A Travellerspoint blog

African overland adventure begins

South Africa

semi-overcast 25 °C

Due to a change in Oasis Overland’s departure date, I had a week in Cape Town before the trip started. This was good news as Cape Town is a lovely city.

I stayed on Long Street, the main street in the centre of the city. There are loads of bars and restaurants which I, and some people from my backpackers, enjoyed sussing out. The city bowl is very clean and westernised – I thought it felt like the centre of Auckland. After India, the orderliness, cool weather and lack of humidity was really welcome.

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Lion’s head, across from Table Mountain.

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Some newly made friends and I decided to climb Table Mountain one day when the weather was fine. This was autumn time in South Africa and the weather was very mixed. One minute there would be glorious sunshine and another it would pour with rain. Importantly though, it wasn’t too hot which made the hike very pleasant.

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As we got higher, the clouds came over and the temperature dropped quite suddenly.

Then, as soon as we reached the summit, the clouds lifted and the stunning views unfolded.
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We took the cable car down. Robben Island, the prison where they kept Nelson Mandela, can be seen out at sea.

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Before I knew it, it was time to join the truck and meet the group who I’d be with for the next four months. We had a meeting one evening to sort out various pieces of paperwork and, in the morning, we set off. The independent half of my travels was over and I was delighted to just sit back and have all the logistics taken care of. I loved backpacking independently, however you eventually get tired of constantly having to pack everything away, negotiate how to get to the next place, root out cheap accommodation and find food. Month after month, it’s quite exhausting. Being on the overland truck, you dump all of your stuff in a locker and most of the annoying hassles are removed.

The first stop on our itinerary was the Stellenbosch wine growing region where we toured several wineries and tasted a wide range of wines.

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In the Simonsig winery, our guide showed us a ceremonial way of opening a champagne bottle… with a machete to chop the top off!

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A chameleon we found at one place.

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Some of the wineries were beautiful and set in breathtaking surroundings. We sat around tables drinking wine in the sunshine. It was a great way for everyone in the group to become acquainted with each other.

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The other side of Table Mountain.

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Following our day of drinking copious amounts of wine, we had a full day of driving north towards the Namibian border. The scenery was very dramatic; we drove through fertile farmland and over winding mountain passes. That night we camped by a lake in a place called Clan William.

My Cape Town to Cairo expedition is the second half of a huge 40 week Trans Africa trip which goes from London all the way down the west coast of Africa to Cape Town, through fascinating countries like Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, DRC and Angola. About half of the people currently on the truck did this first, so already knew each other very well. We newbies who joined in South Africa were quickly made to feel part of the team however and I felt from day one that there was a fantastic group spirit.

The next day we continued to drive up though the northern part of South Africa’s Western Cape until we reached the border with Namibia. The landscape changed, gradually becoming drier and hotter as we skirted the edge of the Kalahari Desert. Over the border, we camped beside the Orange River at a very pleasant campsite with a lit swimming pool. As we were putting our tents up and cooking dinner, we had to battle with a dust storm. Suddenly, the pressure dropped and a wind swept through the camp, carrying half the desert with it!

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Moody sky.

Posted by AlTiffany2 11:58 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Incredible India

sunny 35 °C

Following an alarmingly steep, bumpy take off and a two hour flight, I landed in Kolkata (Calcutta) fairly late at night. The airport was probably the worst I’ve ever seen – little more than a shed. Welcome to the second largest city in India!

I took a taxi into the city in one of Calcutta’s iconic, ancient yellow Ambassador cabs – a great experience in itself. Traffic everywhere, suicidal motorbikes squeezing between giant overladen trucks, animals, noises, smells, all accompanied by a constant drone of car horns.

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In amongst all the chaos, the taxi stopped and the driver said, cheerfully, “Here we are sir. Sudder Street,” – the place where I was to stay. Exhausted, I found a room in an old, crumbling hotel and fell asleep immediately.
In the morning, I surveyed my room. Peeling whitewashed walls, mouldy mattresses and a jagged hole in the wall with a few bars across. (Whether or not it was supposed to be a window, I couldn’t decide.) That’s the thing about India; you can live like a king, and pay for it, or live in fleapits for practically nothing. Of course, this time, I fell into the second category – and it was great fun. Talking to fellow travellers on the rooftop terrace, comparing notes on the states of our respective rooms, one learns that, if you’re prepared to really rough it, India is the perfect place to do so.

