Archive for the ‘RTW’ Category:


August 3rd, 2007

I made it back home to San Francisco, California, U, S, and A. Hurray. My Round-The-World trip for 2007 is over. I’m glad to be home, the last few weeks i was ready – i missed my friends and miss shayna. But i loved my trip. I saw things i’ve never seen before, i had experiences that will last a lifetime, and learned a few things about myself as well. What more could you want?

First, lemme recount my adventures a bit. I’ll be brief – feel free to check out my itinerary for details of everywhere i went. Last entries were for India – i spent over 3 weeks there, mostly in the mountains doing my trek. After the trek, i headed to Srinagar, Kashmir despite warnings by lonely planet. Up till this year, the was much fighting, but now its cool – i saw a ton of army dudes hanging around. I ended up on a houseboat instead of a hotel/hostel/guesthouse, which was cool in concept, but lame in reality – family turned out to be very dodgy on details like how far it was to town, how much things cost, and always trying to make me buy something. Pissed me off – at this point of my trip i had enough of people pretending to be friendly or honest, and then end up being dishonest and only out to get you to buy something. But i did see some beautiful lakes, mountains, and gardens, and i loved that. Then i flew to Delhi, hung out there and did a day trip to Agra – home of the Taj Mahal. Wow. I decided that was the thing i liked the most from my trip. The architecture was amazing – the white marble stone, the simplicity, the grandeur, the way it impressed me from all angles, the gardens around it. And altho crowded, the people didn’t bother me like they did at Angkor Wat, Cambodia. The heat really got to me at Angkor Wat.

After India, i flew to London for one night, then to Zurich, Switzerland – home of Stephanie Hannon. I mainly wanted to just visit Steph and chill for a few days, but i ended up really loving Switzerland. Expensive, yes, but soo beautiful – I was there 4 days, one day we went to Luzern, another day i went hiking by myself to Speer – and it was amazing. Steph took me to some fancy bars and restaurants, as well as introduced me to some of her friends and coworkers. What a good host. Switzerland – It really is a land out of a fairy tale.

From Switzerland i did one more night in London before heading to New York. Lindsey Bauer was kind enough to let me crash at her place in London, and i even joined them for an impressive cirque-de-solei type show done bye nofitstate circus. Once i got to NYC, i stayed with another friend, Suzi Palmer. The western world is too expensive for me to NOT stay with friends, ya know? Greenhouse was, of course, a great host as well. She has cool friends, a happy dog, sadie, and ever rusty cat. What a great family. I also made it to Hoboken to visit Mike, Zuad, and their 2-month old boy. I’ve never seen a house so clean.  And then monday i had John’s pizza.  SOooooo Gooood.  As Jack Black says, “You can’t even order a slice.  They make you order a whole pie.  But that’s fine with me.  I wouldn’t want to eat just one slice.” NY was nice – good to do some serious chilling out before heading home.

Thats it for now – expect a RTW summary some time soon – best and worst and weirdest . . something like that. Now i’m just happy to be home – to have to go through 12,000 pieces of mail, fix my broken laptop, get new ipod, and try to figure out my life ..

cheers – chad

Lamayuru to Padum

July 28th, 2007

Updated 7/2008 with my pics. orig pic

Between Sengi La and Margun La

I already mentioned getting my trek on in India – well, I survived the 10 days. But my laptop didn’t, and my iPod ran away. More importantly, I saw amazing mountain peaks and valleys, powerful rivers, crystal clear streams, horses, sheep, yaks, and donkeys, locals, other trekkers, villages and gompas (monastaries). But mostly i stared at rocks at my feet as i hiked 4 to 8 hours a day for 10 days. The exercise, fresh air, and beautiful scenery made this one of my favorite parts of my Round the world trip.

