Unexpected trip to Vientiane, Lao

IMG_20150618_141041Lao was a place I had wanted to visit but didn’t expect to go the weekend I went. Due to unexpected visa reasons, I had to get out of Thailand before my visa ran out. I could have just done an overnight trip but I decided I would make a long weekend of it.IMG_20150618_131938

After leaving school, I headed to On Nut BTS to catch a mini van with a company that sorts out visa trips, hassle-free. They literally take your passport and you fill in some paperwork and away you go. The journey was pretty standard except on the way, the van got hit by some rubble that had flown off a lorry. The noise made everyone wake up and we had to hang out on the side of the road. The van just a long gauge but there wasn’t much anyone could do about it. The people in the van IMG_20150619_171048were all doing the same thing but most of them weren’t very chatty. We arrived on the Thai border at 5 in the morning, where we had to wait until it opened. It was crowded with foreigner all wanting to sort out their visa. Here, I happened to bump into one of the guys from Xplore Asia doing the same trip, then later finding out he was staying at the same hotel.

Once we had gone through the Thai and Lao border, queuing for passport, stamps and hopping onto a old bus to transfer us from one to the other, the mini bus carried on to the hotel, where I checked in and IMG_20150618_122425delved into the complimentary breakfast. After sorting out my visa at the Thai embassy, I had the rest of the day to wander and explore the outskirts of the centre of Vientiane, where I visited Pha That Luang, Patuxai, Talat Sao shopping mall, That Dum Stupa, Vat Sisaket and Presidential Palace.

From all the walking and lack of sleep on the mini van, I literally conked out for a nap as soon IMG_20150618_131730as I was vertically on the bed. Waking up in a daze, I took advantage of the dinner provided by the hotel then with some of the others went into the centre to look around the night market. It was a standard sort of clothes markets and I didn’t particularly want to buy anything.

Opposite from the market, IMG_20150619_165528we sat in a bar looking over the Mekong river, enjoying a cool beer and playing pool. It was kind of a weird atmosphere in here, with young looking girls with not much on trying to chat up some of the guys and just a complete mixture of people (mostly Laos) eating and drinking. It’s strange in Vientiane because most places accept both the Thai Baht and the Lao Kip so trying to sort out paying for drinks and the pool table was confusing. The pool game system was fair, with people wanting to play putting their names on a board then the loser of the game had to pay for the games and let the next person on.IMG_20150619_165746

When the bar was starting to closed, we jumped in a TukTuk to go to a club called ‘@home’ that some of the people we met were going to. I felt that all the drivers were out to get as much of the foreigners money as possible, charging ridiculous prices to go no distance. The club was a dark, dingy place playing pumping Asian music, with most Laos there, but it wasn’t packed at all. Clubbers just stood there with not much dancing. Apparently from speaking to others, most of the clubs in Vientiane are like this. There was one larger Lao tomboy with a motorbike there, who was a peculiar character, kept taking one of the guys money to buy them a drink but then would give him back the change. She got funny about him talking to other. It was just one weird night and hearing some of the stories from others, I was sure not to go out to a club here again.IMG_20150619_160730

The next day, I had a relaxing morning, where I had some breakfast and relaxed by the hostel pool, before jumping in the van to collect our visas. I thought that we were going back to the Thai Embassy but this wan’t clear because I ended up back at the Lao border, which was slightly annoying as I was staying a few more days. Luckily the boarder isn’t too far from the centre so after receiving my passport and visa, I found a bus taking me back.IMG_20150619_173312

For the rest of the afternoon, I checked into my hostel, ate a delicious lunch of Humus, bread and salad, which I haven’t had in months then walked along the Mekong River admiring the views, seeing the sand sculptures and Chao Anouvong statue before walking the park and through the market.IMG_20150619_173724

In the evening, I started chatting to some guys from the hostel, where we drank some Lao Lao (rice wine), then went to a bar with live music. It was their last gig so the people were dancing and pumping. The guys from the hostel, knew one of the bartender, Peter, who had interesting beliefs and morals but he gave us free beers and a ride home.IMG_20150621_103704

Once I had breakfast at the hostel, I sorted out my bus journey back to Bangkok and then rented out a cute, pink motorbike. During the day, I drove along the Mekong River to Buddha park, which is an area with loads of statues. They were extremely close together but it was interesting to see. There was a huge reclining Buddha. There was a strange guy with a pipe instrument, saying ‘I love you to the moon’. I found out he was a Buddha from India. After, I drove back to have lunch at a small baguette place recommended by a friend. As Lao was own by the french, there was a lot of cheap, french food so I ate a cheese, omelette and salad baguette. It was delicious.IMG_20150620_115157

