trecking, elephants, slow boats, numb bums and bugs...
08.05.2008 - 12.05.2008 -17 °C
So back to the trecking, well we set off at 9 am with our bags packed and a truck full of happy people, if the two of us were a bit subdued. After a stop at the tourist police station so they could take copies of our passports to know who was entering the hills we were on our way.
First off was elephant riding, and i have to say, they have an interesting approach to near vertical hills... we were also on the greedy elephant who not content with just bananas from us would hurry to catch up to the people in front to steal theirs as well! But its still one of those once in a life time, must be done activities. Though obviously afterwards you meet someone who volunteered at a sanctuary and learn that elephants actually have weak backs and having humans ride on them is bad for them etc etc and get lots of guilt. But never mind, what is done is done and while we did it it was fun!
After that it was a 3 hour hike up hill through the forests to where we were staying. This was not easy, firstly the heat and secondly the fact i'd not got a whole lot of food inside me for energy as i was still not eating. But i made it (just) and collapsed onto the bench at the end. Our guides were fantastic, they didnt rush us but also didnt let us sit down for hours as well as being practical jokers. To any question they didnt know the answer it was always "tiger"
Q: "so whats that animal over there"
A: "Tiger oh my buddah!"
Oh my buddah is possibly my favorite phrase ever now! AFter the walk and a bit of a chill out they took us up to the village we were staying near. The boys could play football ( Joe and Tarzan the guides said they one 3 1 and that joe scored 7 goals... yeah, work that out... the boys on the treck with us said it was a draw but they didnt know the score exactly... we conclude they lost) and we could wonder through the village looking at the views accross the hills and at the local way of living. Both our guides were locals from the hill tribes, but not the one we stayed near. One of them (tarzan) was in fact rushing home to reject a marriage proposal. In their villages it is the tradition for the woman (aged about 16) to ask the man aged about 20 ish... 25 is considered old), but he felt he wasn't old enough though his mum had other ideas (he was 23)! Tarzan had previously had 16 marriage proposals and used to be a lady boy in bangkok but couldn't take putting the make up on every night... it was a fun trip to be sure!
After a walk through the village we had dinner and all crashed out to be up early and were up with the sun/cockerel the next morning ... ok so didnt actually get up till about 8!
Then we had a walk down hill that was more taxing than expected because it was exceptionally steep. We stopped half way for a break at a waterfall we could swim at and walk behind. Freezing cold but good in the heat! Finishing our walk we next had bamboo rafting down a shallow river... This was fantastic, our group had two rafts so there was some competition and tipping that may have gone on.. We were also allowed to steer it for a while. Leanne started and unable to avoid rocks she would say loudly "uh oh" sit down, and wait for us to crash!
Next it was my turn, and again some of the rocks were intent on getting in the way, however i only had one crash. admittedly it was a big one, i didnt sit down so when we hit went flying into face down rock hugging position that left everyone sure i'd lost all my teeth. Actually i came out of it with one tiny bruise on my elbow!
I decided that was enough for me and settled to just watch as we slid down the rest of the route.
A lift home, a shower, dinner and the next day we were off on our journey to Loas
A 5 hour bus ride to the border town of Houy Xai, we stayed there for a night, got up early and went to get our visas for Loas and a ferry across the river boarder. It turned out we had overstayed our Thai visa for one day so had to pay a fine that was just under a tenner each and were on our way. We then got on the long boat or slow boat down the river. Its crowded, small seats and long. Luckily for us it was full so we sat on the floor which was actually more comfortable and settled in to watch as we sailed down the Mekong. Another one night stay and then the next day another longer (10 hour) boat ride.
THat night in Laos we stayed in a nice looking hostel, fan etc etc... the power there goes off at 10 as they run it from a generator which was interesting.. more interesting was the bug swarm that happened. At dinner Leanne sampled the Laos Laos.. a local spirit that is mind blowingly strong... so much so i couldn't have mine as the smell nearly did me in! So she polished off mine and then slipped into deep deep sleep. Meanwhile i'm awake with bugs flying all over our room... hundreds. like flying ants that lost their wings but slightly bigger wings, smaller beetle like bodies. wierd. anyway, i put the bathroom light on and they stayed near there swarming all over... then the power went out and it was a bug free for all.. unable to sleep with them crawling all over my skin i got up and put my hoody on - hood up - and stood in the middle of the room hugging a torch. eventually the crawling woke Leanne up who looked over to find me stood still in the middle of the room fully clothed... unable to bear it, we went and sat out side on a step in the dark where they had more space to mill about and not hit us untill it died down. and it did later... The next day the bus was full of stories, everyone had had the same problem and we have photos of it too...
Finally we arrived in Luang Prabang and got a hostel with two people we met on the boat and got a stiff drink, or two, it was two for one. There is a local curfew here of 12 so everywhere shuts at 11:30. As we left the bar the tuk tuks were lined up all saying "bowling alley? bowling alley?" to which our response was "what?!"
Just outside town is a bowling alley that can stay open till 3 so never ones to miss out off we went, it was an interesting sight to be sure!
Todays day has involved a slow get up, book shop for me, and then trip to a waterfall here that is truely breathtaking. We walked all the bits we could and swam where we could and Leanne jumped off one fall into the pool (of which she is very proud, i did not, i took photos)... One of the best days yet just amazing and now our hour is up and we are off shopping at the night market! yay for shopping! mum watch out for parcels coming home!