I was getting quite stressed with this bloody blog, due to lagging way behind the realtime moment. Caused in general by shite internet. Photo uploads have been nigh on impossible, due to the frustration caused. In addition to blogging which helps keep my brain ticking over for any potential job interviews. We are intent on having maximum fun, whilst also chilling as much as possible, not to be part of the rat race just yet! So net use and the blog has just been fucked off to enable stress levels to be kept at a low ebb. The job search is also on the back burner, for now at least – the funds, tho’ depleting are not causing alarm bells to go off just quite yet. I’ve also had the time and much advice from some very helpful individuals, which I’m very thankful for (you knows who you are, cheers all), to finally settle on a theme and design I’m happy with, well 95% so.
The net situation is better here in Luang Prabang, only marginally, but good enough, so let’s blog on. It took ages to get the last one done and I’m not feeling as if it was worth it? Hopefully I’ve not got the so called writers block. There’s plenty of interesting shite happened so we should be ok. You out there can be the judges to that – I’ve not advertised the blog personally as I got enough shit on The Book, so if it’s any good in your opinion, spread the word.
A few special select do know, and you knows who you are 🙂 Think of it like any early chrimbo present from the KP & Me to you 🙂 I’m slowly becoming the size of fucking santa so it suits. In my haste to get the last blog penned, I slipped blogging about a very special part of Laos…………… THE BEER!
It really is the best beer in Asia. I’m thinking of the contenders – Tiger (not unique), Singa (results in the shits), Angkor or Cambodia (Girly sized cans). The woman responsible for this unique beverage was trained in the Czech Republic, which when regarding beer naturally makes you sit up and take notice! By her own admission she doesn’t booze herself, which makes the tipple even more impressive. Surely she must have tasted it though during the initial process, which she modified replacing expensive traditional hops with rice. Even tho’ its very pallatable one of the most refreshing aspect in my eyes anyway, is that it comes in jumbo sized bottles. So when having four or five you know you’ve had a drop. In Cambodia when the KP would be giving it “you’ve had five beers already” when actually it’s only about two pints. Here if I’ve had five or six I bloody know I have, my legs start to tell me. Ohhhh and it’s generally 10,000 kip a bottle, bargain.
We leave Si Pan Don on a big bus, with a whole seat each which is much welcomed. The bus departure is possible as the Chinese have recently constructed a bridge to Don Khone, the big Island. We should be in Pakse in 3 or so hours the leg room is bliss, well worth the 20,000 Kip fare.
We arrive and thankfully a Tuk-Tuk driver is on hand to take us to the centre of town. Due to the recent lack of the net, we’ve not yet got a room sorted so we stop at a cafe, take lunch and check Agoda to help minimise the leg work. I leave our packs with the KP and Laos coffee and go and check our first choice digs. It’s overpriced for what it is, so I check another and it’s full. A hotel across the street looks ok, it’s without character but the rooms are clean and modern and the net is relatively fast. During the gander I checked another guest house where I was more interested in the bikes, which we’ll go back for once settled and showered. We are planning a two or three night stay, there’s a extremely old temple ruin to check out called Wat Phu & also the Bolvean plateau where they grow the growing in popularity Laos coffee. Upon returning to the cafe where I’ve left the KP there’s a pamphlet advertising a tree top experience, which involves trekking and a zip-line adventure which we are most interested in, it’s something else neither of us has done before.
I go back for the bike, which is 10,000 a day. Compared to the majority of previous wheels we’ve had it should be 110,000 it’s all shiny and new, with brakes I can only compare to an F1 race car. Thank fuck I pulled the back and not the front the first time I checked them. It’s about three-ish so we got no time to visit any of the sites as sundown is well before six. We cruise the town as I’m comfortable enough now to have a two wheel gander. A nice town it is too, larger than what we were led to believe by the guide-less book we’ve got, which in fairness is not that bad, sometimes it’s even been a good source of info, just need to take the words lightly. There’s quite a few larger than your average asian roundabouts to navigate with 4 lanes merging, more learning which is welcome. I’m not saying I could do Bangkok on two wheels but the improvement continues, might even get wheels back home, perhaps a mighty 125cc 🙂 🙂 🙂
The city is too serious for me to be doing it on wheels after a few scoops, no doubt a serious offence in Laos as the place seems more in touch with the western world, even tho’ its population and wealth is a lot lot less than it’s bordering neighbours. So we park up and explore on foot – It’s a clean, neat & tidy town. If any of you have experienced the gut wrenching smells of Phnom Pehn, you’ll understand what a pleasure it is to be in Pakse.
There’s a sense of order, nice motors cruising about, lots of new bikes. No street hawkers or late night kids begging and selling tat for their possibly drug induced parents. It’s a bit like Cambo’s Kampot that’s had some sort of a magical polish, like it’s the best silver, as there’s no bad sorts there either. We take food and cocktails at the roof top bar of the hotel where I thought the rooms were over priced. Happily the drinks and grub are not, sunset here would be fantastic but we’ve missed it for today. We retire most happy with our arrival in modern world Laos, on an appreciated comfortable bed.
