Monday, October 31, 2016

Phosavan - plains of jars

We arrived to phosavan in the dark and it started to rain. The bus stations are never in the town center and we booked a place 3 k out of town to save money. 

They stored my bag under a seat and made a small tear in my brand new bag. I've been searching for duct tape so the year doesn't get bigger. 

The tuk tuk takes advantage of that situation but it's still cheap. Hotel guy didn't speak English and didn't have our booking. We still got rooms after much confusion over the prices. 

The town is big but totally not set up for independent English speaking travelers. So happy I wasn't alone. It's cool to see a real place without al the tourist amenities but it also puts you off your comfortZone a bit more. Oh and literally it was the first time on this trip I felt cool. Happy cloudy day!!!!

We came to see the plains of jars, which is an unexplainable site of the huge, heavy thick jars in the middle of nowhere. It's believe  theae are urns for prehistoric burial site for an ancient civilization.  And we learned from a map app on our phones that there was a small cave. You can also see craters from The bombs we dropped here when we were fighting Vietnam. 

Actually we learned that Laos and In particular this town was heavily bombed by the US for 9 years. 4 million bombs, one every 8 minutes. People are still get hurting or killed by them as 30% didn't explode.  

 People go for them for scrap metal for extra money and get hurt/killed. Farmers are scared to expand crops in fear of dying. This is keeping be locals in poverty and I felt so terrible for being american today. And we still battle after 40 years from this, lessons not learned.

I'm glad I made this stop which was out of the way as it's easy and I'm headed south.  Pix at

Sunday, October 30, 2016

On the way to phosavan - bus experience

Some of the boat friends and I took a minivan to phonsavan. It was packed and we got stuck in the back 4 people meant for 3 seats, with no air. After 2 hrs of bouncing around and sweating, the car was smoking. The driver put at least 20 big bottles of water he got from a stream and left the engine on. He ignored all of us telling him to turn the car off.  

After 1.5 hr we, the car was still on and overheated, he drove 10 mins till the car died. We demanded he call for a new one though he didn't speak any English. A guy who spoke both languages told us one will be here soon. 

We walked to a near by small village on the road by the cliffs for some food and warm beer. The villages are all long and narrow with small huts for houses and kids bathing naked outside and lots of chickens running around. I'm amazed they have running water up here. 

 I asked the guy who spoke both languages how long should the trip be because lonely planet said 10 hrs and the ticket agency said 6. After much confusion, he said we are headed to the Thai boarder which is the opposite way we wanted to go. 
After having a heart attack and then checking our gps on our phones we told him that he was going the wrong way, not us. He had to hitch back in to town but before he did he proudly told us he tried heroin last night. Hmm maybe one shouldn't do that before traveling. 

Our new minivan was nicer with our own seats and Ac! The road winds and curves through the lush green moutains. You wear your seatbelt to stay on your seat. Still pretty bouncy and with the many turns, two local girls kept getting sick and tossing their full plastic bags out the window. We made a stop to pee alongside the road. 

Before we got on the crappy first crowded minivan I had a bad feeling and wanted to say no we paid for our own seats and we should have another van. But it's so hard to be demanding when no on speaks your language. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Laos - Luang Prabang 10/16

 Laos was a few A French colony till 1953 and was also in the middle of the war between Vietnam and the US. It's one of 20 poorest nations and 2008 economy crash seemed to slowed their progress. 

Luang Prabang the major city in the north has a center filled with touristy needs. However there's not much to see or do in the city despite lonely planet's description.  There's a few Buddhist temples that look ancient, deserted and in need of renovations. 

I ate at a local place that didn't have a menu; they just serve one kind of soup. It was tasty but I skipped the coagulated blood part.

I ran in to some travelers from the slow boat and the next day we took a tuk tuk then a tiny tippy, boat to tad sea waterfalls. We hiked up to the second falls with no one else there. So much beauty. 
Coming back from the second falls, we saw a tourist on an elephant in th pools.  It's a big thing to do here and in northern Thai. I never had the urge to be on an elephant and feel bad seeing them in this way. Probably the closest I will get to one. Gosh their mouth and ears are so big!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Slow boat crossing to Laos

 A popular way to cross into Laos border is via a two day slow boat trip. Everything was arranged so I liked that I just had to get picked up by the mini van.

 First day you drive near the crossing with a very quick stop near Chiang rai to visit the White Temple. This is a private artists' concept, he's been working on in since 1996. There's a LT of symbolism here and I can't capture it in a nutshell. More info at

The hotel our group was organized with was overbooked and we got a sweet upgrade to nice place with a garden and pool. I roommated with Elisabeth a Spanish chick who just completed a 10 day meditation at a monestary north west of Thai. 

Our dinner was included at some bar that had a foosball table (score!)  Dinner was white rice with some veggies. Next day woke up early for our egg /toast breakfast that was included and tuk tuk to the border. 

