Interesting facts about Loas- The Americans (God bless ’em) dropped 2 million tonnes of bombs on this beautiful land in the 60’s and 70’s. 30% failed to detonate so walking off tracks is generally unadvisable. Unfortunately, some of the locals risk their limbs and lives now trying to scrap the bombs in for money! It’s a very poor country.
Anyway, onto happier notes! Luang Prabang is pretty and chilled out. Did a day trip to Kouang Xi Waterfalls which was gorgeous.
Also saw a legit bear sanctuary which was pretty amazing.
Spent the rest of the time wandering the night markets and riding round the city.
Decided to do a two day trek in the hills, visiting a couple of tribes. Loved the activities but didn’t think much of the first guide (who managed to lose 3 of the people in the jungle…fortunately they managed to find their own way to our camp!!). Also didn’t like having my arse eaten by a load of evil insects while we sat down waiting for our guide to return… OUCH!
Showering in a river was a new experience for both of us, but still very pleasant after sweating buckets on the walk. The next day we swam in some waterfalls, did some white water rafting (which was far safer than our truck ride to the water!) and did some more elephant riding. Before we arrived here, we’d already been told about a very ‘naughty’ baby elephant. We spotted it quite quickly when half way through our elephant ride, a baby elephant came charging through the jungle, hotly pursued by its mahout (elephant trainer). All the fully grown elephants were quick to step out of his way (fortunately we were holding on!) and eventually the mahout managed to jump on his back and slow him down. The other baby elephant was really cute too and kept touching us all with his trunk. I think Elephants are my favourite animals…unfortunately Alex doesn’t think our garden is big enough to have one as a pet 🙂
Spent two days doing a cooking course at ‘The best Thai cookery school’ (yep, we thought it was original to!). Lots of fun, food and flames- as you can see!
Got a speedboat to Ko Samet, a gorgeous island near to Bang Chang where we spent the weekend with James and Lucy, lounging on the beach, swimming in the beautiful water and eating and drinking lots whilst enjoying some fire-dancing 🙂 Unfortunately, Alex and I forgot to take our anti-malaria during the day and so took it several hours after eating…the results weren’t pleasant, but thankfully very short-lived!
As planned, we joined Lucy on a few projects she’s involved with. We’ve handed out food and drink in a couple of prisons. Prisoners generally only get 1 bowl of rice per day as the money allocated to feeding them doesn’t seem to make it to them, they also have no changes of clothing and no washing facilities and there’re generally 8-10 men for a cell which in the UK would house 1 person. We heard that the week before we’d visited an American had been locked up having been mistaken for being drunk when he was actually diabetic.
We saw a jewellery project ‘Freedom Stones’ that Lucy is managing which helps women and men to leave prostitution by giving them an alternative source of income whilst also training them in business management and budgeting. The necklaces & earrings are beautiful so once the website’s up and running, it’ll be well worth a look.
Handing out food, drink, clothes and providing some basic first aid in the slums here was very different to the soup run I was part of in Nottingham – mainly because there were loads of young children. Also, there was no moaning and trying to get extras. The Project also did a kids ‘class’ which so we tried to follow the instructions in Thai (much to the kids amusement) and played with them for a while. We were really pleased that there were some native Thais on the project too so it wasn’t another project where it’s just the rich ‘farangs’ (the slightly-derogatory Thai term for foreigners) dishing out charity. I guess projects with just westerners, even though they’re beneficial, can also seem patronizing and help to maintain a power imbalance (hence we didn’t take any photos of this ).
We also spent an afternoon at Mercy Children’s Centre which houses and cares for kids who are at risk. Later we did an impromptu computer class with some of them and joined them in their ‘play time’ picking up a few Thai words along the way!
Woohoo! Saw about 6 Leopard Sharks today during our dive, about 1 1/2m long so not too big and they were beautiful! Really pleased 🙂 Loads of fish and corals too but the Sharks were the highlight of course! Missed the Turtle that was there but saw some sting rays 🙂
Phuket is pronounced “Poo-ket” not “Fook-it” – although the tourists seem to be doing alot of the latter with a good number of the locals judging from the number of ‘massage parlors’, ‘Go Go’ and ‘Ping Pong Shows’ that we’ve been invited too (we haven’t been to any, and please don’t ask us what they are!)
Anyway, the beaches are great (although I got assaulted by an evil fat jellyfish) & hostels – variable. First one we stayed in had a tap that sprayed water onto the floor every time you used it (Phil, no need to come out, we’ve left now 😉 ) and the glass didn’t fit the windows so they’d stuffed the cracks with (hopefuly clean) loo roll. We’ve since moved and are now in a cheaper (350 baht or £7/night for the room), cleaner and nicer room for the next 4 nights.
We hired a moped (cheapest way to get around the island) yesterday and drove to some neighbouring beaches which were very pretty (don’t worry parentals, we got helmets and drove very carefully…couldn’t drive fast coz we weighed it down too much, especially up the hills- ha ha!)
Started PADI Open Water SCUBA Diving course today which for me a refresher but for Alex is to get certified (as an open water diver, not as mentally ill… I confirmed the latter a long time ago). First ocean dives tomorrow at Ratcha Yai & Ratcha Noi islands where we will HOPEFULLY see Manta Rays and then on Wed we’ll hopefully see either Leopard or Whale Sharks!!! I’m SOOOOOO excited!! I’ll be gutted if we don’t see anything big!