It seems that many things are on the move in Laos lately! My Lonely Planet has once again left me unprepared for what happens at the end of my journey, so when Tim and I got off the boat, climbed up a mountain of dirt and found ourselves at an unknown road, we were stumped for a bit. There were (of course) tuk tuks everywhere, all of them telling us that it was 10 kilometres to town and we NEEDED to pay them all 20,000 Kip each and wait for our tuk tuk to be full so that we could leave. The lovely Tim, however, said “It’s only ten kms. We can walk.”Безопасные SEO эксперименты

It isn’t until we’ve been walking for five minutes and turning back and getting a tuk tuk would leave us scorned, that he decides to tell me 10 kms is the equivalent of his walk to work, to home, and back to work again. GREAT. So we plodded along in the dirt on the way to town, and after a while we passed a marker that said Luang Prabang was only 4 kilometres away. At this point we concluded that either the tuk tuk drivers were lying to us about the distance, or we walked way faster than we ever thought possible.

After about 45 minutes, fifteen tuk tuks crammed full of backpackers passed us, and we assumed it was the last of the people from the boat. We kept plodding along but when a smaller tuk tuk stopped and told us he would take us for 20,000 Kip for both of us, we basically fell into the back and let him take us instead. We were exhausted! And still a fair way out of town, because we came from the back, so I no doubt would’ve gotten us lost if we’d kept walking anyway.

So while I don’t think it actually is 10 kilometres, I wouldn’t recommend trying to walk the whole way into town unless you’ve got hardly any baggage or are really into walking. What I would recommend if trying to save even a little bit of cash is walking for twenty minutes, then getting into a smaller tuk tuk when they inevitably pull over to offer you a ride, and tell them you’ll pay 10,000 Kip each to the night market. They’ll probably offer it to you anyway.

Also, MAKE SURE YOU BOOK AHEAD if you’re going to be in Luang Prabang (or anywhere in SE Asia) during Chinese New Year. Because there is NOWHERE to stay, most guesthouses have little full signs out the front, and you’ll end up going way over budget for accommodation in what is normally a reasonably expensive town. Like we did, but not before we spent an hour and a half walking around town trying to find ourselves a bed.

And now, we get to play the game all over again because we could only book for one night. Joy!

“Getting into Laos will be easy. We go on this stupid little boat to Chiang Khong, then we walk down the hill, take a little canoe across the river and walk up the hill into Laos immigration! Done.”

Those, my friends, are the words of one very cocky traveller. You know, the one who has seen it all before, knows everything and gives other travellers advice on where to go and what to see. That one traveller that you think maybe knows too much, and maybe needs to see someplace new. You know the one? Yeah, that’s right, it’s me.

They’re also the words of one very misinformed and apparently out of date traveller, as I discovered last week. After prepping Tim on an easy and relaxed crossing into Laos from Chiang Khong in the north of Thailand, we had an entirely different experience. Turns out, they moved the border! WHO MOVES A BORDER?? Thai and Laos people, that’s who.

I thought I had the day sorted. We’d go on the stupid 500B minibus from Chiang Mai that makes you want to puke as it speeds round tight bends high in the mountains, and then we’d get some US dollars in Chiang Khong, find a place to stay and cross the border in the morning. Toooooo easy. Except that when we stopped at “Chiang Khong” today, it wasn’t the quiet riverside town I remembered. Instead, it was a large white border crossing in the middle of nowhere. NOT what I expected at all.

Cue a very confused, very cranky Britt arguing with her bus driver about how she wants to go to Chiang Khong, not this weird joint. Yes, Chiang Khong. The town, to cross into Laos. NO this isn’t the place! I want Chiang Khong. Yes, the town. The border. I want to go to Laos! Is this the place? No it’s not! It’s not the same! Oh, it is the place? It’s new? Oh. Okay.

(like a true pig-headed traveller, I didn’t even apologise to the poor guy who looked like he wanted to kill me. I just strolled off and looked confused)

I found out later that the new borders on the Thai and Laos side are only about one month old. So new there’s not even an ATM or clean water. Just toilets and a little Thai lady swapping 1000 Baht for $30 US. Because we were so unprepared we had to borrow some Baht from our new buddy and fellow Aussie Oliver, just so we had enough to pay for our visas on the other side.

