A Travellerspoint blog

5 months have gone by...

overcast -3 °C

It truly is amazing how quickly time flies when you are at home. Just recently Ted and I have been reminiscing about our adventures. Especially the people we met. Whether they a shop clerk, a taxi driver, a guide or a cousin, they touched us deeply.

We still try to embed the trip into our daily lives. Sometimes that means that we say sawadee ka or cook laap and sometimes it is revisiting our pictures or memoriabilia. We talk often of other trips we want to plan once we have a family.

We have settled back into the house we adore. We have dug more garden beds, gone on more local trips, taken on new projects and are raising a puppy, named Huda (our favourite Vietnamese Beer).

All in all, I would recommend a trip that blows your mind to anyone at any stage of your life. It expands you and your understanding of yourself in this world.

This blog has been standing still since June and I happened upon it today. I am thankful for the stories, pictures and memories that explode out of the computer.

Posted by jented 12.11.2008 05:30 Archived in Canada Tagged events Comments (0)

Latest Stop Happiness, Destination: Reality

Leaving Thailand

sunny 17 °C

Last time we wrote, we were enjoying the lazy, hot, beaches of Koh Phangan. As Jen previously described so accurately, with every passing day, there were less and less people at the beach. Dogs were ruling the roost.

We spent the last few days enjoying the sun and warm weather and peaceful sounds of the surf. Very relaxing and we started getting our heads around heading home. It was difiicult to prepare ourselves to get used to the feeling of not having sunscreen splashed on your person all day long.

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Unfortunately, we did overdo the sun on the second last day so our tans look great but the last day needed to be spent indoors or in the shade most of the day. I also was a few days into an ear infection that was tolerable by day but painful by the evening. I perservered nonetheless, and checked out of our hotel on May 26.

Our trip to Koh Samui and Bangkok remained uneventful - a few more boats, taxis and airplanes but not much more of note . The last day in Bangkok was quite enjoyable as we spent the day, getting packed, doing some last minute shopping and going to see the newly released "Indiana Jones" movie. It was our best Bangkok experience to date!

We arrived home with no issue at Customs but Air Canada made us miss our connection to Calgary so we ended up getting a flight direct to Saskatoon from Vancouver. We moved into our new Guest House, my mother-in-law's! It is by far the best bed so far! We stayed up for several hours having homemade sandwiches and started regaling our stories. She has been the best landlady of our trip. We will definitely stay for a few days!

Since our return late the night of May 28, we have been reflecting on our enjoyable journey and taking in the sights (of Saskatoon) to see, in what sometimes feels like a "new country". We have been able to get used to small habits, noises and customs from SE Asia that we now have come to expect them as normal. The quiet line-ups at stores, lack of bartering for goods, no honking, and crossing the crosswalks are only some of the "foreign" behaviors we are struggling to get used to.

It does feel weird to be back at home and not have a place to live and change routines, to include looking after your own vehicle, bicycle, etc. without having to worry about "renting, hiring or arranging public transport". Also, the lack of store fronts advertising, money exchange, tours and not having to try ordering food in a foreign language. This western landscape seems a bit unfamiliar, yet deep down we know...it's where we are from.

We are happy to be home and recognize how lucky we have been to have had such a wonderful honeymoon and life changing experience. We are eager to meet up with all our friends and family but are also realizing that reality and getting back to a "new" normal life are all part of the next exciting installment of our journey.

We have thoroughly enjoyed writing these blogs and hope that you have enjoyed reading them as well. It was quite a delight to us while away from home to check our blog and emails to hear that people at home were living thier lives with lots of other exciting developments of their own. This helped us to realize how important others are to us. Thanks to everyone who read our entries and we look forward to visiting in person soon.

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Posted by jented 06:23 Archived in Canada Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Lazy days on the beach!

sunny 36 °C

We've reached it...the final destination of our trip, the beach! We have put away the Lonely Planet, the maps and all the planning to lay on a beach chair and worry only about evening out our tan! Yep, it's a simple life with very simple pleasures.

We are at Thong Nai Pan Beach on Koh Phagan Island. It is a gorgeous little oasis from the busy world of Thailand. In fact we are hear during "Low" season so it especially quiet with only maybe a dozen people on the beach each day! In fact, most days there are more dogs on the beach that people. One dog got so friendly with Ted that he tried to mark Ted as his by leaving a scent of him on Ted's towel!

Ted and I spend time reading, turning over and planning when to start spiking our drinks with Rum (cocktails at the bar are too expensive for us! - we still can't quite get used to "Western" prices!). We are also starting to reminisce about our best adventures, meals and modes of transport! (We've begun to run out of things to talk about!)

The big excitment was going diving yesterday but, alas, today we are resting and recovering from "doing" something yesterday! (I can hear your groans all the way from Canada).

So not much more to report on than we are counting down the days til we can see all of you!

Posted by jented 22.05.2008 19:37 Archived in Thailand Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

Vang Vieng is over-run by potatoes!

sunny 32 °C

Vang Vieng is a Laos town situated along the Nam Song River and is a destination of all young backpackers looking for a relaxing day tubing down the river drinking beer and swinging from these long ropes into the river. These "tubers" (get the joke from the title now?) take over the town every afternoon. There are a several businesses that are over-run by with young guys and girls dressed in skimpy bikinis and surfer shorts waiting in line for their tube and the 4 km ride to the starting point.

