Published: June 28th 2012June 28th 2012
How does flying work? Paper planes, well that’s easy, they’re dead light so they should be able to fly. Big massive 50 tonne lumps of metal hurtling through the sky at 600mph, that shouldn’t work. Is there a weight limit? There’s a lot of big people on this plane Judith. They don’t ask for everyone’s weight before they get on to check whether our combined weight will go over the maximum limit. They check my bag though don’t they? If I’m 2kg over the limit I have to pay extra yet that bloke and his missus over there probably weigh 100kg more than me and you combined but because their baggage is under the limit they don’t pay anything. I know our baggage is under the limit too I’m just making a point. Also why do they give us life jackets when we’re not flying over the sea? This flight is over land. Give me a parachute! What was that noise Judith? Landing gear? What the hell is landing gear?
Fourteen flights into the trip and this is a still a conversation Judith is subject to pretty much every time we get on a
plane. On our flight to Vientiane, Laos from Hanoi, Vietnam all was going to usual plan until midway through the flight there was a calm announcement from the captain, “Ladies and Gentleman, this is your captain speaking. Please return to your seats and put on your seat belts, there is a problem.” Oh shit we are going to die. Clearly we landed fine as I’m here writing this 3 weeks after the plane landed in Vientiane. What that problem was we’ll never know but all I can say about it, is that I’m glad I wore dark trousers that day.
I last wrote to you when we were in the Laos capital Vientiane. Vientiane was such a quiet place, almost too quiet to be a capital city. There was no horn beeping, cluttered noisy streets nor was there much pollution or litter. It was almost like we’d landed somewhere not in Asia. Although there weren’t many cars on the roads, the ones that were there were mostly Toyota Hilux’s. It was weird, why so may Hilux I ask. No one knows. Whilst in the capital we visited some temples and ate good food,
I also got grabbed by a lady boy in the street one night. That was the first ladyboy I have seen all trip or maybe I should say the first ladyboy I’ve recognised as being an actual ladyboy.
We met a Yank at breakfast one morning who asked us where we were from. We said Yorkshire in the north of England to which he replied, “where’s that? Scotland?” I know I keep having a pop at the Americans and I don’t deliberately mean to keep bringing them up but let’s be honest, some of them don’t help the stereotype. If I’m honest though we’ve definitely met more English idiots that I’ve wanted to spinning bird kick in the face than any other nation.
After a couple of days in Vientiane we headed north to Vang Vieng. I didn’t really want to go as I’d heard that although it is located in the most beautiful of settings it is actually just a town full of 18 year old idiot backpackers getting drunk and going tubing down the river (tubing is what idiots call a rubber ring). As
Vang Vieng was on the way we decided to call in to see what the fuss was about. On first impressions I quite liked it. A thundering river running along side stunning vertical limestone karsts, a coolish climate and a laid back atmosphere. Then we encountered all the 18 year old morons in matching vests getting hammered in chavvy tubing bars pumping out what was literally the worst music I have ever heard. I think it’s called ‘Dub-Pants’. It sounds like a Sinclair ZX Spectrum loading up a game, but played backwards whilst scraping your finger nails down a blackboard and chewing tin foil and sticking a knitting needle in one ear whilst rubbing broken glass and vinegar in the other. It’s definitely not going to be a new musical direction for Leeds based Indie Pop sensation ‘Defender’ (www.myspace.com/defenderleeds
). We headed out on the bikes to get away from it .That was until a group of tubers (nob heads) passed us in a tuc tuc. One of them gave us the finger and was then high fived by his meat head mate like it was the funniest thing ever to have been achieved in the history of the human race.
Sweet justice came through 5 seconds later when half of the rubber rings fell off the tuc tuc roof and went bouncing down the road resulting in said nob head having to run after them to cries of “run forest run” from me and Judith as we merrily cycled past. It was a right touch. The next day we fully got away from the morons and went over the river and saw some of the most stunning scenery we’ve seen all trip. It was definitely worth the trip there to see; despite the morons. Ok I’ll stop saying moron now.
Careful what you wish for. In my last blog I wrote about normal bus journeys being boring. I also wrote about being pestered by sunglasses sales men whilst wearing sun glasses. What followed was us taking one of the worst journeys of the trip (I know I keep saying that) and me losing my sunglasses. The bus journey to Phonsavan from Vang Vieng was awful. The roads were so windy through the mountains and the driver was a nutter. People were throwing up all over the place. It was a bit grim. The
scenery through the mountains however was stunning and we saw loads of interesting villages. I also saw a woman breast feeding her baby whilst on the back of a scooter. We arrived in Phonsavan which is ‘famous’ for the ‘Ring of Jars’ and it was also the most bombed province in Laos in the Secret War during the Vietnam War. The Ring of Jars are some 2000 year old stone jars that are about 1 to 2 metres in height and no one knows what they’re for. There are loads of them too. It was weird but in great settings.