So we stamped out of Thailand, paid 20 Baht for the shuttle bus across no man’s land (a five minute bus ride complete with a five minute screening of Iron Man 3) and across the new bridge to the Laos border and finally got into Laos after doing the immigration game. Which is basically filling out a form, throwing it at a guy in a hut with your passport and waiting around to pay the visa fee. And then we paid a 20 Baht “overtime fee” because of course we couldn’t get to the border before 4 pm.

Then, because we somehow ended up without a bus transfer, we took a 20,000 Kip tuk tuk to Huay Xai, the border town that I remembered. Here we finally found an ATM and were able to pay our driver, and go off to find a hostel.

I learnt today that relying completely on a 2012 Lonely Planet (whilst helpful in many other regards) and not checking dates on travel forums can really put a kink in some of the best laid plans. So if you’re headed to Laos from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai and have done the trip before by canoe across the Mekong, be warned that this is no longer. Apparently a ferry still operates for motorbikes and little trucks but since I have neither of these I haven’t looked too far into it. Be prepared to cross the border, and make sure you have enough Baht or US dollars as there’s no ATM on the Thai side, and no promises of one coming any time soon.

Learn from my mistakes!

The day before Tim and I set off for Bangkok, I became aware that there were protests going on in the city. Big, big protests that involved thousands of people and shutting down busy intersections and government buildings.

Put plainly, Bangkok citizens are protesting because they want the current Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, to step down from her position and let herself be replaced with a yet-to-be-elected people’s council, and they want the King to choose a new PM. They’re calling the movement “Shutdown Bangkok, Restart Thailand” and while protests have been happening since November 2013, things got heavier on January 13th of this year when anti-government protestors shut down busy intersections. Like those at the Victory Monument and Siam Square, where major tourist shopping centres like Siam Discovery and MBK Centre are situated.

I mentioned to my mum while we watched it on the news that I really wanted to do my university assignment (a hard-news story on a political issue) on the protests because it was interesting and would technically be allowed if I was residing in Thailand at the time. While it was kind of just a throwaway comment, when Tim and I got to Bangkok they had declared a state of emergency, and I decided to go for it.

MBK Centre - you can see the protestors down on the ground.

MBK Centre – you can see the protestors down on the ground.

We went to MBK to try and go to a movie, and chose motorbike taxis over the crowded BTS Skytrain (just in case of a bombing) and I chatted to my driver on the way about what he thought of the protests. Interview for uni done! When we got there, police were checking cars going into MBK for bombs, and the Centre was practically deserted compared to the other times I’ve visited. Stores were shut early and the tourist count was very low.

We went outside into the protests and I warned Tim to stay nonchalant and try not to take too many photos. A lot of the signs were in Thai (obviously) and we didn’t want to cause a stir because there were very few “farang” around. It seemed really peaceful when we were there, with about a million different stalls selling pro-Thailand gems like whistles, ribbons and t-shirts, and everyone was hanging out and listening to whoever was giving a speech on stage.

All of the Thai flag coloured ribbons with whistles attached - I bought a miniature version for my keychain.

All of the Thai flag coloured ribbons with whistles attached – I bought a miniature version for my keychain.

When we went to Siam Discovery a few days later to go ice skating (more on this later) there was a live band and someone even handed us a free lunch, just for attending the protests in support. The sun was out, people were out of the many tents that lined the gutters and the mood was very upbeat. I didn’t feel the slightest bit threatened at all while we were there, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to go to something that interesting and important. And I wish I spoke Thai so I could’ve understood the speeches!

The many many tents lining the city streets.

The many many tents lining the city streets.

I wrote about visiting the protests in my uni forum, and most of the other students said the same thing: so jealous, stay safe! Then my lecturer told me that I was absolutely not to go to any more protest sites or interview any more people as I could inadvertently put myself in harm’s way and end up shot or blown to bits. And while it made me laugh that he was finally replying to my posts now that he thought I might die, he does have a little bit of a point, as protests have now turned a little bit sour and the death toll is double digits, while the injury count sits at over 500 people.

But hey, what’s life without a little adventure? I’m glad we went and experienced it, and I’m also really thankful that nothing terrible happened because obviously that would really suck. But I’m safe in Laos now, and have A LOT of catching up to do with this blog!

