Post # 25 Don Kong

Day 30 1050 days to go. Distance: today 115km total 1515m. It’s 7.00pm Friday the 30/12/2011 Muang Kong, Don Kong Island, Si Phan Don (South Loas). I’m sitting at V Mala Lao House the guest home I found this arv. It’s beautiful and I have the whole place to myself spoilt city. I’m seated on the huge deck at a table and can smell something amazing coming from the kitchen best of all it’s my dinner cooking. I’ve ordered extra large vegy and egg fried rice very excited very hungry very very. The manager Than said that not many people stay here opting for the two larger hotels near the dock. What a missed opportunity for him and them. I told Than he should stick a sign up where the ferry comes in and that I would plug his guesthouse on the blog – he’s happy. The place is so beautiful this stilted old house all renovated with polished wooden interior walls floors and ceiling and really wide timbers. I thought I’d be way out of my budget but it’s only 50000 the cost of most places I’ve stayed but nothing in comparison. There are super hot showers where I indulged before dinner scrubbing up dam fine I might add and smelling a treat. My room is on the deck with a huge netted bed ready to fall into in an hour or so. The gardens are leafy green and cared for and the whole place oozes charm and comfort. I’ll take some pickies tomorrow in the light to show off where I’ll be hanging out for the next day’s leaving Cambodia on the 2/1/2012. For now I’m seeing in the New Year soaking up a slice of Si Phan Don about 30km from the boarder. As Lonely planet so articulately describes ‘..it is an archipelago of sandbars and rocky inlets set amid the turquoise expanse of the Mekong River. I’ve popped myself on the quieter of the three main islands the others being Don Det and Kon, a bit more touristy and expensive to ferry to and I though maybe a bit eeek for me being new years and lots of party people partying. So it’s just me and the crickets waiting on the deck for dinner to come out. It’s nice to hav a cooked meal as a treat and a nice way to start 3 days off to soak up the island, rest up and start thinking about Cambodia. There’s an internet café here I can’t pick it you would never guess it’s a small one street place with nothing much to distract you from doing nothing much.  Obviously there’s some exploring that can be done and I may venture out over the days to see what’s about. It’ll also be great to have internet access to be in touch with family now over New Years. Dinners just come out and it could feed two but I’ll do my utmost between typing, what a trooper – by the way it tastes delish garnished with chopped coriander , cucumber and chilly I’m in drool heaven. That’s an offensively huge serve  mmmmm maybe time for some more senakot J Headed off this morning after spending some time with the family from the guest house they were very warm and fun. Then it was down to the dock to catch the ferry across the river and pick up route 13 again. It’s a real pretty area full of river life and a fishing village feel. Quickly apparent on the short trip across. The ferry was this double long boat with a fella sitting out back steering his 2 stroke put put motor. The standing deck was about 3m square and a tight squeeze for a handful of us along with Rube. The banks are sandy and sloped and a bit of an effort to get her and the trailer on and off the ferries and back onto the harder level roads. I’ll give her some attention tomorrow to keep those nasty rusty bits at bay – she’s travelling so well and we’re a jet team propping each other up when the other goes a bit off rail J Did I mention dinner was fabulous and I am making an impressive dint for a wee thing. I did a good cycle stint first up to Lunchtime and stopped at a roadside amenities centre. These places pop up from time to time where there are multiple amenities to shower and wash up at a small fee a food store come restaurant attached.  There were also these village women who had set up a make-ship grilling plate and was selling skewered pressed banana, meats and sweat potato. I had bought 3 grilled eggs earlier and ate them with the last of the baguette then bought skewered banana for desert yum. The family running the centre and the village women were so friendly I ended up hanging out there for nearly 2 hours playing with the kids and enjoying the people’s company. A bus of Japanese and Thai tourists pulled up at one stage and the people literally gave the women and their food the big swerve and bought packaged western style food instead go figure. So their loss but unfortunately also a loss of kip for the ladies. Their food is so cheap comes straight of the grill and tastes so yum. Anyway it was off and onwards to here and a long slog to end the day with pretty much nothing about except hot open plains and a bit tough to cover the ks. I wrongly took an early exit and had to follow a single sandy track along the river bank through these tiny offbeat villages very cool to check out with the villages very surprised to see me. It was a bit tricky cycling Rube and the trailer through the sandy uneven track and I was a bit over it by the time I popped out at the ferry port some 10km later. It was a short trip across to arrive at sunset beautiful. I met this cool family on the ferry. They’re from France but now live in London and travelling with their 5 year old boy – Impressive I thought given Laos isn’t easy travelling the easiest place to travel. They were also very interested in what I was doing so I gave them my blog card. I may hear from Oliver and his family bit in the meantime I hope they enjoy the rest of their trip. We have pretty much followed the same itinery so were able to exchange a few ‘what was your favorite?’ stories. Anyway time to sign off, finish devouring dinner and maybe visit the internet café to upload some photos while dinner digests otherwise it’ll be crazy dreams with a belly full of digesting starch. Talk soon x

