A Travellerspoint blog

stonehenge of jars

checking out ancient excavacted jars in phonosavan

sunny 25 °C

Clint and i headed out to phonosavan leaving alison to party out her inhibitions in vang vieng. on our first night here we took in a free documentry offered by MAG who are currently clearing all UXO (unexploded ordanance), the film gave a detailed heartwrenching account of the bombs left by the americans during the secret war and vietnam war. over 30% of the bombs dropped during this time never detinated and have been burried underground and are still killing unexpecting people who walk over them. because of this people are afraid to farm new land, which keeps the country poor. children try and pick up the bombs in order to sell it for scrap metel to make money for their parents (around $20) and they are exploding and killing the kids. its a very sad and harsh reality to grasp.

the next day we hired a motorbike and headed out in search of the plain of jars sites 2&3. however we missed the sign and ended up taking a drive in the country. during this drive we stumbled across the the MAG workers at a pit stop currently clearing bombs. excited i got clint to pull over and went over to talk to the laos workers about the bombs and get their perspective on it. i was disapointed that none of them spoke english to answer my questions but they smiled and graciously take some pictures instead. we got turned around and finally found the 2nd and 3rd jar site. we drove up a dusty hill and pulled over at the markers. at the site we ran into a laos family for about 3 mins and then they left and we had the entire site to ourselves which was pretty cool. nothing is known of the ancient jars at phonosavan, they range in size from 1-3 meters tall made of rock as well as massive decorated discs. on the site there is a small path marked by rocks, you have to stay between the white lines because its been the only area cleared of uxo. on this path alone they found over 130 uxo, so we took the markers pretty seriously not straying too far. there are over 30 jar sites known to the people however the other areas are not open to the public or even many archeologists until they can get the funding to get the sites cleared properly of uxo. from here we took the moto to the village of ban napia where the people use the old peices of metel from the bombs to make spoons. however we werent able to find where they did this to watch the process.

after this we headed to Tad Long Waterfall. a spectacular long spread out waterfall that for some reason reminded me of the rocky mountains. it was pretty neat but it was starting to get dark so we headed back into town. drained the gas we put into the bike into water bottles and then i sold them to the owners of the guesthouse we were staying at, making back some of our money!

all in all this was definetly a highlight of my trip, especially being as it was far out of the way we seen under 10 other tourists on our travels which was pretty neat.

Posted by karen_411 03:03 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

the river styx

tubing and losing our inhibitions in vang vieng

sunny 34 °C

much to our suprise vang vieng was a beautiful city. jagged mountain sillhoutes in the background , myltiple caves, lush green foliage and of course the tubing river. we found some cute cheep bungalows down by the water to call home for a few days. in the morning we rented black inner tubes and a tuk tuk to haul a gang of us up 3km to the top of the river. not sure wht to expect we were greeted at a bridge where we had to take a drinking toll of one free shot....it set the tone that today was going to be fun and messy. across the bridge was the first bar and down the river we could see many more. the best way to descrbe the sight is think lost boys from the movie hook. it was a fun free for all fantasy lived out. giant trapeze rope swings, blue whirly waterslides, a giant concrete slide lined with bathroom tile, slingshot hang gliders and a giant pillow. again to get into this bar one must take the free shot as well as a free shot wristbands that gets you as many free shots as you like going down the river. we tried our hands at the giant swings induldged in a few beers aand then floated down the river to the next bar in our tube. by the 3rd bar we were completely wasted alison and i on deck in our bathers doing the cha cha slide. buckets were cheep, and mandatory. we started this escapade by 11 am and by 1:30 were all blitzed finding ourselves covered in spray paint, glitter and customized bandanas. the blue and red spray paint seemed like a great idea at the time, but being part of the smurf kingdom for the next week was a bit embarassing. we made it to bar 5 (about .5 of the 3 klicks down the river) and had to get a tuk tuk back to town. from here we stumbled around the bars until late (but not too late as there is a nation wide curfew of 11:30). the next day we got up and did it all over again. i however hurt my back in the giant pillow shortly into our stay and had to hitch hike back. i got lost on the way and found myself wandering through a rice paddy feild in a wet dress carrying my black inner tube. some loation guy took pity on me and drove me back to down on the back of his moto. from here clint met up with us and we hit the town again.

we later found out many scary stories of people getting really hurt on this river. including a broken rib, a ripped open scalp that needed to be stapled together and then air lifted from ventaine to bangkok for emergerncy as the brain began to swell. as well as a death of heroin overdose. so careful kids this is a play ground with no supervision.

the next day wade, jody, clint, alison, claudia, will (another couple from australia) and myself headed to the blue lagoon to swim away our hangovers and watch the kids play on the vines swinging themselves into the water. it was a great day and vang vieng was certainly all and more then we hoped it would be.