Calcutta has a bad reputation, and has done ever since the days of the Raj. Yes, it is full on, in your face, dirty and incredibly decrepit, but I really liked it. It has character and feels so Indian. I felt incredibly safe there, even wandering around at night, and the people were so friendly.

The Maidan, a large park in the centre of the city, is a place locals come to relax, picnic, ride horses and play cricket.

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Indians really do love their cricket. I could see at least ten games underway here, from school kids using sticks as stumps, to adults, fully kitted out in their IPL gear sporting the latest bats and pads.

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The classic Calcutta Ambassador taxis.

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The Albert Memorial, on the edge of the Maidan, surrounded by beautiful gardens.

I was sat on the grass with a book when a group of guys approached me asking if I wanted to play football. A gentle kick-about turned into a full-on match when another group joined. It was really great that these guys invited me, a total stranger, into their game.

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Exhausted after the match, which only finished when it got too dark, I headed back to my hotel, stopping on the way to eat a Bhel Puri; puffed rice, potatoes, spices and chutney; all mixed up and served in a cone of magazine pages – delicious.

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Chai and street food vendors were everywhere. I spent quite a lot of time sitting on a bench with the locals sipping chai. The chai wallahs have a big pot of the stuff brewing constantly. It’s a good, social pastime, sampling the brews – each one different – whilst thinking about what next to do.

On my hotel’s rooftop terrace, I met a Australian guy, Lloyd, who was planning to go to Varanasi at the same time as me. So, we decided to book the train and travel together. The Indian rail network is fantastic; you can go almost anywhere, and it is, by far, the cheapest way to get around a country so vast. Plus, you can book the trains online – surprisingly efficient.

Getting from our hotel to Howrah station, however, was not so straightforward. We had to take a bus, but the busses’ destinations are written in Bengali, so not much use to us. Eventually, a bus drove past with a guy leaning out of the window shouting “Howrah, Howrah!” So, we shouted “Howrah!” back at him whilst battling through the crowds towards the bus. The driver didn’t feel the need to stop, meaning we had to jump up and hang on, whilst trying to balance five heavy bags between us. Getting off was just as problematic, requiring considerable use of elbows. I dropped one of my bags on someone’s head at one point, causing considerable amusement.

At the station, I bought a Times of India newspaper for 2.5 rupees (3p) and sat on the platform waiting for the train. When it arrived, the ‘Doon Express,’ we found our carriage and got settled in. They pin a sheet of paper on the side of every carriage, with the names of everyone who has a reservation and their corresponding seat. Again, very efficient. That’s one of the paradoxes of India – it’s chaos, yet well organised and orderly at the same time.

We opted for Sleeper Class (SL) – the cheapest. The more expensive classes have carpets, air-con, bed linen and glass windows. None of these luxuries on Sleeper; there are three tier, open bunks, open windows and a BYO policy on bedding. Made the Thai trains look positively plush! It was great fun – besides saving money, it’s the way that ‘ordinary’ Indians travel so a perfect chance to get chatting with the locals. Very atmospheric too, with the chai and food wallahs bustling up and down, and people leaning into the windows at stations selling refreshments.

In the morning, and after another scrum, we caught an autorickshaw into Varanasi’s old city.

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There are cows everywhere here. Varanasi is an extremely holy place for Hindus, so the cows are allowed to wander around at will. Our hotel was in the middle of the old city, hidden amongst a maze of narrow alleyways. For the first few times, finding our way back proved tricky – you just have to wander randomly until you see something you recognise.

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A Babu, or Hindu Holy Man.

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The Ghats, steps leading down to the River Ganges (‘Ganga,’ in Hindi), are the focal point of the city. Annoyingly, there are also loads of people trying to sell you opium and hash, legal here, for religious, spiritual purposes. And they’re seriously persistent too. The boatmen can be a bit of a hassle also, trying to sell you rowing boat trips down the river (“Hello boat?”)

Locals come here to wash themselves and their clothes, and pilgrims come from all over the world to cleanse their souls in the holy river. You can get massages and haircuts done here too. Unfortunately, people also use the river as a sewer and rubbish dump. Another paradox – the holiest river in India has raw sewage pumped into it. Everything goes in: rubbish, dead animals, dead people. The water is black. Many pilgrims actually drink the stuff… guts of steel I recon. Lloyd and I decided, against our better judgements, to take a swim in it with the locals. At one point I trod on something which felt horribly like a human skull… Still, my skin did feel pretty good afterwards (following a long shower!)

