Sunday, July 31, 2011

Danang

China Beach
When I arrived in the city of Danang, it was raining like crazy and I was confined to the small, shaded and random sidewalk (in front of a pharmacy) the bus dropped me off at. So I sat down on the ground and watched the local kids play football right in the middle of the road and the rain. I now wish I had thought of taking a picture.. Anyway, one can't sit on sidewalks forever. 
The only other people who had got off the bus with me was a local family who left in a taxi.
I tried asking at the pharmacy where I was, but the pharmacist didn't know a single word of English. I have no idea how to sign language "address". This was one instance when my Lonely Planet became damn useful - there was the Vietnamese sentence for "what is this address?" in it. The LP map of course was as useless as ever, the road wasn't even marked on the map! 

Once I got my bearings, it was time to go find Nha, a couchsurfer who contacted me the day before. Couchsurfing influenced my trip a lot, especially in Danang. I had a fabulous time here and was extremely reluctant to leave and I don't know if I would be saying the same thing if I didn't meet all those amazing people I met through couchsurfing. Nha, her sister and her friend decided to take me on a tour - my favourite kind of tour, a street food tour!

jackfruit mix with crispy rice paper
What is known as "street-food" to me is known as "junk-food" to the people who live here. Sounds unhealthy, but like most Vietnamese food, it isn't! The picture above is some jackfruit mix thing which was very tasty!. Then we walked around trying a few other food items as well. I can't remember the names of the dishes, but I do remember that they were good. In fact, I completely forgot to take pictures since I was so busy digging in.

Hotels in Danang aren't very cheap. Since it is not a prominent hotspot on the backpacker trail, there aren't any cheap guesthouses as well. Once again, I was thankful for couchsurfing since a fellow couchsurfer so kindly offered me her room to sleep in. It is amazing the trust she put in a total stranger like me, giving me her house keys and her room. And no, I didn't wake up in a ice filled bathtub with my kidneys missing. Such hospitality felt both surprising and heartwarming at the same time. That was my first experience of actually surfing someone's 'couch'.

My Khe Beach/ China Beach
The next morning, I drag myself out of the comfy bed and decide to go to the beach. I actually had to walk a bit before finding a 'moto' driver to take me there. Of course, he spoke no english and my pronunciation of "My Khe Beach" was entirely wrong. It was sign language time! First I tried making wave-like movements with my hands. Then I tried saying "beach" in 5 different ways while gesturing wildly. Then I made swimming motions in the air. Of course he had no idea where the idiotic foreign girl in front of him wanted to go. Then my brain started to work and I realized I have the phrase for "beach" in my guidebook. Success!

Gotta love these dustbins!
There seems to be different parts to this beach. I thought it was absolutely beautiful where I was, miles and miles of sand stretching endlessly ahead of me. It wasn't deserted, but it wasn't crowded either. Someone I spoke to in Hanoi said he found the beach to be awful, and that most of it was gated off for private resorts and that you couldn't walk through those parts. He also mentioned lots of high rise hotels and I saw none of these. If you take public transport to get to My Khe beach, like me, it would probably be luck determining your experience of the beach. If you have a motorbike however, do explore further away from the main area - it gets much better.

walking along the beach
Another picture of a coconut
Nearly every coconut I have in Vietnam teaches me one lesson or other the hard way. The previous coconut taught me to ask the price before I gobble the coconut. I took it to heart and made sure that is one will cost me 20000 Dong but the lessons weren't over. This particular coconut taught me to ask the price of the chair that I sit on while having my coconut. That's right, I had to pay for the chair.

Luxury throne for 15000 Dong per seating
No wonder they were all deserted! I shouldn't whine too much though, the chair was mentioned in the menu, albeit at the very bottom in the tiniest font imaginable. It's just blind old me who didn't notice that it was charged.