Not too far I realized I forgot my phone was charging in the reception area so went back to get it. Also my roomie lost her departure card that u get when u first arrived to Thai. The guy at the boarder scolded us a bit and then gave it to her. We screwed up a bit of other smaller details. Day was done for us. 

You take a short bus for less than a dollar to the loas boarder. And pay $35, fill out some forms and give them one passport photo. Then another short bus to the boat dock. 
I bought some beers for the boat and the hotel packed us pad Thai for lunch to go. It's a 5 hrs boat day and I was happy they had toilets. Not the best but it's something. 

Boat was overbooked so it was tight and crazy. Seats were stiff so I stayed at the back with a breeze, views and a big dirty ash stray that stained my dress. 

We stopped in a tiny village called pak beng. And we had to get our own lodging. Everyone waits for you at the dock to show you photos of their place. We all were overwhelmed and went in to smaller groups. 

Our place had very slow wifi and the hardest bed I ever felt. We were so close to the only bar called happy bar. They give u a free shot of local whiskey. Some people refused it so I had their shots. 

A computer is there for you to YouTube any music you want. I ended up staying there for a while sucked in by foreign music videos)I haven't watched a show in two weeks) and cueing up everyone's request. A fellow traveler offered me free rice wine that smelled like gasoline he got for free at an Indian resturant. I took more than I should. 

Early morning again and I was still feeling the booze. We ordered breaky and a lunch to take with us and saw two elephants across the river from us. We got on late and there were no more seats. 

Sitting on the hardwood floor, playing drinking card games. I lost a few times and ended up having a beer by 9am. 

We we're not sure when we would get to Luang Prabang. At 3 we stopped and at first there was a big confusion of this was our stop. We were about 10k from the city and sometimes they stop closer in the city center. Not today though. So we then each had to pay almost $3 for a tuk tuk to the city center. 

Most of us pre booked so we were all staying at different places. I just wasn't sure how to find my place as I have no data plan in Laos. A girl had a free map app that didn't need data and told me roughly where to go.
 Found my place, shortly have discovered my bed was hard and shower is pretty leaky but it works. I hen fell pretty ill. Probably the drinks didn't help and then taking a long hot boat ride. I said I wouldn't get I. This situation and learned the hard way not to let it happen again. I'm just happy my body waited till I got to a place with my own bathroom and bed etc. 

Pix. Chiang rai to Chiang Kong -

Monday, October 17, 2016

Chiang Mai- northern Thai

 I'm a bit behind on these. I spent 3 nights in Chiang Mai northern Thailand. Took an overnight train, Which was an odd sight at first but it was cheap and good. I didn't sleep well (even with some vino) as I kept waking myself up in worry and when the train made stops. 
The night I took the train the king for the past 7 decades passed away, not unexpectedly. Tourists were concerned because the military has tried to take over control as late as 2014. 

There was many policemen at the station but they look more like military so I was a bit worried. An older guy saw me check my phone and said not to worry they are checking for drugs and I'm welcomed here. 

Lots of people are wearing black and are sad. There's black and white sashes on all the walls of the temples.  On Sunday they began mourning and there will be 30 days of something televised about it and some new rules like no public drinking allowed. A traveller told me they will mourn for a full year and in the hippy town Pai the military came in to shut all the bars down the night he died. 
When I got here I took a break from temples and took my first cooking class abroad and only $33 for an all day experience. We pounded our own curry paste, steamed sticky rice, made coconut shrimp soup, stir fry, pad Thai to take home (too full) and a yummy, easy banana and coco milk dessert. Sugar and oil was in almost everything. 

Our chef was super funny and sweet. I miss cooking bday and I hope I can afford to do more of these in other countries. Everything is cheap but money goes way fast. I honestly am trying to keep track of it but not sure where's it going. It just all adds up.

I've been sleeping in cheap hostels. Twice I splurged for my own room. It's so nice to have your own bathroom. I did a dorm cheap hostel here and paid $10 for 3 nights and only had one other person to share it with, which is super rare.  
Last night in Chiang Mai rained all day so got to chill mostly and visited the main temple wat Phra Singh. At first from afar I thought these dudes were real. So funny. I must be loosing it :)-

Then in the evening walked in the packed Sunday night market where you can buy any souvenir you desire. 

 Link to pix - 


Friday, October 14, 2016

Ayutthaya - the old capital

I got excited when I heard about an ancient city two hours north of Bangkok. Once the old capital, it's also where the famous Buddha head in tree roots lives. 

"Ayutthaya was capital of the Kingdom of Siam, and a prosperous international trading port, from 1350 until razed by the Burmese in 1767. It's an island surrounded by canals. 

Wat Mahathat an ancient temple built during the 14th century was destroyed by the Burmese who also vandalised many of the Buddha images by lopping off the heads. 

