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Michelle's Adventures

Hello Everyone!
Maybe this will be a good way for you all to keep track of where I am.
The rough itinerary is Edinburgh-Bahrain-Dubai-Southeast Asia-New Zealand-USA-Canada-Great Britain.
Now just make sure you keep me updated as well. You know my email/facebook, or leave a message for me on here.
Enjoy!

Diary Entries

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Location: Richard's House - Christchurch, Australian Territories

Arriving in Vientiene (Friday December 21st) was worse than the accident at Tha Khek. The bus ride was ok, but they drop you off outside the city centre, and you have to catch a tuk tuk in. We got totally ripped off on the price, and got stuck in the worst tuk tuk ever. The exhaust was coming right back into the part where we were sitting, and it was so hard to breathe. Even the locals were covering their mouth and one guy moved to sit beside the driver. After what seemed like forever, we finally got to the city centre. He didnt drop us off where we asked, but we were just happy to get out of the tuktuk from hell. All the guest houses in that area were booked full (im pretty sure the driver plotted that against us!) and it only made matters worse that i could hardly walk, nevermind richie had to carry my bag for me. (i felt like a total loser). another tuktuk driver claimed he knew a place, and so we got him to take us there. we checked it out, and even though it was pretty crappy we took it. we both felt really sick (probabaly from the exhaust) and my foot was killing me. i think we went to sleep at about 6pm.
Vientiene looks almost like a European city. it has big, wide, streets with footpaths on both sides, and people obey traffic rules. there are actually crosswalks!! the prices were city prices, and the people tried to rip us off it seemed. we wanted to leave, so we booked a bus to vang vieng the next day. The only thing both of us wanted to see in the city was the buddha gardens so we headed to the bus station. after seeing the really over crowded bus, we splurged and got a private tuk tuk to take us out there. it was quite a long drive, but well worth it!
its amazing how many sculptures were squished into this garden, big buddhas, small ones, a huge reclining buddha, some random sculptures of hindu gods, some more variations of buddha, a guy playing a flute in a tree (not really sure what that was about, but the music was nice!) and the thing that i enjoyed was a bunch of young monks wondering around the garden. a couple of the boys came up and started talking to us in English. from what we got out of them they came to the gardens on their time off to practise their english with the foreingers. the had a lot of practising to do, but it was really nice to talk to them. their friendly spirits were a nice change from the crappy last few days. my favourite was when they asked if richard and i were married, we said no, they said 'how long have you been married for' , it was almost like it was scripted. but fun none the less.
we left for vang vieng on a v.i.p. bus the next day, and arriving there was like paradise. although vang vieng is quite touristy, i think it was exactly what we needed at that point. we ended up staying from the 23rd of december to the 1st of january. we said screw the north of laos, we know we will have another chance to do it, and lets take a vacation!
vang vieng is a really relaxed town of about 25000 right up in the mountains. it is incredibly beautiful and theres lots or nothing to do, depending on your preferance. we had lots of time to explore the caves, or sit on the side of the river, or in a hammock, drinking cocktails and beer all day. but the main attraction of vang vieng is tubing. for five bucks you get a tube, and dry bag, and a tuk tuk drive to 5kms up the river. all along the river there are these bars with swinging ropes, reggae music playing, lots of beerlao and laolao (the local brews), and even free bananas! Its a relaxing way to spend an afternoon, or full day depending on how many of these bars you stop at. It was so nice to be somewhere relaxing. Also another thing vang vieng is known for is the 'friends' bars. at first we tried to avoid them, but we finally broke down, and became addicted just like everyone else. they are these restuarants with low sitting tables, lots of cushions, and re-runs of friends (or family guy, or simpsons) playing all the time. we usually did friends for breakfast and family guy for dinner. its quite addicting.
besides a lot of caving, and sitting by the river doing nothing, we only really had two exciting days.