Unloading at Lamayuru - Day 1

I hiked with 7 others – 4 others who payed, and 3 who got paid. The 4 other trekkers were all from Switzerland – 2 Swiss German, Amir and Patrick, and two Swiss French, Sam and Jo (the only girl). They met each other on the bus to Leh and organized this trip. I just happen to find a sign that said they were looking for more peeps and joined just 2 days before we left. The 3 who got paid were 2 guides and a ponyman. The ponyman is a local dude who carries the stuff – ours had 2 horses and 4 ponies. His english was practically non-existant, but his spirit was great. The 2 guides, Rigzen and Thinles, were from Leh and were quite entertaining. Rigzen was the main guide, young and smart, a bit more reserved than Thinles, and hiked with us every day. Thinles (pronounced tin-less) was his friend and assistant, mostly hiking with the ponyman. Both could speak Ladakhi (local language), Hindi (india national language) and English. Thinles’s english was barely passable, but always entertaining. “Today is much problem, you know?” or just “today is .. you know, by god”. At night they cooked us amazing dishes like .. rice, soup, and vegies (‘amazing’ said in my sarcastic voice). Actually, except for the lack of protein, food was OK – just kinda boring and flavorless. But when you hike and burn so much calories, food cannot taste bad, and i was always thankful to have plenty to eat for dinner.

The route was from Lamayuru to Padum – from north to south, starting in Ladakh region and ending in Zanskar. It is commonly called the Zanskar trek, although there are other routes going thru Zanskar. Total distance was 136km (85 miles), with much elevation gain and loss – 8 passes total. It takes 5 to 10 days (well, locals do it in 5, most tourists do it in 8-10). We technically hiked it in 9 days, since the first day was a wash waiting for the ponyman to show up. Stupid late ponyman. We left Leh on July 4 and arrived in Padum on July 13. The route we took is the same as the one discussed in the previously mentioned book, “Trekking in Ladakh“, pages 197, 269-245. I got most of details from there. I even plotted the places we stayed on google earth. View my hike on google maps. (not as cool as this guy’s google earth video from nepal).

Baby Sheep and Wanla Child

I chose this route cuz it was supposed to be more challenging – a bit longer than most, with alot more elevation gain and loss. Over half the people who come to region do the markha valley, a 5-8 day trek right by Leh. I had the time so i wanted to do something a bit longer and more remote. There are only a handful of options, and this one was sold to me as having more dramatic moutains, amazing river valleys, ancient gompas, and varied geological terrain. I found it to be true, for the most part. The beginning and end were less physically demanding than the middle days. After a blister popped and got infected on the 8th day, i was glad to only have to limp 4 hours a day instead of 8. And yes, it really sux to have an infected toe while traveling.

One thing that surprised me was how brown the mountains were. Hardly any dirt, just rocks – various rock colors – purple, red, yellow, aqua/green, white, black, etc, but mostly brown. I was also surprised to find so many “tea houses” along the trail. A tea house is often a tiny stone house where people stop to have … tea. (never would have guessed, that, would ya?) mostly chai, a tea with milk, sugar, and a few spices. In fact, every night except once we had a tea house. They also had ramen noodles, potato chips, and a few other snacks. A few times they even had beer – a delishous treat after a long day’s hike, even when it was warm. Other interesting things included waking up next to donkeys, horses, yaks, and goats, and seeing a local festival in Karsha on the last day. That was quite cool – hundreds of people came dressed in their best, very colorful, regional clothing to the biggest Gompa in Zanskar.

Chad Rides The Donkey

The worst time on the trek was on the fifth day – the day it snowed. It was the only time in my 6 months where i was seriously asking myself, “what the hell am i doing here?”. It started with an overcast morning, warm as always, but with chance of rain i put on my “waterproof” pants and packed a jacket. As we head out, light rain started, and within a couple hours, as we were close to going over Sengi La (the highest pass on the trek, around 5,000 meters, 16,400 ft) the rain had turned to snow. At this point i my legs were soaked (don’t buy “waterproof” pants in India) as was the rest of my body. But my blood was pumping and I did not feel too cold. The snow got worse, and everybody ducked into a tea house just north of the pass. Weather was too bad to cross the pass, the locals said, so we had to wait for our ponyman to show up with the stuff so we could setup camp. We were there for about 3-4 hours, and i was uncontrollably shivering the whole time – except for a short period where an extra stove was placed near us to warm us up. That was heaven. Besides the 6 of us, there was a team from poland, about 14 peeps, another team from america, about 8, and a few guides or locals. It was cold, but it was worse being soaking wet, not moving, and nothing to do in a small tea house tent. At least i was not alone, and i knew it would end. Eventually it did, i put on my warm fleece and setup tents. Luckily, the snow stopped, and before night the sun came out again. The next day we made it over Sengi La and I celebrated by riding a donkey. Hurray.