After a complimentary buffet brekkie we hit the road about half six, we’ve got 40 Klicks to cover – our longest ‘road trip’ to date, the very first I suppose. The journey starts with a big river crossing and then a slick road east. I’m happy the helmets have visors as we’re going at pace, 60, 70, 80 klicks an hour the surface and the bike allow it. I’m sure it would be possible to hit a ton ten comfortably, whether this feat was attempted is an unsolved mystery. The bike is a dream, automatic and but it goes when it wants, responsive, comfortable and if I was a hair dresser (I’m pie hot at doing my own, so maybe that counts?) bloody sexy.
The bike might just be the dogs bollocks, but the road is even better. A pristine surface, it’s even better than the standard back home, as it’s fresh – the KP is gob smacked. Now I love the RoK and many aspects of it but the main roads are a fucking piss take, almost medieval and rutted to fuck. The KP’s comment when we were doing the South Welsh mountains, a most beautiful part of the world by the way – “It feels like we’re swimming.”
A russian expression, she means it’s like your gliding down the river on a calm sunday afternoon. The road surface here & now, does actually make me think of home, and apart from the people, I don’t miss it! It’s most probably pissing it down with horizontal rain, it’s Xmas also with all the bollocks that brings. I’m happy to be here free on the road in the sun with my diamond on the back.
After a few twists and turns we arrive at our destination, park up careful to lock the bike, it’s highly pinch-able and the fee for replacement is $3500. Too smart to drive around Phnom Penh that’s for sure. Hey what am I thinking I won’t be driving there, ever, too chicken oriental however competent I may become. Wat Phu which is currently undergoing renovation is located in Champasak, a small town stretching along the western bank of the Mekong. There’s a selection of guesthouses but we’ve chosen to be centrally located in the city, to avoid moving our shit so often. The temple it’self is mainly ruins, but it’s not only that which is impressive. The temple, it’s location and the small lakes, including the landscape which is not totally natural but partly developed, is more than a 1,000 years old! As always in Asia there is a deep meaning to it all, as described in the mini guide it’s a Hindu vision of the relationship between nature and humanity. They’ve done a smashing job as can be seen from all angles. It’s as traditional as it comes.
The buildings themselves are not as impressive as Angkor Wat in Cambo, but it’s older. I’m not sure if i dreamt it or read it somewhere, but it’s somehow linked to the Cambodian Jewel by the moon and stars, which I’m sure google could help with if you are really interested. It’s currently undergoing restoration, painstakingly stone by stone each one numbered to ensure it’s correct final position. Preparing the drawings would have been interesting, I don’t mean the originals. That would have been ground breaking. I’m referring to those done recently to ensure the renovation goes to plan. I wonder if the latest drawings are produced traditionally ? No for sure they’d use some computer aided design system? If i’d been involved a 3D scan would have been paramount before the dismantling programme commenced. Considering where we are tho’ who knows, maybe it’s all in someones head 😉 ? I hope you understand that I’m playing, or maybe just tying to convince myself. Thankfully they are constructing it as traditionally as possible, many of the stones are original, possibly all? Tho’ I suspect some are new but if they are, they are from the original source, or bloody close to it. The site of the cranes, most probably unwelcome to some, spoiling the photos they want to take. I’m happy they are there, as it really makes you think how the bloody hell they built it in the first place. It’s a challenge and a half even now. So the engineer in me shall explain for you all – I have no bloody idea! 🙂 but for sure rollers, pulleys and counterweight systems would have been used, and of course a whole load of manpower – That at least is certain!
I get some final shots before leaving, some of which you’ll see edited in an over saturated, softened style, which seems to be popular with some. I’m not sure if I like it or not? If you got the time and can be bothered, please let me know what you think in the comments.
About half way back to the city, we stop at a venue which is again on the river. It’s a bit upmarket, with a crackingly unique style Xmas tree. The Bloody Mary’s are smashing, the KP thinks “it’s her best one ever!” Which draws a stare from myself as I take great pride in the production of the only cocktail I can properly create. She loves a wind up, but here I think she’s being serious? It is bloody lovely with a subtle kick, but of course I’ve made better! I don’t even check with her to see if she was being serious or not 🙂
In the evening we try an Indian/Malay restaurant close to the digs, called Jasmine. Now the KP doesn’t hate Indian grub, but she’s not too keen on it. In five previous attempts she has only ever really enjoyed one. That was a new style, bit pricey posh one back home, following her Cardiff City debut. Regardless she agrees that we stick to the Indian side of the menu. Indian would usual be my preference but Malay food it’s meant to be one of the finest. I can’t comment as I’ve never sampled it, and I’m not likely too in the near future as I’m currently undergoing a self imposed Malaysian ban. The flights, the country, the food, anything Malay especially Vincent Tan who is the current deluded owner of Cardiff City, my first love, who I no longer know when they are playing, never mind who! That’s all I have to say on the matter or this will turn into a major rant, which could result in a lawsuit. In one line – ‘He killed my Club!’
