Elephants, Waterfalls, Cooking, and Muay Thai Fighting

November 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Although our stay in Chiang Mai was brief, we still managed to partake in all that the area had to offer.  For dinner the first night, Ryan and I took a Thai cooking class where we cooked Tom Yam Soup, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Cashew Chicken, and Pad Thai.  Our chef/guide took us through the market where he showed us all the different basic ingredients used in Thai cooking and then drove us out to his “house” (which was really just  giant kitchen) where he guided us through our cooking adventure.  It was quite the feast and we will try our best to bring home some of our new-found skills to share with the rest of you.

Later that night we went to a Muay Thai fight which is basically a mix between boxing and ultimate fighting.  What surprised us all the most was the number of rituals and ceremonies that happen at the beginning of every match.  The fighters walk around the ring gracefully doing ceremonials prayers and such and then 5 minutes later they are kicking each other in the face.  Sound fun?

The next day the four of us embarked on a long day filled with visiting a butterfly and orchid farm, hiking to a waterfall, riding elephants, whitewater rafting, and bamboo rafting (floating on rickety bamboo rafts, not as intense as you might think).  The elephants were most likely the biggest highlight of the day, but possibly the most memorable part of the day was lunch.  We were told that lunch would be included, and considering the tour started at 8am and ended at 5pm, we assumed it would be a reasonably filling lunch…NOPE!  It was a small wad of rice wrapped in banana leaves.  That was it.  That’s SE Asia for you, ya never know exactly what you’re gonna get.

Here are some pictures to give you a feel for our adventures.  We miss you all back home and hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving – we were jealous.

Zach, Ryan, Stefan, and Brian

The Gibbon Experience

November 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

Hello everyone, long time no talk.  Slowly but surely we are trying to write about all that we did while we were in Laos without internet access.  So without further ado, here’s a little bit about a 3-day trek we did called the Gibbon Experience.

The Gibbon Experience is a project in the Bokeo province in northern Laos.  Basically, the natural habitat that the Gibbon lives in is becoming destroyed, so this French guy decided that a good way to both educate people and raise money would be to create this “adventure trek” through the reserve where guests can zip-line through the forest and live in a tree-house.  For the four of us, it is probably the most memorable and best part of this trip through SE Asia.

The first day we were up early for the 3 hours drive into the jungle followed by an hour hike.  At first we were surprised at how rustic the vehicle we took was (an old beat up Toyota truck where we had to cram luggage, food, the 8 of us guests, and then any random locals that we decided to pick up along the way into the cab and bed of the truck) but once we hit the jungle where we drove straight through rivers and up some treacherous roads, it all made sense.  We then received a quick talk about how to use the harnesses and zip-lines and we were on our way, hiking through the jungle and zip-lining through the treetops to our tree-house, Tree-house #3.  We hung out and enjoyed the view (see pics below) and the guide brought us dinner and were more than accommodating.

The next morning we awoke to the entire tree shaking at 6AM.  Don’t worry, this is a normal wake up on the Gibbon experience.  It was just our guide zip-lining in to wake us up for a morning trek where we would hopefully see some Gibbons.  (They tell you beforehand that you aren’t guaranteed to see any since it’s the jungle.  If you want to see Gibbons, “Go to the zoo.”)  Unfortunately our first morning we did not see any, although we could hear their calls and singing not far away.  The rest of the day was filled with zipping around, and it even got to the point where our guide trusted us and said, “You go play, I come back at 4.”  So play we did.  There are about 22 zip-lines total and we did nearly every one of them.  It was truly an adrenaline filled day.

The night was similar to the previous one – reviewing pictures, playing Spades, and simply enjoying the fact that we were living in a tree-house that was about 125 meters off the ground, overlooking the enormous Laos jungle.  The following morning we did another trek and this time we did see some Gibbons!  Granted only from afar and only briefly, but at least we got a glimpse.  Then some more playing and then headed back down.  Here’s a few pictures for your enjoyment (videos will have to wait because they are taking too long to upload).

The Gibbon Experience

November 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Our Home

Koh Phangan

November 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

We have finally arrived in the legendary islands of southern Thailand, and with not a moment to spare before the infamous full moon party just one day away!