Cute fishing boats
In retrospect, I loved my (short) time at Danang! Most tourists never make it to Danang, everyone just goes on ahead to Hoi An. Part of me feels that that is a pity, since Danang is lovely, real and had a good energy going for it. The other part of me is aware that the main reason the city is how it is, is because there aren't many tourists there. Tourism tends to change a place and it's often not for the better. However, Danang shows absolutely no signs of becoming a touristy place anytime soon.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pictures of Hue

Coconut, first of many to come
I'm posting a picture of this coconut not because it was tasty or anything, but because it was this expensive (and old) coconut that taught me the importance of asking the price before greedily eating/drinking anything.

Truong Tien Bridge
Hue, Vietnam, was quite a pedestrian friendly city and that was one of the things I loved about it! Even the bridges had a separate lane for walkers.

Vietnamese coffee
That metallic thing you see above the glass has a filter at the bottom of it. They put the coffee grounds in, pour hot water, and the coffee slowly fills the glass which had a layer of condensed milk at the bottom. It's good, strong coffee and you get a bowl (or cup) of ice with it to cool your drink down.

Perfume river
This is the view from one of the cafes that a couchsurfer so kindly took me too! It was gorgeous and cool, a welcome respite from the heat. By the way, Perfume River isn't a very accurate name.. 

At the Citidel
My 3rd day in Hue, I woke up in the morning at 11am to the sweet sounds of construction workers drilling and hammering. I thought it was high time for me to stop spending my holiday lazing around in coffee shops and felt a moral obligation to go do something touristy involving entrance fees. So, I went to visit the Citadel. The entrance fee was 55000 Dong (2.75USD) and it was bloody crowded. 


It was also extremely hot. Maybe if I didn't feel as if I was being barbecued alive in my clothes, I would have enjoyed it more.

Water lilies! Something I liked at the Citadel..
Or maybe this is one of those attractions that are better with company, I don't know. I got bored pretty quickly and walked through all that I could walk though without walking into construction sites (there were many).

A rare section of the Citadel that wasn't swarming with people
I left after about 2 hours, which is a short period of time considering the size of that place. Then I walked to the Dong Ba Market, which was a much more interesting experience. It was quite touristy though, and like all touristy places had it's fair share of pushy vendors and touts. One lady decided that grabbing my shoulders and trying to drag me to her shop would be the best way to sell her wares. I wonder if that tactic has ever worked on any tourist...

The Supermarket!
I was walking back towards the bridge, sweat dripping off my nose when I heard the yell of a moto driver wanting to take me somewhere for too much money. I look in his direction to say 'no' and my eyes fall on this building, gleaming away in the sun in all it's cold, air-conditioned glory!

So of course I had to check it out. It felt real good, seeing price tags after days of having to bargain for everything. This may seem strange, but I like window shopping in supermarkets. There is something I like about wandering up and down aisles and aisles of food, comparing prices and admiring the sheer variety of chocolates and coffee in different supermarkets everywhere.

After some time basking in the aircond, it was a hot walk back to the guesthouse. The lady at Huong Huang GH was kind enough to let me check out 1 hour late and leave my bag there afterwards for no extra charge. That afternoon I hopped on a bus (3 hours, 60000 Dong) to Danang.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Bus That Turned Out To Be A Van

After Champasak, I went back up to Pakse by songthaew again. The ride this time was about 3 times faster than the same trip I did in reverse, because this time the driver didn't feel the need to stop every 5 minutes for no apparent reason like the guy who drove us to Champasak. But that doesn't mean that this ride was any less interesting. After getting settled in my seat, I looked down behind my legs and I saw feathers, lots of feathers. Turns out they were transporting live ducks in that songthaew, all sedated and squeezed together in the space between our seats and the floor. On the floor was some blue sack thing spread out flat to cover nearly the entire floor of the vehicle. I placed my feet on it, thinking it was lining for the floor and the three Lao ladies opposite me squealed in panic and unison. Upon closer inspection, the blue sack was wiggling! So they were transporting live fish as well.

