A Travellerspoint blog

That nostalgic, looking into the mirror blog....

sunny 33 °C

Here we are captain, back safe and sound to where we left off. In fact right now im sitting in the exact same seat on the exact same computer where I wrote the first blog eeeeshk two months ago EXACT (even down to the right hour). Creepy. Anywho, in order to stop being a downer and generally complain about how over touristed Bali is and how evil all the touts are here compared to the rest of Asia, lets be genuine travel writers for once, go from start to finish, and generally give you all advice for what to do, and what to definitely miss (think of it as the first useful lonely planet/travelfish article):

Laos:
Ok straight off the bat, as I said back then, dont try and be a hero and attempt a horrific 12 hour bus ride straight after 24 hours on a plane. If death doesnt get you, insanity will. Laos is easily the most easy going country we have been to, and for anyone who has been to Bali and doesn't think they could cope with Laos..just do it, its quite possibly the most amazing country, even though we only spent two weeks there, could have easily spent another month.

Big Ogre Green Ticks:
Kuang Xi Waterfall, I mean I havent seen many waterfalls, but that was truely awe inspiring, and then some.
Luang Prabang in general, its such a nice genuine sleepy place you could easily plan to spend a couple of days here and find yourself a couple of months later wondering what happened.
Minivans as transport bewteen cities, they aren't much more expensive than the bus, and you'll arrive in half the time, and less likely to require surgery to fix that spine of yours.

Big Ugly Red Crosses:
Lao Buses, dont listen to what anyone says there is no such thing as VIP/Express/Air Con buses and if your game enough to try the 24 hour trip to Vietnam, good luck, and happy surgery.
Morning Alms, the monks really dont benefit from it, you get taken for a ride and then guilt tripped, if you really want to see the government imposed tourist 'show' just sit well away from the sidelines and you might be safe from religious touts (I use the term 'might' very loosely.)

Vietnam:
Well, to all my Vietnamese friends out there, and I love you all to bits, but your country is a mission and a half. Nowhere have I seen so many motorbikes, and so many people with such little efficiency, I'm sorry, but it had to be said. Possibly if you spend at least a month travelling around it, it might grow on you, but after two weeks for us, we are ready to tick that off the 'done' list, and move on. Exception is Hoi An, but thats only because of insanely good quality accomodation for next to nothing.

Big Ogre Green Ticks:
Having cocktails in skybar at night, overlooking one of Hanoi's many lakes, it takes the spin off things, and you might just get away from the noise of the streets long enough to hear yourself think.
Hoi An clothes, not as much of a rip off as you would think, in fact often they are higher quality than many mid range NZ suits, and at a fraction of the price. One thing though, avoid shoes - they havent quite mastered that yet.
Using a scooter/motorbike to get around the city, if you possibly can. We understand that close to 20 million scooters can be daunting, but they are a lot safer and more fun than you would think (and they beat the hell out of the taxi's crawling along)

Big Ugly Red Crosses:
The pure size of Saigon, its insane and mind-boggling. On top of this it hasnt really been thought out, and has just thrown 20 Auckland size cites together and just tried to make it work. Do your research before coming here.
Vietnam Airlines, we got stuck in Hoi An, flights were always delayed, and just generally failed at any form of efficiency. Better to go with Jetstar for their price, there's no real difference between either of them with regards to actually getting you there on time..

Cambodia:
Far and away its quite probably the second most authentic Asian country we came across and is definitely not for the faint hearted. This is one place where 3rd world really doesnt care to hide itself. Having said that, after a month of street-kids blocking your way to your motorbike asking you for money, you probably wont care for the 3rd world factor, and just take the country as is. When you do its an amazing country with amazing sights and really genuine people if you can find an organisation to stay with. Hopefully when you go to Phnom Penh, Central Market will have finished renovation as its a rather painful tuk-tuk/moto ride over the roads around there.

