Page 4 of Mat and Trace Travel Blog Posts

Asia » Thailand » South-West Thailand » Ko Tao May 23rd 2007

Mat: After Jeremy and I finished our southern Laos trip, Trace and I were at a bit of a loose end. We had not really planned anything for our last 5 weeks in Asia. I was interested in heading to Indonesia, Trace was keen to try a couple of courses in Thailand (cooking, yoga, meditation, underwater videography, or a divemaster course). Jeremy had left to go to Koh Tao in Thailand to do a technical diving course, but we needed to stay in Vientiane to pick up some of our gear that was arriving on a bus from Vietnam. In the end the gear arrived quickly and we were in Bangkok only a day after Jeremy. The diving course Jeremy was starting involved deep “technical” diving with twin back tanks, and two decompression tanks with higher ... read more
Back on Koh Tao
Splashing down off the Trident
Mat on a deco stop

Asia » Laos April 14th 2007

After our day trip mission on the Bajas, Jeremy and I were very keen to do some harder-core riding and Trace wanted to do a rock climbing course in Vang Vieng, so we split along gender lines (ie left Trace by herself) and went on a week mission into some very remote areas in southern Laos. I know our blog has consisted mainly of motorbike stories lately, but this Man Mission is the last one, and by far the best. From Vang Vieng I could not hire a Baja, so I hopped on the back of Jeremy’s bike and we headed to the capital Vientiane and I paid in advance for a Baja for 4 days. Then Jeremy went to the guy he had hired his bike from so that his clutch cable and a couple ... read more
Leaving Vang Vieng on the Man Mission
I just about fell off my bike when I looked up and saw two elephants standing on the back of this truck
Inside Kong Lor cave

Asia » Laos » West » Luang Prabang March 31st 2007

Mat: It was a day of both sadness and relief when we sold our Minsks in Luang Prabang. We had intended to keep them for another week or so, but a German guy who seemed to think Minsks were the best motorbikes in the world, offered us US$650 for them (we had bought them for US$850 for both). This was after a good hammering during our 2 ½ month trip, a couple of indicators smashed off etc, and mine needing new clutch plates in a country without Minsk parts. Sad to see them go, but Trace and I had definitely got our hundred bucks worth from them! To both mourn and celebrate our loss of the Minsks I hired a Baja, and Jeremy and I planned for a good honest ride the next day. We had ... read more
The road was like this for a couple of hours on our loop day from LP
Mmmmm, where did the road go?

Asia » Laos March 28th 2007

Once out of the trees, it was back on the bikes to head towards Luang Prabang. Rather than heading down to LP by travelling the whole way by boat down the Mekong (as most people do - there are no roads in that direction) we decided to make more of a trip of it and head to Pak Khop three hours or so down the Mekong from Houeyxai. For some reason they would not take us to Pak Khop, but assured us that Kone Tuen was very close to Pak Khop, I think the words were: "Pak Khop, Kone Tuen, same same, one or two kilo meet". God I wish I spoke Lao. Once dropped off at Kone Tuen it took us 2 hours of dodgy dirt and a couple of good stream crossings to get ... read more
Another stream crossing
An example of the hills Jeremy towed me up
Crossing the Mekong to Luang Prabang

Asia » Laos » West » Bokèo Nature Reserve March 23rd 2007

Mat: Named after the primates whose calls wake you in the morning, the Gibbon Experience is a locally-owned eco-tourism project whose character and activities put it a league above all other tourist attractions on offer around Southeast Asia. A Frenchman dreamt up this novel concept for conservation - create incredible treehouses in the middle of pristine jungle and connect them with huge ziplines. Then let tourists loose on the area for three days at a time - no itinerary, just hang out in the 50m-high treehouses, zip above and through the jungle, or explore the jungle by foot. If tourists are flocking to the area for an amazing childhood dream of an experience in the trees of the Bokeo jungle, and the project is environmentally and socially sustainable, then in this country of marginal environmental protection, ... read more
An Asiatic black bear cub, macaque, and a very tolerant dog
Trace leaving home
After Emily had mixed up what went where