Halfway along the journey, the movement from within the sack reduced... the songthaew screeched to a halt by the side of the road and armed with a plastic bag, the driver made a mad dash into the forest/bushes/jungle next to the road which happened to have a stream running, filled up the bag and bolted back to the songthaew, splashed the water all over the floor of the truck (tired of typing songtheaw) and saved the day fish! The excitement of it all, I tell you..

Pakse was mostly boring. I got chased by a stray dog. It got frightened away by my scream of terror, the irony of it all. I also met an interesting traveler who educated me on the ins and outs of getting an illegal student visa in Malaysia and how to dodge with finesse the immigration officials who come checking on the validity of their "university". No doubt it was good advice coming from an expert, since he admitted to having done so himself. I don't see myself having any practical use for such knowledge, but no harm knowing.


A big picture of Pakse to break up the blocks of text

My original plan after Pakse was to take the bus up to Savannakhet, then from there take another bus to Hue in Vietnam. However, when I saw a sign at Bao Linh Cafe (it is on the same street as Nazim's indian restaurant, at the end of the block away from the tourist area, closer to the bank) promoting VIP Bus tickets direct to Hue from Pakse, I got lazy. I shouldn't have got lazy, since the ticket cost me bloody 27USD, but I thought I was paying for a relatively normal, comfortable journey.

The next morning, I turn up as arranged at the cafe at 6.30am. They get a small tuktuk for me, and tell me that it will take me to my bus. The tuktuk driver brings me to this rotten minivan waiting by the side of some road somewhere and tells me that is my VIP bus. I try to argue with him how I paid for a bus, not this falling apart little thing he was trying to shove me into. He grabs my ticket, I grab it back and next thing I know, he grabbed my ticket from me and ran off on his tuktuk. So there I was, with no ticket, middle of nowhere, with a minivan full of Vietnamese people yelling at me in Vietnamese to get in the van already so that they can start moving again. Not knowing what else to do, I got into that van anyway. In hindsight, maybe I should have gone back to that Bao Linh Cafe and demanded those cheaters to put me on a bus or give me my money back but it didn't strike me then to do that.

The van turned out to be full of sacks of flour (or rice?). I surrendered my backpack to the driver (who promptly buried it under the sacks of flour) and went climbing over the sacks to get myself into a seat. Just as I was comforting myself that at least it wasn't too crowded, the minivan stopped again and took in so many people that it was a sheer miracle the van didn't burst. It was crowded enough to make the General compartment of an Indian train look like a luxury ride. If you have been to India, you'll know what I mean.

Finally in Vietnam

The ride was about 11 hours which was not too bad. Once the initial shock of being in the same minivan as a group of men smuggling baby turtles in laptop bags (no kidding) wore off, I sat stewing in self pity for a while. But not very long, since everyone started sharing rambutans, chocolates, bread, energy drinks and all kinds of random grub that it was impossible to stay gloomy when total strangers are so generous to me. I also got taught an impromptu lesson in basic Vietnamese, so it turned out to be a decent journey after all.     

In conclusion, never buy your bus tickets from Bao Linh Cafe in Pakse.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Champasak

Luggage carrier at the bus stop

I loved this place from the moment I saw it

The usual Wat

Lao coffee with milk

At the entrance of Wat Phu

Really?

I could have looked at this for a long time, Wat Phu

Elephant on the rock, Wat Phu


So much moss in wet season!

View from the main temple at Wat Phu

Sacred water at the aqueduct; dripping from the cliff for centuries


This is an attractive place to be if you, like me, have a penchant for doing nothing much but whiling away the days relaxing in a nice, normal, relatively non touristy little place with the friendliest people I have ever met.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Return to Vientiane

Note: Quite a few people have ended up on this post after googling for the bus ride from hell. To summarize:

1. It is definitely not as bad as it seems! The bus was comfy and my journey was quick. We reached the border a few hours early, but it was no problem to just sleep on the bus until 8am. I would do it again if I need to, no problem!

2. It could turn out to be nasty if you aren't lucky - it all depends on circumstances and do buy your tickets from a reputed tour agent.