Karsha Gompa and Mountains

My favorite part was just being in the mountains. I’ve always liked hiking and camping, but this last 6 months i could not get enough nature and mountains. And this trek had some of the coolest mountains i’ve ever seen. We would climb 3,000 feet in elevation, from a small valley up to a pass with stunning views of green grass river valleys and snow capped peaks in the distance – almost daily. I love seeing a huge mountain, slowly going up, looking around and noticing how perspective changes. I see things more accurately from above, often seeing things i didn’t even know existed. Very inspirational – i feel like i can do anything when i’m in this environment. Even though i loved my hike and would recommend trekking in Ladakh to all backpackers, i’m not sure i’d go back. If i do, it will be after i do nepal and tibet. I’ve got my eye on the popular Annupurna circuit in Nepal. I also have to check out Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Ethiopia .. Cuba and Mexico.

Alive in Zurich

July 22nd, 2007

This one is just a quick update – I made it out of India, thru London to Stephanie’s couch here in Zurich. Hurray. Sadly my laptop died in India, lost my iPod, and my bags got stuck in London.

Switzerland is the land of clean and pure, where everything is so well designed it makes me smile. Who cares if i’ve spent more money on food, drink, and transportation in the last 2 days than i have the last month in India. I got 4 days here to rest and catch up on email and blogs.

Next weekend I’m in NYC then home in SF July 31 !!!! Yeah!!!

Trek On

July 3rd, 2007

It’s settled – Tomorrow i leave for a 10 day trek from Lamayuru to Padum – the Zanskar Trek. It’s supposed to be one of the most scenic treks in the region, views of mountains, river gorges, gompas (monasteries) and remote villages. I’m going with a group organized by Nature Explore, headed by S. Rabsang(Rabzang). We got guides, cooks, 6 or 7 ponymen, and 4 other paying trekkers like me, all from Switzerland. I’m siked. It turned out to be the cheapest around – $25/day per person. Other places were like $35, $50, and some up to $80/day. It took several days to sort this out – I did my homework and read Lonely Planet’s “Trekking in the Indian Himalaya” and Charlie Loram’s “Trekking in Ladakh” books. I talked to many travel agencies (Ladakh Ecological Footprint, Little Tibet, Wild East Adventure, Yak Tours ..) and had several options, but in the end it came down to this route and these dates worked best for me. Its amazing how much work it took to sort this out. There has to be over a hundred travel agencies in Leh, maybe 20-30 do shared group tours, but they don’t appear to coordinate with each other. You just have to go to each one, or goto popular spots in town where people post signs say “looking for peeps to join this trek on these dates”. I guess i’m just spoiled by things like craigslist and tribe.

Lemme tell you a bit more about the area. I flew from Delhi to Leh, the main town in Ladakh. Ladakh is the region in northernmost India, between China and Pakistan, and separated from the rest of India by the Great Himalayan range. Now part of the Jammu/Kashmir State in Northwest India, Ladakh used to be an autonomous kingdom for 9 centuries. It’s unlike the rest of India, Culturally and geographically it is very similar to Tibet. Ladakhi buddhist monastaries are similar to Tibet, the people are similar, and since the 1950s it has been the home of many tibetans fleeing Chinese rule. I really love the buddhists – they are very compassionate, truly wanting to help and not harm others, and have simple but reasonable ways of viewing life. I could go on, but that’s for another post. Ladakh gets little precipitation throughout the year, making it dry but good for trekking – don’t have to worry about rains messing up your hiking plans.

So wish me luck. Not sure if i’ll be back online before I leave India on the 20th.

India Found

June 29th, 2007

Hooray!! I made it to the India Subcontinent, and it already feels different. I was in SE Asia for over 3 months, and altho countries vary alot, the jump to India is my biggest jump since i left Australia.

I love India. My love is driven by the food – the tons of spices, curries, vegetables, naan, regional differences – all good quality. Its like a billion people live here, and all they think about is food. Heaven. But i also like (and dislike) the people. Communication is easier, I appreciate their businesslike manner – except when it becomes impolite. I love the colorful clothes, jewelry, and henna. Oh, did i mention the food?