I realise I’ve been extremely slack since we actually left on our trip, and haven’t blogged once. Oops! This is why I’m not paid to write – because I’m terrible at sticking to dates and plans.

So, we safely arrived in Thailand – after a few late flights along the way – and we’ve since headed north to Chiang Mai. I will write some posts about what we’ve done so far but I just wanted to write a quick little update before I forgot to blog altogether!

We went motorbiking through the hills today – a post on that tomorrow – and now we’re sitting out at our hostel, fighting the bugs and the cold because WiFi only works in the lobby. Unhappy. We’re also faced with the task of figuring out exactly how we’re going to get to Vietnam, all of the options seem to take up a lot of time and money, and I’m actually considering taking the easy way out and flying from here to Hanoi and skipping Laos completely. But that makes me unhappy, especially since I finally put my Lonely Planet to work and figured out a very interesting little journey and border crossing ): A lot of Googling is going to happen tomorrow, I can already tell.

In other news, I’m trying to convince Tim he should grow a holiday beard and become scruffy, but he keeps fighting me on it.. So rally with me and tell him to grow it out! When else does he have a chance to look so wildly unprofessional and hobo-chic?

I’ll work on staying up to date from now on, and hopefully I remember to haul the laptop out and get writing! I hope I do for other reasons, like having a uni assessment due on Friday – eek!

Have a photo of Bangkok from the 7th floor of Siam Discovery to keep you entertained.

Mango City

Tim and I have begun our attempt to pack everything we own into boxes and move interstate in the new year, and it’s coming along verrrrrry slowly. I feel like most days (the days we actually do stuff, I mean) we just move stuff from one part of the house to another. This is really frustrating because we only have two rooms in our house apart from our lounge/kitchen and bathroom, so everywhere is just getting clogged with junk. I’ve been documenting the progress a little bit so that when it eventually does get packed up, we can see how far we’ve come from our mess.

I took these photos about a week ago and already we’ve progressed a little bit.

This is our lounge room, filled with a bunch of half-empty or overfilled boxes, and a handy assortment of household items littered around the floor, such as spices, shoes and the local paper, in case we fall over and need to entertain ourselves until help arrives. I’ve certainly had an almost-fall more than a few times now. Luckily, it’s a tiny bit tidier this week, which is good, because I can feel our bird judging us.

Lounge room

Getting into our house is a minefield operation lately.

Also located in our lounge room is our couch – which we haven’t sat on in about a month but are desperately trying to palm off on Gumtree. So far, no takers, and I feel like it might be going to the Salvos at the end of all this. Maybe we should list it as a storage unit instead? It looks absolutely the same this week as it did last week – maybe worse.

Couch

The pile of crap is too high to sort through.

The spare room is really the only room that we’ve made a dent in. We’ve sold the table, cleared out most of the bookshelf and have most of it packed away into boxes now.

Dining room

The only room that looks vastly different.

And thank god we’ve cleared it too, because now we can see our carpet and I’ve had enough room to realise I have a serious shoe addiction that doesn’t seem to be waning as I grow older. I’d blame my job and it’s requirement for high heels, but it pains me to admit that there’s a few pairs here I’ve only worn once or twice because they’re inappropriate for work and I never go out anymore.

Shoes

This isn’t even all my shoes!

Our bathroom is a disgrace. We’re currently using it as a floordrobe because whenever it’s sunny, I’m passed out in bed and never wash all the clothes that need washing. Sad to say I’ve never let go of my “try everything on then throw it on the floor instead of hanging it up” attitude. But I’m trying.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

Bathroom

My mother is going to be super unimpressed by this.

Our bedroom isn’t bad enough to warrant a photo, I have one but it really just looks the same as normal. We enjoy putting things on the bed so that the other one can take it off later and stick it in our dumping ground – the couch.

The last place we really have is the garage – but since it’s mostly Tim’s stuff I am trying to leave it mostly to him, mainly because he’s attached to things I can’t understand attachment to, and we just end up squabbling over stuff.

Garage

Tim’s problem!

The main reason I’m making this post is to really show myself just how much stuff we have left, but also to remind myself that in just a week a lot of these rooms look different and better than before. At the moment I’m just finding it hard to muster up the energy to do anything remotely productive, like packing, work (I quit my job today), or my distance ed work. I just want to get into a cocoon and not come out until it’s January 20th. But sadly, I’m a human, not a caterpillar. Dang it.

