Published: April 1st 2010
March 27th 2010
As always, I hope you and yours are well.
I'm going to jump around a bit (more) in this travel blog and start in the middle of the story with my latest trip to Kwainge tung, Myanmar (Burma) for those of you who are searching for info on this city. It starts when I met Logan from Oregon in a line to buy bus tickets from Chiang Mai to Mai Sai (border town with Myanmar). He mentioned that he was going to Kwainge tong and I said so was I. We shared a room in Mai Sai and crossed to Burma early the next morning. The folks at the tourist information office informed us that there is a new little rule to go to Kwainge Tong when going from Techilik (not when flying from Yangoon). The new rule is that you have to go with and come back with a guide and pay for all their expense plus pay a $20 per day tax (not per person but per group). UPDATE MAY 1st, 2010 - I was in Tachelik recently and now they are saying the daily tx is $10 per day. You still have to have a guide with
you every day. This means that you have to pay about $35-$45 per day extra to go to Kwainge Tong. It gets worse, if you want to go visit anywhere around Kwaing Tong you will have to hire a local guide since a guide from Techilik doesn't know the area or speak the languages. We told the guy at the tourist office that we had a guide from Kwainge Tong and ask if we could call him and have him come to Techilik to pick us up. They said ok and we tried to call him but we weren't able to get though. At this point we figured going to Kwainge tong (as great as it is) was out of our budget but we did do the paper work to allow us to go to Kwainge Tung just in case.
Logan and I spent the day checking out some of the sites in Techilik and the next morning we went to the local little market where we ran into "Simon" my guide from Kwiange tung. Simon popped into the tourist office and they told him that somebody was looking for him. We talked about going to Kwainge tung and
Simon told us that the bus was full but that a driver from Harry's guesthouse where we would stay was in town and we could go with him. Logan and I decided to splurge and we all went back to the tourist office to get the paperwork done. We met an American family there who had just learned about the new rule and so we asked if we could all go together. Now we were informed that Americans have to take a licensed guide from Tetchlik, they just change the rule that day (right)! After about two hours we were able to get the paperwork done and we left with Simon.
We spent the rest of that day traveling to Kwainge tong and the next day Logan, Simon and myself went to visit an Akha and Eng (Ann) Village. Basically we had just this one day to see and do "all"; which of course isn't enough time. We reached the Akha village and spent a little time there then we headed up the "hill" to the Eng village where we had lunch. There weren't any (many) men in the village and we were told that they were out hunting.
When we were leaving the village we stopped at a house where a few men were (not sure if they returned from hunting since I arrived "late") and all of a sudden a rice wine party broke out. Several bottles of the stuff were drunk (don't worry, I abstained since that stuff almost killed me once) and many songs were sung. Here is a link to youtube of a video I shot, sorry about the quality but you get the idea). VIDEO OF ENG PARTY
We left the village and headed back down the hill where we ran into the chief of the Eng village who was returning home from somewhere where he had consumed some rice wine too. We stopped back in the Akha village so I could snap a few more photos and then we started to head back to Harry's trekking guesthouse but didn't quite make it. We ended up at a second party on the side of the road at a watermelon/rice wine stand where we had watermelon and rice wine (again, nada para mi). Finally we made it back to the guesthouse for our second and final night in Kwainge tung.