Leh is great. Totally different than SE Asia. It’s basically a cool, dry, desert-like town in the Himalayas. Hardly anything green, brown rocks and dirt everywhere, snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance, and a small but bustling town center. I’ve only been here a day, but i’ve walked thru most of the town. Like many small towns, the people in Leh are more friendly than delhi and other places i’ve been in India, and hardly any beggars (big problem in some parts of India). But this is also a tourist town – a jump off point for treks in the region. The most amazing thing about Leh is … the air. I’ve been walking around with a buzz (good) and a headache (not good). There’s zero polution and little oxygen up here – It’s 11,500 feet, over 2 miles high. This makes the sky super blue, and the mountains miles away seem like they are right in front of you.

My plan is to take it easy, get used to the air – I wrote most of this blog yesterday when i first arrived and i felt almost sick – i barely slept in 2 days. Today i feel better, so perhaps try to find info on some treks. There are dozens of places leading treks, signs posted in restaurants describing where, when, and how many peeps they are looking for. There are several internet places, but connections are slow, so don’t expect many pictures for a while.

One last note – At the bangkok airport i bought this book “The Story of Tibet” by Thomas Laird. Its a history of Tibet thru the Dalai Lama’s eyes, based on 18 conversations Laird had with him. So far its excellent – good intro to Buddhism, Dalai Lama, TIbetan people and history. Might have to write more on this when i finish.

Koh Chang

June 28th, 2007

After i recovered from being chadtarded, i was thinking of what to do. Stay in Bangkok and perhaps do some work, like figure out what to do with my life? or learn some more camera and photoshop foo (I did download Photoshop CS3, the latest and greatest for intel mac, but thats another blog). Nope, none of that work stuff, time to goto the beach. I haven’t been to any beaches in thailand, but picked koh chang based on word of mouth and little online reviews. I left Bangkok friday on the 12:30p bus, caught the 7pm ferry, was settled in by 9pm in my pimpin’ Kachapura resort. See my Koh Chang pics.

Koh Chang reminded me a bit of costa rica – but not as many sandy beaches, a bit more crowded, equally plenty of rain and jungle. It’s thailand’s 2nd largest island, and is mostly heavily vegetated hills inside a national park. Even though its not as developed as other islands, its still growing fast with plenty of resorts, bars, restaurants, internet cafes, dive/boat/adventure centers. Most importanly, there are 4 waterfalls, and everybody knows i love waterfalls. Why, chad? Well, I love hills, hiking, being in nature. Specifically to waterfalls, i love that the trails are more technical – you keep your mind occupied and reacting fast by running from rock to rock. And then the waterfall itself is usually beautiful, often providing a cool place to swim after a little exercise. So yeah, thats what i did Saturday. On my way back it rained HARD, so hard it felt like beebees hitting my face when i motorbiked in it. So internet. Then i got back on my bike, but it rained more, so i stopped at a bar. That ended up lasting 6 hours. Sunday i relaxed – watched movies, read on the beach, rode around the island, ate tastee food. Monday i went for a run before i took the bus home and realized i was exhausted. Sigh. Fun sometimes does that to ya.


June 20th, 2007

Ok, since when did ya have to have a VISA to get into India? oh yeah, since .. ALWAYS. I even knew that – i was there in 2004. I went to actually board my flight at the airport and they were like .. wheres your visa info? and i was like .. uhhh… huh-huh .. uhhh… i don’t have one. sigh. I am like a special kind of retarded .. chadtarded.

Well, it took me all day but now i got visa and flights all sorted – exhausting but i feel much better now. Traveling can make you tired – sometimes you push yourself too hard and then you enter the retarded phase. Good part is I can rest now – the bad part is that i only have 3 weeks in India. Thats barely enough to explore the Himalayas – perhaps the taj mahal will wait till my next india trip. Oh, and another week in Thailand. Do i try to go to the beach? or spend it in bangkok relaxing and working on photography and my resume? This last week actually wore me out. Today i rest. We’ll see tomorrow

Oh, and of course i updated my itinerary again.

Pai, Thailand

June 16th, 2007

The LPB has some competition – Pai – my second most favorite spot in SE Asia. Pai is a little town 150km northwest of Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, surrounded by clean air, mountains, rivers and waterfalls. The town is small (5,000 peeps?) but growing, plenty of tastee places to eat, sleep, have a drink, get a massage, check internet, or do some trekking adventures. Similar to LPB in that way, altho i found LPB more beautiful and better food. But Pai is better in other ways – more “untouched” (altho getting crowded), more friendly tourists, smaller so you end up running into same people over and over (i say good, but can be bad). According to a local Pai real estate agent, 60% of the people living in Pai are not from Pai – that includes expats (farang) as well as non-Pai Thai peeps. It was basically undiscovered till the last few years, and especially after being referenced in a Thai movie, its growing like crazy now.