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There is a festival on the main ghat every evening with music and candles. Thousands of people come together to celebrate. Sitting on the steps, people watching and soaking up the atmosphere, we both agreed was the highlight of our time in Varanasi. There is a very spiritual vibe surrounding the entire city. Whether Hindu or not, the feeling in the air is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s impossible to describe in words – certainly the most extraordinary place I’ve ever been.
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The alleyways around the old city are full of cows, often blocking the way.

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Monkey on our hotel’s rooftop terrace.

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View of the old city from the terrace.

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Cricket in the alley outside our hotel.

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Alleys leading down to the ‘burning’ ghat. Hindus from all over India bring their dead relatives to Varanasi to be burnt on the ghat, next to the river. And if a person dies in the city, they believe this frees them from the cycle of reincarnation. The burnings are done in public; large funeral pyres burn 24 hours a day. Stacks of wood are lined along the alleys and the dead’s relatives must buy their wood, which needs to burn for four hours to fully incinerate the body. Far from being morbid, as I thought it might be, it’s actually very beautiful. There are no tears and anybody is free to sit and watch the process. Often you see funeral processions making their way through the backstreets; a column of people, chanting and bearing the embalmed body on a stretcher down towards the burning ghat.

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Our favourite chai stall.

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This sweet little girl was selling lotus flower candles to float on the river.

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We wanted to do a sunrise boat trip but, for several mornings in a row couldn’t face getting up at 4am. So, we decided to stay up all night on the terrace, along with a few Israeli guys. They got out their hookah pipe and we talked the night away, about traveling, religion, the state of the world at the moment… all that sort of stuff. Following that, we made our way down to the river and got into a rowing boat.

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The burning ghat. You’re not supposed to take photos up close, but our boatman said it would be ok from this distance. Watching the sun rise over the river, as people started coming down to pray and wash, was very beautiful.

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Washing being done in the Ganga.

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For some strange reason, Lloyd wanted to acquire a human skull. He went off for an hour and came back with this thing in a bag. Despite my protests, he decided to bring it to the room to clean. It must have been pretty fresh, there were bits of crusty flesh attached to the neck and “brain cobweb” inside. Interesting, in a weird way. It stank something awful though; the smell permeated the whole floor of our hotel. At my insistence, he got rid of it the next day.

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This guy was off his tree.

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Cows!

Towards the end of my time in Varanasi I got a stomach bug – the infamous Delhi Belly. Without the gory details, it was the worst diarrhoea I have ever had and it lasted for over a week. Virtually everyone who goes to India gets some sort of stomach upset; the hygiene standards are very poor. It must have been something I ate; it wasn’t the dip in the Ganges, I know, as it had started before this.

From Varanasi I took a train to Mumbai – 27 hours. The stomach was pretty bad at this point…

Traditional rural communities along the railway line.
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Mumbai was totally different from my expectations. The centre was fairly clean, organised and stress free (for India, that is.)

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Lonely Planet describes it as like ‘London on speed,’ which I can definitely see. There are many grand Victorian buildings and an eccentric, modern, buzzing atmosphere. There is a noticeable energy here; not surprising as it is a financial and cultural hub. The home of Bollywood, the movie industry is a big deal here. My stomach was, however, at its worst here which put a bit of a dampener on my experience. For example, I would have loved to go and watch a movie at one of the many old cinemas, however the thought of having to risk two hours without easy access to a toilet meat I didn’t attempt this – a real shame.

I explored the waterfront and saw the Gateway of India, a huge arch by the water. However, unfortunately I can’t seem to access the photos I took that day.

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Cricket on the Oval Maidan

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The High Court. Barristers walk the streets wearing similar gowns and wigs as are worn in England – another throwback to British rule.

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A groovy taxi I took to the airport.

Following another night spent in an airport, I had a short flight to Qatar and then a long one to Cape Town, via Jo’burg.

Posted by AlTiffany2 12:17 Archived in India Comments (1)

Siem Reap and Angkor

semi-overcast 32 °C

With less than a week until my flight to India, I only had time to visit Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor. My original plan was to travel down through the south of Lao, cross into eastern Cambodia and make my way west to Siem Reap. However, time was an issue, things take longer than you allow for and I didn’t want to have to rush. Consecutive days on busses bumping over poor roads wouldn’t have been fun.