3. You'll have to pay for this and that at the border - so make sure you have small change in Dong and/or Kip!


I am back here, after the week of madness that was Vietnam. When I planned this trip, too many people berated me on my plans and told me I should pick only one country instead of trying to see both Vietnam and Laos. I just couldn't bring myself to pick and now I am glad I didn't. It's been very interesting transitioning between the two neighbours. In that short period of time, being in Vietnam put me through so many different kinds of emotions, often many in one day. It was very up and down, swinging between extremes. I don't know how anyone can objectively say "I love Vietnam!" or "I hate Vietnam" because the country and it's people makes it damn hard for you to decide.

One moment I would be seething in fury and sitting on the roadside with steam coming out of my ears after dealing with a horrible, barbaric person and muttering "get me the hell out of this place!" but it never lasts long. The next moment some exceedingly kind, big hearted person would do something so insanely amazing that all my anger would melt away leaving me all doe eyed thinking "I love this country!". This happened multiple times over the course of one day. It was all quite exhausting, but an interesting experience nevertheless.

I was a bundle of nerves when I first got to Hue and after a while, I calmed down. I even liked the energy of Hanoi, in a particular way. Today my nerves feel slightly unsettled again leaving Hanoi and getting back to Vientiane. This is completely unexpected, who knew the transition from "crazy" to "sleepy" can also make me jittery. As always, my mental self is still in the previous country even though my physical self has moved on, as evidenced by the fact that I accidentally paid for my dinner in Dong (that is the Vietnamese currency, not Lao) and I keep counting my change twice (kept on getting shortchanged in Vietnam).

To get here, I took the overnight VIP sleeper bus from Hanoi direct to Vientiane. Cost me 32USD as I bought it from a travel agency at the Old Quarter in Hanoi. If you buy it from the bus station which is quite a distance out of town, it was 500000 VND, which is about 25USD. By the way, this bus ride is also known as the bus ride from hell. So how did I find it? Well, at 5 pm, this motorbike pulled up in front of my guesthouse and took me to this tour office to wait for the bus. At 5.35pm, this guy came and walked us through the alleyways to a waiting taxi. The taxi brought us somewhere near the bus station but dropped us off in front of a bank, where we were asked to wait for a while. Around 6.30pm, we moved from waiting in front of the bank to waiting in front of a parking lot. After about 15 minutes of waiting, we were all herded to wait in the waiting room of the bus station. Around 7.30pm, we got our tickets and were allowed to get to the places were the buses were parked. Then we sat around in front of our bus waiting some more for about 30 minutes before we could finally get into the bus. I think even reading this paragraph was boring.

To cut a very long story short, after more waiting the bus moved. It was a nice bus, and I'm of Asian proportions (read: short) enough to find the sleeper nice and spacious. But too bad my seat was right next to the toilet and initially there was a bit of a stink... Middle of the night, we stopped in the middle of nowhere and a whole group of Vietnamese people crowded into the bus and made themselves comfy on the floor in the aisles between the sleeper seats. This local guy tried to pull the whole camel and the tent thing with my sleeper seat that I paid dearly for (he inched into my seat bit by bit), and for the first time in my life, my bony elbows were such useful weapons. Effective too, as he swapped places with his more civilized friend who slept peacefully in the aisle and didn't try to cuddle with me.

The border crossing for this trip was the Namphao (Laos)/ Lak Sao (Vietnam) crossing. It was cold and misty at 6 in the morning, but absolutely gorgeous! Mountainous with a river running by the side, plus a lady selling awesome fried bananas on the Lao side. This was a much cheaper (much less bribe needed) and easier crossing than the one I did one week ago, which was the Dansavanh/Lao Bao crossing, which was also set among extremely beautiful surroundings, some of the most gorgeous settings I've seen. So now you know where to go if you want to see some pretty mountains. I knew I had arrived in Laos when the people at the Lao immigration smiled at me. After an entire week, someone actually had the decency to say thank you to me after taking my money. Nobody scowled at me for no reason. People are nice. I was almost moved to tears but then decided to be not so ridiculous.


