Thursday, 21 June 2007

I love it when a plan comes together

I could have showed you a picture of the hot springs but this sign that confused me is great. I could explain why it says "Eggs and Drink". I could.

Last picture in Thailand (Changland), just under the gate to Indo-China

The slow-boat from North Laos. Not all that slow actually. The seats were so uncomfortable that the floor was the better option.

A snippet of the scenery that surrounded us along the way

Luang Prabang, a French/Buddhist town

Check out rule number 3. From our hotel in Chang Mai.

Permpoon, the man that taught us to cook the dishes we will all wow you with.

I'm a "flaming" good cook. Hahaha. No? Well, I tried.

Faces of joy upon receiving our certificates.

Immature but oh so funny. The day I don't stop to to take a picture of a sticker announcing the existence of 'Radio Tits' is a long way off.

Another week, another country - now we are in Laos which so far has proved to be a pretty beautiful place. I suppose when you are the second most sparsely populated country in Asia you can afford to have the occasional bit of jaw-dropping scenery.

The last blog left us in Pak Chong I think. Well from there we found our way up to Chang Mai, courtesy of a 3 hour train ride. Followed by a 13 hour, overnight train ride. It just doesn't seem like you're going anywhere these days unless it takes at least 8 hours... (Actually I've just re-read my last blog and I did already mention that. Well in case you weren't concentrating the first time there it is again).

So, Chang Mai. It was meant to be the chilled out antidote to a few days of cheeky Chang consumption in Bangkok. Who knew that the hotel we checked into was going to be selling large bottles of Chang for 40 Baht? It wasn't our fault, the Chang made us do it! The prime example of this excuse is that Nick decided to get in the ring with a Muay Thai boxer. (Kind of like Kickboxing, or as the Thai's say, "same same but different"). The result wasn't pretty. Very, very funny but not pretty. To be fair the Thai boxer did let Nick charge at him around the ring for two rounds until he decided enough was enough. (or in Swiss "a monkey is a monkey" - I don't know why either). When that fateful time came, Nick went to get in close in response to the drunken cries of "GO FOR THE UPPERCUT!", and the Thai guy swiftly lifted his knee squarely and accurately into Nick's ribcage. To his credit, Nick did get up after the first tonking but was swiftly sent back down with another, this time more decisive knee. That was game, set and match. Very strong painkillers, perhaps some kind of mysteriously strong Thai horse tranquilizers have since been relieving the possibly cracked ribs of aforementioned Chang fiend. Moral of the story: Thailand is a silly place that makes you do silly things on an alarmingly regular basis and we are better off for the sake of our physical and mental well being, in Laos.

But Chang Mai did provide us with plenty of entertainment that didn't involve watching Nick get kicked in the head too. We learnt Thai cookery, we can now all honestly say that we can whip up a mean Pad Thai Noodles. Or perhaps you would like to try our green curry or we could even crack out some spring rolls? Then, on another day I realised that Team Canada, as we are sometimes collectively known had become the A-team. This realisation came when I had rented a scooter for the day and rode about 40km out of Chang Mai to see the Hot Springs. There I met some Hawaiians who were there on holiday with there mother, who was Thai, and by coincidence had a brother-in-law born in Southampton. Anyway, I digress, "why the A-team?" I hear you cry. Well, I'm there on my own and have explained why I have a Canada patch sewn on my bag, and they ask where the rest of Team Canada is today. So I tell them, one is jungle trekking for a couple of days (Laura) one is rock climbing (Tom) and the other is having an easy day because he is too doped up on painkillers after Chang made him get hurt in a Muay Thai ring. As the words were coming out of my mouth I realised this must make us sound like the most action-packed set of backpackers ever. I liked this.

Now we are in Laos and it is a calming place, the anti-Thailand if you like. Not that we didn't have a great few weeks in Changland but sometimes you just need to be taken away from temptation. The day after crossing the border into Laos we took a 2-day boat ride down the Mekong river from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, where we currently preside. There was a stop off along the way in a town called Pak Beng so it wasn't 2 days solidly on a boat but still, travel in Laos is not the fastest known to man. Not that it mattered because for 2 days we were surrounded by some of the greatest landscapes I have seen anywhere. You could be looking at it all, maybe read your book for two minutes, then look up again and there would be a whole new postcard-perfect view to gawp at. At the end of two days, many arses were utterly numb, but it was definitely worth it. And besides, the other option to get to Luang Prabang offered was a speed boat trip which was not exactly recommended by our guide book: "Fatalities are not uncommon". Hmmm.

With all the photos and all that I've just written, I imagine a good many of you have skipped to this penultimate paragraph by now. I would have. But if you managed to hack your way through, I applaud you. Few people would show such dedication to such a worthless cause.

Until the next installment of our adventures, I have been Hannibal, Murdoch was played by Laura, the part of B.A. Barracus was aptly acted by Tom and Face was brought to life by Nick. Paul was one of the poor landowners that the A-team used to help fight against some mafia lowlife or drug dealing pimp.

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