|Answers on a postcard please...|
Having spent a month in super easy, developed Thailand we were ready to get back on the road & experience somewhere a little more rustic and 'real'. Laos was the perfect next destination and we immediately fell in love with the country. Some say it's like Thailand 15 years ago, before it was well and truly placed on the tourist trail. Although not completely undiscovered, you can definitely travel through Laos feeling like you're seeing real people living real lives - the pace of life here is most definitely slow, the people friendly and the beer flowing.
|The view from Wat Phu|
After crossing the border we spent our first couple of nights in Pakse, mostly hunting for an ATM that would let us withdraw cash. Eventually we found one that worked, and realised we needed to take 2 million kip out of the bank. Paying for things with 50,000 notes and carrying around such a fat wad, we've never felt so rich. Long may it last.
After Pakse we headed south to the one street town of Champasak to see the 6th century Wat Phu ruins. I'm somewhat ashamed to say that this was only our 2nd visit to any kind of temple since we arrived in South East Asia before Christmas, so we made the extra effort to wake up early and headed off by bike at 7am.
|Visiting the old ruins|
|Old Buddha statues|
I'd been finding it relatively easy to find vegetarian food, until arriving in Champasak. The concept of not eating meat seemed a bit more alien and I was struggling to get across to one restaurant owner that I just wanted vegetables with my noodles. After struggling with my bad Lao and drawing numerous pictures of chickens, pigs & fish, I luckily managed to find another westerner in the restaurant that was fluent in Lao. He confidently explained to the woman that while John wanted beef with his noodles, I just wanted veg. It was great, apart from the decorative piece of beef slapped on top.
Our next destination was the island of Don Det, not far from the Cambodian border on the mighty Mekong River and part of the 4000 Thousand Islands. Here we found our cheapest digs so far, at £1.70 a night for a wooden bungalow on stilts over the edge of the river. The island was super laid back and the hammocks on our porch made it difficult to do anything but relax, knit, read and sip cold Beer Lao's. Our most strenuous activities were strolling a few kilometres around the island and 'tubing' down the Mekong at sunset.
|Tubing down the Mekong|
Tubing basically involves being taken up stream a few kilometres by boat & then floating back down at a very slow pace sat in a large rubber ring. Easy! Until you have to try and cross the river to get back to the beach. Luckily there being 4000 islands meant there were enough clumps of trees in the river for us to hold onto while the boat came back to rescue us. It's really popular in the North of Laos but is often combined with lots of drunkenness & accidents, so it was nice to have the option of trying it somewhere easier. It was great fun & soooooo relaxing, floating back down the river over the course of a couple of hours and watching the world go by.
|The Mekong River|
Back in Bangkok, after a few months off, I managed to find myself some knitting needles & yarn, a couple of patterns on the internet and have occupied myself for many an hour since trying to accomplish various new knitting techniques. My new year's resolution was to actually get good at knitting, & since I have so much time on my hands I have no excuse. Saying that, the 30 degree heat isn't the most inspiring for making winter woolies but I'm persevering all the same. My friend Gemma's newborn baby, Thomas, has a jumper on the way as soon as I can find a post office. I also crocheted a dress that was intended for the baby daughter of some good friends of ours, but I figured by the time it arrived home it would be too small (sorry Andy & Leanne, the thought was there!). In the end I gave it to a lovely family running the small restaurant next door. They were made up and I have to say the little girl looked super cute.
|Cutey cute cute!!!|
I also taught our new friend Flo how to knit, & after just one go he was better than me!
|Flo and his knitted phone case|
We've spent the last couple of days at the waterfalls of Tat Lo, swimming in the river and walking through the forest. A few elephants (that we think had been retired from the logging industry) were living near by & it was amazing to see them being washed in the river & one of John's favourite things of our trip so far.
|Elephants having a bath|
Over the next couple of weeks we are gradually heading up north, & then back into Thailand to meet our friend Natalie who's coming over to visit us on holiday. Yay!!! I'm so excited, and am currently trying to compile a list of everything I'm missing from home that I can get her to stuff in her suitcase.