The evening was very relaxing, consisting of lying in a park, driving to a small, Lao fun fair (which I thought was going to be a market), dinner (red curry) and chilling in the hostel.IMG_20150620_120835

On my last day in Lao, I returned the bike, walked to the huge fountain, morning market and to the COPE centre, which was a museum that exhibits a graphic display of the horrors that the Laos people endured because of the bombs USA dropped during the Vietnam War. It was informative and definitely worth seeing. Once I had another baguette and wandered around the Mekong River area, I got picked up from my hostel to start my long journey back to Bangkok: Vientiane main bus station through the boarder to Nong Khai, then a bus to Bangkok, where we stopped for food. I was unfortunately sitting next to a guy from Vietnam who didn’t understand personal space. I also panicked slightly in Nong Khai bus terminal as many people didn’t know which bus I needed to take with my ticket.IMG_20150621_122122

After an exhausting journey, I arrived back in Bangkok in time to go to school.

Even though this trip wasn’t planned, I’m glad I got to see Vientiane. For anyone thinking about travelling Lao, you don’t need to stay here anymore than 2 days as there isn’t that much to do and see.

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Koh Samui: same place, different time

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Beach huts we stayed in

Feeling absolutely exhausted, we mounted onto the ferry towards Koh Samui. This trip on Koh Samui was similar to the one I did about a month earlier. As I had raved about some specific beach huts on the island before deciding to join them on the island, I ended up staying in the exactly the same spot. Our first day consisted of eating, lying on the beach and sleeping.

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Hin Yai

After a descent amount of the sleep, feeling fresh the next day, we started to explore the Island. Again, we hired some motorbikes and drove to a famous landmark: Hin ta and Hin Yai on Lamai beach. This is an odd tourist attraction. Basically, it is some fascinating rock formations known as Grandpa (Ta) and Grandma (Yai), which look, respectively, like male and female genitalia. It was just amusing how many people were here, taking photos and posing. With clear blue skies and cliff faces, the view beyond this was beautiful. Down the road, not far from here is the Pueng Waterfall, which I did go to before but didn’t climb to the top. I am a slight sucker for waterfalls, I just love the beauty and water gushing and glistening in  the sun.

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Pueng Waterfall

Then we went for a leisurely driving in search of food, where we found a quiet market. In the afternoon, we drove for miles and miles beach hopping to Nathon beach. On our way back to the hostel, we met some friends from our training at Hin Ta and Hin Yai, where they planned to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, it wasn’t thought out as the sunsets on the other side of the Island. While we were here, we bumped into some different friends. Next to here is a small place called the Rock Bar, which we walked through and climbing onto the huge stone to see the sea beyond the horizon.

Once we had food, we strolled towards central Lamai town for a few drinks before heading back.

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Coral Cove

The following day, we carried on exploring the Island, mainly beaches on motorbikes. We beach hopped from Coral Cove, which was more rocks to climb than an actually beach but the view was incredible in both direction, to Chaweng beach, where we enjoyed a spot of lunch in a local cafe. After, we headed to Bophut beach, which has a fisherman’s village, where there are fish restaurants to dine in or markets with souvenirs and clothes or quaint gift shops. The beach area was extremely quiet as the seaside wasn’t spectacular due to the sea being dirty and with a disappointing view.  We decided we wanted to see the Sunset on beach so we drove to Nathon Beach on the west side but as the sun was disappearing the clouds covered the sky.

In the evening, we ate at Harry’s Restaurant, which is in Lamai town centre. Here, they have a wide variety of foods where they give huge portions at a cheap price. Then we motorbiked to downtown Chaweng to meet some of our other friends. I had such an unexpected great night, where we played pool, experienced different bars, received free drinks, wandered around, lost some of my friends, danced and met some guys from England. I was on the Red Bull all night as I had to drive back to our hut. By the time I hit the pillow, it was about three-thirty in the morning.

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Nathon Beach

On our last day in Koh Samui, we had a chilled day, where we meandered along the beach to Lamai town, devoured food at Harry’s, relaxed while enjoying a Thai massage, bathe in the refreshing sea and laid among the golden sand. Somehow we had forgotten our shoes so our feet burned in the process on the blazing pavements in the town.IMG_6437

Thailand is home to many astonishing Island and I am so bless to have the opportunity to travel for a couple of weeks around three of the most popular ones: Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. Even though I have done two of these previously, I still found new places to explore and had new experiences with different friends.

