Craig’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 27 Jun 2007

Location: Bangkok (yet again), Thailand

MapHello everyone,

There's been a bit of a delay with this blog as I had problems leaving Laos ie. they wouldn't let me out of the country so have been a tad busy working on that one! Basically, on my way in I purchased my visa on the border, no problem but didn't get a separate arrival stamp, this resulting in once arriving at the exit border in Vientiane, Laos, I was turned back and told to see immigration the next day. After a nervous 24 hours and been told I'd have to go back to the border I crossed (3 days of buses away) or pay $100 fine I managed to negotiate a $20 fine and got the hell outta there!

Not the best final impression of Laos but probably my favourite country in South East Asia just because the place is so chilled and relaxed and geared towards having fun in an amazing environment! I arrived last Sunday in the South of the country and the town I rolled up to was absolutely deserted, I saw 1 other tourist and the local population seemed pretty scarce. With the county being a little smaller than Vietnam but with a population of just 7 million appose to Vietnam's 83 million this was a completely different place. The next day I made my way to the capital, Vientiane but this was only a whistle stop as I was coming back via here so the next day I headed up to much raved about Vang Vieng. I had heard many many good things about Laos before arriving from other travelers and this place was much hyped up and I wasn't left disappointed! The small town itself is set in the middle of an amazing mountain range and with a famous 'tubing' river running through it making it a great place to have fun. Tubing is basically where you get a tractor inner tube, get a ride up stream and spend the rest of the day floating down the river stopping at the many bars, risking your life on the crazy rope swings and jumps. I decided to take a day tour as my time was limited so in the morning went to see a local village and 'the elephant cave' which oddly has a naturally carved elephant inside which I still remain sceptical about! Then we went on a bit of a hike in the scorching heat and was much relieved to find a lake at the top to cool off in. The main cave we came to see involved getting into 'tubes' and pulling our way through using ropes and each other and with it taking nearly an hour to get in and the walls and roof disappearing under more and more water as we got deeper in, it gets a little claustrophobic! At the end of the cave there is a rock with boulders of mud on it which has 'magical skin enhancing properties' so we all had a mud fight inside and came out radiant looking at least 5 years younger! Inside the cave the temperature really drops so it was nice to get back out into the sun. After lunch we got a kyak to paddle down the river which had amazing views, the rapids were pretty tame but just enough to have some fun. We eventually joined the 'tubing' river with the rest. When you float past a bar the guy will throw a stick with some rope and pull you in, instantly giving you a shot of Laos whiskey and directing you to the bar. Then your directed towards the huge (at least 50 ft) rope swings where you swing out, let go and hope for the best. I did find this easier after a few beers but still pretty scary stuff! Met a group of 11 Irish lads who had all just got there uni results and where in high spirits so you can probably imagine the rest of the day/night! Meaning to leave the next day I was in no state to travel so postponed until the next day.

I travelled to a place called Luang Prabang which is the cultural centre of Laos and a beautiful place with lots of French influence on the buildings and streets (the French ruled just about everywhere in Asia at one time) and a cool little market selling some unique souvenirs. I met up with some people I'd met earlier in my travels and went to a picture perfect series of waterfalls. There were about 5 or 6 waterfalls cascading down the rocks which we swam in - a little paranoid of the water snakes though. This, yet again was one of the most beautiful places I've been too on my travels and was happy to end my Asia leg of my trip here!

After much hassle getting out of the country I eventually arrived in Bangkok yesterday with my flight meant to be today but my travel chimp, sorry I mean agent, cocked up so its now Friday when I fly out to Melbourne which I have to say, I'm really looking forward to. Will be stopping with my good mate from uni, Ash whose done a similar trip to me but started a year earlier and was a big inspiration to me to come away. We've had some monster drinking sessions in Leeds so I'm sure Melbourne won't be any different. Then the plan is to get a bar job, a place and then a 'normal' life for a good few months.

Well I'm at the end of my Asia part of my travels after a 6 month stint. I've experienced the insanity of India from South to North with my particular highlight being the volunteer work I did where I met some lovely people and had my first teaching experience on the other side of the desk. The beauty of Nepal which the pictures or words could never do justice that I'll never stop talking about when I return home! And South East Asia has been the most fun place to be because of the people I met and the things I have seen and done. Diving in the crystal oceans in the South of Thailand, seeing the horror of Cambodia's past and how the people deal amazingly well with this, the beauty of the Vietnamese highlands and not to forget the Laos border crossings...and of course the stunning scenery of the place! I've seen so many mind blowing things and met some great friends who have made the trip for me. Being honest I wasn't sure what I wanted out of the 'traveling experience' when I began and certainly wondered if I was doing the right thing when I landed in India but through the highs and the lows of my journey it has really affected me in a positive way and have got much more out of it than I could ever of imagined. Seriously, anyone even contemplating traveling, it'll be the best thing you ever do!

That's me for now and I've added some more pictures but the adventure continues............