Angkor was the seat of the great Khmer Empire, which ruled much of South East Asia. There are many temple complexes; the most famous, and therefore most touristed, being Angkor Wat. One must purchase a pass, which allows entry to all of the temples. Most people use tuk tuks to get from town to the temples, but I thought hiring a push bike would be more fun (and it only cost $2/day).

One evening I went to Phnom Bakheng, a temple on top of a hill, to watch the sunset.

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Too many people for my liking, but the ruins were impressive. A path winds its way up through jungley forest to the temple.

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Alternatively, you can ride an elephant.

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One of the things I liked most about the Angkor ruins is that many of them are now hidden amongst dense jungle, giving them a mysterious, mystical feel. However, for the buildings themselves, this is a mixed blessing as invasive undergrowth damages the structures and many have collapsed. Sections of Phnom Bakheng are currently being repaired.

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Incredibly steep steps.

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Angkor Wat in the distance.

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The hotel I stayed at was owned by a Cambodian and a Welsh guy, John. John said he and his wife moved over to Cambodia to sit out the recession. They make enough from the hotel to live comfortably and save the rental income from their home in the UK to sort them out when (“/if”) they return. Pretty good idea really.

Cambodia has a strange system of currency. They use Riel and US dollars, at a rate of 4000:1. For example, if something costs $1.50, you can pay with $2 and get 2000 Riel change. It takes a while to get used to this – they should really pick one currency and stick with it!

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Causeway leading to Angkor Wat. The huge complex is surrounded by a moat.

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The buildings, a maze of passageways, courtyards and galleries, are remarkably well preserved and intact, given that they are 900 years old. It was incredibly humid the day I visited – never sweated so much!

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Intricately detailed carvings are everywhere.

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Restoration work being carried out on the three main towers.

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Carvings on the walls of several galleries illustrate Hindu epics.

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The Angkor Children’s Hospital is always short of blood so I decided to donate. I’d never given blood before but felt that it was the least I could do. Everything was clean, sterilised and I got a free t-shirt! I felt so good after doing it, to have potentially helped save a child’s life, that I have decided to continue doing it when I get home. It doesn’t cost anything, after all. That day, cycling in the heat made me feel a little funny, but no worries.

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Ruins are scattered throughout the Angkor area, some just on the side of the road.

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Ta Prohm, the last ruin I visited, is one of the most atmospheric. It’s also famous as being one of the places in which the Tomb Raider movie was filmed.

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Trees have grown into and amongst the buildings, giving it the feel of a long lost city – which I guess it is. Many of the Angkor temples have only been rediscovered fairly recently and, unlike Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm has been left, more or less, as it was when it was discovered.

I was there at the end of the day. Walking around and inside the dark passageways at sunset, with nobody else there, felt like I was discovering the place myself.

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My time in South East Asia was drawing to a close and, from Siem Reap, I got a bus back to Bangkok. The last bit of hassle came at the airport. My flight to Kolkata was due to leave early in the morning so I got to the airport the night before and waited for 12 hours. Then, when I tried to check in, I was told that the time of the flight had changed and that I had to wait for another 12 hours. Not great news after a night of no sleep. If I’d known, I could have booked to stay the night in a guesthouse. Oh well, Bangkok’s new airport is an ultra-modern, fairly pleasant place to hang around for 24 hours – it could’ve been worse. And I had a good book…

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The King.

Posted by AlTiffany2 23:56 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Lao

semi-overcast 27 °C

From Mae Sai, I took a packed local bus to Chiang Rai and then another to Chiang Khong, on the Lao border.

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People manage to pack so much stuff onto the back of busses.

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Lao, on the other side of the Mekong. To cross it, one must take a rickety wooden longtail boat.

Once past the unfriendly immigration officers, I booked a ticket for the slow boat to Luang Prabang for the next day. Later on, a few people I met and I went looking for a bar. We accidently found ourselves in someone’s garden, where a group of teenagers were sat around a fire. We asked them where to go but, instead of telling us, invited us to join them and promptly passed us all a beer. We were all stunned by this genuine friendliness shown to total strangers. Only a couple of them spoke basic English but we discovered that it was one girl’s birthday. The friends had got together for a party at the house of one of theirs, whose parents were out. For all our cultural differences, we’re not that unalike!