I will be back to see these sights again in the future.

Koh Phangan: second round of this stunning island and the Full Moon Party

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View of Koh Tao

After bumping into some of our friends on the Koh Tao port, we traveled to Koh Phangan by ferry, which, actually, is the only way to get to the Island. With the weather starting to storm up, we arrived on the island in no time at all. Just as expected, we were picked up by a lovely lady from the hostel we would be staying at. As we were tossed around the back of the jeep, the heavens opened. Wet was an understatement. We were drenched.

One of the reasons I came back to the Island was because I wanted to attend one of the biggest must-do’d in Thailand: the Full Moon Party. However, we decided to get accommodation of the other side of the island, which was cheaper but also less touristy. For three nights, we stayed at Ling Sabai Guesthouse, which overlooked the beautiful Hadd Yao beach.     The rooms were basic with fans, bedding and a private bathroom but the staff were extremely lovely.IMG_4531

Once we had settled in, we took a stroll along the calm, quiet beach. There are not many beaches in Thailand that are abandoned but this does depend on the time of year and destination. As my feet touched the golden sand as I walked, they were slowly burning to a crisp. At the end of the beach, there were mountains of rocks, where I tried to climb them gracefully but this didn’t happen. My feet were getting scratched from round stone and the tiny pebbles that were scattered in the water nearby. It was one of those day, where drips were trickling down my face, I was constantly moving to get comfortable and the sea was getting more and more appealing. However, as I entered the water, the temperature was no different. It wasn’t particularly refreshing. I felt like I was trapped in an oven. My only way to cool down for a split second was to munch on a Magnum. I even decided to treat myself to one of the new one: creamy vanilla ice-cream with sweet caramel swirls, covered in delicious dark chocolate with the outer coat being gold in colour. I was in heaven.IMG_4534

In the evening, we headed to a restaurant to fill our stomach, where some younger children were playing. Even though we weren’t doing much, they found us hilarious and we soon made some new friends. We also met some travelers dawdling on the beach, who recommended us to go to a backpackers bar not too far away with a pool table. To our disappointment when we arrived, we found that, yes it didn’t have a pool table, but was definitely looking under the weather with balls missing and cues broken. In the end, we got a few beers and played a couple of rounds of cards before turning in for the night.

The next day, we hired out motorbikes to explore this incredible island. My love for driving around aimlessly on a motorbike was beginning. Before coming to Thailand, I had never driven a motorbike but after a few attempts, I started to feel comfortable turning, pulling off and stopping. A new hobby had emerged: motorbiking around. Koh Phangan is the perfect island to learn: it has extremely quiet country roads, with small hills and windy paths overlooking beautiful views and scenery.IMG_4872

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Haad Rin beach

While aiming for Thongsala, we managed to get lost taking a few different turns. However, we discovered a stunning, pictureque beach, which we later took photos of. After having lunch in the centre, we drove up and down steep, windy hills to Haad Rin taking in the views of tall trees in land and beautiful beaches on the other side. Haad Rin beach had crystal clear water, with tourists lying on the pale sand and shops and bars spread along the edge. To me the beach didn’t look overly big, which gave me a slight sense of peace about the Full Moon party as this is where party-goers dancing the night away. On the edge of the beach, there is a wooden plank path, not really leading anywhere. Struggling not to step in the cracks with my bare feet, I managed to reach the end which gave an amazing view of the whole beach.

Debating our options of the rest of the day, we decided to drive back to Thongsala Port to watch the sunset. I have to admit, the sunsets are beautiful from these beaches but I have found that it’s hard to find the perfect sunset as the times I have been on the Islands, most of the time it has become overcast as the sun is disappearing over the horizon. Thailand offers many food market and Koh Phangan didn’t disappoint with row of carts full of fresh, cheap Thai grub to fill out tummies for dinner. Leading my friends back to the hostel was a daunting experience as it was dark, with little street lamps, minimal signs and sudden meandering peaks but we arrived safe and sound for a chilled evening in our hostel.

We heard through the grapevine of many parties and evening events leading up to the Full moon Party but due to staying too far away, we didn’t get to experience these, which if I came back, I would stay on Haad Rin leading up to the Full moon Party.