first was christmas. we decided to hire a motorbike for the day ($3), and head out to a cave 7kms out of town. we got there, saw the cave (nothing too exciting, but pretty cool anyways) and watched some people swimming in the lagoon. as we were leaving the cave area, we decided to stop for some lunch. there were two little hut restaurants, one with about 10 tourists and the one on the other side of the street had only a few lao people. they seemed friendly, and welcomed us in. we sat at the table and then ordered. the two lao people sitting next to us were actually customers, and spoke english very well. they asked where we were from, and richard said new zealand. they talked about that for a couple minutes and then i pointed out i was from canada. the lady got really excited and began to shake my hand. the couple were actually from lao but immigrated to vancouver (surprise?) during the war. they were really happy to meet another canadian and immediately bought us a beer. it took ages for our food to come, so they just kept talking to us about thier family and house, and giving us more beer. they told us that we have to come to their house after we eat, so we said ok.
Dau and Menola were their names, and they were sooo friendly. we went back to thier house, which was really nice, and decorated in everything canadian! it looked like the brought half of the canadian section of the dollar store back with them, but it was nice to have a little bit of home around. Then the bottle of Lao Lao came out. from what we can get its a home brew kind of like a rice wine/ moonshine/vodka something. i found it really nice, some travellers didnt think so though. Then came the kareoke. I forgot to mention it but khmers and laos love thier kareoke (one time on a bus in cambodia the kareoke playing in the bus was so loud i actually had to wear earplugs!) so they stuck some of that on. they showed us pictures of ther family, and fed us almonds (from canada) and fruit. Menola even brought out the video camera and took some footage, which was a bit weird but kind of nice. it was like a little makeshift family for christmas. a really nice present.
we finally said we had to go, becuase richard still had to drive the motorbike back (and i was completely drunk).
we decided to stop off at another cave that we had passed on the way out. it was about a dollar to go in each, and it came with a guide. this old guy about 70 years old, and two torches. it was small and muddy and really cool. i dont know if i would have felt comfortable doing it soberly, but i think in the end it was my favourite cave. he even made us take off our shoes at one point and climb up onto this little ledge where he played us some music by hitting the stalactites (or stalagmites - which ever ones come from the ceiling). after coming out of the cave we went for a dip in the crystal clear waters of the lagoon out front and swam with some fishies. it was a very cool experience.
we headed back to town, probabaly had a few more drinks, im not really too sure!!
the second exciting thing was we finally got to meet up with our friend maggie that we had met while living in scotland. we had been emailing back and forth for about 2 months and finally got to meet up, on new years. it was awesome seeing her, and we definitely had a night to remember! she should be heading back to scotland this week, so hopefully the rest of her asian adventure went well!
after new years we headed up north through a very windy road to luang prabang. the scenery was beautiful but a bit hard to enjoy on a rough road with a hangover.
we wish we had more time in luang prabang, but like i said, bythis point we both knew we would come back to laos someday, so we werent too concerned. on the 2nd we took a shared tuktuk to Kuang si waterfall. there was even a rescued tiger and some bears which was cool. the waterfall itself was also beautiful. everynight in the town there is a night market so we did some last minute shopping and both made some big purchases. richard bought a carved bone ornamental opium pipe and i bought a handmade duvet set with pillowcases (heavy to carry around but so beautiful!). the next morning as we headed to the airport at about 6am we saw a beautiful sight. all the monks were on thier morning walk to collect alms. it was almost shocking to see thier orange/saffron outfits in the dim light, and the lines of them were so long. around every corner were more and more monks. it was quite a sight, one im glad we had to get up early to see. we cought our flight with no problem, and within one and a half hours we were in bangkok.
i think thats enough for now! until next time... check out the new photos i put on. hopefully i can get more up soon!