The price point for me was the best in SE Asia. I found a place i really enjoyed staying – Baan Tawan. For $4.50 USD a night (150 baht), i got a big, clean bedroom made out of wood (and smelled like wood and the outdoors, not sewer or cleaning products like most places we stayed). The shared bathroom was also kept clean, with a hot shower big enough to park a car in (most showeres in SE Asia can barely fit one person). Communal space was relaxing – hammocks, a shaded balcony overlooking the river, manicured gardens, and even a mister on the path out to the road. Very nice since it gets quite hot in June.

And the food in Pai made me happy. I found 2 places i went back to repeatedly – Good Life for breakfast and Na’s kitchen for lunch and dinner. Good Life had bagels, pancakes, good coffee, dozens of herbal teas, but mainly a friendly environment – you could actually sit in a swing while having pancakes and fruit salad. And they had free wifi (well, once out of 4 times they made me pay 30 baht). And Na’s kitchen had really tastee dishes for about 30 baht. That’s under a $1 USD. Often i would get two, and a fruit smoothie, and the whole thing is just over $2. And this is a nice little restaurant, clean, wood tables, good people watching. I tried at least 8 things on the menu and most of them were soo delicious i could eat’em again and again. There were other places that were good and cheap, especially street food – for 20 baht i got fried chicken nugget things, rice, stir fried vegies, and a soup. Not bad. I prefered splurging at Na’s. And for 100-200 baht range you get chicken schnitzel, kebabs, falafels, etc. Good for all the Israeli’s that visit Pai. I think they are required to goto Pai after their mandatory military service.

But what kept me in Pai was the stuff to do. Hiking, Biking, Swimming, Elephants, Offroad motorcycles, Cooking classes, massages, and drinking. There’s plenty of people that go just to drink – very easy to drink till sunrise. Take a nap, then goto the big pool, rinse, and repeat. I did that a couple times, but it wears on ya. More fun to bike thru the mountain roads and look at the green hills, wooden huts, blue skies, and puffy white clouds. I really enjoyed my time alone here – i still miss shayna, but if i have to be alone, alone in Pai is the way to go. Here’s some of my favs – PTTM for massage (clean, experienced, strong hands), mushroom shakes at reggae place, Rent mtn bikes for 50baht/day, motobikes (scooters) for 100baht/day (look around), bicycle or motobike to Mo Paeng waterfalls, hike to Mae Yen waterfalls, ride motorcross near Myanmar border with Tip Offroad, Do 1 hour on an elephant (more than that will make your ass sore), Learn a little Pai Cookery, and drink at Phu Pai, Buffalo Exchange, Ting Tong, Bebop, bamboo lounge, and Fubar (last 2 go till dawn).

Besides Pai i spent a couple nights in Chiang Mai, which was nice. I had a nice Italian meal with good red wine (i miss good wine), saw a made-for-tourists boxing match, and ran into an old friend, Pius the jerk. We hung out most of the time, so i didn’t see to much of Chiang Mai. But after Laos, i wasn’t interested in Chiang Mai, i just wanted to go back to the mountains. I’m now in Bangkok and getting ready for India. I got here a couple days ago, got my airplanes sorted, and have a couple more days to chill and reflect. Its weird to be back in Bangkok, the place where i started my SE adventures. I find myself liking different things – i’m done with backpacker land – khao san road here in bangkok. I stayed there the first two nights cuz thats where the bus dropped us off and i was tired. Now i’m staying near the middle of town – i find myself loving these huge malls. There’s like 4 of them all next to each other, all like 7-10 stories with everything you need .. and its air conditioned. Did i mention Bangkok is super hot right now? Over a 100 F most days. Gotta stay inside.

I guess thats it for Pai. As always, check out my pics – a picture is worth a billion words or something like that

Oh, and itinerary is updated (for the last time, really).