The day after, we made the most of the day doing similar thing to the day before, riding on the motorbikes around Koh Phangan exploring as much as possible. In the end, we pretty much drove the whole of the Island. First, we motorbiked to the sand dunes (Ao Srithanu) that we found the previous day. This was one of the most incredible view I have ever seen with reflections of the sun in the water and the glistening, calm pools. we popped into Thongsala to grab a huge Thai tea, wander around the market and eat lunch. Thai Tea has become one of my favourite drinks in Thailand: it’s milk, sweet and just delicious. In the market, I ended up speaking to a cute little girl and her lovely mother. Thailand is just full of chatty (sometimes just through actions when there is a language barrier), lovely people, who like to take photos of white people. Our talking turned into a photo shoot.

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Koh Ma Island

Once lunch was consumed, we zoomed to find our next destination: Phaeng waterfall and Domesila viewpoint. The waterfall was a slight disappointment due to there only being trickles of water. Hiking over the huge stones, around trees and up steep, narrow hills was exhausting but a spectacular, breath-taking opening revealing the island and beyond was well worth the trek. After struggling back down, we vaulted on to our motorbikes to go beach hopping. Searching unsuccessful for a beach meant that we got lost and constantly backtracked but I didn’t mind as I loved driving and seeing new landscapes. Instead we discovered Ao Chaloklum beach and then watched the sunset on Haad Mae beach, which overlooked Koh Ma island. It was beautiful. There was a tiny, spiky trail through water to walk along Koh Ma beach. I would definitely recommend to go to this area and spend some time just appreciating the exquisite seascape. While taking some photo here, we bumped into the guys we met on the boat previously. The funny thing was that we drove to have dinner after and about five minutes later they turned up unexpectedly at the same restaurant. It was even that close to the beach and we took so many different turning that it was pretty much impossible to follow us (if they even wanted to).

Just before leaving, I treated myself to a peanut butter Roti, which is one of Thailand’s specialities (well, kinda – they are made for tourists but you only find them in Thailand). They are basically a square, greasy, crispy pancake: so appetizing for my taste buds.

In the evening, a group of us played Uno with a guy who worked at the hostel before heading to bed early.

The last full day on Koh Phangan was relaxing as we knew we would not be sleeping much due to the Full Moon Party. I didn’t realised that the whole point of this festivity was to dance all night and reach sunrise the next day: challenge accepted.

During the day, we walked to a secluded beach, which coincidentally was called ‘Secret beach’ but ironically had a sign on the main road. The beach was small, like most coasts, it had golden sand and the sea (there’s only so much you can say about beaches that look similar). While on this beach, I skyped my family back home as I had free Wifi, then ate some lunch and chilled in the Guesthouse.

IMG_6075At a Full Moon Party, it is expected for attendees to dress in bright neon attire and have body painting that would stand out in the moonlight sky. A few hours before leaving, we painted each other with flowers and pattern in colourful neon. As Haad Rin beach was the other side of the Island, we had to plan our departure in advance: we wanted it as cheap and easy as possible. The best way we found was to go with a tour company that would pick you up at a certain time, then speed across the island, where we flung from side to side (not the safest of journeys). For our return journey, we could decide what time to come back as there would be a Songtaow returning every 30 minutes until 7 O’clock in the morning. This meant we could be flexible and not worry about how we would get back to our accommodation.IMG_4957

The Full Moon Party is something that is a must-do in South-East Asia. It is a monthly rave, which makes other wild parties around the world weep with Envy. Picture a white sand beach, an endless row of palm trees, and a calm cove of blue green water. Then take several thousand neon-clad partiers from around the world washing down MDMA with alcohol out of plastic pails while techno beats compete for attention; blend thoroughly. Yes, this is pretty much it. An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 young backpackers and bucket guzzlers attend the even each month but I did however spot a few families and older people.IMG_9596

Somehow I managed to survive this crazy event. It was pretty full on. When entering this beach, I felt completely overwhelmed: the music was pounding, thousand of young travelers squashed and dancing. Even though usually I like swimming, I wouldn’t go near the sea with so many people in such a small bay the once-idyllic waters are quickly transformed into a cesspool of urine, discarded beer bottles and zombie-like partiers gone too far. There were fire skipping robes, where after a few buckets people would be easily persuaded to try to jump these and fail. It was entertaining to watch and luckily I didn’t see anyone get burnt. Many people don’t manage to make it to sunrise but I was one that did. Unfortunately for me, even being told, my phone got stolen out of my bag. One minute it was there, I felt it being taken, the next it was gone. It kind of ruined my night as I was fixed on finding it on a flip flop infested beach, where people constantly moving. It was a lost cause.IMG_9631

The Full Moon Party was an experience not to be missed. It is great fun and an excuse to be covered in neon pain head to toe.