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Location: Richard's House Christchurch, New Zealand

So I guess I didnt have much luck with staying on top of things. So back to Tha Khek,
Like i said, we arrived in the middle of the night, and as we were going to bed, we thought we should plan what we should do for the next day, as to not waste any time. With the other Kiwi Couple (that we finally had started talking to) we decided to take this trip to see 4 caves. We discovered after the fact that the receptionist wasnt just really eager to help us plan us, but we got ripped off as well. (but not as bad as in Vietnam).
Our tuk-tuk was waiting for the 4 of us the next morning and we headed off. We first stopped at the guys 'house' / store where he changed clothes, and i think tried to get us to buy something from his wife and baby. But anyways, we headed off towards the caves.
Now the first cave i found really amazing. Probabaly because it was my first real experience in a cave. They are limestone caves (something the kiwi's had seen many of in thier time im sure), but i thought the whole experience was beautiful. we got to wade through the cave sometimes at just over knee deep, and our guide showed us how to follow the lines in the sand to catch mussels (which i thought were oysters because i really know nothing about seafood).
anyways, we headed out of the first cave and back to the tuk tuk. the road we were traveling on is part of a section travellers now like to call 'the loop' which i think would be quite cool to do - that is, after they finish all the road work. the road was sooo dusty, and it really didnt look like they were in any hurry to finish the road. we soon headed into the second cave.
this time the guide didnt come in with us, he just told us to follow a path to lead to the cave, and inside - and it did. there were some stairs, sort of, around and lots of stone buddhas and flags all around. there was some script on the wall that was also quite cool. just before heading out, we decided to go back to the enterance part, and walk across this plank of wood to the other side of the cave, where it looked as if it would lead to a lagoon or something. richie tested the plank, and then quickly walked across. it looked alright. when i was standing at the top of the plank, i was thinking it looked pretty dodgy, and the big crack along it didnt look very safe, and that i could probabaly walk around and get to where he was pretty easily, but anyways i tested it, and it still seemed iffy, and yet i still walked onto it. seconds later the plank was broken and i had fallen a good metre and a half onto the rocks below.
well i must say that was the closest i have ever felt to having broken something in my life. my left foot had landed at a very odd angle and i could feel it bruising up already. i was pretty much shocked.
richie came down and tried to move me. i said i needed a minute. it took me about 5 before i could stand up. everything seemed to be ok, so i decided to venture further into the cave (wasnt going to go through all that and not see the lagoon!) the lagoon was pretty, but im not sure it was really worth it.
having spent about 6 dollars to take this tour, i wasnt about to give up there. i got out of the cave, and we piled back into the tuktuk and onto cave three.
cave 3 was quite interesting. first we all had to pay 2000 kip to enter the area (about 25 cents), and they asked if we wanted to pay 5000 kip for the tuk tuk to drive us in. we asked how far it was. he said about 100 m. being cheap and not wanting to spend about 10 cents each, we decided to walk. i hobbeled along and about half way regreted not paying the tuktuk. anyways, we got to the enterance of the cave and paid another 5000 kip to enter the cave (we arent really sure what the first 2000 was for) and headed up the stairs. this cave was quite uneventful in my opinion. probabaly because i couldnt really walk, and moving around a cave isnt very fun.
we were quickly out and onto the fouth. this was the famed 'buddha cave' which there seems to be many of in the region. someone was looking for some bats or something and ventured into this cave and discovered all of these buddhas. it wasnt very long ago either. this one was a struggle to get to for me, but i refused to give up. getting to the entrance of the cave, we saw that it was 2000 to enter, and if you were a girl, you had to rent a traditional lao skirt also for 2000. the kiwi girl decided to give it a miss (as a protest maybe, or to save 25 cents?) and i got my skirt and headed up the very steep flight of stairs. this cave was very cool, but i felt a bit out of place, because all of the other people in there were lao and it seemed very religious and very moved at what they saw. it was quite touching to see though. alas i was in pain and left. after that our expensive tour was over and we headed back to the travel lodge.
by this time my foot was very swollen and in a lot of pain. i got some pain killers from ross (the kiwi) and we went to get some food. when they told us they stopped serving at that time i lost it. i was too hungry and in too much pain. i needed to go to the hospital. so off we went. getting there was easy,
as we got inside, we soon realized no one spoke english. one lady spoke some french. so i searched in the back of my head for the french i havent used for 3 years, and found a few words. we managed to understand eachother and were sent off for xrays. the hospital was very nice, and everyone was extremely friendly. im guessing it was founded by a french company because afterwards quite a few people came to talk to us and all of them spoke french, also all the signs were in lao and french. the xray was alright, and he dried it by waving it out the window, but anyways in the end we discovered only something was wrong with the ligaments, (though im not really sure what they said exactly - i only understood that it wasnt broken).
getting directions for the medications they gave me was a bit dodgy in a second come third language, but i double checked about three times, and everything seemed in order. richie went off to pay my bill, and i made sure he got a receipt, though im not sure why because the total came to 65000 for the xray, 20 anti-inflamitories, 20 500g painkillers, gauze, alcohol (it was a bit scratched as well),and a tensor... so about 3 pounds if i were to claim it on my insurance. not too bad for a hospital stay! i could only imagine what that would have cost in the states! (maybe 700 dollars? 1000?)
nevertheless we booked tickets to head to vientiene the next day.
we are just about to have some ice cream so i will come back to you!