Post#24 Champasak

Day 29 1051 days to go. Distance: today 47km total 1400km. It’s 7.12pm Thursday 29/12/2011 Champasak. I am sitting in the cafe attached to the guesthouse I’m staying at 40000 kip nice and the restaurant looks straight out onto the mekong. The village lights from the island opposite are twinkling and the frog are going off. They’re almost drowning out the bunch of knee highs that live here. It’s very active o’clock for them and they’re happy squealing a muck. I’ve just got back from the Wat Phu Champasak awesome awesome awesome got to appreciate it for a few hours including sunset this arv so feeling very chuffed with myself and really glad I bothered. Today started with a recky of Paske interesting place full of pockets of happenings. Paske’s perched on an inlet where the Mekong and Si Don rivers meet. So there’s a real active river life mostly restaurants but also locals enjoying the lazy feel to the place like groups of men playing what I called botchy but here its called Petang. It’s got a rustic french colonial charm that’s a bit dirty and raw. It was still quite sleepy when I cycled round with stalls just starting to cook their breakfast menu grilled meats and sticky rice smells everywhere. That smell in the morning and then at dusk is so yummy. It’s like a smoky grilled BBQ smell of spicy meets with fresh steamed rice in the background mmmmmmmm you can tell I haven’t had dinner yet. I just sniff my way around at these times psyching up for what tempts the most. I think Ive mentioned previously that most locals don’t cook here they eat out and it’s a way of life to cater either quick stop stalls through to restaurants. Its really cool to check out the roadside stalls industriously preparing their menu for the hoards that come through at hungry o’clock. Mostly locals snack on the run or buy takeaway in plastic bags or some sit at the few chairs if available. There’s allot of social eating places where groups will sit around a grilling plate and it’s a free all everyone in selecting from fresh meat and veg cuts and grilling their bites. I found the local morning market which is also one of my favorite places and stocked up on bananas and found some baguettes yay – clearly recovered from my ant ordeal with no PTSD clearly seeing I bought three. I was trying to find how to access the bridge to Champasak and came across a dead end but right there was this pig market with this crazy frenzy of bidding and bartering it was insane. It was a bit challenging as the pigs welfare is not a priority just the first in don’t miss out yelling and squealing eeeek thing. Pigs were being pulled in an out by the legs in bright yellow hessian bags and it was just so business as usual I stood there for ages catching the eyes of locals and nodding at their good buys. i hope I don’t come back as a Laos pig that yellow is not my color. I’ve just tuned in to the layers of sounds coming from the river peoples voices at different distances and lots of put put motoring from long boats that’s the main river transportation. Frogs are the sopranos and geckos occasionally come in with their double chirps. It’s balmy and the breeze coming off the river is really melting. It’s nice there’s no tourists at least we’re Im staying. There’s a couple more upmarlket hotal further up and the few I have seen today may be there if there overnighting. I was expectng to see more tourists at the wat this arv but it was mostly laos people. There were these two japanese girls who were so sweat came up recognizing ruby as a specialized bike like a bike at home and kept saying how much I need to include Japan in my itineracy. That’s a bit of a detour. I checked out of the guesthouse in Paske and had my helper ‘Con’ who worked there so wanting to help. He sleeps in the foyer like most workers seem to do at guesthouses and going by the way Ruby’s seat was positioned this morning I think he and her played up all night she’s very quiet about the topic and a but sleepy today I noticed 🙂 Before leaving I ran into this crazy couple I met back in Kasi Christiano from italy and Graziella from France. They are so well travelled for an extended period of time and back in Kasi I got chatting for a bit about Madagascar Graziella’s favorite place. Anyway it was really great to bump into them again and was able to give them a card in case they want to keep in tough. We’re roughly traveling in the same direction for the next month so it maybe we meet up. The cycle to Champasak was lovely. The Bolaven Plateau is on one horizon and mountain ranges on the other. It’s very rural and agricultural with rice fields the main crop. I found this empty roadside stall right on the river to stop for lunch which was beautiful and the baguette never tasted so good. Champasak itself is very laid back comatosed even and there’s lots of places to chill and space out watching the river life potter by. I was tempted to just find a shady spot and play with my belly button but motivated myself to go check out the watt and so glad I did. It’s from the 6th century and it oozzed this age quite primitive in some of it’s rock impressions of geckos and elephants. Aparently it was the blueprint for cambodia’s Ankor watt so that’ll be interesting to check for similarities when I’m there. The watt runs up a hillside and from the top there’s a terraced outlook over the complex. Flowering frangipanis line the stairs up the hill beautiful and the light was great being over sunset. It draws locals who leave offerings and burning incense in the shrines and there’s ladies selling offerings for those who didn’t come prepared and feel the urge. I noticed the Buddhas had been dressed in gold robes and the one in the courtyard even has an umbrella. Well it is hot you know and you too would have sun exposure concerns if you were that old 🙂 It was very laid back and non touristy and a wonderful place to wonder and appreciate awesome. The 10km of road to/from there was through all local villages which was fabulous. The road was unsealed and /or really broken up and it added to the village atmosphere it was wonderful to ride. It was dark on the way back and the villages all had their stalls smelling at their best I was conbstantly butterflying and badly timing bumps in road much to Rubes protest. Anyway on that note it’s time to round off and grab dinner bit late bit peckish and a bit of an early start tomorrow. I saw a shop that says it’s got wifi internet from 7am to 6pm so if so Ill upload the last post and photos if possible. Then the ferry is 2km down the road so I’ll try find that head back to the mainland and pick up route 13 down to Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) which is as it sounds a bunch of laid back island just north of the border with Cambodia and apparently beautiful – That’s where I’m going to hop for the next days crossing the border on the 2/1/2012. It’s a 110-120km ride tomorrow so off to bed for these little legs. Fun day and post. Talk soon x
Ps I just went outside to send the spot message and the whole family living here came out.the oldest sister lives here with her other sister and brother and the family they each have two children hence the crazyness earlier. The children are in bed nd she says this is a good time in the day lol her English is excellent and I was able to explain what the spot tracker does they were fascinated that you can see right to where their guesthouse is. A wonderful day x