The food yet simple is fantastic, tasty and zingy but not mental spicy. Just your tongue having a mini disco, not a full on hard core rave. The KP laps it up, I’ve never seen her enjoy a meal as much and she loves a good feed, I thought she was going lick the plates. It’s a major event in our relationship as she’s now more keen on having another go. Indians can be addictive and I’ve not had my fill during my time overseas. Before the grub we’d enquired about the zip-lining, there’s no availability for a few days, but we agree it’s a must try. So we will be staying a while more in our first Laos city, before we depart at the end of the week to our second, Luang Prabang in the North.
The next day we’ve got about the same distance to travel, but in the opposite direction. Plus we’ll be climbing, up the Bolvean Plateau which is elevated between eight and sixteen hundred metres above sea level. We’ve been told it’s chilly, more so than Mondulkuri in Cambo, so additional clothing is required. We check out the local market during a quiet morning. The selection is not great as only one stall has anything suitable, hoodies, nice thick ones that look warm, we settle on a matching pair due to size restrictions and the fact we like being a bit nuts now and again, when we can.
The road is not the pristine condition of yesterday’s, it’s acceptable tho’. The only thing lacking is the surface course, which means for a more challenging ride. At certain sections the chipping’s are totally loose and more care is required. Noticeably and quite important is that there are no pot holes, it’s a relatively smooth surface. This is important as I’m expecting it to be getting dark when we are returning to the city. We are hoping to view some of the impressive waterfalls in the region during the next few hours. What’s noticeable as we climb into the Plateau is the drop in temperature, as we increase altitude. The top end on our super wheels is now just 40Km/h so the incline must be quite a slope, it’s difficult to tell going up but it should be more prevalent when we are coming back down. We visit three in total, the last of which is the most impressive two 100m drops spewing into oblivion. The photo’s don’t really do it justice. The second has a pallet you could float on pull & yourself to the fall and a small cave beneath – We don’t do it! I’m not sure why but i’m not happy about it now and wasn’t either later in the day. We missed a great opportunity for a laugh, it was bloody cold tho’ and we didn’t really have right gear with us, the KP did have flip flops on tho’ as didn’t take my earlier advice. Haha babes you’ll be sorry.
We grab a coffee before heading off and to be honest I’m not that impressed. We’ve tried it a few times now since being in the region. It’s served with a sweet milk that has the consistency of treacle, which results in we are not quite sure what? We’re not too keen on it anyways, the day has been good tho’ so now back to the city, it should take us just over an hour. The sun has already disappeared, so as predicted it’s going to be a dark return journey, well not as predicted actually, as it’s going to be pitch black. I was hoping we’d be entering town about now, we are more than an hour late. Which is my fault for playing with the camera, using the opportunity as an aperture/shutter training session. Hope you like the results and the effort was worth it, as the KP’s not happy – cursing our departure time. Her little footsie wootsies are freezing cold, bless her poor dab. I bet they bloody are freezing tho’ my face and hands are numbing quickly as we descend, it’s one hell of a constant slope more than I earlier imagined. It’s already started raining and getting heavier. I’m hoping it will stop when we get low enough, which thankfully it does, just at about the same time the KP’s feet are ready to drop off! I don’t think the flip flops will be such popular attire in the future 🙂 Live and learn babes 🙂 The drive is quite a serious challenge due to the weather, road surface and lack of lighting. A bit of a stupid thing to be doing actually, so I’m learning also for sure, avoid dangerous situations on the bike! There’s trucks, Tuk-Tuks and a few mad bike drivers, but in fairness most are considerate on the road. Just as I’m thinking how fortunate we are to have top brakes and no pot holes, we smash straight into a sizeable one, better than swerving for sure but I’m thinking we might have a blow out as the rear slams into the hole. We get lucky!
Ourselves and bike are good just a bit wet and cold. Happy to be back safe and in one piece. Tomorrow are the plans for something which has the potential to be the highlight of the tour so far. I’m bricking them a little bit, excited but too concerned to be thinking come on – bring it on!! The KP says she’s cool, I nod and I’m happy for her, but I remember her first Helter Skelter experience, in Cardiff. A fair ground ride designed for six year olds. Her words coming off were “why the fuck did I go on there, I almost shit myself”. I’ve got a photo, but can’t find it right now. So it will be interesting to see how we are tomorrow…..so interesting in fact, it deserves a blog all of it’s own.
MERRY XMAS TO ALL – HAVE A CRACKING DAY, please like the blog if you do so.