Monday, June 29, 2009

Taking Off to Singapore (sorta)

Today, I woke up early to catch my flight to Singapore. At the ticket counter they said they couldn't find my reservation. I was getting really nervous that somehow my registration got lost, then they told me my flight was on July 2. FML.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

DOUBLE POST!! Hue to Mui Ne (That Rhymes)

Lucky lucky, two posts to read in one day.

Hue is a great city and after having my knees in my nostrils for twenty hours on the red bull express I was excited to do some exploring. I broke out my skateboard and went to check out the citadel which houses the purple forbidden city. I was there for about an hour and it's huge, I think one could spend five hours there, but I was feeling a bit sick. That was the end of my sight seeing in Hue, I stayed in my hotel room the rest of the time and punished my toilet. I just want to say that although being sick was a bummer (I've been really lucky not to be so far), it was nice to be sick in a hotel that had satellite TV (the glass is half full!).

When I was feeling better I took a bus to Mui Ne a beach in the south of Vietnam which is close to Saigon so I can catch my flight to Singapore on June 30th, but I was mostly excited for the possibility of surfing. Surf is not up. And this is one of the saddest beaches in the world I think. The water at the horizon is a deep blue, then about fifteen meters from shore turns that nice green colour of tripical waters. Unfortunately the beach is spoiled by the first five meters of water which is a brownish-blackish colour, and the beach is covered in trash.

I did find a area with little trash (but there was a dead rat) and nearly no mucky water to swim. I was just dissapointed on arrival to find a beach in this state after being on buses (in total from Laos) for nearly fourty-eight hours. Tomorrow I continue on to Saigon.

Riding the Bull to Vietnam

The last place I visited in Laos was an area called the Bolaven plateau. It was secluded and beautiful, the area has many waterfalls and nearby to the village I was staying there is an Elephant Sanctuary. Since I haven't done any elephant riding while in Asia (or ever for that matter) it was really excited to see the elephants. The best part was watching them bathe with the trainers. It's almost like a dance, the elephant leads - dunking it's head then its lower back - and the trainer follows the elephant's movements trying not to get dunked in the water, all the while scurbbing the elephant (even behind there paper ears) with a flip-flop (whattaya know flip-flop do have a use after all).

Then after spending a little longer than I would have liked in a town called Pak Se I hopped on a bus to Hue, Vietnam. This bus ride, as I mentioned to my friends, 'is one for the blogs', nearly comparing with my long trip with my deaf/dumb/gay pal to Bangkok.

The only problem on this bus was leg room, these seats were not 'Westerner-sized'. My legs were literally being pressed against from the seat in front of me and my own seat from behind. My knees still hurt now.

We got off the bus for a few hours at the border to Vietnam to wait for the border to open. I slept the whole time because I was having some difficulties sleeping on the bus. I was surprised when I got on the bus and the floor had risen thirty centimeters everywhere, including the place where my feet used to go. The floor was level to some peoples seats! They had shoved cases of Red Bull everywhere on the bus, taking up seats, precious leg room, the cargo space under the bus, and (as I discovered when we were delayed while crossing the border while the border guard counted the number of red bull cases) inside the air vents for the engine.

This bus ride was 20 hours. I'm getting sick of buses.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Vientiane; Bombies and Skateboards

Today was a great day. Blog worthy? Maybe.

In the morning I visited COPE, a NGO in Laos which provides Laotians injured by unexploded ordinances (landmines, mortars, rockets, etc... from Laos' unfortunate past) with prosthetic limbs. COPE has a great exhibit with lots of great information where you can watch documentaries whenever you like. I saw a great documentary called Bomb Harvest which shows how Laos is affected by the UXO today and details how the Laotians are trained to disarm the bombs (and I unfortunately didn't get to see a Canadian one called Bombies which is supposed to be great, anyone wanna watch that when I get back?).

Before coming to Laos I was completely unaware of how many parts of Laos suffered nine years of sustained bombing missions by the United States. The war was widely unknown which is why it was called the Secret War. During the secret war the US dropped in excess of 260 million cluster bombs (or bombies), and keep in mind these are cluster bombs, they have no way of controlling where these things land and who they kill as a result many innocent people were killed. The US legacy in Laos continues today because an estimated 78 million bombs never detonated, and Laos efforts to clean up the mess has only removed 387 645 bombs (0.49%), so even today many people are killed by UXOs.

