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    Laos in a Betel Nutshell

    February 2nd, 2008 by mary

    Laos was a quiet and less populated country than its neighbors, by far. The capital Vientiane feels more like a resort town with its laid back atmosphere lack of traffic. There are plenty of expats living and thriving here to provide the comforts of western life amongst the stupas. The US embassy rep gave us a funny look for needing extra pages added to our already double wide passport.

    Vang Vieng is best described as spring break for wannabe backpackers. The main street is lined with open air restaurants blaring episodes of Friends and The Simpsons. The river right outside the otherwise dusty road town is one bamboo bar after another. The locals meanwhile take advantage of the dry season and drive their tractors to the middle of the river for gravel while others stoop over to collect river weed. The river weed is dried and compressed to look like thick seaweed then roasted and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It made me hurl for 24hrs.

    Luang Prabang was all about temples. Everywhere you walked there were monks going about their daily activities in their saffron robes and often matching umbrella to keep off the sun. The monk schools were packed with boys of all ages. Here more than anywhere else it seemed monkhood was a way to get an education.

    To get from the northern Laos town of Luang Prabang to the Thai border we would have to endure a two day journey by slow boat up the Mekong. Each day’s cruise started at 9am and ended just after 6pm. There were no stops along the way except to drop locals at their villages so we had to bring all snacks and beverages along, as well as entertainment. At least we were going against the grain of the travelers so we had space to spread out on the wooden boat. The boats going in the opposite direction were notorious for packing in 100 passengers on a 40 capacity boat so people had to fight for room and some slept on the piles of cargo and backpacks. We had less than 20. The first night we slept in a border style town with nothing but guesthouses and snack shops. The next day was full of rain and we had to put the tarps down to stay dry. At the end of the second day we arrived after the border closed so we had to wait until the next morning to make our third entry into Thailand.

    Posted in boat, laos | No Comments »

    Ha Long Bay

    February 2nd, 2008 by mary

    Rather than suffer through two days of buses we flew from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. The capital was another busy and smog ridden asian city. The weather was much colder here than the south. So when we took a few days excursion to scenic Ha Long Bay we pulled out the long sleeves. The bay is dotted with thousands of sheer limestone rocks that shoot straight up out of the calm waters. Spread amongst these karst formations are small fishing villages adrift in the sea. There are caves to see and viewpoints to hike to but the main draw is sitting on the roof of the junk ship watching the rock islands cruise by. We did bike through one of the larger islands and kayak around others before the weather got too cold and we had to retreat to the sheltered cabins.

    Posted in boat, vietnam | No Comments »

    Moana Living

    July 6th, 2007 by steve

    We heard the waters of Indonesia are fabulous for underwater life so we hopped at the chance of incorporating our Komodo dragon visit with a 5 day liveaboard that we booked online. Of course we were nervous about the actual boat conditions. We saw some local liveaboards on glorified fishing boats and hoped desperately that the website was true to life. On board we met the owner, tour operator, and the agent. They were incredibly friendly and we felt at home almost immediately. They were making this into a vacation as much as we were. There were only five normal passengers and an 8 person crew. The Moana was exactly like advertised, in even better condition than the photos actually. It’s a beautiful 4yr old 80ft vessel made with Kalimantan wood in the 400 year old south Sulawesi tradition. Our cabin had an aircon unit that dwarfed the room and a private western style tiled bathroom. Very nice. This boat was designed for comfort with all the amenities. The on call barman Woody brought us papaya smoothies and had a platter of fried bananas after our first dive. It was a glimpse of the service to come. We didn’t have to lift a finger, except to get another drink from our ‘Isaac’. We did 3 dives during the day and 1 at night with torches in hand. We saw all kinds of big and small creatures, many of which were new to us. There were even dolphins playing around on 3 different days. There was plenty of nap, beach, and hammock time. Our daily schedule went as follows: eat, dive, eat, nap, dive, eat, nap, dive, eat, nap, dive, eat, sleep. Seriously, that’s what we did each day. I know, a busy schedule but it grew on us.


    Posted in boat, diving, indonesia | 1 Comment »