Big Ogre Green Ticks:
If your looking for that isolated, beach front escape that you think is Thailand, go to Sihanoukville, or more specifically Otres beach. If you can keep the ants away you probably have the only place in Southeast Asia where you can get a beachfront bungalow with mosquito nets for under 10 bucks.
Working with kids at an orphanage. Dont take a scary name like orphanage to heart, you'll probably find the coolest people on earth there just desperate to have fun. 3 rules though:
1. If your going, go for a while, nothing disrupts a kids schedule more than a foreigner stumbling their way around for 12 hours playing hop-scotch and duck duck goose, then leaving.
2. Dont think for a moment these kids dont know how to play. Believe it or not they're still kids and they still know how to play games, dont think your showing them the invention of fun, they get it.
3. Try and keep it educational, when you do you earn people's respect a lot more, and the kids like you that much better when they know where you are coming from and what you want from them.

Big Ugly Red Crosses:
Petty Crime, it does suck and you really should try to just keep things firmly attached to you whenever you are out, there are people out there who will take an opportunity just like anywhere else in the world.
Phnom Penh lakefront, ok maybe not the biggest cross ever but if your looking for civilised people, you wont find them at night at lakefront thats all we are saying. There are lots of options for accomodation everywhere around the city, and theres no reason not to just go to lakefront for meals (they are really good)

Bangkok:
We didnt call it Thailand coz we have only been to this one mega city and so the point are pretty brief, but in general, just like any big city it has its ups and downs. In Bangkok, just avoid the roads whenever possible, learn the skytrain route (soon its being extended to the airport) and stick to that and walking, it should get you everywhere you need to go within the CBD.

Big Ogre Green Ticks:
The skytrain, it is amazing for getting around, is a fraction the price of a taxi and even though its network is rather limited (just try getting to Ko San Road on it) its worth the 120 Baht per day.
Accomodation thats not right in the city - when you get out even just a little bit you do find people far more genuine and you get treated with a tad more respect rather than just another money source...its quite novel really.

Big Ugly Red Crosses:
Daypasses on the river ferry. Its an insane ripoff for 150 Baht, considering you normally pay 25 for a single trip to anywhere on the network.
Illegal taxis, sorta common sense here but is generally impossible to get out of once your in, and at a reasonable price without getting into a fight. Just check the taxi license inside, sit back and enjoy the gridlock.

Myanmar:
Possibly the biggest surprise of the trip in just how much fun it was. If your going to Asia, try desperately to throw this into your plans to go there, you really arent supporting the government too much (try staying backpacker in non-govt. places), and by actually going there and buying things off locals you jump start the naturally occuring economy rather than the government one.

Big Ogre Green Ticks:
Middle of nowhere places (like Mawlmyine) its great for experiencing Asia like it used to be/ how it is away from tourists eyes, and what you lose in edible food and quality of accomodation, is made up for by the sheer novelty of it all. The people - most people in Asia who start a conversation, generally want something from you..not Myanmar - talking to a foreigner for the sake of it was commonplace, as was being followed by teenage girls on scooters..
Briyani rice - its probably the closest your going to get to safe 'whole' food in Myanmar, its very lightly spiced rice, and the Burmese know how to do it well.

Big Ugly Red Crosses:
Train and bus timetables - in order to get anywhere lying down, ie on a sleeper train your going through the day, and for a sitting up bus - you're pretty much always going through the night. Not fun.
The quality of accomodation - quite possibly the worst in actual quality around Asia in any price range, but they are all much of a muchness, so you might just have to grin and bear it here unfortunately...except of course in Mawlmyine...avoid the Breeze resthouse like the plague...its prison in baby blue.

Well, that pretty much sums up two months...eeshk. Of course theres heaps we have missed out, but thats mainly so you will actually have to talk to us about the trip and cant just go off what the blog says haha. But in actual fact we havent really over inflated anything we have said, Asia can and is pretty much as raw as it is but its quite possibly one of the most jaw-dropping/life changing/awe-inspiring/insert your own melodramatic terminology.

Have Fun,

and Peace Out.

C :)

Posted by carl.adams 18:44 Archived in Indonesia

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