spent the next day calmly, walking around the town and fending off the Tuk Tuk drivers. They will invite you to the National Park (where the waterfall is) even if it's past midnight. Steph and Bryan knew of a small movie theater place where you get your own room and a DVD player. They had bought a bunch of pirated movies so we watched 300 and now I want to become a gladiator and wrestle people and things.
That's all that's new. When we go to Bangkok we plan on making several purchases. In 2.5 days we will be on our flights home.
Location: Luang PraBANG!, Laos
Luang Prabang is one of the more touristy towns and that becomes evident very quickly upon gliding across the skinny 2 by 4 plank that acts as a bridge between boat and land.
We left Way Sigh the following morning after my last entry. It required a 6-7 hour boat ride which took us to a small town on the side of the river where we were to stay overnight. I can't recall the name of it and truly it is a place of maybe 20 buildings, very small and likely constructed for this exact purpose because there were lots of guesthouses and hotels. When you get off the boat and walk up the small hill you are asked several times by local guys and gals if you want to stay there. After a 7 hour boat ride your not really in the mood to be 'sold to' if you know what I mean, so we just walked by them until we were a distance away. Eventually we ended up at some hotel that looked a lot nicer than it was. The inside of the room was like the inside of a room on a ship (all dark mahogany). A flashlight was on the bedside table which we found curious, and the television didn't work. Andrew joked that it was a fake tv designed to trick travellers into believing this was more than what it is. We went to check in at the reception and inquired about the flashlight- yep- lights out at 10:30pm to 10:30am... damn. We also asked about the tv, 'is it a fake?' asked Andrew... yep. I swear to God I've never heard a more honest answer in my life.
We boated the next 7 hours today and arrived in Luang Prabang. Steph and Bryan are apparently wandering around but we haven't found them yet... and in fact if Steph or Bryan are reading this tonight you guys should come back to the hotel because... we're here!
Lastly I wanted to add before I forget about the Gibbon Experience. I forgot to explain one of the best parts! During our second day we zipped down to the kitchen (or main entry) because there was rumours they had a pet bear. The Asiatic Black Bear was only 5 months old and about the size of a dog. You could play and wrestle with it, and if it misbehaved they threw it outside the kitchen and it never liked that. Can't say I'll ever get the chance to play with a bear before but it was awesome, those things are hilarious. I think I was annoying it because it tried biting my leg but the sucker only got my shorts. This bear was saved by Gibbon Experience dudes after they arrested a poacher who had killed its mother. Anyways, I'm off.
Oh yeah and unfortunately I can't post videos unless I want to upgrade on this website which costs money and I don't feel like it. Soooo you'll have to wait til we're home for the cool video.
Location: Houay Xai (Way Sigh), Laos
Wow, I could just about write a novel for this one. The last 3 days were very intense. I will try to keep it small.
We woke up the next day back in Way Sigh and ready for the Gibbon Experience. The Gibbon Experience is an actual company devoted to saving the forests in Laos or some humanitarian bs like that (just kidding!). Basically some French guy decided it would be neat to set up tree houses in the middle of nowhere and attach them with cables so that you can fly around on them. Steph wasn't really feeling the whole idea anyway because she is afraid of heights. The previous day we had strained to get her to come because maybe she could test her fears, she had told us that ferris wheels scare her, and they signed up. She was hesitant even after paying and signing the waiver form (first time since leaving Canada we had to sign a waiver, which made me infinitely nervous as you can imagine) so that when the next morning came and it had rained that night, Steph and Bryan backed out at the last minute but somehow managed to retain 80% of their money. Andrew and I still plugged on.
We hopped in a Land Ranger truck which was pretty heavy duty. These are some thick, dense jungles you drive through and the road is bumpy to say the least. They stuffed 10 of us in the back of the truck and we instantly became friends with everyone due to the body contact. Actually I'm just kidding because most of the people on this trek were kind of lame but I will explain later. After 2 hours of highway driving and another 1 hour of jungle driving, we were kicked out at the side of the jungle road and trekked it in for at least 2 hours before we arrived at the Gibbon Experience.