Luang Prabang was a chill and enjoyable time with a lovely night market full of sarongs, t’s, and tobacco pipes. We ate at a restaurant that resembled a rain forest and ordered the self-cook barbecue. This basically means that we had a hot pot at our table and cooked our own dinner. Here’s some pictures of our dinner as well as Luang Prabang

We’ll be getting another post up in the next couple days or so about the Gibbon Experience and Chiang Mai.

Until next time,

Ryan, Stefan, Farmer, and the newly added Brian

APOLOGIES!

November 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

We know we’ve been out of touch for quite a while.

Just wanted to let everyone know we are all still alive and well, a few sicknesses have hit us hard but at this point all four of us are back on our feet and enjoying Laos as much as one could.

The LPDR, (Laos People’s Democratic Republic) or (Lao People Don’t Rush) depending on who you ask,  has really achieved everything we could of imagined and more. The people are splendid, friendly and helpful, the scenery is stunning and the good times never end.

On that note we will write full and proper blog post once we arrive in Luang Prabang and have Wifi and can use our own netbook again. For now though, we just wanted to let friends and family know we are safe and sound, having a brilliant time and missing you all at the same time.

Cheers,

Stefan, Farmer, Ryan and Brian

Goodbye Vietnam, Hello Laos

October 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Farmer and I are about to depart on the 7 pm sleeper bus from Hanoi, Vietnam to Vientian, Laos. The bus is scheduled to take 24 hours, some travelers report it’s only 18 , but either way it is definitely the longest bus journey either of us have ever been on. Ryan decided to “flashpack” and spend the extra 150$ for the 90 min flight on Lao airlines. We’ll try to let you know who made the better decision in 36 or so hours.

Also, in about 48 hours, Brian Flores will be joining us in Laos after flying into Bangkok and taking the overnight train. 3 day countdown until river tubing in Vang Vieng!

Cheers,

Stefan, Farmer and Ryan

Sa Pa

October 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

After our crazy adventure in Halong Bay, I decided to head north to a little mountain village called Sa Pa while Ryan and Stefan chilled out in Hanoi.  I was joined by two guys from outside London who we met on our Halong Bay trip.  The best way to describe Sa Pa is that it reminds me of a quaint little Colorado ski town, but way cooler because it’s in Vietnam.  There are gorgeous views in all directions of the enormous mountains and rice terraces, and nearby is the highest peak in Vietnam, Mt. Fansipan.  THe hill tribe people wear traditional outfits with tons of bright colors and crazy scarfs/hats.  Despite their appealing look, they are ruthless when it comes to hassling you to buy bracelets, bags, and jewelry from them.  They know exactly which tourists have just arrived and they basically wage war on you, surrounding you with 15-20 kids and adults and shoving everything in your face saying, “You buy from me.  You no buy from me yesterday and you promise you buy so you buy today.  Why no you buy from me?  You buy from my friend but you no buy from me!  You buy bracelet?  You buy?”  It was funny and entertaining at first, and yes, we did decide to buy a few things just because of the outrageousness with which they hassle you, but after the first couple of hours it became a little overwhelming and irritating.  So Shannon and Simon and I rented motorbikes and took to the mountain roads where we basically stopped every couple of hundred meters and took pictures and videos.  We saw some cool waterfalls, went up to the mountain pass, and enjoyed tearing through the winding mountain roads.  For me, it was a little bittersweet because these motorbikes were not real manual bikes nor were they as beat up and crappy as the Minsks that we had been riding for the past 3 weeks, but the fact that these new bikes started without any trouble and actually reliably was a nice change.  All together it was a fun 2 days of relaxing and enjoying the mountainous region of Vietnam which we had only briefly experienced when we rode to Dalat (though that was in a rainstorm and miserably cold).  Perhaps the most refreshing thing about Sa Pa was that during the day it was sunny and warm, but at night it got quite cold to the point of needing a hoodie and jeans, something I haven’t worn since I arrived in SE Asia 6 weeks ago.

Here are some pics of the trip.  Enjoy!

Snake Village

October 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

After our trip to Halong Bay, which we’ll have to tell you about in another post entirely, we decided to go on a little adventure that Hanoi Backpacker’s Hostel sets up called “Snake Village”. For 15 bucks we were told we would get to fool around with some snacks and have an 8 course snake meat dinner with endless rice wine so we said, “Why not?”.

