This is the first time that I’ve ever travelled as one half of a couple. I’ve travelled with family, with friends, and alone, but never with someone I was romantically involved with. And it’s a completely different experience to anything I’ve known before. 

I love Tim, don’t get me wrong. I’m madly in love with him, to be honest, and I hope that doesn’t change any time soon (or ever). But travelling with only him has put a whole new strain on our relationship that hasn’t existed before. I don’t mean to say that travelling is tearing us apart, or that we’re miserable being around each other 24/7. But it’s interesting to see what happens when you have zero exposure to people other than your partner on a regular basis.

We’ve become each other’s only form of physical companionship, and I’m finding myself relying on him more than I ever would at home. I’m normally extremely independent and am guilty of putting plans with friends over plans with Tim a lot of the time, because we lived together and I knew he’d always be there. But now, I find myself checking behind me on the motorbike every few minutes (five minutes if I force myself to wait) just to make sure he’s still behind me, still following. I’d prefer he go in front so he can keep an eye on me, but of course he wants to stay behind me so that he can still see me.

Story time: when we were looking for a hotel in Hue, in the rain with no petrol, Tim’s bike ran out of fuel and I went through a light. I waited on the side of the road for him to appear before I did a complicated u-turn and went back to find him standing at the petrol station, waiting for me. I dissolved into tears when he hugged me, and realised that losing him was a terrifying and very possible reality to me. Ew.

However, the pressure of being the only physical and familiar presence for each other is adding a level of stress I’ve personally never known in a relationship. I’ve always been a person who needs to talk about things, and Tim has always kept to himself when something is going on. I’ve always had my mum, my sister, my friends and workmates to talk to aside from Tim, but now there’s only him. Sure, there’s Facebook and phone calls and emails, but it’s not the same as a face-to-face ‘deep and meaningful’. Tim has become my main emotional outlet, but we both have vastly different coping mechanisms, and it’s hard sometimes to get on the same wavelength with each other.

We’re a bit snippy at times, arguing about stupid things, like if we have soap for our shower, whether we’ll leave the TV on when we get into bed, and even now, when I’m asking him when we last had an argument and he said yesterday, we’re almost about to argue about if we did argue yesterday. So silly and exhausting. I’ve had a few good cries to a mostly bewildered and exhausted Tim when things have gotten too much, and slowly, we’re starting to work it all out.

Turns out when you rely and be dependent on someone, you can also feel alone and abandoned if they withdraw from you. That’s a lesson I’ve had to learn properly for the first time, and a lesson Tim has been suffering through me learning as well. I’ve also learnt that there’s a fine line between comfortably relying on someone for companionship and romance, and being a clingy psychopath. Some days I feel like I’m crossing that line a bit – especially when I’m bawling my eyes out and saying “DO YOU EVEN LOVE ME??” to the guy who worked so hard to get me in the first place.*

So it turns out that all I needed to realise I’m able to rely on someone else without feeling like an utter failure in terms of emotional strength was a little bit of couple’s travel. It’s driving us a little bit crazy, and driving us a whole lot closer to each other. I know people say that travelling with your partner can be hard and exhausting, and they’re not wrong. We’ve shouted, and ignored each other, and slammed things, and slept as far from each other as possible.

But it’s also rewarding and character building, and shows you that good things are worth working for. We’ve held hands at dinner, and laughed while standing in the clouds on a mountain, and comforted each other after near misses on motorbikes, and taken selfies on the edge of a foreign country. Even when we want to kill each other, it’s so ridiculously comforting to know we still love each other.

There’s my sappy post for the month done. I tried to ask Tim how he felt about all this, and he just shrugged at me, and said “You know me, I show nothing.” So we semi-shouted at each other from separate beds, threw some pillows and giggled about it. He feels a lot on the inside, but would probably prefer I didn’t post it all on my mostly unread public blog. Seeing as I can’t read his mind and suck his thoughts out, guess I’m gonna have to respect that.

* Look, PMS makes you crazy, it’s really not (entirely) my fault.

Hot day, bored couple who wants to do something “travelly” and not hang around our clean, but extremely boring, hostel all day. Time for a waterfall visit.

If you’ve ever been to Luang Prabang, then you’ll know that one of the main tourist attractions seems to be the Kuang Si Falls. And for all those who are intending to go to LP and are doubtful of visiting somewhere that is so often touted by tuk-tuk drivers, don’t be so easily fooled. The first time my family and I visited LP, we avoided heading to the falls for a while because we figured it was the typical tourist trap that you normally see in SE Asia. One pitiful waterfall and a bunch of overpriced stuff. We were SO wrong.