The world feels oddly quiet and peaceful now, such a nice feeling. After so many nights of dormitories and overnight buses, today I felt the need to splurge and got myself a nice room with hot water and cable tv (omg tv!). A little pricey, but tomorrow I plan to move to the infamous but cheap Sabaidy GH Dorm, so it is necessary. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hanoi

I am now in Hanoi. Still alive though slightly fatter thanks to the awesome Vietnamese street food. This makes me feel that my one true regret in life is that my stomach isn't a bottomless pit. There is just so much to eat and everything is just so damn delicious and cheap that making a choice is such a tough thing to do!

It's been raining like crazy here. It is supposed to be the hot season with no rain, but who knows why it has been pouring non stop from the moment I stepped off the bus at 7.30am this morning (it is now 2.16pm). I'm staying at Real Darling Cafe guesthouse, a dorm bed for 4USD. This time I wasn't so lucky to have the whole dorm to myself. My dorm mate is a young Japanese guy who is rather cute but sadly speaks almost no English at all :( He looks mild enough though, hardly the serial killer type, so I should survive the night in one piece.

Finding an Internet cafe in this extremely touristy Old Quarter of Hanoi has been a real pain. The internet offered at the GH is too slow to be any good and every other place offers "free" internet as long as you use their services, which will be more expensive than any normal internet shop by the hour. After lots of walking I caved in and bought myself a coffee at this cafe with free internet and I'm currently trying to stretch that one glass of overpriced coffee for as long as possible. I have been drinking way too much coffee for my own good but the Vietnamese coffee really is quite delicious. Not as awesome as the Lao coffee to which I have pledged my eternal undying love, but still acceptably awesome nevertheless.

So far today I have yet to be ripped off, which is quite an achievement since it is already 2.25pm! Usually I would have been overcharged a million times by now. On a less positive note, I don't quite remember how I got to this cafe since it was a nice long walk with plenty of stops for street food. Getting back to my Real Darling is going to require some careful scrutiny of my LP map.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hue

I admit, I freaked out last night. I was in Vietnam physically but my soul was still chilling on that hammock overlooking the Mekong in Champasak, so when I saw a sudden frenzy of motorbikes, traffic and people, my god, all those people - I got a bit of a culture shock. I got roughly pushed out of my comfort zone and that didn't feel too good.

I miss Laos and find myself giving longing looks to the buses that are headed there, but from the morning until now, I'm slowly adjusting to being surrounded by crowds, buildings and traffic lights again. My experience here is improving slowly and I even feel calm and happy now, yay! It is much harder to meet other travelers here since I have the entire dorm to myself and everyone else just walks around in huge herds according to their nationality (compared to Laos where even an introvert like me could find people to hang out with everyday) and the locals aren't as friendly as what I am used to, but Couchsurfing has helped a lot. Dinner later tonight with a couchsurfer and also, I got to meet up with two girls who live here over lunch and it was good fun to know that some things transcend borders and language barriers. For example, "Twilight", "Outsourced" and good old gossip. Food has been good so far, although expensive and in the afternoon they whisked me away on their motorbikes to go have coffee (such good coffee!) at the most gorgeous riverside cafe that I have been in. I could have sat at that cafe for all day long, since it was so cool and had an awesome vibe, but the girls had to leave to go back, and since it was out of the way and they were my ride back, I had to leave too.

The original plan was to go walk around to the other side of the river (this city sits on two sides of a river) and check out the market there, but it started drizzling and some crazy winds hinting at an equally crazy storm started so I ducked into this Internet shop (3000 dong an hour, happy me!). Everyone outside packed up their tables/chairs/signboards but now, just 10 minutes later, there is no sign of rain. The sun is out again, but I'm too settled in this chair to move away right now.

