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2 oktober 2014
South East Asia!
The last months have been absolutely incredible. The last you heard of me was, that I was going to Pai, Thailand and staying there for two weeks. That same pace, taking everything very slow, is exactly how the last months have been.
South East Asia is over travelled by people from all around the world. This makes life very easy, so you have more time to enjoy. It does give frustration if you want to explore how every day life looks like for a local and when you end up in a bus with only tourist. In Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, I tried always to mix both, touristy area's with local experiences. The best of both.
Three and a half months of not writing is a long time, I try my best to keep it short, I will fail as usual, so be warned!
Laos: the land of the silent people, laotians are the most introvert people in south east Asia. Which gives the country, a very relaxed atmosphere. No exaggerate shouts of "mister, Tuk Tuk", no desperate sales talk and an mentality of "not today, then tomorrow".
My local high lights where for sure, a two day trekking up north, arround Nong Khiaw and a 3-day moterbike trip on the Bolaven Plateau, visiting local coffee farmers, Waterfalls and mama paps (an elderly woman running an Home-stay. For breakfast she makes the biggest and best banana chocolate pancakes ever!)
The more touristy highlights where Xam neu and Ponsavan, both have historical places of the secret war in Lao by the Americans during the Vietnam war. I have been told that, till today, nothing of this war is acknoledged by the Us government. Though they dropped as much bombs in Lao as in the whole 2nd worldwar combined.
An other highlight was Vang Vieng and should definitely not be left out in this story, what used to be a sleepy town changed to a bustling city, full of tourist. I definitely enjoyed my time here with all the friends! It was a great 10 days of Caves, Blue Lagoon, (jungle)party, tubing and watching the tv series Friends (most bars play this non stop all day long, great for hangover days)
Cambodia: Unfortunately I can not speak about real Cambodia since I have seen only a few highlights and the capital. History wise, the temples of Ankorwat where impressive. Such an ancient city as big as London is today in the time that London had only 50.000 inhabitants.
An other historical highlight where the killing fields and S21 prison these where quit a shock, it feels right to stand still by a crucial part in the history of Cambodia. 100's of thousands of people (including babies and childeren), forced to work in the fields or beaten to dead(shooting them was not allowed, bullets where to costly). Lets not get all to negative here. Now days I find the Cambodians very friendly, happy and helpful! To bad I had no more time to experience more of this country and its people.
My last major stop was Koh Rong, paradise on earth, a have to see before it becomes to touristy. With only a day generator for electricity and since a year Internet it is a bit more developed then 2,5 years ago when tourist started coming to Island. I enjoyed my time a lot with all the friends I'v met in and arround the guest house Island Boys, laying on the beach, walking to the other side of the island, watching football, diving, fishing/snorkeling trips and swimming with the light emitting plankton(almost every night). It was a world away when I received a sad message from home about the loss of a cousin of mine, it definitely came as a complete shock to me. A realisation that I should enjoy every moment while I still can. The last day in Koh Rong me and a friend, Konstatine, found two guys willing to sell their motorbikes to us, which started a whole new adventure!
One last culture thing I want to highlight. Corruption, from a 1,25$ fine for driving with lights on during the day, the small fee I had to pay to see a part of Angkor Wat till bargaining my Visa price at the boarder! Haha it all ads up to the great experience of traveling!
Vietnam: I have to be careful now, letting myself go on writing will result in a bookwork of stories!
From Cambodia Konstatine and me drove our motorbikes towards Ho Chi Min city where we met up with Zane and Nina, who also bought bikes. All four I've met on Koh Rong, Cambodia! After a view days of being sick we drove off, to start our almost 7 week and 4000km long trip from Ho Chi Min, south to the mekong delta, up north to Sapa and finally to finnish in Hanoi. During this trip Morgan and Sam joined for a few weeks and next to them we had some other friends joining here and there! One big happy Family.
We drove arround 150-200km a day, lunched in very local local places where english is not existing, days that we did not spend visiting the mechanic where seldom, having a sore asses almost everyday, had allot of rain on us and watched some incredible views! It was all very very very worth it! What a great time if I think back of it!
Locally we had the best times in Vinh long in the Mekong Delta, with a local kid showing us some good food places in exchange to talk english with him to practice for is high school application in Singapore(something very important for him). The whole Ho Chi Min road was an experience in it self. One strech of it had nothing, 200 km without gas stations, cars and shops for food, just pure joy and freedom! Mostly we spend the nights in a nha nghi a local hotel, 24/7 open and with room-rates for a night or per hour, people did arrived and left any moment of the night! Luckily we where always with four or more persons, we laughed and enjoyed every place no matter how deserted! One night we spend in a long house near a lake in a local village, all together in one room, we played some volleyball with the locals and had a great evening with POI, juggling balls, good music, a few drinks and card games.
The more touristy towns where a treat after 5-7 days of riding, Dalat, Hoi An and Sapa where definitely great times. Hoi An was the place I liked the most, the old town and its atmosphere combined with a beach nearby and a hostel with swimming pool was a good treat. In Hoi An I also met up with a friend, whom I med 8 years ago in France(when traveling with my parents back then). We both where traveling in asia and our ways crossed by coincidence, the world is suchs a small place. Another Highlight was a cave that we visited in Phong Nha. The Mud cave, seriously mud everywhere! Finally we arrived in Hanoi, exhausted and wanting some more civilisation. By now our group was back to us four again, Zane, Konstatine and Nina. I definitely can say, a trip like this bonds you, you know how they are and you have shared all your stories together. Everyday you meet new and interesting people but with very few, unfortunately, you spend such a long time together. I'm grateful that I met these wonderful guys and it feels great have done this trip together!
It was not all over yet, we had a great few "western" days. We landed in a great Hostel where they organised a pub crawl every night, we joined almost all of them. Some say that it is absurd but while traveling you don't have these days, where you sit on a couch with a movie. We went out to the cinema a few times, giving ourselfs a little treat! The last day we visited a Waterpark with two great girls! After the pubcrawl and a short night of sleep we left to Halong Bay/Cat ba for a few days. The group got smaller and smaller, konstatine had left us before Halong Bay and after Halong Bay we all went our own way again. Not to sad because we promised to meet up in Bangkok a week later to have one last night together to celebrate traveling together!
After Hanoi I took a flight down south, back to Ho Chi Min. (I know, I don't like flying but it was the cheapest options, or save 10 dollars and enjoying a 40hour bus ride!) The main reason was to meet up with a two good friends from home, Peter and Esther. They where coming for holiday and off course after 9 months I can't say no to a beer together! Next to this I could also meet up with an amazing friend from the Ukraine(whom I met the first day in Laos and true out the last months) and with the two girls from Hanoi. In total I spent just under two months in this country and I enjoyed every single moment of it, thanks to all the friends I've met, locals and fellow travellers!
After Hanoi, the girls from Hanoi and me took a plane to Bangkok, for a small reunion and after that I went south towards Malaysia! More about this in my next blog! The last months are about to start, living the dream and enjoying life every moment, as now I know how short it can be.
For all friends I've met during the last 4 months, You all can fill a book, full of stories and memories. To you all I say till we meet again, sometime, somewhere. Our paths may cross at some festivals or in future trips where we can share our memories of a great time. Enjoy your travels or homes where ever you may be in this world.
Till we meet again!
3 oktober 2014 11:34 | Door: Sylvia
That's a good picture of the countries you have visited (and some of them I have visited too).
I loved when you wrote about Pai (Thailand) and Laos. It's almost like we traveled together cause I experienced exactly the same :) Continue your travels safe and sound! Good bye and who knows maybe we'll see each other again! :)