Post # 23 Paske

Day 28 152 days to go. Distance: today 123km total 1353km. It’s
2.46pm wednesday the 28/12/2011 and I’ve decided to get out of the heat it’s full on hot today I’d have a guess on the road mix forties. It’s a shames cause I’m having such a good ride day and really keen to get into Paske with 20km to go. Right now I’m sitting put until I feel a little less brain fried. The first place I’ve found is a beer garden so there’s some chill music playing and groups having a drink in their own huts it’s actually quite groovy . I think last night’s lack of sleep is. Arching up on me it could have held off for another hour anyway a bit of a rest and well give it
Another go 5km at a time. I’ve had heaps of water ifs just the heat and once you feel like you’re cooking it not much fun. I went off to bed last night so happy and comfy but was woken about a couple of hours later with a bighty and then another one and I thought oh no bed bugs. I turned on the light and found that a nest of ants had decided to move in and into my baguettes and rice cakes nooooooooooo. They have then seen me asleep and thought oooooo there’s a bigger baguette. Literally there were ants egg on my bananas . It was on you little $&@tards. A tip ants don’t like insect spray and got their toenails sprayed actually they got quite drowned but there was no mercy at that o’clock. I think the buddhist in me was still asleep and this must kill devil spawn took control. Ok so an hour later ants were dead or had run in terror and it was back to trying to sleep but I was a bit eeeek after that episode and didn’t sleep the best. Bigger feeling it now but I must say I’m feeling heaps better just ring out of the sun for a bit. I have to pee again so water not a problem I just need to stick my head in their ice bucket they’re serving drinks from. I launched this or ing soon after I started I went through this town and a group of boys were walking to school. They came to a gigantic buffalo pad on the roadside and one of the boys stood over it likens had left it. Of course poo and burp jokes clearly work in laos too especially for a group of young lads. It was straight out of the comic Beavis and butthead for those who know it. A group next door have invited me to join them to drink beer eeeeeeeek thank you but I have to still get to Paske great excuse. The stops I’ve had today have been majoritively at petrol stations for water tops. Rube and I have had visits from baby chicks, roosters and two very cute puppies. Otherwise it’s been a day of cycling I’ve really enjoyed it and spent time on my style to conserve those legs. It funny if you go too hard or are in a poor position you don’t feeling until a few hours later so I’m slowly being reminded of the dos and don’t re style spacing out the day and how much to eat and drink. Anyway I think I’m feeling more human and ready go tackle 5 k’s at a time good plan. One of those stops will be a snack stop I’m hungry and run out of food. Dam those ants. Well at least the chops got a good feed of baguette this morning for . Talk later from Paske x
It’s 6.34 and I’m showered
And squeaky clean yayayayayyya gear sort of washes out as best as I could and drying which shouldn’t take long it’s really balmy. Arrived to a beautiful sunset and found a guesthouse 60000 with wifi in the rooms how cool. Going to update the blog now and upload the photos for the last few days it’s really good to be here. Long day very satisfying and i gooto say was kinda relieved to get here this arvPaske this old french colonial town with lots happening so I have a now into the evening while I look for something to eat starvvvvvvvving. Talk soon x