You walk to the kitchen level and strap yourself with a harness. The kitchen is essentially a big hut in the middle of the jungle. You trek a little more (and believe me, at this point we were SICK of hiking because the previous few days were spent hiking around Chiang Mai) and eventually reach a platform with the first zipline which connects to Treehouse 1. Treehouse 1 is where we slept and stayed and it is the main hub that connects all the other Treehouses in the jungle to the entrance, exit and Kitchen. The harness is a belt with leg straps that you can tighten. It is attached to a carabeener (sp?) and rope that acts as a safety line. The harness is ALSO connected to the main zip attachment, which has two rollers embedded in a steel case and carabeener that you can fasten to the steel cables which are attached to the the massive jungle trees. Got all that? Good. You slap all your gear on the cables and then run and jump as if you were trying to commit suicide. Before you know it your in a treehouse.
It's actually quite fun, and an amazing experience. You are at heights of up to 150 metres and some of the cables are very long, they move quickly and take sometimes half a minute. While your up the first time you think "Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit" and subsequent zipping you think "Pretty fun, but if this harness snaps... hmmm........ can one survive a 150 meter fall?".
Bees were ruthless in the treehouses. ALL OVER US. You can't get a break and now Andrew and I are not so much of pansies in that department. The sleeps were genuinely comfortable and the sounds of the jungle get soothing, in the morning you awake to a thick fog and you can hear the gibbons singing to each other. It's pretty interesting. We had a guide wake us up so we could try and spot them, but they can hear the ziplining of the cables and scurry away. We missed them but the people who stayed in our treehouse with us saw them because they went a different direction. These were some BORING people. Incredibly boring. At night we would sit around and talk via candlelight in the treehouse and it would mostly be Andrew, me and one of the British girls we went with. They just loved to be boring. Not sure why. Insects are all around you constantly, and if you come back without a muddy shirt you are either a champion or not leaving the treehouses. Andrew took a video of the zipping with his camera which is really neat, Im not sure if Planet Ranger allows for video but if I can find the feature I will try to post it.
Today we woke up and began our way back. Unfortunately it rained last night which meant that the truck that brought us in probably wouldn't be able to pick us up until we could make it tp the main road. How do you spell 'uh oh'????
Thaaaaat's right folks! We were faced with a beauty 7 hour hike because we were in the middle of NOWHERE! This is also in the face of muddy hills, or so we thought. We hiked for about 4 hours back (about half of it uphill which is never a lot of fun) and finally in the distance you could hear the murmur of a truck. I've never been so delighted in my life to see a truck. We are pretty sore now (our legs) from all the walking and hiking and zipping, but overall it was a fantastic experience.
The trucks drove us back, and here we are back at Way Sigh. Tomorrow we are going to exit the down via slowboat and spend a night in some town (mandatory to get the hell out of here) and the following day we will have arrived at Luang Prabang which- coincidentally- has an airport. We may just fly straight to Bangkok ready for hometime or we may go to Vang Vieng again because we loved it that much. Either way our travels are almost at an end and, yes, we are happy about coming home.
Location: Way Sigh, Laos
The town isn't called "Way Sigh" but that's how you pronounce it, and I'm positive nobody back home reading this will know it anyway so it doesn't really matter. This is going to have to be very short because I only have T-Minus 5 minutes to write (I'm on the clock!).
We barely found internet, there are no phones and the fastest way back into a major town in Laos is 2 days either way! Well, two days or something called a Speed Boat in which "fatalities are an often occurrence, usually about once a week" (from Lonely Planet book)- so we decided to not test our luck.
The story is this, after our incredible 3 day hike outside Chiang Mai we left the following day via bus to Way Sigh here in Laos. Andrew and I wanted to go back anyways and Steph and Bryan wanted to come as well. Laos is simply an amazing place, I will go in more detail in 3 days when I am next able to write. Oh! 2 minutes, okay!
Alright, hmmm... we ended up here and hung out last night along the street of a small town. This is a town right on the river and across the river is Thailand (Mekong River...). There was a huge celebration that we joined and on further inspection it was a funeral... but I am out of town now and will let everyone know the story in 3 days. The next 3 days we are going to be ziplining in a jungle full of Gibbon monkeys and its called the Gibbon Experience!