So far, I have been ripped off once (USD 2 for a bloody coconut! ) and the vendors have also tried to short change me multiple times. Hello, do I look like I don't know how to count?! The motorbike taxi drivers however have been very accepting of a "no" with a smile, with the exception of one guy who took great pains to tell me what an important oppurtunity in life I am giving up by not going on his bike and following his advice to the T. Well, too bad.

Anyway, tomorrow morning fingers crossed I'll be able to wake up early, go visit the Citidel and the market on the other side of the river, then I'm off on a bus to Danang at 2.00 pm (60000 Dong).

Saturday, July 9, 2011

In Vietnam

Yesterday, I bought myself a very expensive VIP ticket to Hue in Vietnam (leaving this morning) because I had had enough of sharing transport with live ducks and fish wriggling at my feet. Adventure be damned, I just wanted some comfort!

Today I had the most adventurous and nerve wrecking day so far. VIP bus turned out to be a major scam and I happened to be the only victim (today). Some day in the future (maybe tomorrow) I will sit down and update this space on the details of the events that has left my nerves so frazzled.

Anyway, thankfully I ended up safe in Hue, where I am writing this from a tour agency who is letting me use their computer for 50cents an hour. As a 'reward' of sorts from today's hardships, I got lucky with accomodation. I'm paying USD 3.50 for a dorm bed at Hoang Huang Guesthouse which doesn't sound so awesome on its own until you take into account the fact that there are only 3 beds in one dorm and I have this dorm all to myself! Plus there's hot water...

Currently I am experiencing something of a culture shock since I'm coming from Laos. There are motorbikes everywhere and it is so damn noisy! I suppose I wouldn't feel it so badly if I'm coming from home, but my mind is still used to the silence of Laos that this chaos is making me feel very shakey (is that a word?) right now. Plus so many tourists, which feels sooo strange after days of being with mostly Lao people.

On a more comical note, everybody is convinced that I am from Thailand! Isn't that absolutely strange? No one is even asking me to make sure of my origins, they just go right ahead and say random Thai phrases to me, or offer to change my 'baht' into their 'dong'. Either that or they tell me "thailand number 1! vietnam number 1!" and when i say I'm from Malaysia, all I get is a "huh?!" look. Being an Asian backpacker in Asia can be frustrating at times, but so funny the other times! They just don't know what to make of me.. A brown falang is such an anomaly.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pakse

So I didn't oversleep after all. After a rather interesting (but quick) songtheaw ride from Champasak today that involved live ducks and wiggling fish at my feet, I'm here! I set about finding accomodation based on the lonely planet, but good old LP proved itself to be completely inaccurate as it does everyday here in Laos. Phonsavanh GH which was supposed to be above Nazim restaurant and good value, turned out to be about 200m from the restaurant and 60000kip (USD 7.5) for a shabby room with cold water and fan. After much searching (surprisingly difficult to get cheap accomodation in Pakse in low season) I end up at Thaleun GH, a single room with aircond and cable tv for 60000kip. So far, Pakse is pretty boring, rather uncharming. It was a bit of a surprise to see lots of traffic after those days at Champasak.But that's alright, this wasn't entirely unexpected and it's nice to take a day to rest and recuperate before tomorrow's long bus journey to the city of Hue, in Vietnam.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chilling in Champasak

Champasak has got me hooked. Today I was supposed to get to Pakse, but I woke up this morning, just didn't feel like it and so went back to sleep. What that meant was my morning plans for Wat Phu were pushed to the afternoon.

I had a good day today, woke up late after a solid 13hours of sleep, had a nice cup of Lao coffee (finally satisfied after craving for it for 6 months), spent some time chilling in the hammock and gazing at the Mekong river flowing by while reading my book, then found two other French travelers to share a tuktuk to Wat Phou with. They were such entertaining companions although since their English wasn't very comprehensible and the only French I know is 'bon appetit', it was like playing charades all the way. Lots of crazy sign language aided with a French-English language handbook made for rather interesting 'conversations'!

