Change of Pace

>It hasn’t been so long since I last emailed and there’s not so much to tell but I’m off to Myanmar in a few days, or perhaps a few plus some, and reports are that there is very limited email availability there. Never know when I will next be able to contact you all so here’s perhaps the last update for a while re: my travels. Apologies in advance for the lack of real content and inclusion of so much babble, but I haven’t really done anything lately and I need to make this email vaguely long and interesting.

After my “Lost in Thailand” adventure, Laos seemed quite nice and easy. In fact, the most difficult thing to do in Laos was to work out what to do. This is actually harder than it sounds as Laos is a place I think famous for not much. Each day I would sit around wondering what I would do for the day and eventually end up doing the same as the previous day, which was pretty much nothing. The only time I really varied from this routine was when I got sick again at which time I was always doing something, usually (in fact always – luckily) in the toilet.

Anyway, upon arrival in Vientiane (capital of Laos) I was a bundle of energy (which quickly disappeared but never mind). I strode off to see the city only to finish just a few hours later. Vientiane is not really a city at all. Just a small town, but hey, that’s Laos for you.

The next day I departed Vientiane on route to Vang Vieng, an even smaller town than Vientiane where there is probably even less to do but everything in Laos is just so relaxing that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had timed my visit to Vang Vieng perfectly to coincide with the annual village boat race where the locals compete against other villages and some travellers also feel the urge to get involved. Personally I thought it was a good idea in theory but in the end it was a struggle in the heat to even to watch the event. Instead I vaguely wandered off to see a cave and not much else for the day.

My visit to Vang Vieng also coincided with the trauma of the internet connection not working for the entire time I was there. Argh. Myself and a few other victims (Hi Susanne, Per and Chris) would check each day to see if we could log on, only to be met with signs saying “No Working”. This became a big joke in the end as we questioned the people working in these Internet establishments incessantly. All questions were invariably met with the same answer. So if you asked:

Is the internet working today, the answer would be “Not Working”.

When will it be working, the answer, “Not Working”.

How long hasn’t it been working for, answer, “No Working”.

Sometimes they might say “tomorrow” but this was just a trick as the next day you could return and the damn thing still wouldn’t be working and these questions would start all over again.

In the end, I’m sorry to say that the people working there would run at the sight of us, fearing our incessant questioning.

Next stop in Laos was Luang Prabang which I believe used to be the capital of Laos. A beautiful place full of temples and again I timed my visit perfectly to coincide with the boat festival. Again you will notice the pattern that I didn’t really do anything in Luang Prabang. In fact I think the only thing that I really did was to visit a beautiful waterfall. Not bad for three days. The rest of the time, again I just spent trying to work out what to do and where to go next.

What I ended up doing next was just following the Swedes I was travelling with, while my Scottish roomie followed us all as well. Next stop, Vang Vieng. Oh yeah, same place. I was heading back to Vientiane. This time in Vang Vieng to my great amazement, the internet was working (very quickly I might add). The stop was primarily to break the journey to Vientiane, but also to go tubing down the Nam Song (?) river which I hadn’t managed the first time. For 4000 kip you get a tyre tube, jump in the fast flowing river and head downstream for an hour or so. Just like the rest of Laos, this is just so relaxing (although you can get a little sunburnt) and apart from my control freak need to constantly steer, there is not really anything to do. Four kilometres later there is a sign, in English thankfully, telling the tubers to stop. My stop was faciltated by the small footbridge that I crashed into and nearly got trapped under. Not particularly graceful but it added some excitement to the adventure. Others took the drift into shore option so I’m sure my way was much more entertaining.

That was pretty much it for Laos. I returned to Vientiane then departed the next day to Thailand heading to Chiang Mai. One note on Laos though is the brilliant currency they have. To make it easy, 10000 kip is approximately US$1, and the absolute biggest currency note they have is a 5000 kip note! Seriously! So if you cash a travellers cheque for US$50 you end up walking around with this great big wad of money that is impossible to conceal. It’s amazing.

Sadly, I had to leave Laos as my trip is coming closer to the end. The mission was to get to Chiang Mai where I could organise a Myanmar (Burma) visa and then fly into Mandalay. The bus trip to Chiang Mai was as wonderful as any 12 hours bus trip can be. Before boarding the bus we had a few hours to kill in Udon Thami and were befriended by a lovely monk. At the bus station he told us that he was headed to visit his mother at the hospital and would we like to join him. What can you say? If a visit to see his sick mother will help then who are we to refuse. When we arrived at the hospital we didn’t go in at all. Seems the monk’s mother has a food stall outside the hospital so she isn’t sick at all. We visited the family for a few hours, sitting around chatting about the monks favourite bands which include Westlife and Backstreet Boys.

Now I have been and still am in Chiang Mai doing nothing. I think it has been about four days that I have been here and each day I have managed about the same … nothing. I am staying at the Julie Guesthouse which is a wonderful place to relax and whilst there are many things to do, nothing always seems to be the best option. I contemplated doing a cookery course (NO LAUGHING) but as they didn’t seem to have one that started at the basics of opening a can and how to recognise cooking utensils, I haven’t yet bothered. In truth, I just prefer doing nothing at this stage.

So in a few days I will be in Myanmar which is pretty much the last leg of the journey before I head home. Perhaps I will find another week or so and then I can relax on a beach somewhere before flying back to Melbourne, but otherwise I will see those of you there soon. To everyone else, I hope to see you soon as well wherever you are.