In the afternoon, I took out my skateboard for a spin to take a look at the city of Vientiane. Sometimes I kick my self, saying: 'why the heck did you bring a skateboard to south east Asia in the first place?'. But, it is days like these that totally justify having one. The roads in Vientiane are smooth which make riding great, and the weather today was hot and sunny (which is lucky because it is the rainy season right now) but not too humid. I rode around to some monuments and really enjoyed myself. One neat thing about a skateboard is it really draws a lot of attention from locals, many want to try and ride it for a bit (or at least spin the wheel with their finger), but from that you get to talk to people who otherwise wouldn't really give you a second glance.

I met a few English people (because of the skateboard) at one monument which was particularly amazing. I joined them for a trip to market where I ate bugs for my first time ever. The cockroaches were the best, satisfyingly crunchy and seasoned really well. It's like eating a really big pop corn kernel but not so hard (but they do get stuck in your teeth the same way pop corn does).

For not knowing if I should write about anything today I really wrote a lot. Sorry.

False Alarm

I am staying! It all worked out.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Im Coming Home

Well, I have had an amazing time in South East Asia. I had a lot of fun planned for my last few weeks, unfortunately I'm not able to extend my travels like I planned. So now I am heading home June 30th. I am in Ventienne the capital of Laos right now and I will be heading to Ho Chi Min City quickly to hop on a plane to Singapore to see some pals before I go home.

I am a bit depressed that my time in South East Asia is finishing up. There is so much I haven't experienced, but I am thankful for the things I was able to do.

Traveling in South East Asia has gotten me really excited about future travels. I've contemplated coming back here as soon as possible and for longer to see some things I missed. Or traveling within Canada, being away from Canada has made me realize how big my country is and how much of it is unknown to me.

Well, I don't know if I will post again before I'm back in Canada. I hope to see you folks soon, and keep checking here for when I put up pictures.

(Oh, and Happy 19th Birthday to my little sister Emily!)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rope Swing Paradise

Vang Vieng puts all other rope swings to shame. There must be eight or so wings, the tallest of which is so high that when I stood on the platform my knees were shaking and I thought I would vomit. I was pleased when I conquered my fear and dropped from the platform, swung through the air, and plunged into the Nam Song River.

I left Vang Vieng briefly to visit the Plain of Jars in Phonsavan. The jars were a cool site to see with lots of rolling hills around but I'm questioning if it was worth the amount of money I had to spend and the seven hour bus ride each way to get here.

The buses in Laos are amazing for their views as long as you don't get car sick (thank goodness for Gravol). The roads bend and turn as they attempt to cling to the impossibly steep mountains, and the bus itself has to always be ready to weave around a water buffalo or a stray dog, tourists sit with their noses pressed to the glass in awe of the scenery.

Last night the gentleman in the seat in front of me was carrying some interesting cargo on the bus; an AK-47. I noticed it when I was getting back on the bus after eating dinner and he got on behind me, as I was sitting down I saw him lay the weapon against the wall. I wasn't scared because I read that it's fairly common here but it was startling at first to see the barrel of that gun. Though I was surprised that later on he got off the bus for a smoke break and left his weapon unattended.

Tonight I brave the buses again back to Vang Vieng.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Not Much to Report Here

Just and update here, not much to tell.

Chiang Mai was really nice, but there was a sudden decision made to leave Thailand all together and go to Laos. I was nervous I was going to miss some great things in Thailand, but excited to see the things Laos has to offer.

So far, Laos has yet to disappoint me. We (Karlijn, Linda and I) took a two day boat ride from Thailand to Luang Prabang, a city with a strong French influence. I've been enjoying several french baguettes each day from stalls in the streets, where in Thailand or Singapore any bread at all is uncommon. Yesterday I biked with my two travel buddies to a waterfall where we went swimming and played hon a rope swing (jackpot!). I played on the swing for over an hour (my arms are killing me today), but I have to say that although the scenery was beautiful the swing itself doesn't compare to the massive swings at Sharon's Creek in Dorchester, Ontario.

From here I will head off to Vang Vieng for tubing (and hopefully more rope swings) then Vientienne, the capital, for some visa sort of stuff.