Asia » Laos March 20th 2007

Three safety features of the Minsk: 1. You do not need to use your horn, because everyone hears you coming. 2. No one tailgates you due to the smoke - in fact no one gets closer than 500m. 3. You can not go fast. Other benefits of riding a Minsk: 1. When it breaks, you can fix it. 2. The oil leaks mean you do not have to oil the chain. 3. You can not get a flat battery - there is no battery. So after 7 weeks in Vietnam, we were finally heading west towards Laos. After staying in Mai Chau we ride for four hours towards the border at Nameo. We had spent a while trying to figure out which border post would give us the best chance of a successful Minsk crossing. Officially ... read more
Goodbye Vietnam, hello sweet Laos
A waterfall near Vieng Xai
Good to get catch up with Jeremy again

Asia » Vietnam » Northeast » Quang Ninh » Halong Bay February 11th 2007

Mat: Ha Long Bay is a must do in northern Vietnam. If Sapa is the Queenstown of Vietnam, Ha Long Bay is the Milford Sound. So we obligingly booked a 3-day tour of the place. One of the best US$50 I have spent. We were transported in a Mercedes van to Ha Long city, and boarded our boat. This first boat ended up being the only glitch of the trip as 40 minutes into our trip we stopped, a couple of jarring clunks were felt, and the motor was cut. After a torturous wait sipping Tiger beer on the sun deck surrounded by the beautiful limestone cliffs of Ha Long Bay, another boat from the same company turned up and tied up to us and escorted us through the bay for the remainder of the day. ... read more
The last gasp of the sun on our first night on the water
Our lunch island - awesome
About to embark

Asia » Vietnam » Red River Delta » Hanoi February 5th 2007

Belching smoke and with a high-revving high-pitch whine, the Minsk is a cast iron machine geared to challenge the unexplored territory hidden throughout northern Vietnam. Chiseled from steel, welded with rust and camouflaged in mud, the Minsk is the sweaty workhorse of Vietnam's rural economy. Seen hauling pigs, buffalos, lounge chairs, coffins, horses, and even full, occupied and bubbling fishtanks, the Minsk will get you where you want to go. It's tough, cheap, and simple to fix, a fresh piston will set you back $18US (including labour), while a new set of tyres can be had for $20. Found around the world in all the truly interesting places, like Afghanistan, Mongolia and Vietnam, this bike is true testimony to former Soviet Power. Mat: It was after reading this that we decided to look in to buying ... read more
The border guards and Trace in front of the border building at Pa Hang

Asia » Vietnam » South Central Coast » Quảng Nam » Hoi An January 15th 2007

Trace: After a thrilling motorbike ride through the Central Highlands, Nicki, Mat and I were all ready to relax and enjoy some good local food (and local beer) in the relative tourist mecca of Hoi An. Hoi An is 'Nam HQ for tailors and shoe stores, all 200+ stores in this small town advertise that they can make any item of clothing (or footwear) from a picture, from fabric of any colour, in any size, wool, silk, leather all no problem ... overnight. I got a suit jacket, pants, a shirt and a skirt all for $65US. Bargain at twice the price, and I figured that a sharp new suit may come in handy in the UK! Hoi an is home to several local speciality dishes. White rose was a lovely delicate dish, consisting of shrimp ... read more
Rice whiskey brewing
Our cooking class at a local restaurant
How can they forbid you to sit on these?

Asia » Vietnam » Central Highlands January 10th 2007

Mat: A pancake-and-plastic-jug-of-whiskey Christmas was had in Cambodia, and now we headed to Saigon, Vietnam, for New Years. Unfortunately Nicki and I had a fluey thing we affectionately called "The Nana". At about 3pm every day we - well, me in particular - had to retire to our rooms for a little lie down as the world all seemed a bit difficult and tiring. If you did not respect Nana she would bite, causing you to become very fragile emotionally and physically, maybe causing you to kick out a small puppy or even have a little cry. I didn't like Nana, and she didn't like me. So I prepared for New Years with a good "Nana Nap", but by 12.30am I was happy to take Nana to bed. For me the highlight of the night was ... read more
New Years in Saigon
The train to Nha Trang
Nicki's cocktail

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