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Recent Messages

From mom and dad
Hey kiddo, All is well here. Found a heck of a deal to NZ, but a day late - dad and I had just booked a trip to Huatulco Mexico! We leave on Wed (the 9th) for 1 week. I am still very tired and thought the warm sun would be a good idea. Otherwise, might have joined up with you for a couple weeks! Girls are back at school, Omi asks about you all the time - try to send her a postcard once in awhile - she loves hearing from you. Take care, talk soon, Love Mom and Dad xoxoxo
Response: thats too bad. i just said today how cool it would be to have dad here.. (no offence mom, but the camping and hiking looks really good, and i know how much he likes that)
but it would be cool to have you both here.
i wrote you all postcards in vietnam (dec3rd) and i havent seen a post office this whole time!! i will try and send them tomorrow ,,,
have a good time in mexico. maybe i will try and call after you get back.
From Raul
Christchurch airport. Memories...
Response: i thought about you going through immigration today, i was so nervous... but in the end it all worked out ok.
i cant believe they just have a line of police officers as soon as you get out of the plane randomly picking people. its like they were waiting to attack or something.
at least they are really friendly and smiley hehe
From Patrick
Das ist eine richtig gute Seite die Du hier hast, so kann jeder sehen was Du machst und wo Du bist. Schade dass ich nicht früher gewusst habe dass es sie gibt. Hab viel Spaß!
Response: Ich habe schon eine email geschickt mit diese addresse! ich luge nicht! Aber ich weiss jeztz, du musst sie nicht bekommen. Jetzt hast du viel zum lesen, und viel Englisch ubungen!
Ich muss auch viel mehr schrieben, es ist so schwer, jeden tag internet zu finden, oder nur zeit zu finden!
viel spass!!
ciao bello!
From Mom
Happy New Year Michelle! If I have the time right, it should be midnight where you are right now (it's 11am on Dec 31st here). Dad and I are spending the evening in Anton and Marcia's hot tub, so we won't be home... have fun and talk to you again soon.
Response: i was on a bus extremely hungover when you would have been celebrating new years, but i thought about you guys! hope you had fun in the hot tub!
im in bangkok right now, and heading to new zealand on the 7th. couldnt get my ticket changed, and want to keep moving anyways.
will call you sometime after getting into christchurch. talk to you soon.
From Dawn
Great stuff Michelle.. I've been checking every day just in case you'd found time to update. Hope your ankle is better.
Response: its getting quite a bit better, at least i walk almost normally now. just waiting for the bruise to go away (i have a nice selection of colours on my foot though). i saw a girl here with a new cast on her foot today and i was sooo glad it wasnt me! here comes another update.
From Karumba K
Hello,

This is a nice way of letting us know what is going on with your life.As such, I imagine you will treasure all this memories for the coming years. So the photographs and the stories, I will also be for you. Given all the place you have been and the complexity of some names, I am looking forward to when you make good your promise to write more and when you eventually get to post something.

