Goodbye luxury... Hello again backpacking!!

Trip Start Feb 28, 2012
Trip End Nov 22, 2012

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, Louangphabang,
Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sa bai see everyone, from my first post in a while and first from my iPhone!!! How travel has changed eh!! You know I have had both positive and negative thoughts about having the iPhone and without boring you with the details I'll just say its on trial for the next few months til I come back for Xmas and then see whether to bring it back with me after Xmas...

At this moment I am in a place called Oudem Xai, on route to the Northern most Laos/Thai border at Houe Xai. As I think I mentioned, i got an extended visa for 15 days to wait for my iPhone package to arrive as it turned up late so that runs out on 22nd July so I have about 5 days to see a few small towns on the way rather than just do the long overnight bus route. What I don't think I mentioned was that immigration charged me $50 dollars because when I entered the country they didn't stamp my passport! So with the $32 charge for the visa extension it totalled about £50... The iPhone had been handy tho, well the camera, the worst thing about the iPhone is the battery life... Using it as a camera too it soon runs down so again another negative but I have my solar charger I am yet to use so that's a positive!

So Oudem Xai is basically a ghost town, a big place but pretty stale and just a stop off point from a long but good days travel but I moved on from Luang Prabang up river to a small but very picturesque village called Nong Khiaw.

The day before I left I asked on the riverside about boats up river as it was meant to be a really beautiful route. A few keratitis told me next morning at 8.30 there was a boat do next morning I turned up and the woman told me that the ferry was at 9.30 but there had to be atleast 9 people so i asked how many there were waiting and she said 1 So I said, you mean me and she said yes so I waited next door for an hour and had brekkie and came back and asked how many had turned up, and she said 1, so I said only 2, so not enough? And she said no, only 1, me again!! Totally sums up SE Asia sometimes!! Great conversations...

I couldnt stay one more day in LP so decided to get a tuk tuk to the bus station, I had an hours wait but it turned out to be worth it. A minibus with me, an American couple (they weren't that annoying strangely) and a local.... Amazing, it couldn't last surely?!?..., but it did!! The whole 4 hour journey I had the whole back seat to myself and feet up on the seat on front,.., bliss, and I total first on the whole trip.

Found a nice place on the river, only 3 quid and planned to move I river next day. Don't think I mentioned but met a retired Oz guy and his wife in LP, he was an v interesting guy, he came to Thailand at 24 and wound up at a temple to meditate for the first time from living it up and met a senior monk and mentor and render up staying for 6 years and became a monk. When he left he found a remote town in north Thailand, middle of nowhere and wandered the forests and found a cave to live in where locals brought him Alms, which is food for monks and is how monks are fed by daily Alms givings by locals and stayed there for a year too! What a guy! He looked and sounded as down to earth an Ozzy as you get too but he have free introduction to Buddhism lessons which Is how I met him. He told me him and his wife were setting up all kinds of local projects to help Laos people and when I mentioned the teaching thing he suggested I do it in Mueng Ngoi, just past Nong Khiaw as he and his wife were renovating the school and improving the healthcare here as its a focal point for many surrounding villages to send there kids to go to school to and where people go if sick and the village shaman can't help. He told me kids walk from miles away to get to school sent off with a pouch of sticky rice for the day and that was it so they were setting up some dorms for them to stay the school week. Sounded great so my plan was next day to take the 1 hour boat ride up river and take a look.

So that afternoon I just hired a bike and biked around to have a look and then sat out on my balcony to watch the amazing view and decided to give my first drawing a go!! for those of you who don't know, I brought out a drawing set and learn to draw DVDs to try draw done scenery and people rather than all photos. Anyway I finished the learning DVDs in LP so this seemed a good time to take the plunge. To be fair I picked a tricky opener and half hour I nearly packed it in, I took a photo as I decided to note the bullet and just finish for the practice. It ended up as expected; crap but I said id show my first attempt so uploaded that stoping point, finished drawing and photo of the scene. Please no one insult my lack of intelligence by saying its good!!

So next morning I took the boat up to Meung Ngoi...
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