Carrie Thomas

teirrac

Carrie Thomas




Asia » Laos » South » Pakse November 30th 2018

Pakse is the second largest city in Laos - for visitors it is most known for being close to the Bolaven Plateau (full of waterfalls, traditional villages and coffee plantations), Wat Phu (a temple that pre-dates Angkor Watt), and the 4000 islands (laid back...at the time traditional...islands in the Mekong along the border with Cambodia). I first visited Pakse 8 years ago, and was surprised how much I loved it. At the time, it wasn't on the backpacker/tourist trail - there was one hostel, a couple of big hotels, and not much else - I walked around and saw a lot of temples and folks living normal life, and absolutely no one tried to sell me a thing - it was the best. Fast forward a few years and the backpacker trail has changed - Vang ... read more
Flying into Pakse
Flying into Pakse
Sunset view from a rooftop restaurant

Asia » Thailand » North-West Thailand » Chiang Rai November 27th 2018

Chiang Rai is was originally a capital of the Lanna kingdom (I believe before Chiang Mai), super close to the Golden Triangle (border of Thailand/Myanmar/Laos and historical opium territory), but is known today for a range of modern/very artistic temples. The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) was built by a local artist opening in 1997 - it is beautiful and a bit insane, in an overall Buddhist style but with a range of modern influences and stunning paintings inside. The Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten - the spot where tigers used to jump over the river) recently opened, built by a disciple of the artist of the White Temple - there are definite similarities, they're both amazing to look through, with enough detail to occupy you for quite awhile if you can navigate the crowds. ... read more
Hot springs
Cooking in the hot springs
Hot springs

Asia » Thailand » North-West Thailand » Chiang Mai November 23rd 2018

I headed back to Chiang Mai for the annual Loy Krathong & Yee Peng Lantern Festivals, which were definitely trip highlight. Loy Krathong is celebrated across Thailand and involves releasing krathong - decorated rafts with candles - into the river. In Chiang Mai, Yee Ping is at the same time and involves a variety of lanterns, including releasing paper lanterns into the sky...there are so many on the main nights that they look like stars (and Chiang Mai has to cancel flights on these nights to prevent issues with aircraft). It's one big celebration for several days, with fireworks, parades, etc. in addition to the lanterns and floating candles - it was beautiful, colorful, a bit chaotic and absolutely fantastic. I also did a day trip to Wat Phabatpuphadang (one of its several names) - a ... read more
Lanterns near the kick-off ceremony
Lanterns near the kick-off ceremony
Kick-off ceremony

Asia » Laos » West » Nong Khiaw November 18th 2018

Nong Khiaw is a tiny little spot on the Nam Ou River in the mountains somewhere north of Luang Prabang, with absolutely stunning limestone mountain scenery. Its a pretty lazy little place, which was fantastic - the balcony of my bungalow was on stilts over the river and it was reallllly easy to spend hours out there doing not much of anything. The highlight was a boat trip up the river through a number of little villages with some of the prettiest views possible - I felt like I was on a tiny boat floating through Yosemite Valley...if it was covered in jungle and there were water buffaloes instead of hoards of people.... read more
View from my bungalow
View from my bungalow
My bungalow

Asia » Laos » West » Luang Prabang November 14th 2018

Luang Prabang also has oodles of temples and oodles of things for tourists, although also has the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, French colonial influence, interesting element of the morning alms procession by monks (who collect their food for the day) and all sorts of fantastic scenery. Due to sediment from the limestone in the hills, some of the waterfalls are a spectacular blue color (and you can swim in them! but they are not warm :). In a completely random coincidence, I also met up with some friends I met years ago in Africa here - it's an oddly small world sometimes.... read more
Beautiful mountains flying into Luang Prabang
Morning alms procession ceremony (it starts at sunrise, about 5:30), watching from my hotel
Alms procession ceremony

Asia » Thailand » North-West Thailand » Chiang Mai November 9th 2018

Chiang Mai was a bit of a lazy stop for me this time around - long flights, a cold, and speeding through as many islands as possible in Polynesia (oh woe is me) left me a bit worn out. The Old City is surrounded by walls on each side, and was originally founded in 1296 as the new capital of the Lan Na kingdom. Today the old city is still packed with Buddhist temples, and otherwise mostly tourist infrastructure (e.g., if you're craving any western food, toiletries, etc. this is the place for you)...although its interesting to see how both fit together. The global variety of tourists and supporting businesses are interesting, but I doubt many locals still live within the area and almost exclusively saw tourists walking through the streets.... read more
Sunday market
Sunday market
Sunday market - you could find just about anything, including large giraffe statues

Oceania » New Zealand » North Island » Rotorua October 26th 2018

The area around Rotorua is packed with geothermal features, one of my all time favorite things, I could have spent many more days exploring here. The region is somewhat similar to Yellowstone in that there are random features spread across a decent distance...although feels very different because it's fairly commercialized (e.g., in Yellowstone you pay to enter the park and then have access to everything, while in New Zealand every set of features is it's own area with entrance fees...and at one stop they literally poured soap in a geyser to make it erupt on their schedule). There were some amazing colored pools, and it was interesting to see how towns have been built around/on top of some of the geothermal areas. I was also pretty excited to eat corn cooked in a hot spring at ... read more
Flying out of Hokitika
Over the South Island
Over the South Island

Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Hokitika October 21st 2018

Hokitika is a cute little artsy town, near an amazing blue gorge colored by water from glaciers. Both were fantastic...it's still hard to believe that water color is real!... read more
Road to Hokitika (one of many many deer farms)
Hokitika - apparently once a year they have a contest to build the best sculpture out of driftwood
Rainforest near Hokitika

Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Franz Josef October 19th 2018

I developed a slight obsession with glaciers after seeing them up close for the first time in Iceland, and was excited to visit some others. We got lucky with the weather on the first day and were able to do a helicopter tour to walk on the glaciers, which was beautiful...although we both said we were glad we'd done it, but probably wouldn't do it again. You walk across the ice and through lots of teeny tiny crevasses (and I'm using the term walk broadly...as some points were too skinny/slippery to stand and we were pulling ourselves along by a rope above our heads) - lots of beautiful blue ice, but definitely not for anyone slightly claustrophobic.... read more
Road to Franz Josef
Road to Franz Josef
Road to Franz Josef

Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Te Anau October 16th 2018

Te Anua was my base for Milford Sound (luckily seen on a beautiful and sunny day), exploring around Te Anua and the glow worm caves, and a trip to Doubtful Sound (unfortunately quite cloudy but beautiful). My primary takeaways 1) this country is beautiful; 2) this country is freezing (literally snowing when I landed...quite a shock after more than a month in Polynesia); and 3) this country has the cutest lambs I've ever seen (and they like to drink from bottles).... read more
Flying over the Southern Alps
Flying over the Southern Alps
Flying over the Southern Alps




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