The KimChi Disaster

Nestled in the meanders of the cocoa brown Mekong River overlooking jungle and mountains, Luang Prabang really is situated in a very scenic area. We arrived by minibus from Vang Vieng after twisting our way through the mountains, keen to explore more of what Lao has to offer.

Upon our arrival we found a guesthouse just out of the town centre and headed in for some food after visiting a few of the town’s temples. The guidebook suggested that Tamarind Restaurant was well worth a visit with it’s traditional take on Lao food and so that was where we went. Looking through the menu it was clear that the food on offer was unlike any food you would expect to see in many other restaurants. Particular stand outs included stir-fried frog and fried buffalo meat with buffalo bile and tripe to add to the flavour. We opted for some slightly safer options, fish cooked in banana leaves (a Lao speciality) and barbecued buffalo (without the tripe and bile!). The meals were sadly disappointing, maybe we should have been more adventurous!

The next day we headed out to the Kuang Si waterfalls, 32km from the town centre. They were a very impressive series of waterfalls working their way through the jungle slopes, the biggest of which was a huge 50m, you could feel the spray from miles away! We spent a very rewarding few hours swimming in the pools and relaxing in the refreshing cold water.

That evening it transpired that our poor run of luck with regards to food was to continue. We ate at The Big Tree Cafe, given it’s name by the truly enormous tree outside of it’s entrance. Sitting beneath the shade of its branches we chose from the large array of dishes on offer. I decided to be a bit more adventurous after the let down of the night before and opted for KimChi fried rice. I had no idea what it was and hoped it would be good!

Now up until now I have taken care not to order particularly spicy food as I’ll happily admit that I am not great at handling large amounts of chilli.

I probably shouldn’t have ordered KimChi fried rice…

KimChi fried rice turned out to be fried rice mixed with green chillies. After I has taken a few bites my mouth was on fire, I was bright red in the face and apparently I looked like I had just run a marathon with the sweat appearing on my face. Needless to say I will now make sure that when I’m feeling a bit more adventurous about ordering food in South East Asia I will try and make sure that one of its main ingredients is not green chilli! Tonight it seemed that the motto of the SAS is not always correct, he who dares does not always win.

Tales of the Travelling Twins: Viva Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng.

A backpacker’s paradise. Infamous for tubing. Great nightlife. Great fun. Definitely worth a visit.

That is what we had heard and why were so keen to come here. We arrived after a long, arduous journey consisting of an overnight train and what was undoubtedly a local bus from Vientiane to here. It seemed as though some of the people on the bus had brought their whole lives with them they were so weighed down with bags!

Upon our arrival it was pretty obvious that the guidebook had spoken a lot of truth. It seemed as though every building was either a guesthouse or a restaurant, there was certainly not a shortage of either. FRIENDS was on in every other restaurant and there were also a number of adventure tour operators advertising tubing, kayaking, canyoning and caving. The town was smaller than we expected but was incredibly easy to navigate, especially with all the English signs!

Having heard other people rave so much about tubing we were very keen to try it the next day. However, being the rainy season the weather forced us to find something else to do. We therefore spent the day visiting the Kaeng Nyui waterfall trail which turned out to be worth a visit.

However, we didn’t have long to wait for our first tubing experience to begin. The next day the weather was nicer and so we headed out on the river with an American couple we had met the day before who had been here for almost two weeks now they loved it so much. A great day chilling and drinking on the river ensued. Looking at past videos tubing is definitely not how it used to be but we had a great time nonetheless!

However my personal highlight of the last few days happened at Sakura Bar the night before last. Behind the bar was a 5 litre glass jar full of Lao-Lao whiskey. Now Lao-Lao whiskey is bad at the best of times. However, this whiskey had been distilled with 20 dead geckos in it. Not pleasant! One of the guys we were with said he buy one if anyone wanted to try it. I hastily refused but Neeks, much to my surprise, accepted. I guess we know who the braver twin is!

Viva Vang Vieng!

Tales of the Travelling Twins: Part One

So, after months of waiting, we are finally in South East Asia! Our journey here was luckily very smooth though the stopover in Abu Dhabi was certainly not enjoyable due to the fact that it was at 4am English time. We touched down in Bangkok at 8pm local time which tuned out to be very good for us as we got on the sky-train to a stop just a couple of minutes walk from our hostel, which was very easy to find. We collapsed happily into our beds!

After a good night’s sleep we spent the next day exploring the temples of Bangkok. We visited the very touristy Wat Po and it’s 46m long, 15m high reclining Bhudda depicting Bhudda going into the final nirvana. It really was enormous! We also visited some much smaller temples, one of which stuck out more than the others. It was very small with one man sitting outside who was very friendly and inviting. He explained the statues in the temple for us, prompted us to bang a gong three times for good luck and showed us a box of wooden sticks. These all had numbers written on and you stood in front of the Bhudda and shook the box whilst asking for something. When a stick fell out of the box you looked at the number. That number corresponded with numbered sheets of paper on the wall. You took the relevant one and it told you whether you would be lucky in what you had asked for. Ours were not great!

During our time in Bangkok we also explored some of its markets, including the 7 storey MBK which is easily the biggest shopping centre I’ve ever been in and sold everything and anything you could ever want. We’ll be sure to visit again before we fly home!

After Bangkok we heading East, bound for Cambodia. A very long and very hot train journey ensued past seas of paddy fields and farms. Thankfully our border crossing was very quick and easy, though no thanks to our tuk tuk driver who took us to a “official” visa office round the back of a building which had a sign on the window for double the price of what we knew it would cost. We simply walked around the building and down to the actual border, they didn’t even try to stop us. Still, some people sadly must fall for it.

We arrived a few hours later in Siem Reap, hoping for a great couple of days visiting the temples of Angkor, the 8th wonder of the world and the world’s largest religious building. Up at 4.45am we set off in the tuk tuk we had hired for the day to try and catch the sunrise over one of the largest temples, Angkor Wat. Arriving in the dark the temples were very ominous and intimidating. Surrounded by people we saw the sun begin to rise about 20 minutes later. However, after about 15 minutes it was obvious that there was far too much cloud for an impressive sunrise. Therefore we thought we’d try and beat the crowds to one of the other temples and so headed back to our tuk tuk driver. He then drove us to Bayon with it’s 216 huge stone faces, also very spooky in the early morning light made even more so by the fact that there were only 2 other people there. The next couple of hours we we pretty much on our own with no-one else to be seen which was great but also a little disconcerting. We were just waiting for the Cambodian ghosts to appear!

After exploring some of the smaller temples around Bayon we also visited Ta Prohm, known as the Tomb Raider temple as some of the film’s scenes were shot there, and revisited Angkor Wat to explore the inside and look at some of the carvings that stretch for 180m around the temple. We were both very glad that we had made the journey as it was completely worth it. The temples certainly lived up to their reputation as one of the best things to see in Asia if not the world.

Turns out our luck hasn’t been too bad after all!

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Angkor Wat at sunrise