With not much sleep, we left Koh Phangan. For now, I will miss this spectacular island and cruise to the next one.

Koh Phangan: motorbikes and beach

IMG_3372With our alarms waking us early and one of the girls feeling awful, we awaited our ride to the port. A couple sat next to M, which was unfortunate as she was throwing up throughout the journey in the van. Bobbing along in the ferry, we soon arrived to our destination: Koh Phangan.

Two of us knew we wanted to get back to Hua Hin the next day so we searched out our option. While bouncing from one desk to the next, M was still feeling so rough, so she grabbed her bags and shouted to us ‘I’ll find you in Cambodia!’ In a blink of an eye, she had disappeared. Looking back, this was a hilarious things to say as Cambodia is so big and we probably wouldn’t have many ways to contact each other.

From our options, we decided to stay on the island for the day and night, then hitched a ride back the next morning. IMG_3390After finding out prices of taxis, the cheapest transport would be to hire out a motorbike. Speeding through the country lanes on the windy, hilly paths, we found some accommodation   at the beach in Haad Salad. The island was smaller than we thought (well I knew it was smaller than Koh Samui but it’s tiny compare to that) because we were driving for 45 minutes and rode half the island.

After scoffing some food, we laid on the beach to nap and swim in the sea. The beach was beautiful, with long boats and clear blue water where you could see fish swimming around. It was slightly overcast but when the sun came out, it was scorching hot.  It was a pretty relaxing day. In the evening, we ate at a restaurant, which I have to say is the first food in Thailand that I did not enjoy. I’ve ordered it before so knew I would like it but this was bland, under cooked.

IMG_3406The next day was an early start, where we drove our motorbike back to the port, booked our ticket to get back to Hua Hin and had a delicious western breakfast: fried egg, salmon and English tea. My first cup since being here. I appreciated it so much.  Eventually after a long journey on a ferry and coach, we arrived back to Hua Hin to meet all the others to start the Songkran celebrations.

Koh Samui: motorbikes, waterfall, zip lining, 4×4 driving and elephant trekking

Today has been my favourite day in South East Asia so far. It was definitely not planned, activities just sort of happened. This post is going to be full of photos and not so much writing.

IMG_3329To start the day we hired out motorbikes, which I was extremely excited about. I have never driven a motorbike (well, except a friend’s bike a few days earlier to a 7/11). It was harder than expected and even by the end of the day I still wasn’t confident. If i’m going straight on a quite road then I’m okay but put traffic, turns and uneven gravel into the mix then I will fall on my face. I did, however, fall off my motorbike turning into a gravelly car park but i was going so slow that I didn’t injury myself, just scratched the bike. I had to pay for that later. To hike out a motorbike for 24 hours, it cost 150bt (approximately £3).

We decided to find a waterfall so we followed some road signs. the first waterfall we encountered was a small waterfall, but the place also had other things to do so we took the opportunity to see an incredible view, zip lining miles above ground and have a fish pedicure.

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After, we hopped back onto our motorbikes to search out the biggest waterfall on this island. As we arrived, there was an elephant trekking area, which we couldn’t resist, especially as the other two had never ridden an elephant before. Bumping around on the elephant as it dawdled along the dusty track, we got the chance to climb on it’s neck and stroke his head.

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Next, we enjoyed a ride to the waterfall on a 4×4 jeep. Enjoyed might not be the correct word for it. Throwing and tossing from side to side as the engine revved up the windy, chaotic path was a scary but exhilarating experience. one of the girls flung from her seat, nearly being thrown off the vehicle altogether. Luckily the driver noticed and stopped to let her slide back onto her seat.

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Once we wandered to the waterfall, we swam in the refreshing water before heading back to our hut for some food.

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As we had some spare time before going out in the evening, two of us rode our bikes around Koh Samui, soaking up the sun, the beautiful views and the atmosphere.

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In the evening, we had a few beers at the restaurant then caught a songtaew to the clubs. It wasn’t really a club, just an open space on the beach with loud music and a bar. On the beach area were young children trying to sell flowers and bracelets to the tourist to earn money. It saddens me that parents send out their young children as they know people are more likely to buy from children than adults. I’m not sure if these families live in poverty or know that they can get most of their income from drunk tourist. Either way, children have the right to be kids not to be working.

We met a group of people, who were living in Sweden but came from Peru. unfortunately, we didn’t get to dance as one of the girls I was with had drunk a little too much. We dropped her back home before searching for food, then staggered back on the beach shore. As we were walking, some stray dogs joined us and made sure we got back to our accommodation safely.

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