Fun in Laos

June 4th, 2007

As i mentioned earlier, Laos is my favorite country in SE Asia. Lemme say it again – I love Laos. It has the least population (8 million), the most chill people, tons of mountains and nature, cheap everything (shirts/goods, food, beer, lodging, busses), and some of the tastiest food as well. I’m here in Luang Prabang and almost every meal here is awesome, the town is great to look at (temples, flowers, colonial architecture), and things are just so inexpensive. More on that in my LPB blog.

So let me briefly recap my Lao adventures. I’ve already covered Vientiane and a bit of Vang Vieng. Vang Vieng, altho full of backpackers, was a great little town. We stayed at Maylyn guesthouse, in a beautiful little wooden bungalow surrounded by trees and a creek, 15 min walk from town. In town they had tastee food and plenty of internet, including a spot that would load up your Ipod with movies ($2 each). And really just one really tasteee place – the Organic Farm Cafe – ate there 4 times, having salads, soups, curry, sticky rice, bacon and eggs (yes, bacon, tastier than most spots in America). The cafe is in town, but 3km north is the Organic Farm where they get their goods. The farm also helps out the villages, providing a community center, english school, and a school bus. Hurray. We also explored many caves and swimming holes – my favorite was the Poukham cave lagoon. Awww yeah. And one day we got our drink on and tube on – Could be the most fun day i’ve had all trip. It involved tubing less than half the time, mostly jumping off swings into the river, drinking beer lao, and meeting other travelers. I even played volleyball at one of the many drinking spots along the river.

After Vang Viang we continued north to Luang Prabang, or LPB. We spent about 4 days here, including my 100th day of my trip. On my 100th day we went to Kuang Si Waterfalls, ate traditional Lao food at Tamarind, and got our drink on at Lao Garden and HIVE bar. Shayna also decided she was going to fly back to Bangkok from LPB, freeing up more time for us to spend in Lao. We also saw a great perfomance at the Lao Theatre, got plenty of massages and some internet time.

Next we began our real adventure – Bus to Luang NamTha. 2 beautiful nights at The Boat Landing, and a 3 Day Trek thru Nam Ha National Park. We went with Green Discovery for the Trek, and glad we did – the guides was great. Xay (?), the lead guide, was Lao but spoke english well, he would stop and tell us facts about the plants and stories about the hill tribes. Luckily we got rained out while we hiked. No, i’m not being sarcastic. If it weren’t for the rain, i’d die from the heat. And its not so bad to hike in the rain if you have a poncho. Makes the sweat seem unimportant. We also had a great team of 8 tourists on the trek, making the bug-filled accommodation more of an adventure and less of an annoyance.  The bugs included spiders, ants, and all sorts of flying things. But the worst was the leeches. Oh, how i hate leeches – not as much as cockroaches – now i can grab a leech with my fingers and roll him up and flick him away. But in the beginning of the trek everyone was getting leeches on them .. on the legs, arms, back .. and … yes, even the private parts. Guess who won that prize. Yep, I get the gold star. Luckily the leech already let go by the time i noticed my blood covered underwear. Ewww!!!!! At the time i freaked out, but once i dealt with it .. the worst was over. I wasnt that afraid of them anymore. But the coolest thing on the trek was how fast our guides whipped out a bamboo and banana leaf structure so we could have lunch out of the rain. In like 10 mins they cut down bamboo to make the frame, and a bunch of 3-6 foot banana leaves for the roof. Plus one leaf to throw on the ground as our lunch table. Then out comes the sticky rice, chicken, and vegies. Mmm-mmm. Suffice to say, It was an exhausting and invigorating journey and i’d recommend it to anyone. Once we got back in to town Beer Lao never tasted so good. The whole gang went for Indian Food later, but it sucked. Good thing we had our beer Lao.

Our next trek was not as fun or adventurous, but was interesting nonetheless. We took a 4 hour bus from Luang NamTha up to Muang Sing, a small town near the chinese border. From there we took a 2 day trek thru a government run operation that was cheaper than green discovery. This one was not as strenuous, but we spent alot ore time in the hill tribe villages (which is what i wanted). Our guides were nice but not nearly as informative as the Green Discovery guides. But the number of kids that were friendly to us in the Akha Puli and Hmong villages was astounding. You can tell that plenty of tourists had paved the way before us, but the kids were still excited to interact with us (aka see themselves on a digital camera). I got some of my best shots on this trek. We spent the night in an Akha Puli village called Pawaikao, nestled at the top of a small mountain. We got to drink their lao lao (rice whiskey) and all got massages after dinner. Besides shayna and me, there were 2 others – a girl from Israel and a girl from Denmark, both just recently traveled through China.