The area remained abandoned and overgrown until the 1950s when the Department of Fine art began restoration work in Ayutthaya." 

Phom phet fortress built around 1580. Lots of raining causing flooding concerns. Here you see a guy fishing in the dirty river off a boat, tons of plastic garbage drawn to the floating plants and huge barge was pulled by many boats.

  It's a fairly easy walkable city and its amazing how well google maps does here. Though it has ruins in specific areas, outside of them is very modernized. Lots of homeless dogs here and  old local cafes one after the other. The night street market had a ton of loca food options just sometimes hard to tell what it is and what's not too spicy hot. 
7/11 extends from Tokyo to al of Thailand it appears. The nice part is they are super cold and I can get a fruit smoothie for less than $1 so that's been my breaky. Can't eat rice and noddles 3x a day :)

I was hoping I'd lose weight in this trip. The heat doesn't make u as hungry but it's super hard to find veggies and fruit is surprisingly expensive. I did find a salad finally, can't believe how much I wanted that and how good it satisfied my veggie desire for now. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bangkok - temples and girls

 The streets are filled with taxis, motorbikes and tok tok, buses and vans all speeding to make their way. If you wait for them to stop for you, you will never move. There's not many street lights so you have to just start walking/running as if you are invisible. 
I didn't want to try to understand a new train system so I walked two hours, visited various temples and found the grand palace. I spent a lot of money in one day in admissions but they all had something different and amazing to offer. This is pretty much why I am here.

I met many travelers at the hostel; it's nice to speak English to English speaking folks. You can get In To deep conversations and it helped me normalize to this foreign land. When I first arrived I couldn't help think to myself what the heck are u doing here and why for 3.5 months! 

   Walking is great to see the side streets with outside food places, Chinatown, the shops, the homeless animals (mostly cats). The dirty brown river with tree trunks twisted up with roots. My leg still hurts from pulling somthing last week in Tokyo so it's been a challenge and trying to take some afternoons off. 

My hostel was near a popular Hindu temple and it also happened to be the last night of a 9 day festival. So much singing, dancing free food, flowers, and statues and of course people. The night just got hotter and my dress was wet with sweat. I honestly don't know how people are wearing pants. 

The streets are covered with water and you have to deal with having wet feet. Street carts seem to wash their pots on the streets. Carry tissues as you don't even get a nap with your meal. But if u buy a tiny item they are happy to give you a plastic bag for it. 

Meals are like $1.50 but a beer at a resturant is $3. It's all cheap but somehow money goes fast and you can easily get ripped off my taxi if you don't ask them to run the meter. 

 I've hear the nightlife can be crazy here and a candian walked with me through the bar scene wil buch also had many Go go  dancing type places and we were offered numerous times to check out sex shoes and ping pong shows that women demonstrate some skills apparently. 

I also witnessed the older white guys here to be with the young ladies, and groups of ladies were on the streets dressed in same color as if they were in a wedding. 

I am backing pix on google photos and easily can Link to pictures -

And Hindu festival - 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tokyo - second time around

Truly the city that doesn't sleep and this is coming from a Manhattan girl. Thankfully it's my second visit here so by the second day I got comfortable/adjusted. A good friend from Portland has been here six years and it was great to meet up with Reno. 

  After long flights, time zone change and super culture and population shock, it's easy to get overwhelmed. I met an American traveler Courtney where I was staying and the crowds got to her. I've been in AK for years but adjusted to this city easier than to the subdivisions and box stores I kept seeing in CO. 

 Bright lights, noise and swimming against the fishes is a constant here. As an American we stand out, even though you visit tourist spots, we seem to be the only non-Asian on the complicated, intense train system. 
You order food by the pictures and machines, which is better than nada. Pay a machine for then give your ticket to the staff and get yummy food promptly. There's a bar for just about every crazy  theme you can imagine and more. Robot resturants (too spendy for us), ER bar, Alice and wonderland on acid bar. 
There are shrines, temples and cemeteries sprinkled throughout the massive city, which is very peaceful and pleasant. Triggered a ton of side streets to turn and get lost in. 

 The city's web reaches far too many other amazing neighborhoods. Trains are pricey, busy and it takes an hr to get from one spot to another and multiple cone croons and walking; this was the most frustrating for me. I also pulled something in my leg the first day so had to baby it and suppress the waking. Another bummer was I really wanted to go to a hotsprings but couldn't find one close that would allow tatted peeps. I will live :)

My good friend Kammi asked if I loved Japan. I do like Tokyo. It is just such a visual wonder for your eyes and energy on the air like no other city on earth. 

I'm so happy last time I was here I explored outside country and would highly recommend that to others. Don't let the train system trap you In the city. Go out, explore. And get lost. Japan is small but condensed with so much new and old. It was definately a great comfy stop for me as I now head to new territory.