Thailand and Laos Travel Blog...the prologue

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January 12th 2020
Published: January 12th 2020
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There is no other happiness but peace ~ Thai Proverb

One piece of wood will not make a fire ~ Lao Proverb

Sawadee and Sabaidee people!

This wasn’t the plan for 2020. But the fickle finger of fate prodded us yet again, and here we are, a day away from a trip back to Thailand, and our first visit to Laos!

The second half of 2019 had been an all-round shocker. To say it was less than awesome would be an understatement. And to top it all, it looked like we had to cancel our planned March 2020 to visit South America for work reasons. We were quite miserable about this prospect, but the travel gods smiled on us and presented us with a three week gap in January… and so this trip was born! 😊

We are both guilty of having the personality trait of wanting to repeatedly experience something if we love it. In travel terms, we’ve had to actively stop ourselves from wanting to continually go back to the places we love… at the expense of exploring so many new and unknown parts of the world. So we made a rule that we cannot return to a place for at least five years, but preferably ten!

It’s been nine years since our last visit to Thailand, and we are beyond excited to go back. Our fabulous trip in 2011 covered a massive part of the country, and we have been longing to revisit our most favourite city – Chiang Mai!

One of our main sources of happiness is travel, followed closely by good food. Therefore a trip to Thailand rates highly – it is Ren’s most favourite cuisine in the whole world, and ranks in Andrew’s top ten too.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the Kingdom of Thailand (formerly Siam): It’s a constitutional monarchy under King Vajiralongkorn Rama X as head of state, with a prime minister as head of government. The population is just under 70 million, the capital is Bangkok and the currency is the Thai Baht (THB). The official language is Thai (which uses the Khmer script), but nearly 70 ethnolinguistic groups exist. In terms of religion – 94%% are Buddhist, 4%% are Muslim, 1%% are Christian and 1% hold other minority beliefs.

Thailand is in Southeast Asia, in the central region of the Indochinese peninsula. The country is bordered to the north by Myanmar (Burma) and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern limb of Myanmar. Thailand’s terrain consists of high mountains, a central plain and plateaus. Apart from Bangkok in central Thailand, we are mainly going to be in the northern part of the country – which is typically mountainous and bound by the Salween River in the west and the Mekong in the east.

While Laos has flown under the radar for us (in comparison to its bigger and bolder neighbours), we have been meaning to fix this oversight for a few years now. However, it’s only an introduction to the northern and central parts of the country at this point.

Here’s a quick snapshot of Laos: The population is just under 7 million, the capital is Vientiane and the currency is Lao Kip (LAK). The official language is Lao (also called Laotian, and which uses an Akson Lao or Lao script), but it’s a multi-ethic country with languages like Khmu and Hmong spoken by the many minority groups. French remains a widely used language in government and commerce, and it’s a compulsory language at school. In terms of religion – 65% are Buddhist, 2% are Christian, and 33% have other / traditional beliefs.

Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. It’s a thickly forested country, consisting mostly of mountain ranges and plateaus. It has land borders with Thailand, Myanmar, China, Vietnam and Cambodia. The Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand, which is where we will cross from Thailand into Laos.

We had to pack differently than we normally do for this trip to Southeast Asia, as Northern Thailand and Laos will be relatively cool in their winter seasons. However, Bangkok will be as hot and sticky as always!

We were unable to do as much research and planning for this trip as we normally do, so we decided to gather recommendations from our well-travelled friends and family. We are looking forward to trying out the suggestions that caught our fancy. We also re-read our Bangkok and Chiang Mai blogs to refresh our memories about what we loved and didn’t love about the two cities. Plus, we’ve used the upcoming trip as an excuse to frequent our favourite Thai restaurant in Hobart. 😊

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Let the travel magic begin! 😊
Ren and Andrew

Travel viewing that set the scene for this trip...
Luke Nguyen’s Greater Mekong series 1 and 2 (2012);
Rocket, directed by Kim Mordaunt (2013);

Travel reading on this trip...
Lonely Planet Guide Thailand;
Lonely Planet Guide Laos;
A Dragon Apparent. Travels in Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam by Norman Lewis (Andrew);
The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill (Ren).


12th January 2020

Let it begin
Okay, I'm ready to travel again to far-off places without leaving my couch!
12th January 2020

Re: Let it begin
Hope you enjoy your armchair travels with us Chris :)
12th January 2020

Thailand and Laos
Oh my gosh, Ren and Andrew! I have one more of your entries (I think) to finish your blogs on Morocco but I couldn't wait to read about this trip to Thailand and Laos! Another of my friends will also be visiting that part of the world as well in a few days time! I'm so jealous! Have a spectacular time -- I can't wait to read about your experiences!
12th January 2020

Re: Thailand and Laos
Thanks Sylvia! Sorry, we took so long to write up the Morocco blogs that it nearly bled into this trip :/ I'm hoping to come back home to a stockpile of your Morocco blogs :)
12th January 2020

Have a great trip.
Laos is still one of our favorite countries. The French influences in food make it a taste treat. Luang Prabang is lovely. When we visited in 2007 there was little tourist infrastructure so it was pristine in nature. We attended the boat festival in Vang Vienna and Vietiane. I predict you will be extremely happy with your choice of Laos. Enjoy going back to Thailand.
12th January 2020

Re: Have a great trip.
Thanks Merry Jo. I didn't know that you considered Laos as one of your favourites... we are very much looking forward to it! That first-time excitement is hard to beat :)
13th January 2020

South America No...Thailand & Laos Yes
We had booked to attend a music festival in Ireland in 2018 and had to cancel for work reasons but replaced it with Russia and Uzbekistan in 2019. Thailand & Laos sounds like a nice sojourn to take your mind off South America until you can find the appropriate time to put it back on track. You know the food will be good!
14th January 2020

Re: South America No...Thailand & Laos Yes
Morphing disappointment into another opportunity :) The good food was one of the driving factors in our decision! :D
23rd January 2020

Good luck with your trip
Going on a trip without having plans can get you into many interesting adventures. I am looking forward to your blogs from your trip. /Ake
1st February 2020

Re: Good luck with your trip
Thanks Ake. I'm a planner and I get a lot of joy from the planning process... but this was certainly a different approach for us :)

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