Post # 22 Ban Xenuan

Day 27 1053 days to go. Distance: today 112km total 1330km. It’s 6.02pm Tuesday 27/12/2011 Ban Xenuan. I’m feeling right now that I have spent the best $5 Aus (40000kip) sitting outside the guest room. This place appeared really like an oasis this afternoon a guest house in the smallest town. There’s nothing much to it very basic but right now it’s the most beautiful place ever. I knew today that I had a midway stop towards Paske and wasn’t sure where I would end up which is kind of cool in a way but when you’re getting weary in the afternoon after and early start it’s a bit of a tricky mind game. Lets just say I squeeled squealed yayayayaya what on earth is a guest house doing out here, who cares it’s here I’ll take that one. I got my flask topped up at a roadside cafe shere I stopped for lunch and was saving it for when I finished up today. That was the best coffee ever plus the complimentary water was really cold bonus and happy happy days. And it was I’ve had a really lovely day. Totally took my time stopping as I pleased it made for a longer day but really enjoyable. The people here have goats and chickens. The chickens joined me for coffee this arv and one of the goats just sneezed as they so beautifully do. I love that familiar sound. It’s a clear chilly night and the stars are really bright with no town lights so I’m loving loving it. Great space to post the day. I left this morning via the nmarkets again to check them out in full swing markets are always so busy in the morning and definately at their best. I bought some more coffee sachets and mixed with some stall people then headed off to see what the day brought on. I stopped a few times this morning to get some pickies of the local pigs and goats and cows in amongst daily life here as Ive mentioned. Then I passed this roadside cafe that looked very inviting very low key and cheap noodles which were delish. This old fella thought me very interesting and joined me for lunch talking the whole time chatting and laughing he was so colorful and entertaining. The local goats being the curious creatures they are had to come check out Rube and I( managed to snap a picky before they bleated off to the next bit of mischief. I have mentioned the watermelons stalls and came across one for the next break and sugar fix. The lady picked a little ripe one giving it the tap test and I indulged on their bench enjoying their company and fun. When I showed the father the photo I took of him and his family he offered me another melon in exchange for the camera and thought it a great joke. Actually I think he was more laughing at me who took a time to catch on. Not a sharp moment 🙂 I’ll blame exposure. The locals here rug up like its sub zero with balaclavas the works. They are forever saying in Loas ‘aren’t you cold.’ Even being the cold frog that I am am not that cold. The evenings you need a jumper but otherwise it’s really great weather and wonderful temp for cycling. Even with lots of sunscreen Ive got a ‘been in the sun’ glow. Goes to show how steamy it must get here in summer and the wet season. I took a couple of shots today on the move. I must say Ive found my balance with Rube and the gear and this is a true sign as I wouldnt have managed this previously. anyway I( came up on a tractor cart pulling a load of wood and chugging along with a man driving his wife and child. I got the camera out and lined up a shot and a stall of locals all started calling and laughing out to the family obviously letting them know they were about to be snapped. Well they thought it the best ever having their picture taken by a passing cyclists and waved me off cheering. These tractor carts are everywhere in the agricultural areas. The families use them for transport and like a ute with a wooden tray on the back loaded with whatever their business is animals or wood or sugarcane or the family or locals hitching a lift or all the above. I see them in the field with the wooden cart detached and being hand used to plow the ground. They motor along slowly but do the trick. It’s wierd to actually pass a motored vehicle on the road much to their amusement being overtaken by a cycle ‘Go Rube you good thing speed demon red rocket.’ 🙂 At this town I went through called Paksong there was this amazing monastery so decorated and picket fenced with all different types of mini shrines. I was beautiful and in a town that was really small but equally cared for and beautiful in it own right. Had to stop to ejoy it more much to the delight of the baby monks who were have a chats asking anything they could in what English they knew and me asking them the questions that match their standard phrases. what’s you name, how old are you etc. The younger ones look to the older ones to translate and the chatting continues. I really enjoyed ot as did they. It was really quirky with cows all grazing in the footpath out front and I got a shot with rube parked at the temple gate with cows in the foreground. She now thinks she’s a tractor cycle pulling her cart. Rubes gone hick on me and loving the rural Laos life clearly 🙂 We both are. I alter passed another monastery with a small herd of goats lazing in the afternoon shade and managed to take a picky before they bleated off complaining about being disturbed and fair enough it looked a great spot and I could have parked alongside them for an afternoon kip at that stage. Fancying myself a bit of a ‘on the move’ photographer now I passed this woman cycling with her puppy in the front basket and thought I’d try my luck a second time. They both looked soooo cute and she got a welcomed surprise to have her photo taken both of them flashing a big grin for the photo big fun. This isn;’t the sort of thing I can do obviously when the roads are busy but they were really quiet moving through only small towns today it was a chance to try it on. I’m still playing with the idea of getting a camera for my helmet because moments like these two today happen regularly during the day it’d be really great to capture it so its not forgotten when I’m later posting and to share the action with you. As simple as it is it is this sort of stuff that make cycling really quite an awesome way to move through these places. You wouldn’t experience these simple treats from a bus or car and you certainly don’t see it in the larger towns. I had the thought today how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to travel whilst still be so in touch with everyday simple life here. It’s special and particularly so later remembering what I can from the day and sharing it with you. i came across this moped mechanic where the man, his wife and children and a younger girl were doing their daily thing. Great excuse to stop and ask if I could use his air hose to pump up rube and her trailer. They didn’t really need it but it was a legitimate reason to stop for a chat. His family were amused by the crazy visitor and we topped off the visit with a group photo fun. They love doing the notorious two finger Asian salute for photos theyve got me doing it now eeeek. I stopped off later in the day at a servo for a break and the other half of the melon yum. A family stopping to refuel their tractor cart and themselves and came over and joined me. They got out the staple here for any meal basketted sticky rice, and a green soupy mix to dunk. That was pretty much the day it was then about looking for a place to stop as it was ‘had enough’ o’clock and the 100kms done for the day. What seemed like a very long 12 kms later I found this place just a matress on the floor with an adjoining toilet and wash up tub and bucket but the best ever. I celebrated by shaving the much neglected legs and plucking the eyebrows and am feeling very happy and content tonight. The lady visited when I first set up out here to update you on the day. She had her son with her he’s mentally handicapped and wanted to tell you all about his day on the keyboard. I distracted him with a photo and he was happy enough. So that’s about me for today and an awesome one at that. It’s been fun posting tonight and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I have two options how far to head depending on how Im feeling. I may get to Paske but its about 130kms otherwise it’s to another place called Sanasonombun a more respectable 100km. That’ll leave a 30km ride into Paske the next day then another 30km into Champasak where’s there’s suppose to be awesome temple ruins Wat Phu Champasak according to Lonely Planet. It was built on the mountainside 6th century and it’s apparently an awesome sight at sunrise or sunset. Champasak is right on the Mekong and there’s a sleepy fishing village island just off the mainland which is suppose to be of the tourist trail and able to arrange home-stays. Anyway very cool stuff to consider over the next days yay. For now it’s time for dinner of left over noodles and baguette carb fix 101 then an early night for an early start tomorrow. Life’s good. Talk soon x