In the meantime, take good care of yourself and have fun!

Regards,

KK
Response: i will send a better update.. i just need to find some free internet... and some time.
From Marian
Hi Sweetie, I love hearing all about your adventures! We are back home now; and it's soooooo cold -15's for the high every day! I've not gone back to work yet, catching up on some much needed sleep. Hope to be back next week, but am playing it by ear. Girls are studying for their finals next week, then they're done till January. Dad's in Regina for a couple days. Our Christmas parties are this weekend, so that'll be nice. Talk again soon, have fun, love Mom xoxoxoxo
Response: oooooh im so glad i am not there for that weather. its really funny when some hotels have hotel decorations up, it totally doesnt feel like december. i dont know where this year went.
oh and i heard a little boy singing jingle bells today, that was really weird!
From Heather Frentz
Hey! You! With the travelling! I am officially soooper jealous of you, your photos look like postcards! Pleased you're having so much fun and getting so much exploring in. Edinburgh seems so dull by comparison. I'm working at Jenners, selling mugs and spotted teapots in the china section. Also trying to get this international extravaganza of a wedding planned - mission! You're still gonna be there right? Facebook me! Miss you loads! Heather xx (and vicariously, Ravi)
Response: hello you! thanks for the message. i never rsvpd to your invitation (oops) but yes i am planning to be there. i almost got a dress made in hoi an but i chicken out, i will have to buy something though...
hope all is well with the new job and the wedding plans, see you in nz before you know it!
From Catherine
Strange to think of you in Vietnam right now, as I just biked to class through the snow.
I watched a movie last night about a resistance that came up out of Peru to fight a Canadian mining company who wanted to displace all the farmers to mine for gold. Anyway, I watched it with some friends who had been to Nicaragua, and other parts of South/Central America, and they said that it was just like Nicaragua, so I thought of you, and that you might like to watch it someday.
I hope that Dubai was alright. Pay attention, and keep well.
Love,
Catherine
Response: Hello! it's nice to hear from you. vietnam is definitely different, i was thinking about nicaragua a couple days ago as well. because well when i first got to vietnam i felt quite unconfortable and kind of weird, and i think i finally understood how and why most of the people in nicateam felt the way they did. it was a good feeling to feel how it might have been in their shoes. it opened my eyes for sure. but saying that, i got a good nights rest, and some food, and im really enjoying myself here. but im going to write about it, soooo talk to you soon! (and the movie sounds interesting!)
From Dad
Hi Michelle..
Hope you had a good flight from Dubai. As I am sending this - you should be waiting for your flight to Hanoi......
Just thought that I would say "Hi" - thinking of you since you were flying... As well, I took Omi to the airport this morning at 5 am and she flew to California to see Auntie Susie. She (Aunite Susie) is not doing very well at all - loosing strength every day, any time they go anywhere , she is in a wheel chair, etc., - so you and Omi were flying at the same time...

I think that Lynda and Grace were leaving today - so Mom was taking them to the airport and then picking up Omi at the same time. As well, I think that Aunt Irene has to go back to work so mom will be looking after both Susanne and Omi. (I am sure that she will have her hands full.) Not sure if you knew - but Uncle Mike finally came out of the hospital for the second time. Hopefully, he will be able to help out soon.

not much else to report on here, snowy today, but the grass is not covered yet. Paula and Sarah both working and studying - so I don't see too much of them - unless I am driving them back and forth to work.

Cats are OK - new poops lately, not sure who it is now.. - but were are persevering...

Anyway, take tiem to check in once in a while during your time is SE. Asia...

Bye for now..