I was in Houay Xai when the earthquake hit Burma. We were on a raised wooden terrace bar in the evening when the ground started shaking. Everybody looked around, and then at each other, in silence for a few seconds. That’s how long it took for our brains to compute and rationalise what was happening. Then, we all jumped up from the floor, rushed down to ground level and waited for the shaking to stop. It was pretty scary; we were shaking from the adrenaline. Scarier still was when I found out, a week later, that the quake’s epicentre was in Tachileik, the Burmese town I was in less than 48 hours before, and that over 100 people had been killed there. Later on in the night, and the next morning, there were aftershocks, one of which occurred whilst I was in the shower. Again, a little scary.

Taking a two day wooden slow boat down the Mekong is one of those classic, must-do experiences in Lao.

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After a lot of confusion, chaos and waiting around, our boat left – massively overladen – and we began what was to become a very pleasant journey.

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There wasn’t much to do on the boat, just read, sleep and watch the world slowly drift by. I loved it – a great way to rest and recover.

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At the end of the first day, the boat pulled into a tiny village called Pakbeng for the night. We all thought we’d get ripped off for accommodation in this place, as it was the only place offering beds, but were pleasantly surprised.

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This room cost me 5 pounds.

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At the end of the second day we pulled into Luang Prabang and everyone scurried off in search of a guesthouse. After a bit of hunting and haggling I jumped onto the back of a motorbike and was taken to a peaceful place on the end of the peninsula on which the town is built.

I really liked LP; although a little touristy, the town is full of rustic charm, monks wandering the streets and beautiful temples.

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Wat Xieng Thong – the most famous temple in Lao.

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This float was the centrepiece of the last king of Lao’s funeral procession. His body was placed in a foetal position inside the centre urn. Even though the country is now run by communists, there is much reverence and respect shown to this artefact.

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The temple complex was incredibly tranquil.

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At one point a gong was sounded and a group of monks gathered inside this shrine and played music with drums, cymbals and bells.

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Some of the houses in LP are beautiful ad many have lovely gardens.

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I enjoyed wandering around, soaking up the relaxed vibe.

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There are countless places to eat; some of my favourite were above the banks of the Mekong with views out over the water. A perfect place to have dinner and watch the boats chug up and down the Mekong – Lao’s main transport artery.

A traditional Lao dish is laap – a ‘salad’ of shredded meat, fresh coriander leaves and chilli, served with a wicker pot of sticky rice which you roll into balls and eat with your fingers – delicious. A bottle of Beer Lao to wash it down as the sun sets – a great way to end the day.

There is a ferry linking Luang Prabang to a village on the other side of the Mekong. Setting foot on the far shore was like stepping back in time. LP is fairly affluent, with cars, paved roads and houses with western style mod cons. Over the water, there were animals wandering around and people sitting around fires outside tin shack houses. I was the only foreigner there and attracted some curiosity. It really was a world apart from the town only a few hundred metres away. I guess this was the face of traditional, rural Lao – a country, for the most part, very poor and under developed.

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The main road.

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Looking back across to Luang Prabang.

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Scenery on the drive through the mountains to Vang Vieng. Sections of the road are in terrible condition, there are steep drops and incredibly sharp bends. It was great fun – our driver seemed to think so too and enthusiastically honked his horn at almost every passing car.

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Vang Vieng has an awesome mountainous backdrop.

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View from my favourite café. You sit cross-legged, propped up on cushions and eat from a low table.

The town is a big party place and there are many bars. It’s also a good place to take it easy and enjoy the scenery. Whilst there isn’t much ‘real’ Lao culture there, it’s nice to let your hair down after a gruelling few weeks of backpacking. I met up with a few people here who I’d been with in Luang Prabang and on the slow boat. That’s the thing about travelling in Asia; you’re never far away from other backpackers and company.

Lots of people rent tractor inner tubes ad float down the river, stopping at the various bars along the way. You signal to a person on the shore and they throw you a rope to pull yourself in. We made it to the third bar! Some of them have rope swings and slides down into the water.

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After all that excitement, you head back to town and sit around watching Family Guy in one of the many cafes. Then, more partying in the evening and down to the river to lie in hammocks, sit around a fire playing music and watch the sun rise over the mountains. As I said before, not a particularly authentic Lao experience, but still, I met some interesting people and had a good few days.

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My last stop in Lao was Vientiane, the capital. This is the smallest, most laidback capital city I’ve ever visited – it feels more like a French town. There isn’t much to see or do here, but there is some excellent food and a number of cafes. Here I bumped into a couple I’d met in Chiang Mai a few weeks before and some people from Vang Vieng.

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Free communal gym in the park – a great idea.