The next day we got up early to photograph the monks during Alms and also spent some time at the central market before taking a bus back to Techilik. During this whirlwind tour I did manage to take several fotos, some of which can be seen here: FOTOS FROM BURMA - NOTE A PASSWORD IS REQUIRED FO R THIS GALLERY - THE PASSWORD IS: travelblog
Now back to where the last blog left off and this one begins. I can’t believe I left Vietnam over a month ago (actually now it has been more than 6 weeks). Before I left Vietnam I went to one of the best Sunday markets. I was the only foreigner there until a van pulled up with a few Japanese tourists who didn’t stick around for too long. I went there with my Black H’mong friend Sa - it was funny how a lot of the minority women came up to her and asked her if I was her husband. They all told her that they don’t see many (if any) tourists. There were photo opportunities everywhere but one that stood out was in an alley where several different minority girls/women were primping
in front of a mirror before going into a “studio” to get their photo taken. I’m not sure if they do this every week or if they were doing it because Tet (Chinese new year) was a week or two away. Anyway, it almost looked like “Halloween” in that alley including me in a big yellow jacket. After the market I headed to Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam. Sorry but I wasn't able to put fotos from that trip in this blog (the internet in Laos is so painfully slow) so you'll have to check them out on my website here: FOTOS FROM SUNDAY MARKET LAU CHAI PROVINCE - the password for this gallery is travelblog
I went from Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam to Laos where I stayed for a week or so. I took a boat down the Namu river to - mung kwai (????) then hopped in a van for Luang prabang. I was worried that the hotel rates were going to be through the roof for Tet - luckily Tet isn’t celebrated in Laos. One thing I did notice is that it is almost impossible to get the local price (for anything), which makes
Laos a little bit more expensive than Vietnam and Thailand. I also noticed that there were a lot more “tourists” in the Northern part of Laos and also on the slow boat heading to Thailand. This was probably due to the fact that it was high season.
From Luang Prabang I took the two-day slow boat to Thailand. The Mekong was very low - some locals said they had never seen it this low. A slow boat heading down river had crashed and capsized the day before; as a consequence slow boats were “prohibited” from going down river. There were a lot of people panning for gold along the Mekong, I’m guessing that this was because the water was so low and the price of gold high. In a few spots there were literally 100s of people panning, which means that somebody probably found a “big” nugget there recently. As an old “red neck” once told me in Minnesota about fishing in the area where someone caught the state record walleye; “I don’t know why they fish there, the fish aint there no more” - good point. From my trip up the Mekong I entered back into Thailand on
a 14 day visa on arrival. Here is a link to “a boat load” of photos from the Mekong. FOTOS FROM THE MEKONG
(March 31, 2010) As usual I fell a bit behind on getting my blog out when I wrote it so here is the latest. I ended up spending about 6 weeks in Thailand of which I spent the last two weeks just relaxing with fellow ex-pats in Ayutthya and Kanchanaburi. During those last two weeks it felt like I was running to Bangkok “daily” to either drop off/pick up my passport at the Chinese embassy or drop off/pick up my camera at Canon. This past Sunday we all went to Bangkok and parted ways. I had a train to catch to go to Laos, Dave had a visa to get, another Dave had some paperwork he needed to get done and Jim and Lyle headed back to Ayutthya. I decided to grab a cab to go from “kho san” road to the train station. It should have been a 10-minute cab ride and since I had two hours to kill - no worries. The driver misunderstood where I told him to go and the
next thing I knew I was in the middle of the red shirt demonstration. For those of you who watch Fox news, the red shirts have been demonstrating in Thailand (and occasionally detonating bombs) for the prime minister to step down and for the country to hold new elections. Back to the story -so there I am, stuck in the heart of the demonstration thinking, “will I make my train in two hours or should I abandon ship (with a cab driver who will chase me) and make a run for it?” Running with all my bags through a demonstration didn’t sound like a good idea so I stuck it out and in less than 45 minutes we emerged and I was at the train station where I caught my train to Laos.
When I arrived in Laos I headed to the Thai embassy because I thought they were still giving free Thai visas, but they weren’t. Because of this, I spent one night in Vientiane, Laos, and took a bus the next day to Luang Prabang, Laos where I arrived two nights ago. I am still trying to solidify my plans but it looks like I may spend
a few weeks in Laos on my way to China - of course this will probably change by tomorrow but as of the 4th edition of this blog those are my plans.
By the way, my mom put in a request for me to “publish” some photographs that didn’t feature old ladies so here is a link to some shots of flowers that I took recently in Thailand: FOTOS OF FLOWERS
Till next time,
Dave / Yogi
There are more photos below