Post # 21Seno

Day 26 1054 days to go. Distance today 100km total 1208. It’s 11.20am and lunch break time on route about half way to a place called Seno. You know that willy Nelson song ‘on the road again’ I’m hearing you willy. It’s having a place to go but enjoying the road along the way. People people people smiles hellos nods waves cheers more smiles oh dear no teeth no health care system but smiling happy nonetheless it’s that Loas psyche and I love it. Boxing say and it appears just another day here with school and the different working days as usual. It seems the people celebrate Christmas of sorts as there have been decorations and Christmas trees and a concert last night and fireworks but in what context Christmas is celebrated I’m not sure. Anyway it was nice to spend the day in tha Knaek. I was in a dormitory with a stack of backpackers and didn’t really connect with any or maybe I didn’t really want to. I did meet this one quirky couple who were from Israel and had been traveling for three years. The played the flute and the recorder but were very much out there and entrenched in the backpacker scene which is very different to my interests so there was little topics to discuss with detail. I find that scene a bit tiresome and try to dodge and weave it where possible. It’s a bit tricky cause its in the bigger towns that this scene is ripe and where I have stop overs to have to access to Internet etc. mmmmmmm need a plan. I think finding a piece of the towns authentic self, indulge in it and have something very cool and unique about the place to share with you is far better focus and a good plan to stick with. Accommodation is so cheap here I can afford a room to my self when they’re available and I appreciate that luxury more so now. Anyway today’s been cool the smaller towns I’m passing through have been interesting with lots of animals hanging out amongst the townsfolk like goats and pigs and cows and buffalo of course chickens. Fried specialities are about. I bought one and they’re like a donut ball filled with a sweet paste and rolled in icing sugar yum. Gotto share this story I saw this puppy he looked very poised so got my attention but he was very interested in up the road further then his tail started going off bigtime and approaching was his family coming home from a mornings work with the tractor. There’s some basic qualities that are universal aren’t there any way made me smile. Reminds me of when I had the home stay at long Lo and the puppy and kitten sat very attentive watching me eat breakfast. When noone was watching I have them half each of my leftover fish the cat of course devoured it growling in case the dog had ideas. But the puppy took it straight outside and buried it in a sandpile for Ron. There’s honking geese somewhere nearby and the sounds of children, adult chitchat and domestic choirs of all sorts as background noise. lots of layers of cool sounds and quite cathartic listening while sitting in the sun now over lunch. I’m munching on rice cakes and banana. The rice cakes have like a toffee crunch drizzled over them and they’re really yummy and my new fav. I suppose it’s time to start the next half of the day so far so very good.
It’s 5.46pm same day and I got to Seno this arv. It’s been such a nice day. I relaxed into the kms and had heaps of stops to mix with people that got my attention. Hey they play botchy here with the silver balls. It’s weird cause my family are big botchy players at the inaugural boxing day bbq and I so thought of them today seeing the locals right into it. The area is again agriculture but now heaps of sugar cane growing and watermelons. So there’s lots of smoke in the air as they still use the grow and burn style but made for a great sunset tonight. I passed this lad who held up a rat he had trapped and was clearly proud of the fact. Shortly after there was this stall with rats all hanging and really small melons for sale. I had to stop. The little girl ran inside and came out with her mum again no teeth but all smiles and hello. Of course with the cane there’s heaps of rats so what’s plentiful is what’s eaten. The lady showed me that the baby melons get put inside the rats when they cook and apparently taste pretty alright. Lunch stop was at this servo good spot with toilets and water for a top up. I went to sit on the ground near rube and a man and his kids were having lunch at a table and invited me over to join them. They offered me to share their sticky rice and a mixture of soupy dunks and I showed them my rice cakes and bananas and said I was ok but say with them anyway the man chatting away to me talking about goodness knows what but happy to chat he bought me a water and wished me well. I shared the last of my rice cakes with a long haired mutt that was giving me his best I’m starving look which he wasn’t but it worked. He looked a bit like my cousins dog Marley very cute. Later in the day I stopped to adjust Rubes rear brakes which were having a squeek and happened to stop next door to a mechanical place. Of course they were very keen to check out her bits. I must say I felt a little bit the idiot with the mechanically minded watching on but I sorted it and got their nods of approval. They even tried to find a #5 allen key amongst their tools but no luck really lovely of them to try but. You have probably guessed by now that children are everywhere here and appear from nowhere so of course there were a little gang hanging about playing tricks and getting chased and tickled by me which they loved as well 🙂 I did the photo thing before heading off and its a nice picture for keeps sake as it was big fun. I’m very fond of the whole grease monkey scene and am definitely a bogan at heart. I just need a few thousand more skills to be a bit more legit. I mentioned before there are so many goats in this area and as an avid fan of these beautiful creatures I find myself calling out to them constantly saying hello or be careful of the road etc. Their bleat is so unmistakable you hear it often from the fields or the footpaths and roads now I think of it. Lots of babies who have their own octaves lol they’re such darlings. I’ll grab a photo if I get the chance again I’m too busy chatting to think about grabbing the camera. Back at home the Woodford Folk Festival started today so the theme for the Ipod was the bands I bought albums from when I was there last year. I haven’t listened to some of this music for ages so I was singing to the goats while the Ipod lasted. Seno is allot smaller than what i thought and not much about except this huge market at the top of town where the road heads off to a place called Savannakhet a border town with Thailand on the Mekong. Allot of Thai products must come through this way because everything from clothing to jewelry to bags and accessories stuff you don’t see elsewhere were for sale and loads of it. And that’s bpretty much the town which is odd. I was really lucky to find a guest house with only one in town 50000kip. It’s got these two wooden chairs inside that way over 10kgs each made from some solid timber. They’re ugly as hell but would cost a fortune back at home in an antic place I’m sure. I checked out the foodstalls and bought some more rice cakes and bananas . I also found a bag of baguettes finally was game enough to buy skewered eggs 5000 kip for 4 that have been grilled. They look so weird skewered eggs but they’ll taste great as most food here does. On that note I’m hungry and going to set up a picnic for dinner yum. Good day all all round and very happy to be back on the road. Talk soon x

Post #20 Christmas in Tha Knaek

Day 25 1075 days to go: Distance: today NOT GOING ANYWHERE YAYAYAYA. Happy Christmas to you fine people. Have a special day whatever you’re doing and enjoy those you’re sharing it with. I thought I’d take this chance to say thank you so much for your comments over the last 25 days.  I read through them again this morning and they’re so special. I can’t tell you how much I love hearing from you and receiving your supportive words.  There’s lots of ups and downs in each day and the experience as a whole picture remains truly awesome and meanigful big.  It is during the tougher moments however that I lean on the support and love and thoughts from family and friends so again thank you it really really helps and is appreciated. Christmas day beckons to just hang out it’s a beautiful day here still a bit chilly say 20 so I have plans to find a sunny spot and hang by the Mekong and find yummy things to eat along the way yay. Again have a great day until next post on route to Paske heading tomorrow 26/12/2011. Thought I’d end by sharing a quote a friend of mine shared with me:

“When I let my true self out, I radiate. My eyes shine bright. When I walk it’s a dance. When I speak it’s a song. When I smile at you, it’s a kiss. I am free. I am strong. I am an artist in every sense of the word. But most of all, I become *me*. And that’s who I want to be.” Author unknown

There’s no greater gift you can give those you love than your true self. (Thanks Cindy x) Love from me and talk soon x

It’s 4.00pm 25/12/2011 and thought I’d update the blog one more time before heading tomorrow.  It’s been such a chill afternoon and I all dosy and warm from sitting in the sun on the waterfront.  The woman who did my laundry from the internet cafe just came out with my washing all fresh but checked on the undies siutation and had given me some fellas undies and him mine – he would have got a rude shock when he next puts a leg into his undies which is about all he’d manage going on the size of the ones I ended up with.  The lady was so funny all apologies but gigling – I do enjoy Loas people generally they’re are a bit naughty and allot fun.

Yesterday when I arrived I cycled around to check out the place and hoped Id end up down the waterfront at some stage today so that’s very cool.  It was needed to find a place comfy as I was feeling a bit fragile being away from family today and had a bit of a ‘what the hell am I doing moment.’ Nothing that some Mekong river sun couldnt mend.  There’s a handful of food stores along the river street with tables and chairs alfresco style. Nothing chic about it just uthentic and rustic with open fires and grilling assorted meat skewers, bananas and sweet potatoes mostly. Street stall vendors budget eats for locals mostly grilled on open fires or hot plates all smoking and generally smell fabulous.  With a side order of sticky rice food sells at these places for under 10000 kip generally (1.20Aus). Then there’s the mid range that may or may not order off a menu  mostly rice, noodle, or curry dishes between 15000-50000 kip. Seating will be plastic tables and chairs and your food served on a plate as opposed to a plastic take-away bag. Mid to upperrange go up in chicness youll start to see some western, indian, middle eastern dishes and variations.  Prices are 25000 upwards.  My favourite no gueses are the vendors so enticing and authentic and basically confort food style.  The workers always have a raw twist as opposed to serving the customer approach which is very real I like it.  Today’s been a bit out of sorts for me emotionally or at least earlier.  The size and challenge seemed a bit overwelming this morning and I could have very easilly beemed myself to be opening pressies with my puppies and family.  I found myself doing a recky check and soon recalled clearly what and why Im here.  The sort of things up there for me include putting myself in new situations and amongst different cultures, travelling independently to sort through each new day safely and by my reckoning, having to interact and ask for help as needed respecfully, appreciating and tolerating cultural and individual differences, respecting the qualities and limitations of western standards and social structure, seeing and acting on opportunities to interact with other cultures, keeping eyes open to filter truth from perspective and seeing what’s beaitiful in the everyday for its own right and uniqueness.  I won’t go on but I think you get the idea 🙂 This is the sort of opportunities I have given myself deliberately by my own choosing.  I remain mostly out of my known comfort zone and want to learn how to operate there relaxed and actively and effectivel.  I was to get my hands dirty and be involved in living and getting good stuff out of situations as they present or getting out of bad stuff safely with a story. And that is what its about for me gathering a whole bunch of experiences, sharing them and learning as I go along.  Formalising this informal way of learning by sharing it with you is really my pleasure.  Travel remains the essential part of the adventure of life.  I am loving writing and hope to build ability to share stories that capture the attention of your ‘cool factor’ and inspire ideas and indivuality in that big kid inside all of us.  It’s been a real comfort for me at a time of feeling a bit doubty and to be able to go on about this stuff with a clarity and assurance that’s tight.  This is a bit of a heavy but I feel it was needed today to shake up my perspective and resettle it on track for the next 1000kms. I hope your Christmas has been special and fun and a happy one for you and your families.  Talk soon x

 

Post #19 Tha Knaek

Day 24 1056 day to go. Distance: today 112km total 1008km. Hi there Just realised I’ve crossed the first 1000km mark that’s a mile stone yay.  Now that was a huge day the road was good but windy wicked and long long long haul.  Did have a great stop at a midway town Hoi Don where there was an awesome morning market and found this great noodle stall selling fresh mint, lime and tofu noodle salad for 2oookip. I indulged 2 for lunch and bough 2 more for dinner later yummmmmm. Anyway was so happy to arrive about 4pm to find a place to stay and get some laundry arranged, showered and pruned for my Christmas Eve date for 5pm. Found a dormitory style accommodation for 30000kip which is great but a bit crappy to share as I’ve been spoil having my own room for a bit more. No complaints but as accommodation is a bit scarce here for some reason – HOWEVER – they do have internet yayayayayayayaya. Unfortunately the connection was crap so we talked briefly and made another date for 8am 25/12/2011.  Found my way down to the water front Tha Knaek is right on the Mekong and was looking out over the city lights of the Thai town across the river bizarre that another country is just over the other side of the river.  Was still hungry after noodles so I found a pancake vendor yum no idea what was inside but it was savory sweet and tasted great.  Then I found another vendor that was selling doughnuts filled with a sweet bean mix yummy again. OK so now I’m full and very sleepy and it’s cold here it would have been about 10degrees and time to high tale it back to the guesthouse and to bed. Happy to be enjoying Christmas tomorrow just chilling out  I’m a bit coldy, tired and homesick given it’s Christmas so it’s an early night to bed sooky lala. Talk soon