After the Muang Sing and the 2 day trek we headed back down to LPB, spending the night in Oudom Say on the way down. Once we got to LPB, we had 2 nights together before shayna left for cali (you know that part), then i spent the next 3 days chillin in LPB. Eating, biking, and uploading pics. One day i biked 60km to the waterfall and back. I pushed myself to edge on that one, eating a ton later that night at dinner. And the day i was supposed to leave, Sarah Bates shows up! So i had to stay one more extra day so we could catch up. We ate some tastee food and checked out LPB from on high.

I left LPB on a slow boat to the Thai Border. It’s a 2 day trip, stopping at Pakbeng the first night and the Lao town of Huoay Xai on the second night, which is right across the river from Chiang Khong, Thailand. The boat ride was a great way to leave Laos – sitting and chilling and looking at beautifull mountains, villages, and river action (fishing, monks swimming, beaches, etc). I admit, the second day i was tired of looking and read 200 pages of my book, finishing it.

Now i’m in Chiang Mai. I woke up in Laos yesterday, made it here last night, and just finished writing this entry. Chiang Mai is cool, too, but its a big city (1.6 million), and i definitely feel different. Its like all of Laos was chill mountains and small towns and now i’m back in the big city. I like cities and all, but i definitely love Laos the best.

Watch out for people trying to overthrow the Laos government.  Or watch out for the Laos government – as people can disappear.

Oh, and i updated my Itinerary again.


June 3rd, 2007

LPB, aka Luang Prabang, Laos, is my favorite city in SE Asia. I started to write all these wonderful things, but my last day there my rental bike was stolen by the thief (they warned by about being stolen by the thief). So that sucked. But besides that, and that it could get really hot, I loved it. I loved the green trees and grass, the red flowers, the colonial architecture and traditional Laos Temples (a Wat), the magnificent views from on top of the big hill in the middle of downtown, and less than an hour away was the beautiful and fun Kuang Si Waterfalls. Plus the town had plenty of good shopping, internet, inexpensive massages (oh yeah), and .. delicious food.

I loved the food. You could go street style and eat entire meals for under a $1. Or goto a Lao restaurant and pay $1-$3 for dishes. Or you could splurge and have a meal great by western standards from $5 to $50. For example, at this french place i got chicken with mushrooms (I’m talking a nice, big, juicy chicken breast with sauteed mushroom sauce), buttered carrots with garlic (gotta have garlic in everything), pasta with garlic, salad, and bread for $5. And it was all good. Are you could totally splurge at one of the few really nice places like Apsara or L’Elephant and get a $20 or $40 bottle of wine to go with your $10-$20 meal. But my favorite (and shayna’s, too), was the LPB Restaraunt overlooking the Mekong river. Almost everything we ordered was really good, (i would order again), and cheap – even the beer lao was cheaper than most (8,000 kip – or $0.80 USD for 24oz). Some of my favorites include Laap (or Larp/Larb), LPB Sausage made from buffalo, Jeow + sticky rice, and the Laos Salad. Unlike the rest of asia, Laos made tastee salads with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, carrot, sometimes chicken or hard-boiled egg, and a zesty/creamy dressing. And the LPB Restaurant sat right on the banks of the Mekhong – beautiful view as you watch the sunset.

The shopping was great, too. I spent almost $200 on stuff, and about $100 to ship it home. Thats not including some shirts and other stuff i sent home with shayna. It does include a bunch of elephant slippers, clothes, and souvenir pipes, among other things. Everything was soo cheap, i couldn’t believe it. Some are gonna be presents, so i don’t want to divulge to much info. Needless to say, good place to buy gifts for friends and family.

The locals were nice, but it did feel like a tourist town. Most of the time when a local wanted to talk he wanted to take you somewhere in a tuk-tuk or boat. But a couple times i met people who just wanted to practice their english and perhaps show me their village. Sadly i never had the time .. they always caught me when i had stuff planned. However, Lao art was pretty common.  LPB had many arts/crafts stores, street vendors, and even an art exhibit – The Quiet In The Land. We also checked out a very well done cultural show – a type of dance/play with amazing costumes.

You really must see my LPB pictures to feel the LPB.