So at the moment I’m in the middle of one of the activities I am both best and worst at: planning. I’m the best at it because I can make a totally killer plan and have every last detail ironed out perfectly. And I’m the worst because no matter what I do, I can’t seem to stick to one of my own perfectly formulated plans no matter what I do. It’s like how people can give great advice but can’t take their own (also me). I’m sure there’s a word for this kind of behaviour… Can you be a planning hypocrite?

Anyway, at this point I’m trying to figure out what places Tim and I are going to scoot off to when we’re in Vietnam. So far, I know that we’ll be catching a horrific night bus from Luang Prabang (Laos) to Hanoi – mainly because I feel that now I’m super equipped with dealing with the bus systems in Vietnam, and also I want to watch Tim squirm a little when he realises what he’s in for.*

But then the real trouble comes because the main places I want to go are Hanoi, Sa Pa, Ha Long Bay, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Now the last leg of this trip will be fine and I’ve just learnt we’ll be able to pay a measly $45 each and send our bikes back to Hanoi on the train instead of having to ride all the way back up North – I don’t want to push my luck by spending too long on bikes or waste my time repeating the trip.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

But the whole Sa Pa/Hanoi/Ha Long Bay thing is really going to screw me because Sa Pa is 6 hours from Hanoi, and Ha Long Bay is 3 hours from Hanoi – except they’re both in opposite directions. Of course. I feel like Sa Pa is going to get shafted here because after a quick search, I’ve found it’s cold and foggy most of the time in early February, which cancels out my plans to hike to the top of a mountain and look at the awesome rice paddies.

Of course, Hue and Sa Pa are the only new places I’ve added to the trip that I took with my family, and I really want to be able to see more of Vietnam this time, especially since I’ll have my own form of transport instead of relying on buses and taxis to take us around. I’d really like to go to Dalat and go canyoning, but other than that.. there’s really not much planned that I haven’t done already and loved so much I want to go back again. Is it wrong to repeat travel?

I know nobody is really reading this site at the moment because of the lack of content, but if you do happen upon this post and could recommend anything interesting to do in Vietnam that I haven’t listed or you think I should know about, let me know in a comment below!

* I’ve already asked if he wants to catch a bus and have warned him it’s the bus from hell – he still said yes!

So again, I’ve been majorly slacking. I have so many ideas for this blog and what I should post about, and I’ve been forcing myself to explore Brisbane further so that I actually have more to blog about. And yet, I just write everything in my little black book and forget about it.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m working 60 hours this week and am finding it hard to find time to eat, let alone do anything else. Running on about four hours of sleep a night is messing with me a bit, and I need to work out a better routine for myself. I’m still sure that my body will never get used to night shifts and all of the drama that comes from working in an all-female environment, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try anyway.

Good news for this week is that I’m going to Cirque du Soleil this weekend to see the Michael Jackson IMMORTAL world tour, and at work I managed to meet some of the techies from the show and they’ve promised to take my friends and I backstage when we go on Sunday. I’ve also just booked flights for Tim and I to leave for Malaysia on the 21st of January, and then on to Thailand that night. So exciting! Our rough plan is going to be Luang Prabang in Laos, then 3 weeks on motorbikes in Vietnam and then back to Penang in Malaysia to visit my family because they should be settled and beginning overseas life by then.

We’ll see how that all pans out in reality, but one thing is for sure, I am going to ride another motorbike and try not to crash this time! I’m extremely excited about time off from my hectic work schedule, and even more excited to be travelling overseas with my partner for the first time. I’m sure he’s even more excited about it as this will be his first time backpacking in Asia, but I wish he’d do a little research of his own and tell me what he wants to do instead of letting me plan anything. But since I know he probably won’t, I’m turning to anyone who still reads this blog and I’m asking: what are some fun things to do in Vietnam that we shouldn’t miss out on? Luang Prabang will be our chance to relax after a few days in Thailand, but apart from what I did with my family when I was last in Vietnam, I must admit I’m at a loss.

So let me know in the comments below if there’s anything we should see, something we should eat, or someplace we should stay!

P.S. Motorbike crash injuries from last time that I pray I don’t experience again!

motorbike injuries