Lower altitude, leeches and lao lao
Trip Start May 02, 2009
13Trip End Dec 03, 2009
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After a couple of days there we met back up with John and Jess, from the Everest BC trek, who were on the same flight as us to Bangkok, which turned out to be the biggest culture shock yet
We said goodbye to John and Jess and got the bus to Pak Chong, for Khao Yai National Park. From the bus station in Pak Chong we had to get a Saengthaew (like a milk float with benches) 30km to the park entrance. Here we had our first potential disaster as after waiting half an hour with no sign of imminent departure, I left Andrew and our bags on the truck to see if I could buy some fruit. As my Thai was still not very good (non existent actually), this took longer than planned and in the meantime Andrew had been waving madly to tell me that we were about to leave. To cut a long story short, he jumped off to get me, and we both ran down the road chasing all our worldly belongings which were getting further and further away from us
On the way we were lucky enough to see an elephant on the side of the road calmly eating trees!
We set up camp for 60p for the night with our never before used tent and bar the monkeys, deer, skunk and porcupines wandering around the campsite and another downpour, we slept quite well. Well, I did. Andrew got up to go to the loo in the middle of the night and tripped over a deer that was fast asleep - he says he didn't know who was more scared!
The next morning we set off with our hiking boots, waterproof trousers tucked into our socks for leech protection and hiked a couple of km to the nearest waterfall. Unfortunately I soon found out that our leech barriers hadn't worked at all well and they were feasting on my legs. Andrew found this hilarious and was no help at all really at getting it off me but karma was quick and he then realised that he also had three on his legs. Armed with insect repellant we managed to get them to drop off, spurting all their dinner out as they fell.Nice. So we cut short our jungle hiking and went back to the relative safety of the camp to read for a bit. In the afternoon we walked along the road to a fantastic waterfall which was featured in the film The Beach. Here it seems that we were as big an attraction ourselves, and a monk was delighted when Andrew let him have a photo together. On the way back we got picked up by a nice family in the back of their pick-up, so we didn't have to walk which was great seeing as I had badly sunburnt and leech bitten legs
The next morning they even gave us a lift half way back to the park entrance from where we walked 2km before being given a lift the rest of the 16km by another pick-up driver. The Thais are so friendly and unlike other countries we have visited they would not accept any money from us for their troubles.
From Pak Chong we got an 8 hour bus to Ubon Ratchathani near the Laos border. This journey was painful as I was still having trouble sitting down with my burnt legs, and Andrew's IPod had died so he was forced to watch a thai comedy blaring out from the tv at the front of the bus which didn't look too funny!
In Ubon, we decided against a 'guesthouse' which was more like a warehouse, and went for the posher, only slightly more expensive one, next door where we had a really comfy night's sleep.
After a day sightseeing in Ubon, we got up early the next day for the cross-border bus. After a very hassle free border crossing into Laos we changed bus in Pakse, to cling for dear life onto the back of an already bursting at the seams saengthaew, which stopped every five minutes for ladies to sell us chicken on a stick or squashed grilled bananas.
After getting off the truck, a whole lot of sweat and dust the richer, we jumped on a little dugout motorised canoe and made our way down the muddy, swirling Mekong river to our island, Don Khon. Here we found a lovely little guesthouse on stilts over the river with a very friendly, massive family
Next day we hired bikes and cycled (and walked after I got a puncture - again!) around the Island, past rice fields, water buffalo, ladies in funny conical hats, through jungle and to waterfalls.
In the afternoon we went with our guesthouse owner (papa), on a fishing trip / bbq, which actually turned in to a giant bender with his home made lao lao (rice whisky we think!) flowing freely, in his words 'lao lao no money'. Back on our island slightly worse for wear, we played tennis with Pascal and Donna, another couple staying there who had also been on the 'fishing trip', which was a bit of a disaster seeing as the tennis court was half the normal size, the rackets were covered in cobwebs, and Andrew's aim meant that we had to keep rescuing the ball from the Mekong river! The guesthouse owner's daughters (the five of them that were old enough to walk) acted as ball girls and didn't care how far we hit it! Bonus! Later on we had a party with the family, needless to say more lao lao was involved and we all danced with the girls who thought we were hilarious with our funny dancing. The party went so well that papa forgot to tell mama to cook Donna and Pascal's dinner and just went to bed to rest his head
We left this morning quite sadly but we need to push on to get up north for 'the gibbon experience', which we have booked for a week's time. We're writing this while waiting for our ten hour overnight bus to Vientiane, the capital. We have booked a bus with beds!! Luxury!!!
Anyway not sure when we'll write next but in two week's time we'll be going to Vietnam, so will try and write up the rest of our Laos time before then.
lots of love and thanks all for your messages
Nia and Andrew xxxx