CAN’T UPLOAD PHOTO FILES SAME STORY BUGGA CAN STILL VIEW THEM ON THE CAMERA SO I MAY BE ABLE TO SORT THIS ONE

Post #18 Kong Lo Cave

Day 23 1057 days to go. distance travelled today 45km total 996. It’s 11.20am friday 23/12/2011 Kong Lo Cave. I am literally basking in the sun on a rock like a gigantic frilly lizard without the frills. The man who I’s staying with is with some friends eating lunch so as I’m going back to his to grab Rube and the gear it looks like I have some time to update you on today so far  while slothing. I’m on the bank at the river mouth  where the stream exists the cave and some locals have stalls set up. Great spot to chill after this morning’s venture. The caves amazing the caves amazing the caves amazing. Right then I’ve said it three times just to make sure you were listening and got it. I was first boat6 off this morning I suppose the benefit of staying with a local family and with a driver in the rear and a navigator in the front we long boated it through the 7kms of dark eery delish. The only light were their head torches which flashed across the ceiling to reveal the maize of wormhole smaller caves that spine upwards and outwards from the main cavern. When the light hits the water it sends out this kaleidoscope pattern on the ceiling mesmorising. White sand and stony coves appeared periodically and we stopped and walked one where they have lit the feature stalagmites and other rock formations. It was extra special to have the place to ourselves cause on the way back it was a turnstile of long boats and some of the atmosphere was lost. We had to hop out from time time to time to navigate through the shallower rapids which I loved and added to the adventure. The morning started with a breakfast of grilled fish, like a chicken liver pate which was really yum, green vegetables and sticky rice. The mother seems incredibly facinated by my butt and wants to grab it all the time and laugh.  It’s less sizable than hers so she’s very interested clearly in this difference.  It’s really odd to have your private bits prodded and giggles at.  It’s only women and it’s about curiosity – I’ve had other poke at my chest again being smaller then them generally and so inquisitive about my difference.  I just roll with it and laugh and pull away when it’s clearly enough trying so hard not to show my eeeeeeek please don’t do that inner screaming dialogue. That aside I had time then to check out the farm and take some really great photos of the morning light and layout big pottering fun.

It’s 6.44pm same day and my7 post was interrupted by two ladies working one of the stalls who literally came over to have a chat. They wanted to know everything I was doing. It was really gusty at times and another lady had her matting and personal stuff blown from her stall so I helped her pick up her stuff so I think this got their attention. Anyway they knew no English but we just started gesturing and chatting and laughing it was fun and you could tell they were good value. They knew I didn’t want anything cause I was still full from my sticky rice breaky so it was genuine interest and conversation. Unfortunately it was time to leave and I shook their hands and they were introducing me to the other ladies about on my way to the tuk tuk -it was really cool – big wave good bye. So I headed back to the home stay and packed up Rubes with a group of inquisitive little lads watching on. ( showed them all my toys and they loved the multi tool the best go figure. Of course the camera was a hit and I let the eldest take a group photo he was soo chuffed.  I just had to cycle out of that landscape it is so beautiful there and despite the headwind no matter what direction the road traveled (couldn’t figure that one) it was an awesome 45kms back to Ban Vandea where Rube and I caught a taxi over the limestone range to return to the main route 13. I shared the back of the taxi with this young lad who was sooooo car sick poor darling.  I helped him with toilet paper, plastic bags and water as best I could and he prayer gestured  many thank yous. So that’s where I am tonight about to dig into 3 minute noodles a great dinner when I have access to boiling water.  All the guest houses a roadside restaurants seem to have hot water dispensers and they have been happy for me to fill my thermos up which has been great for pick me up coffee sachet breaks.

Tomorrows an early start to make sure I get into Tha Khaek before 5pm. It’s about 100km but it may be a bit hilly and windy going by the last days and map. Anyway I have all day then to cover the Ks so all’s good. Hope you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed my side-trip – it’s been very special and cool to share. Talk soon x

NO PHOTO FILES AVAILABLE TO UPLOAD NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! WORDS ALONE UNFORTUNATELY THAT WILL NOT DO THIS AREA OR EXPERIENCE JUSTICE BUGGA