Us at the Falls

Kuang Si Falls are about an hour’s tuk tuk ride away from the centre of Luang Prabang. You can motorbike there, or rent a car, or even use a bicycle, but tuk tuk is the cheapest and easiest option. If you head into the centre of town, there will be swarms of drivers practically begging to take you. We went with two girls from Norway (total strangers) so the price went down to 60,000 Kip there and back. The downside of going with a group/people you’ve never met is you need to agree on what time you want to leave, and you need to make sure the people you go with are on the same page as you. If you’re looking for a 30 minute photo-taking adventure, you’ll be upset if you end up with people who want to spend the whole day there.

Kuang Si Park

Entry to the falls is 20,000 Kip. This also gets you entry to the barely-advertised Bear Conservation Centre, a place that rescues bears from becoming trophy pets or part of strange medicinal practices. And for once in my life, I can see bears in captivity that aren’t showing signs of extreme stress or depression, which warms my heart to now end. The bears here have space, friends, and lots of the right kind of activities to keep them entertained and healthy. You can give donations, or buy a shirt, a bag, a water bottle… you get the picture, to support the centre and allow them to keep rescuing bears.

Moon Bears

 

LP Bears

After cooing over adorable bears, we went along some slippery dirt paths to the falls. There’s many levels to the falls, and they’re all equally impressive. The lower falls have beautiful, milky blue-green water, and the biggest fall that comes down the mountain is seriously impressive in itself. We walked to the top and snapped the obligatory photo between making a very important choice. Climb giant boulders and try to reach the very top of the fall, or go back down the hill to the lower falls and swim. For two lazy people, it wasn’t a hard decision.

Kuang Si Falls

Since we went in the afternoon, the crowds were pretty intense at all of the levels. Most people recommend going earlier in the day to avoid crowds and I would echo that advice – it’s just more relaxing. And many photo opportunities are ruined by two hundred other people milling on the edges of each pool. We found a relatively uncrowded pool, and decided we’d finally take our Nikon AW1 in the water. It’s waterproof to 10M, and we were still extremely paranoid about even splashing it. But it turned out fine!

Falls

 

Be warned, the water is pretty freezing. But it’s nice for a day out and the falls are absolutely gorgeous. This is an especially good outing if you’re finding yourself a little bored with the laid-back town of Luang Prabang, or if you need a break from all the temples – of which we saw a total of zero. If you want to go swimming but milky blue water ain’t your thang, or you want something a bit closer to town, check out the La Pistoche Swimming Pool & Bar.

Waterfalls

 

 

So far in our trip, we’ve done something new in every city. New for me, I mean, because everything is new to Tim. In Bangkok it was ice skating and visiting an abandoned mall. In Chiang Mai it was motorbiking through the mountains. And in Luang Prabang, our new activity was discovering La Pistoche.

La Pistoche

When we were wandering around the city searching for accommodation, I noticed a bunch of little signs stuck to different street poles and light posts. “Swimming pool & bar” they say, with a little arrow pointing in the right direction. I didn’t take too much notice because the biggest thing on my mind was making sure we didn’t pay $100 a night for a hotel or end up sleeping on the streets. But a few days later in the heat, I remembered the signs.

After a quick Google for directions, we set off for La Pistoche, one of the most popular backpacker pools in Luang Prabang. If you can find one of the signs – very prominent around backpacking areas and the night markets – then you just need to follow them faithfully and they will lead you very easily to the pool. If you can’t find a sign, jump on the net and grab directions. The address is Ban Phong Pheng Village, Luang Prabang 06000, Laos.

Tim 

Entry is 20,000 Kip, plus a 50,000 deposit. There’s bicycle and motorbike parking, or tuk tuks waiting outside if you choose to head back that way. Personally, I’d recommend walking or taking a tuk tuk if you plan to drink at the very cool swim-up bar. I rode my bike back to my hostel a little tipsy and it wasn’t a fun (or safe) experience.

Tags

The 50,000 deposit leaves you with a little tag with a number. DO NOT lose this tag, or you lose the 50,000. This arrangement may sound a bit strange, but the deposit is more like a bar tab. Tell the bartender/waiter your number when ordering food and drinks, and they take it off the 50,000. If you don’t spend it all, then you get the rest back. If you spend more, you simply pay the difference when you’re leaving. A great idea for a bar in a swimming pool, and it means not having to worry about money until you’re ready to go home.