Whilst in Phonsavan we got some toothpaste which tasted horrid. Then we realised it was mint and salt flavour. What ever next, chilli pile cream, sprout nasal spray, nettle toilet roll? We’ve opted out of the Lonely Planet’s accommodation choices since being in Asia after some pretty suspect choices in the South America book. We didn’t have much choice in Phonsavan so went with the Lonely Planet’s choice. It was awful. Won’t be doing that again!
We only spent a couple of nights in Phonsavan and
then backtracked up the pukey road to Luang Probang where we are right now. Our plan in Luang Probang was to stay in a nice hotel and pretty much do bugger all. Mission accomplished. We’ve been here for nine nights. I am loving the hotel rules you get in Asia. Here’s a couple of favourites from Luang Probang:
Do not any drugs, crambling or bring both women and men which is not your own husband or wife into the room for making love.
Do not allow domestic and international tourist being prostate and others into your accommodation to make sex movies in our room, it is restriction.
You don’t get that in a Travel Lodge. Our time in Luang Probang generally involved waking up, going for noodle soup, doing some reading, having lunch, watching ‘the Walking Dead’, having a stroll, eating tea, watching a movie, going to sleep and
We did do a little bit more than watching the Walking Dead and eating whilst in Luang Probang. We did some volunteering at an English school for a couple of days helping local people develop their conversational skills and we also took a cooking class. The cooking school was run by these two dudes who had about as much charisma as a cauliflower. One of them used to bark orders at us like the baddie Sensei from the Karate Kid. “Fear does not exist in this kitchen does it?”
“No Sensei!” When he wasn’t shouting instructions at us he would just go to sleep somewhere in the kitchen whilst we were cooking. Laos people love to sleep in the most weird places. At any opportunity they will have a kip. When not kipping the other Laos past time is pulling each other’s grey hairs out of their heads. Very odd. Oh and badminton. Oh and some men have really long little finger and thumb nails.
Whilst walking up the main street in Luang Probang, I asked our Judith where all the idiots
were, as the ‘gringo trail’ normally leads people from Vang Vieng to Luang Probang. Then literally about 10 seconds after I’d asked it we realised that all the idiots stay up one end of town in all the back packer bars. Thankfully we were staying at the other quieter classier end of town. It’s a strange place. There is a main road through the middle of the town with loads of overpriced packed out moron restaurants. Then there are two roads either side which run along the two rivers which have better quality, cheaper, locally run restaurants with amazing views. Yet all the idiots stay around the main road. Happy days! It meant for the best part of our time here we could avoid all the morons. We fancied a pizza one night and against my will had to head up moron street to find a pizza shop. There was a restaurant called, ‘The Pizza’ so we had a look at the menu outside to find that there were no pizza’s on there. Genius! We’ve seen quite a few restaurants on our travels where you are given a little barbeque or hot plate at your table and you cook your
own food. What is the point in that? Why would you pay to go sit in a restaurant and cook your own dinner? The owners of these places are absolutely laughing.
Here’s an interesting and irrelevant bit of news for you. Judith used to go to 6th
form college with a girl who had Shaggy (before he was famous) sing at her birthday party when she lived in Jamaica. When you think you know everything about your wife she just pulls that out of the bag.
We decided to finish Laos off with a bang so we spent a day and a night Mahout training at an elephant conservation project. It was ace. We got our own elephant, learnt how to talk to them and instruct them, ride on their necks, feed them and bathe them, plus we stayed in a fantastic lodge in the jungle. Mine was called Mae Uak and Judith’s was called Mae Buakham. We both fully fell in love with them and were very sad to leave. I was thinking we could take them with us. I need to clear some of the clutter
up in the spare room but we should be able to squeeze them in. They do however eat 200kg of food a day which would increase our Lidl shopping bill to around £100 a week.
So then, that’s Laos done. Tomorrow we head to Chiang Mai, Thailand. We’ve opted to fly instead of a 24 hour bus journey (because we’re getting soft). As always I’m looking forward to the flight and especially the life jacket spiel even though it’s another overland flight. I wonder how much excess baggage they’ll charge for two elephants.
See you in a bit
Ste and Judith x x
Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Phonsavan http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150907551647532.415686.581642531&type=1&l=49e047dd21
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