Posted by karen_411 03:34 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

dont let the rain dampen your spirits

luang prabang laos.

rain 15 °C

after a crazy night bus being woken by what can only be described as 'loatian gameshow music' blaring in our ears at 5 am we staggered out into the streets of luang prabang. we found a guesthouse on the mekong river and had a shower to wake ourselves up and went for breakfast with Wade and Jodi, the aussie couple who we met in the gibbin experiance.

luang prabang is a very french influenced town as the french are who helped liberate laos into its own country. the architecture as well as the plethra of french bakeries keeps the tourist very aware of its french heritage. the town peninsula is a unesco world heritage site which i spent the day exploring. i stopped in many of the temples including wat xieng thong constructed in 1560. although its hard to learn much about these sites being as there is no information written in english i did manage to find out that the giant dragon gold chariot (12 meters high) acted as a funeral chariot for the members of the royal family. behind this chariot rested various urns that contained the remains of the roya l family. another note worthy temple exhibited a free viewing of pictures taken of monks and by monks over the past hundred years or so. it was interesting to see the pictures and most had subtitles in english.

being as it rained in luang prabang or had generally overcast weather pretty much our entire stay alison and i decided to duck indoors for a loatian massage. it cost $6.17 for a leg and back and shoulder massage that lasted well over a hour and was most definetly the best six bucks i ever spent. after this since it was still pouring we decided to find 'utopia bar' that had been reccomended by other travellers. a tuk tuk took us down a winding street through backallys and into this secret bar that was pretty much amazing. on the outdoor patio with sit on the floor tables and a great view of the river and connecting bridge we were sheltered by the bamboo thatched roof above us. it was a great place to chill out and wait for the rain to pass. it never did pass.

we braved the night market in the rain. actually we went to this market all 3 nights we were in laos and it was by far the best market i have been to! many a souvineer were boughten as well as traditional vendor food and amazing sandwhiches. the next morning we woke early and were out of our hostel by 6 in order to give and participate in giving alms to the monks. a tangerine colored stream of monks pour out on the streets in single file every morning to take food offerings from the people as they live entirely off charity. we gave crackers and rice and watched silently as others gave as well. interesting to see is the local children who sit at the end of the precession of giving with baskets begging the food that has just been donated off the monks.

all in all depsite the rain luang prabang was a great city full of beauty and interesting heritage. we really enjoyed our time here.

Posted by karen_411 23:58 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

earthquakes, treehouses and ziplining, oh my!

arriving into huay xai Laos and into the bokeo reserve.

sunny 26 °C

we got into laos to the cute border town of huay xai. it had a great vibe and we got a great guesthouse. we settled in for the night, alison was in a towel having just got out of the shower and i was going through my bag in my jammies looking at stuff when the room started to shake. at first i thought it was a train and then i realized theres no trains in laos. the room shook for about 20 seconds and then the power went out i yelled to alison "are we in a fucking earthquake?!?!?!" and then told her to put on some clothes. we booked er downstairs along with everyone else. we felt some more after shakes throughout the night and next day. it was quite a weird feeling to have the ground below you not be safe. turns out the earthquake was in burma just a few hours away from us and a 6.7 on the scale! pretty intense stuff.

the next morning we headed out to the bokeo reserve to get in some nature and ziplining. our group was amazing! we had Jodi and Wade from australai, Mia and Frieda from sweeden and Jen and Tim from england. after driving 2 hours in the back of a truck we arrived at a small village complete with straw huts and children with dirty faces and no pants on. random chickens and pot belly pigs wandering amongst us. we met out guide khampee and his assistant vas los who would be our keepers for the next few days. we began walking out into the forest and had no idea what awaited us......fat camp. the hikes were strenuous! up and down up and down on narrow winding paths on the side of the mountain. we hiked for 2.5 hrs with hardly any stops. we were then fed meals of fruit, rice and cabbage, impretty sure i almost lost weight. we finally arrived at the waterfall whih was probably the worst waterfall i have ever seen but it did have a hang glider into the water and it was very cool and refreshing after a hot muggy walk. we splashed around for a while and then hiked another hour or so to our treehouse. think swiss family robinson. it was the coolest place i have stayed in my life. we ziplined in from the side cliff and slept on mattresses on the floor with thick mosquito nets. also in this treehouse was our new pet 'yellow cat' who kept guard while we ziplined and explored the forest.

the ziplines were amazing, just a piece of rop and a pully with a chunk of old bike tire on top to act as a brake. we had so much fun soaring over the gullys and viewing the forest canopy. as soon as the guide left us to our own devices mia got her finger stuck on the rope while ziplining. it burnt her skin down pretty far i felt bad for her but she was a nurse and bandaged her self up and kept on trucking like a real trooper.

we returned back to civilzation after 2 nights in the jungle having really enjoyed ourselves. Jodi and wade continued on with us and are currently watching over my ginger.

Posted by karen_411 03:55 Archived in Laos Comments (1)

on the open road

PaiThailand.

sunny 44 °C

we got into the hippie suburb of pai and found a neat little bungalow down by the river for a few mesely bucks. we decided to rent a scooter the next day, a power greenbeauty. the tire was flat and she had no gas but after a little tlc we got her on the open road. being as i have never been on a scooter alison drove and i clutched on for dear life on the back with my sweaty mc loser hands. we headed out to the hot springs and swam in the pools and soaked in the hotsprings while watching the sun go down. it was wonderful! back in town we ran into some old friends from caving who treated us to super it was nice to reunite.

the next day we decided to check out a traditional thai village on our scooter. we drove out to it and were greeted with signs in english and restraunts advertising they sell burgers....traditional indeed. we opted not to go into the town as we felt we were gawking, and now understand the 'human zoo' debate. instead we carried onto a wonderful waterfall. alison jumped in with the local kids and i sun bathed on the rocks. itwas a really nice day. later that day we headed to the pai canyon to watch the sunset it was gorgeous!!

when we left the next day the local bus was so crowded we had to stand for 4 hours cramped up against other people. in the area i was standing which wasnt much bigger then a single bed i counted 15 ppl plus their groceries and bags. after arriving backinto chaing mai we ordered pizza hut as a reward and it certainly was!

Posted by karen_411 03:46 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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