Cocktails

The water was beautifully refreshing, and we know that because we got there so late that there was nowhere to sit. I’ve read that all the lounges go pretty early in the day, so if you want a day of lounging and sunbathing, it’s best to try and beat everyone else. If you’re going to spend most of your time in the pool – there are stools at the swim-up bar – then it’s not really an issue.

Swim Up Bar

The bar seemed pretty reasonably priced. During “happy hours” which are from 12 to 5 you can buy two for the price of one cocktails, and they make them pretty strong. Big Lao beers are 15,000 Kip and the food all seemed pretty reasonably priced too.

In another pool, there’s a volleyball net (nobody was playing) and a slide. Being told of a slide, Tim went to try it out and used our awesome underwater camera to document the results. There’s also a little “spa” connected to the big pool with the bar, but don’t expect warmth or bubbles. It’s more like a dipping pool for those who don’t want to get wet.

Pool

The music is good (and loud), the food is fresh, the drinks are cold, the water refreshing and the company interesting, and potentially amusing. I kept trying to go back on our last day, only to remember my bikini was being washed. Boo. I would recommend this to anyone staying in Luang Prabang for a while who just want to chill out in a traveller’s environment. Far from being “touristy”, La Pistoche has a relaxed vibe that makes you want to stay until the sun goes down. A must on a hot day in the little town of LP.

I finally rode a motorbike by myself!

Okay, it was an automatic scooter, but anything is an achievement for me, especially alone and in a foreign country. I decided that if we wanted to go ahead with our plan of motorbiking through Vietnam (a plan now very twisted and different to how we imagined) then I needed some practice first, so I could avoid killing myself on the first day.

So we went off to find someone to rent us some bikes, and 500 Baht and a held passport later, we had two little scooters with a helmet each. The guy had to explain to me how to actually start the scooter and rev the engine, and at this point he looked worried and asked if I actually knew how to ride at all. I nodded and shakily scooted twenty metres down the road. I don’t know who was more scared at this point – me or him.

We planned on riding the Samoeng Loop. Golden Triangle Rider has some really good info on it, and even a map you can buy and have mailed if you a, plan ahead and have time, and b, have a post box. The one for the Samoeng Loop is out of print and they have a new edition coming soon, but we also managed fine without a proper map. We ended up with two random maps, one from the motorbike rental guy of Chiang Mai, and one from a woman selling strawberries of half the loop.

The Samoeng Loop from GT Rider’s website.

The basic gist of the Samoeng Loop is Chiang Mai > Samoeng > around the Mae Sa Valley > Chiang Mai. Beginners are recommended to do this in reverse, so we took that advice and set off along the highway for the town of Mae Sa. It was pretty basic once we were out of Chiang Mai, you just follow all the signs and try not to get run over. Before you leave Mae Sa you should stop for fuel if you don’t have a full tank, because when you’re halfway up a hill in the middle of the rainforest, having low fuel makes you a bit panicky.

After you turn off for Samoeng, the hills start and it all gets really pretty. Dotted through the rainforest are a bunch of different tourist activities, like the tiger temple, elephant camps, zip lines, etc etc. There are also about a zillion people selling strawberries by the bag. We didn’t buy any but apparently they’re really tasty.

Dark, green, and wet - the perfect tropical rainforest waterfall.

Dark, green, and wet – the perfect tropical rainforest waterfall.

We first stopped at the Mae Sa Waterfall, which is pretty and apparently has TEN levels. We only made it to level four, where it was still green and very peaceful. Admission is 100 Baht each, and 20 Baht for motorbikes.

After we stopped for lunch (grilled chicken, yum!) we headed off to the Pata Caves. The turn off is ridiculously confusing – the sign points further up the hill, but it’s down the side road that heads downhill. So we detoured (u-turns on bikes are a big thing for me) and got on the right track. To get there we drove along a really steep road covered in red dust, and went further up the mountain. Also at the Pata Caves was the Buddha Handprint, but when we went to look at it, we couldn’t really figure out what it was meant to be.. It looked nothing like a hand! Sorry worshippers, we just didn’t get it.

Seriously, what IS this thing?

Seriously, what IS this thing?

So we trekked up the hill to go to the Pata Caves. It’s an uphill trek, and when the path forked, we went right. Obviously the wrong way because after another ten minutes of trekking we still couldn’t see a cave! Tim looked like he was going to die, so we decided to pike it and go back downhill, when Tim fell on his butt. His fake cried echoed through the hills and probably traumatised the wildlife.

Poor thing. He was very dirty after this!

Poor thing. He was very dirty after this!