Post #17 Kong Lo

Day 22 1058 days to go. Distance: today 100km total 951km. It’s 7.54pm Thursday 22/12/2011 Long Lo. I am sitting outside my hut where I am having a home stay with a family here in Kong Lo. Im staying in the bamboo stilted hut  at the back of the main house which comparatively is more modern and Im sure comfortable fo0r the family but Im soooo loving my hut.  It s a one room with a toilet room off to the side with a squat toilet and concrete basin of water to wash and bucket empty the toilet.  There’s a small veranda and set of stairs leading up and it looks out over their backyard which is a rotated vegetable garden with chickens and ducks scratching busily.  It’s an incredibly still night with stars and an orchestra of frogs outside. I have just shared dinner with the family a husband and wife and their five year old son. We sat on the floor around an upturn basin and feasted on basket-ed sticky rice, noodles, a fish and vegetable soup and salted chili paste. They welcomed me by tying white cord around my wrist as a gesture of welcome and good luck. I can’t believe where I ended up today and never whilst fighting a headwind for most of the day from Thabok to Pak Kading did I ever think that this could be where my day would end . I looked at the kms to travel and days left until Christmas and is I was to see Kong Lo cave and be in Thakhack for Christmas Eve to hopefully have a Skype date with my partner, I knew I had to catch a bus here then back to the main rte 13 road to cycle the remaining 95km on the 24th. I approached a bus in Pak Kading that had stopped at a roadside store and asked how to get to Kong  Lo.  Within 5 minutes me and Rube are packed into the bus and on our way to the junction town of Ban Vang Lao a 87km ride. There I caught a taxi another 45km to Kong Lo. The countryside is amazing as we’re right  in the Khammuang Limestone National Biodiversity and Conservation Area or so the map says. The road crossed over a limestone ridge into a plateau area surrounded by mountain walls of limestone cliffs and jagged outcrops. There are remote villages scattered throughout the area which appears to be agricultural and farming land. The bus ride over the ridge was hair raising and with driver having to stop constantly to rebuild the revs in the motor before starting up again – it was all hair pin turns and blind corners. I of course was in the front seat with full view of the tricky road eeeeek. The lady next to me shared her grilled banana and sugar cane pieces which was a feature of the roadside stalls today. The road followed the Mekong River for mo9st of the way which was beautiful but crazy windy. The stalls were selling chilled sugar cane pieces in bags which I indulged in as well as bananas and pineapples. Being on the Mekong dried fishy of all shapes and sizes also appeared from time to time. We had some of the dried fish tonight. Well I tasted the broth at least and it was not surprisingly really fishy7 and salty but yum to dunk the sticky rice into. Rube had her first ride on top a taxi which i like a larger tuk tuk with an open but covered caged bench seated tray at the back. We traveled 45km over sunset and it was just gorgeous gorgeous the sunset colors and dust all the while these sheer limestone crags on each side of us like a huge canyon. I was able to ask the taxi driver if I could do a home stay which the lonely planet mentions is an accommodation option. It costs 50000 for the room, dinner and breakfast and for the experience its worth every bit of kip. The man said he would take me in his tuk tuk tomorrow 2kms to where I catch a boat through Kong Lo cave. The cave is apparently 7km underground waterway that you access only by long boat and it’s at the top of the must dos for Loas. So I decided to treat myself for Christmas and am so happy I did. relative to day to day expense it’s a bit exy (about $50 AUS total including travel to/from) but as I said happy Christmas to me. The family all serve and eat from shared bowls with their fingers (My partner would have passed out). and slurp and slop bits of food all the while laughing and burping and making ‘this is very tasty’ noises. They gave me a fork which I happily used but picked at the sticky rice so I wasn’t entirely alien. Breakfast is at 7am then off to the cave, back here to pick up Rube and my gear and head back to the route 8 and 13 junctions and onward s to Tha Khaek for the 24th. I’m so hoping there’s internet access there but Im not sure as it’s mixed whether towns even larger ones have access. It’s a border crossing town with Thailand so here’s hoping.  Anyway for now it’s off to bed under the mozzie net and blue painted thatched walls to be up early for tomorrow can’t wait. Talk soon x

 

SO UNFORTUNATE I CAN’T ATTACH PHOTOS – MEMORY STICK HAS HAD PROBLEMS WITH THE LAST 3 DAYS OF FILES BUGGA BUGGA

Post #16 Ban Thabok

Day 21  1059 days to go. Distance: today 98km total 851km. It’s 7.20pm Wednesday the 21/12/2011 Ban Thabok. My room has a TV and there’s a video hits channel yayayayayayay.  Videos they get me like a chronic teenager and yes it’s irrelevant I have no idea about the music or what they’re saying or that it’s very Bollywood and lollipop. It’s very cool and I’m spacing and enjoying the simple stimulation of FAN TV. Speaking of non-intellegent moments I realised tonight that I had a good one back in Chaing Rai. I had 200USD tucked away for an emergency need to exchange cash. I had thought before that I probably should have got some more cash out in Vientiane but remembered I had the USD and that it was an option to exchange some cash for Kip tomorrow. So I went to where I thought I had tucked it away and no, double-check still no mmmmm checked all the places it could be and rechecked mmmmm bugga big. All I can think is that I when I got my laundry done in haing Rai including my money belt for some reason I didn’t take out the UD that was folded in the back sleeve.  I had a moment of growly growls I really hate loosing stull and am very proned particularly when Im distracted or tired that’s why everything important is tied to me literally. But its hard to stay cranky crank for something that happened two weeks ago when obviously my brain was elsewhere. You know I can still picture the woman who did my 1kg laundry for very little baht so it’s some consolation that it was an early christmas for her and her family that day. Onto today. I had the ,ost awesome Skype with my partner just a perfect way to start the day. It’s been a while since we hooked up on skype and had a two hour session thankyou technology x When I came down to reception to check out later there was Hanna yay hellllooooo. Her and the kids didn’t get into Vientiane until after 8pm and she didnt get my message until this morning. As I have mentioned there is only one arterial road north/south in Laos great that you can’t get lost but not so great if workers need to dig up road just what happened to these guys.  All southbound road traffic including their bus, cars, bicycles, tuk tuks, tractors. mopeds, carts people. dog, cats, goats, buffalos, pigs, chickens were stopped for three hours while they did road maintenance. It was great to catch up briefly and Im sure they’re enjoying Vientiane. The rad here is great all sealed not too much dust and traffic or hills so I covered the distance from 12.30 to 4.30m (25km/hr with stops) a sign how good the conditions were. Hanna told me about bamboo sticks of sticky rice with seeds you can buy that make a great snack and I found one for lunch today yum more f them please. The country side was most agriculture rice fields. The town stalls were selling what I thought was a home-brew whisky or sorts but it turned out to be petrol/oil for mopeds for refueling. I saw one refilling during the day and its either that or rocket fuel whisky (lol). The guesthouse Im staying is nice 60000 kip bit exy comparatively but its the only one in town and since leaving the more remote areas camping not an apparent option but Im keeping my eyes open. The road crosses the Mekong before coming into town and its on a pretty spot their monastery perched right on the river. There’s a market as you cross the brifge so Ill check that out for breaky yum. Trave through Paksan tomorrow and aim for Pak kong a similar distance to today. I need to get to Kong Lo Cave over the next day so we’ll see where I’ll end up. As for today I’m safe and happy. Talk soon x

PHOTOS UNABLE TO BE ATTACHED AS IM HAVING IT DIFFICULTY WITH THE FILES ON THE MEMORY STICK  – SO SORRY ;-(