80000 kip (10USD) for the whole tuktuk including return journey, which is not a bad deal when you consider the fact that Wat Phu is 10km away and it becomes drastically cheap if you can get many people to share the tuktuk with you. The entrance fee to Wat Phu is 30000 kip, which isn't exorbitant nor is it particularly cheap. The temples are supposed to be alike to the Angkor Wat, just not on such a grand scale. 'Hindu temples with Khmer architecture', they say. Personally, I thought it was simply lovely! It is very untouristed though, which means that all the signboards were in Lao script and it was a struggle to figure out what exactly you were looking at.

Lots of steep steps to climb to get to the main temple place so you will arrive there dripping in sweat while the amused Lao people selling drinks at the top smile at you. Also, many rough trails covered with rocks, grass and since its the rainy season, a bit of mud to get to the sacred site of the Spring (more like a trickle of water through the cliffs), the carved Elephant on the stone (which was amazing, since it is so unassuming, simple, artistic and you realize it is there only after a few seconds of staring at the stone looking for an elephant) , Buddha's footprint on the stone, and supposedly a carving of the Crocodile (tried really hard but couldn't spot the croc). Overall, it just has a nice vibe going for it, definitely something you should not miss should you find yourself in Champasak!

What is fascinating about this temple is that it was originally a Hindu temple centuries ago but now, today, it is the most sacred spot in Laos for Buddhism. Amazing how the place is still the same, but the religion has changed.

Since it is currently low season (tourist season) in Laos due to the crazy heat, Wat Phu was very empty, which was nice. That's the reason my guesthouse (Phondavanh GH) is so cheap, people are so generous with giving me free food (I got pineapple today!), tuktuks aren't expensive, everything is nice and not crowded. It is also mentioned in various websites that this is also the rainy season in Laos. Well, don't let that scare you away. I came prepared with an umbrella but so far the only use I have for my umbrella is to shield me from the sun. If it does rain, it rains hard and fast, it's over in a second.

Wat Phu, Champasak

So, tomorrow I will hopefully get to Pakse. The latest songtheaw is at 8.30 am which is a bit early, let's hope I can wake up in time to get it. If I oversleep (and a small part of me is wishing I will oversleep), I will just have to stay another day in this peaceful town :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sabaidy!

First of all, this computer's language is set to French and I have no clue how to change it to English, which means there will probably be spelling errors all over this post. 



Secondly, to make my baggage lighter this time, I had the genius idea of cutting out the appropriate pages from my LP guidebook, just for the places I planned to visit. Only this morning when I was stranded in some random bus stop, had no clue in the world where I was (supposed to be Pakse), was surrounded by Lao people, none of whom knew a word of English, did I realize that I conveniently forgot to bring along the English-Lao translation pages. Not cool. But I did remember that after Pakse, I wanted to go to Champasak so repeating "Champasak, Champasak!" a few times to a few people in the bus station got me on the right songtheaw and here I am, in lovely Champasak.

Thirdly, Lao people are so darn honest! I have given them ample opportunity to rip me off so many times from yesterday till today, and yet no one has even tried to cheat me yet! I feel that they are more reserved than their Thai or Cambodian neighbours, but the honesty is incredible. Plus, one thing that hasn't changed since my last trip in January is their generosity with food. Almost every songtheaw ride involves a Feed the Falang session! (Falang = Lao for foreigner) In January it was some strange sour round fruits, this time it was a packet of sunflower seeds and one really huge (but very tough, real work for the teeth) baguette. How nice if this kind of thing happens back home as well!

Fourthly, people have been so nice! Despite all the difficulties faced with yesterday's and today's travels, I've also met some very good people who went out of their way to help me out for nothing in return..

Fifthly, Champasak is really nice! Plus the guesthouse I'm staying at is located in a nice spot, with nice views of the Mekong from the restaurant. Only 30000 kip (nearly 4USD) for a double room with an attached bathroom, no less! Sure, the bathroom looks a little dodgy and the walls are flimsy and need a coat of paint, but the room is spacious, has a towel rack in the sun to dry my laundry, what more could I ask for at that price. The name of the place? I just realized that I have no idea.