Love you

Dad
Response: i guess this is the message you were talking about when we were on the phone. its funny because i checked my site in hanoi and i realized the messages dont come up automatically, so that is why i thought no one had messaged me! anyways i want to have time to write again, so say hi to everyone for me.
From
Hi Mich! It's me, cousin Lynda! I will read your 'blog' when I have more time, but I wanted you to know that I am here! And now I know how to find you!!! Love your favourite girl Ontarian cousin,
Lynda xoxoxox
Response: lynda! what a surprise! thanks for the message. if you give me your address, i will send you a postcard! Say hi to all the fam in ontario for me, it's been a while since i have seen you all.
From Dad
November 13 - 6:10pm (3:10am in Bahrain)
Snowy, 80 kilometer Winds, minus 5 degrees - you are not missing anything here!! Thanks for the update - sounds like an interesting place - however, probably not in my top 10 to visit. (Don't want to go if I can't spend money like a millionaire) - maybe after I win the lottery...Omi is heading to California on Saturday as your aunt is not doing very well at all. Sometimes, when I talk to Omi - I am not sure that she gets how grim the situation is - OR - she is just handling it in her own way... Who knows?- but very frustrating when I am talking to her.. Had Omi over for dinner last night - had Chinese food (not like you will be getting in a week), both Paula and Sarah were home - so we had a nice visit... Played soccer last night - lost 12-2 -worst defeat ever... Almost makes you think that we are too old to be playing..... - oh well, we had some laughs about it later..
looking forward to your next chapter - have fun in Dubai - (I am sure it is as expensive there as in Bahrain) and talk to you soon. Love you. Dad
Response: (the food here is great so far.... im just eating a bag of pineapple!)
From mommy
Hi Michelle, Wow, Bahrain sounds like some amazing country! I loved your analogy of how your sisters were better suited to the country. Made me laugh out loud! Look forward to hearing more about Dubai.
Lynda and Grace are here-having some fun. Not much change otherwise.
Love you lots, miss you more,
mom xoxoxoxo
Response: yah, i dont know if bahrain was somewhere i would have ever chosen to go if i didnt know someone there. it was a great time, but im glad we are back to roughing it! there were rats running around the outside of my room last night... definitely a change to my giant en-suite room.. but still fun.
From mommy
Good morning MIchelle, Just woke up (8am) - best sleep since I got here! Forgot to say, I love the pictures you posted - I can't wait to see pictures of this new adventure. Went shopping with your auntie's yesterday and had some fun. Uncle Mike should be home today-yea! Lynda and Grace arrive tomorrow. Talk soon, love mom
From Dad
Hi Michelle... just spoke with mom and she was saying that you weren't getting any responses ( even though your BLOG has 31 hits....) so I thought that I would send messages thru here instead of sending emails... Weather is cloudy and around zero... Snowed yesterday - but melted... Winter is coming... Cats are fine (just one issue in the past week)... not much happening here - other than,,, the BIG news is that Saskatoon now has an indoor golf center... oh boy - now I can golf in the winter as well. Just read in the paper of people dying when a new bridge under construction fell down in Dubai... maybe they need some help in designing these things? (Just kidding)..Holiday here on Monday for Rememberance day... not much planned for the weekend other than driving Omi around and probably trying to finish rebuilding the basement and put it back together..Have fun.. Talk to you later... Love Dad
Response: yah that bridge accident was pretty sad. we saw them trying to clean up the mess when we were there..
From Mom
Hey Michelle - Hello from California! Great first entry - I forgot to check this, but will certainly do so every day now, anticipating all that you are seeing (you will be my eyes in the east). All is the same here - uncle Mike is back in the hospital but hope to have him home today or tomorrow...another infection, poor guy. Lynda and Grace come on Sunday; auntie Susie is very excited to see Grace and wants to go to Disneyland with them, so we may just venture out for a day. Miss you and the rest of our family alot. Do Richard's parents work there or are they retired? Tell them thanks from your mom for taking care of you....love you lots, mom xoxoxo