Let’s just say, we did not fully know what we had just gotten ourselves into. The night started tame enough, we we’re picked up from our hotel and about 20 of us were packed into a large van that drove the 30 or so min trip outside of Hanoi. When we arrived it wasn’t as much a “village” as it was a cool restaurant type compound that had bridges and islands and served just about any exotic animal you could find in the area. (I would guess a few dishes that they served were probably illegal but I’m pretty positive all of our snake dishes were legal)

Anyways, we start off by playing around with some of your average backyard rat/grass/tree snakes.

What came next was the real kicker, we were told that we could take a shot with a beating snake heart, I just don’t think any of us realized it would unfold the way that it did. The snake was held by his head and tail and the heart was found by one of the Vietnamese workers using his hands before one of us was told to cut the snake open right there. The snake was still alive and his heart was pulled out still beating. The heart was then cut out and boom, placed in your hand and still beating you took it down like a shot. Supposedly its an aphrodisiac, or more specifically, “the viagra of Vietnam”. Let me tell you, it definitely gets your blood pumping fast and you’re filled with adrenaline, and I have to say, it wen’t down easier than the cow intestine and giant snails we had in Cambodia.

I warn you, this video is quite graphic and shouldn’t be viewed by anyone with a weak stomach. I’m looking at you Squeano. Seriously though, it puts a lot of p1edge term to shame.

We then sat down for a surprisingly good 8 course snake meal including Cobra curry and snake spring rolls. We cheered in various languages and took down a shot of rice wine for every course. The rice wine was actually flowing so fast that our waitress decided to just let her kids that couldn’t of been over 5 begin to serve us because she was too tired!

BBQ Snake Ribs and Rice Wine

All in all, it ended up being quite the experience and night, one that the three of us won’t forget for very very long time.

Cheers,

Stefan, Ryan and Farmer

Hoa's Place to Hue

October 16, 2010 § 3 Comments

At the base of Monkey Mountain

So after a fun day and a half of taking it easy at Hoa’s place, we were on the road to Hue! Problem is after about 15 minutes on the road, we took a wrong turn and started to climb a treacherous trail up what is lovingly known as Monkey Mountain. Of course it took my bike, Sally, about ten minutes to completely stop working on one of the particularly steep inclines. The transmission would not connect the engine to the drive shaft, and so we were left to push my 100 kg bike up 10-20% grade inclines under the blazing heat of the noontime sun.

Right before we all broke down into tears, I decided to try and turn some screws that mechanics tended to adjust when fixing my bike and voila it started running! We continued on the trail for another 10 minutes or so, enjoying the breathtaking views of Danang’s beaches and loving the fact that our bikes were all pushing themselves.

Ryan and Sally

Farmer and Sandra

Stefan and Stella

Eventually Farmer pointed out that we were not getting anywhere other than the top of a mountain, so we agreed to turn around and take the actual road to Hue. We booked it for 2 hours and arrived safe and sound right as dusk was setting in. More on Hue adventures later…

Peace and love,

Ryan, Stefan, and Farmer

Oh here’s a picture from the sunrise at Jungle Beach

And a picture from right after we arrived in Nha Trang on a rainy drive down from the mountainous town of Da Lat

Night Out

October 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

So we’ve realized that our posts are almost all recaps and while our travels are interesting, it would also be nice to start posting some of our thoughts on travelling and just random funny stuff we encounter along the way.

Here’s a pic of us on our moto ride to the Sun Bar in Hoi An. 4 big guys on one moto is pretty impressive. (Though we have lost 25 or so pounds collectively)

Also it isn’t very clear in this photo, but we felt that if we were motorbiking all of Vietnam, we had to look the part. So for the last 2 or so weeks, none of us have shaved, trying to achieve some level of motorcycle street cred.

Here’s a good open note to Kings of Leon’s songwriters. It’s pretty funny how clever some people can be when they’re drunk at a bar and decide to write on the walls. (A very popular thing at backpacker bars)

Finally here’s a picture of all of us truly enjoying ourselves, because that’s really what this whole adventure is all about and we haven’t posted enough photos with all three of us.

Cheers,

Stefan, Ryan and Farmer

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