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A rather French feel.

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And an English pub.

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Can’t escape it.

When leaving Lao, the official wanted us to pay a “departure stamp fee” – not an official requirement; supplementing her pension no doubt. When I refused, she took my passport and wouldn’t give it back until I paid. What can you do…

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Back in Thailand I caught an overnight train to Bangkok, hung around there for the morning and then a day train to Aranyaprathet, on the Cambodian border. This second train was so packed (no seat allocations) I had to sit on the floor, on my bags, for four hours, even though the section reserved for monks was almost empty.

At the border I got ripped off by someone claiming to be the only person able to issue visas on arrival. I subsequently learned, after talking to other travellers who’d had the same experience, that this was not the case and that we’d all been charged way over the odds. One of the reasons I hate borders.

In addition, I was told that the only way I could get to Siem Reap that night was by taxi – not cheap – and that there were no budget hotels or guesthouses in Poipet, the Cambodian border town. Whether or not this actually was the case, I didn’t know. However, I didn’t fancy the thought of having to wander around a dodgy border town alone at night with all of my stuff. So I paid.

That four hour taxi ride was the only time in my trip so far that I’ve felt genuinely afraid. Firstly, when I got in the car we were stopped by a policeman who took a long time questioning the driver, frowning and looking at me. Once we were underway, the driver, who claimed not to speak any English, was constantly jabbering away into his phone and shooting looks at me through the rear view mirror. After a while, he stopped, got out and started talking with some guys who’d pulled up behind us. It was the middle of the night, there was nobody else around, no one could tell me what was going on and I didn’t like it at all.

I was eventually told to get into another car but refused to until my bags were loaded into the same one. I don’t think the guys were too impressed, but finally agreed, a new driver this time, and we got going again.

More yabbering into the phone and I was convinced that a pair of headlights was following us.

After about an hour we stopped again and the driver started unloading sacks full of something onto the back of a motorbike. I kept telling myself they were potatoes.

I kept looking out for signs to Siem Reap but didn’t see any; I didn’t know where we were going. It’s unfortunate that sometimes when you suspect you’re in trouble, your mind jumps to the worst possible outcome. And there was nothing I could do, sitting in the back of a car, speeding through the night.

You can imagine my relief when I eventually spotted a sign re-assuring me that we were indeed near Siem Reap, and even more so when I finally crawled into bed.

Posted by AlTiffany2 07:07 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

A day in Burma

sunny 28 °C

I had planned to do a motorbike tour in the mountainous Shan province of eastern Burma, however when I got to Mae Sai, the Thai border town, my guide was drunk. I found out that he is unable to see his family who live in central Burma because the military government imposes strict travel restrictions within the country, applying to locals as well as foreigners. So depressed, this guy took to drinking. It was heart breaking to see and hear. This guy, once a respected and well recommended tour guide, had been reduced to a wreck by the policies of a paranoid dictatorship. It brought home the human impact, on a personal level.

Without a guide, foreigners are not allowed to travel independently in the Shan province. You are allowed to visit Tachileik, the border town on the Burmese side, however. Many people take advantage of this by doing a visa run to extend their Thai visa.

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The bridge between the two countries. Flags change at the centre point. Burmese immigration rules are, as you can expect, pretty strict. Every visitor has to surrender their passport on arrival and get it back when they leave.

Tackileik market was much grittier than the one just over the river. People constantly try to sell you drugs, fake cigarettes, porn, pirate DVDs and clothes.

The ‘Golden Triangle,’ consisting of the area where the Thai, Burmese and Lao borders meet is one of the most notorious drug producing regions in the world. Poppies are grown mainly in Burma, smuggled over to Thailand and then distributed all over South East Asia and further afield.

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A temple for Buddhist nuns. The few Burmese people I met were lovely. Here, a lady saw me looking at the building and welcomed me inside to show me around.

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The girls were chanting and swaying together in a trance; it was quite hypnotic.

Further down the road I bumped into a woman and two children who thought the sight of me was hilarious. They were so sweet, smiling, waving and giggling. These people clearly don’t get to see many foreigners wandering around and many would stop and stare as I walked past, with looks of curiosity on their faces.

The hills and valleys around the town were so beautiful and tranquil. After half an hour or so I was out of the town and in the middle of a rural scene which probably hasn’t changed for hundreds of years.

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Cool number plate.

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Burma on the left; Thailand on the right.

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Posted by AlTiffany2 06:51 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

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