On the way back to the main road, Tim’s bike turned off completely on the downhill slope, which was fun! Not. Once back on the highway, we kept riding further up and around the mountain. It gets pretty cold the higher you go, and sun disappears altogether, so I would wear long pants and bring a windcheater/windbreaker/North Face jacket so you don’t freeze. The cold is worth it though, because eventually you reach Samoeng, and get an amazing view of the landscape from the lookout. It was a bit foggy when we were there, but I can just imagine how amazing it is when it’s clear.

On a clear day, this would be even more amazing!

On a clear day, this would be even more amazing!

Then we headed downhill, and got confused at the turnoff. Left goes to Chiang Mai, right goes to Samoeng. Because we were confused and didn’t realise that going to Samoeng means going out of your way and backtracking to get home again, we followed the directions of a fellow motorbiker and began the ride back to Chiang Mai. We soon realised why they tell beginners to do the route backwards – going home was a lot of very steep and very sharp uphill turns, when I thought I would topple over quite a few times. Once we were past near-death, we were lucky enough to have some elephants pass us by on the other side of the road! It was a really awesome moment, and it made us glad we hadn’t paid to go and see elephants when we could see them for free.

Seeing elephants this close was a great end to a perfect trip.

Seeing elephants this close was a great end to a perfect trip.

We finally got on the highway back to Chiang Mai, and after some more confusion and an unneeded u-turn, we found ourselves back at the city. Navigating around the Old Town is a bit of nightmare – so many one way streets! But the ride itself was pleasant, beautiful and really easy for some totally inexperienced riders. All in all, it was an awesome day out and only cost us about $35 in total! Well worth it if you’re brave enough to give it a try. And if you’re not and you have a more experienced friend, go out on the back of their bike instead. I guarantee you’ll still have an amazing time.

Bikes

There were plenty of things up in the mountains to do that we passed by, there’s the Royal Botanic Gardens and I even saw a sign for Monkey School (??) so by no means did we do everything. I’m a bit bummed we missed heading to Samoeng, but there’s always next time!

Easy Rider

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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!

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 had a little spit the other day.. He was stressed about how we had no time left and had SO MUCH TO DO! He was stressed, which makes me stressed, which makes us both very wound up and cranky and a bit shouty. So to calm him I had to explain that we really don’t have that much left to do now.

I have one more shift at work, and then I’m officially unemployed. We got our international driving permits the other day (they’re not even valid in Vietnam!) and we’ve sorted all the clothes we want to take with us overseas and have our backpacks almost finished.

So now what’s left is packing for Melbourne, sorting our backpacks for the final time, packing the remains of our stuff into our car, selling my bed, and purchasing travel insurance for the both of us. I should also probably start doing some more study for university – I’ve kind of fallen off the bandwagon after submitting my first assignment and don’t even know when the next one is due – oops.

Update: Just logged into my university forum and discovered that my assignment, which must include two interviews with a politician and a member of the community relating to my chose issue, is due in less than three weeks. And is actually due after I’m overseas. Faaaaark. So instead of messing around tomorrow, I’m going to have to news gather and somehow find a newsworthy story, find people to interview, and conduct these interviews via phone whilst I’m in Melbourne with Tim. Joy!

This post did have a point, but now that I’ve instantly converted into stress mode for uni, I’ve completely forgotten what it was. So I’m going to give the computer to Tim so he can write a more useful post for his website instead.

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?watch The Circle 2017 movie online now

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!

This is just a little post to keep me sane because my life is so busy at the moment, and it’s also to remind me that I need to consistently blog on here so that people will actually visit and have something interesting to read. (helpful hint: it’s not this post)Mountains PhotoAlien: Covenant movie downloadwatch full film Raw

At the moment I’m about to tell my boss I need time off, and next week I’ll be booking flights home so that I can give her a definite return date and make sure that I’m able to get a full six weeks off, which is the timeframe Tim and I have settled on for our trip.  I’m also trying to get everything together I’ll need for my upcoming trip to Melbourne (19 more days!) which includes money for accommodation, packing & unpacking my bag a million times and putting away as much of my pay as possible before I go so that if I do get the urge to spend, I have the means to do so. I’m hoping, however, that I keep my head screwed on and don’t spend any money by reminding myself that by the time I’m in Melbs, it’ll be less than 100 days until I set foot in Malaysia and everything is cheaper over there.

Ahhhh, I’m so excited to be going, I keep having dreams about temples and markets and tuk tuk rides. Only 105 days left now, and I will be spending all but about 75 of those. An interesting thought!