A Travellerspoint blog

Pai

sunny 26 °C

Sawatdee

Pai is a little village in the moutainous north of Thailand. Although it does not have much more than guest houses, restaurants and souvenir shops, it has a lot of charm. There is the setting in the valley next to the river but Pai is also a bit arty. All guest houses, restaurants and souvenir shops seem to make style a competition and that is a very nice change from the rest of Thailand.

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Every night on the main street of Pai traffic makes place for souvenir and food stalls and the Hell's Angels!

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Pai is an ideal place for 'dolce far niente' for a couple of days but I could not sit on my arse for long, so I went rafting on the river Pai for two days. Although the river is really low, hence the rafting quite slow, because of the dry season, I was lucky enough to get the craziest captain of the four rafting boats. Captain Chicken still managed to flip over our boat on the first day. He liked hitting rocks and going backwards through rapids which sometimes resulted in man or men overboard, so good fun.

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If you would ever drop by Pai and look for accommodation, do not worry, there is plenty of it!

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Posted by Gitan Jean 06:22 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Vang Vieng & Luang Prabang

sunny 28 °C

Sabaidee!

Laos is really relaxed, I'll have to go back sometime.
Vang Vieng is very known for its tubing i.e. letting yourself float in an inner tube along the Nam Song river while sipping at a bucket of whatever cocktail with only one goal: getting pissed.
By the time I arrived in Vang Vieng, it was dark and the center of the village flooded with drunk girls in bikinis and lads in swimming trunks, after a day of tubing. The locals do not really appreciate people in beach wear so it was all a bit embarrassing but then maybe I was just slightly jealous because the doctor had told me not to drink for seven days after he had diagnosed me with dengue fever.
Tubing without drinking, nah, I don't think so, so I rent a bicycle and explored the beautiful surroundings of Vang Vieng a bit. They are very green and packed with beautiful karst mountains and caves you can visit. Roads are not really bicycle friendly, I had to think of the dust road to Everest base camp a few times.

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Luang Prabang is a UNESCO world heritage site and that is not without a reason. Luang Prabang is packed with beautiful colonial houses with, well, French influences, wats, classy hotels, restaurants and coffee shops.

Every night there is a market offering artisanal souvenirs.

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The best place to watch the sunset is Phou Si Hill.

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P.S.: to all colleagues at VAB and Asian Assistance: thanks a lot for your help! Everything was perfectly organised and I recovered very quickly though I can still get fatigue attacks for weeks or even months from now...

Posted by Gitan Jean 07:48 Archived in Laos Comments (3)

Vientiane

sunny 25 °C

Sabaidee!

Had not planned to visit Lao at all but as Thai authorities did not seem too prepared to extend my visa I thought why not? And I am glad I have had a taste of Lao, it seems like a very nice country! Next time, I think I'll take my bicycle though.
The capital city, Vientiane, is a little city along the banks of the mighty Mekong river (on the other side of the Mekong sits Thailand). Vientiane is packed with wats, monuments, guest houses, restaurants, lounge bars and coffee places (mainly French inspired).

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Unlike most other Asian capitals, there is not too much traffic and pollution.

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In the late afternoon, many people gather at the riverside to do some sports, to meet friends or just to hang around a bit, the light is so beautiful at sunset! There is a night market where you can buy souvenirs.

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Some of the many monuments worth seeing:

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My favourite was Xiang Khuan, about 25 kms from Vientiane. It is a park packed with statues where you can easily spend a few hours.
You can either take bus 14 there (that will cost you 0.5 euro) or you can take a taxi and the driver will charge you USD 35! Either way, if you are in Vientiane, go there!

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More Lao news to come soon.

Posted by Gitan Jean 04:23 Archived in Laos Comments (5)

Three little islands in the Thai Gulf

sunny 30 °C

Sa-wat-dee

The three most touristic islands in the Thai Gulf are probably Koh Tao, Koh Phanang and Koh Samui.
I went to Koh Tao, which is the smallest of the three, first. Koh Tao is a scuba diving mecca, nowhere in the world can you get your PADI certificate cheaper than here so I did the open water course and got certified. We were oh so lucky to see a whale shark with its calf on our third dive. Many people have done 100+ dives on Koh Tao and have never seen one! Also, according to wikipedia, there are only 1000 registered whale sharks in the world. Still according to Wikipedia, the average size of adult whale sharks is estimated at 9.7 metres and its average weight at 9 tonnes. Imagine having one of those just in front of you, just amazing. Of course, I could not take any pictures under water but, as if we had not been lucky enough, we had a photographer diving with us who has filmed the whale shark.

Here's some pictures of sunset on Sairee Beach, Koh Tao:

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I was quite surprised when somebody knocked on my door on my third Koh Tao day, it was my cousin Kristel! Of course, I knew she was coming to Koh Tao but I had not expected her that early. This is Kristel playing Yenga at Lotus Bar, the best bar on Sairee Beach:

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Koh Phangan is the second biggest of the three islands and lies in the middle. It is home to the world famous Full Moon Parties but the next one is only going to be on 10 December, so I will not be able to attend. It was quite sad to see how little tourists there are on the island compared to usual, mainly because of the floodings I suppose. There is so many people living off tourism here, so the lack of tourists is a really bad thing for them...
Here's some pictures of Koh Phangan:

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I have arrived on Koh Samui, the biggest island, yesterday.

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Chaweng beach is the party beach on Koh Samui and the place where almost all tourists stay. I wanted to have some peace and quiet, so, I choose another beach which I did not know lies just next to the airport...

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Well, fortunately there is not that many flights!

Posted by Gitan Jean 05:37 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

Kep, Kampot and Sihanoukville

sunny 37 °C

Hello, everybody

After Phnom Penh, Kampot, on Cambodia's south coast, was a very nice change. Kampot is a sleepy little village, not so far from the Vietnamese border. It has some hostels and a few international restaurants and enough street stalls with traditional Cambodian food. I was very satisfied with the Blissful Guesthouse offering double fan-rooms at USD5 (3.6 euros) and dorms at USD3 (2.2 euros) and its nice bar annex restaurant.
The Kampot province is very famous for its pepper production. Kampot pepper is the first Cambodian product to have merited the geographical indication, like Roquefort cheese or Darjeeling tea.

I rent a motorbike for the day to go and explore Kep a bit. Kep used to be a thriving resort town for the French and Cambodian elite. The French have long ago left and their villa's are now abandoned but the Phnom Penh elite still thinks high of Kep which makes it their favourite day escape.

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Especially during the weekend, rich people from Phnom Penh drive their SUV's to Kep beach to savour the local seafood, crab being the specialty.

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Sihanoukville is definitely the most touristy of all Cambodia's beach resorts with a thriving bar, restaurant and club culture and a lot of sex tourism. But it has a nice white sand beach where you can lay down on a beach bed under an umbrella provided by one of the countless beach bars. That's where I finished John Irving's Last night in Twisted River (and liked it!) sipping at a $0.50 draught beer.

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Posted by Gitan Jean 05:02 Archived in Cambodia Comments (3)

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