Ted and I have learned long ago that we aren't 21 any more. We like a few beers and even some good music but we are not touring around South East Asia seeking out the best party, Dude! So we were a little shell shocked when we left the quaint town of Luang Prabang to enter into Fort Lauderdale during Spring Break. The whole town has boomed with this this influx of young backpackers. The town is really in a gorgeous area but the some of the charm is lost on this "tubing scene!". Most people are more interested in how they look than meeting a local or enjoying good food.

Now you may think I'm a bit of an old fuddy-duddy but Ted and I did part take in the "Tubing experience" we stood in line, got to the river and while everyone else from our Tuk Tuk jumped in the water we waited while we applied sunscreen! After the first few "Tube up" bars it settled down a bit and we found a great guy that was very "free" with the Lao-Laos whiskey! We had a few good beers that loosened us up before going to a few more bars on the way back into town. The day was really awesome and Ted and I had a good time (Especially Ted, as I was still recovering from the worst car sickness ever the day before).

We topped off the day with a great Laos supper and more Sticky rice. Laos food has been one of the great secrets about Laos. The food is wonderful and so fresh. I am personally addicted to having Laap Pa - Fish spicy salad and sticky rice!

We left Vang Vieng after only a day so that we could "Kayak to Vientiane". So yesterday we broke up another windy Laos trip with some kayaking down the Nam Lik. It wasn't enough time in the boat for us (or my stomach) but it was fun none the less.

We are now safely in Vientiane for a few days before we leave for the Thai Islands of Ko Samui and Ko Phagan! We only have 2 weeks left of our trip (we arrive home the night of May 28th) and are of mixed feelings about going home...happy to see everyone but we aren't quite ready to give up this golden honeymoon! Thank goodness we don't go back to work until September!!

Posted by jented 23:13 Archived in Laos Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Horton hears a Mahout!

Or Ted and Jen are safe and riding elephants!

sunny 30 °C

We are glad to say that we are safe and sound in Laos at the moment. Luckily we are far away from the horrible aftermath of Cyclone Nargis that has battered southern Myanmar last week. We have not heard anything from our friends and family there yet but are still trying to reach them. Our thoughts are with them and we hope that they are alright and safe.

As for us, we did not find out about the disaster until the morning we were heading out of Luang Prabang for a few days of moutain bike riding, learning to become a Mahout (elephant trainer) and kayaking. The ride out of Luang Prabang was a very nice following the Nam Khan river out to an elephant camp. We were able to get real mountain bikes in good shape so the low gears were much appreciated on the steep climbs.

We got there and were then taken across a river to an elephant refuge to spend some time observing the female elephants they have rescued from abuse and saved from hard work in the logging industry. They were outfitted with benches on their backs for tourists to ride on while the Mahout sits on their neck to control them. Jen and climbed aboard for what is normally about a 1 hour walk aroudn the reserve. After a few minutes, our mahout turned to us and asked who wants to drive. Ladies first! Jen climbed down and directed our elephant named Mae Kout through the jungle for awhile before letting me drive. After a few minutes of my driving, we started to decend a steep bank to the river to allow the animals to drink. There were a few other tourists riding other elephants but we were the only ones driving. Pretty exciting.

After the walk, we went for lunch while the elephants got ready to take back to the jungle for the night. We then climbed back on, just on the neck and rode with the mahout back to the jungle to let the elephants forage and eat their required diet of 250 kg of food a day! We then got to take the rest of the day off to relax and read in a remote lodge overlooking the river. This suited us just fine as we had an early morning the next day.

At 6:30 am, we were roused to hike into the jungle to get the elephants ready for the day. It was amazing to see how they had eaten a large area of jungle very clear overnight. They had also managed to their chains (only so they don't runoff in the night) all wrapped around trees, just like a cat or young pup might. The chains were very long and heavy so the Mahouts can't pull them clear around the trees. The elephants are so smart and strong, they effortlessly use their trunks to grab the chains and pull themsleves clear. If the chain gets stuck they even know how to hold the chain safely with their mouth, and wrap it extra tight with their runk to give it an extra yank to free themsleves. Very intelligent indeed!

Then Jen and I climbed aboard by ourselves and rode the elphants out of the jungle and down some very steep terrain. It would not have been so scary had the elephants not tried to stop on a very narrow, steep trail to turn around and grab trees that were as high as my head with their trunks to eat! It was amazing to see how these strong trees and branches are mastered by their strong trunks.
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To head down to the river, the elephants had to head down some very tight stairs and then we were able to bathe them to get them cleaned up for the day. Sometimes, there is an oppotunity to brush their teeth too! Today, the elephants will have to do it later as there was an early group coming. We did see one though brushing her own teeth with a stick while the mahouts tied on her saddle/bench.
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After spending alot of time riding, cleaning, and feeding the elephants, we had to say goodbye and headed back to Luang Prabang on a sit-on-top, tandem kayak. There were a quite a few rapids on the river but because it is the dry season, nothing too dangerous. We managed them all without capsizing once. We even had time for a cool dip in the river because it was very hot!
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It was an awesome experience and were able to enjoy it and have developed a new fondness for elephants. There are still lots more things to see and do but we do hope to hear good news soon from our family and friends in Myanmar.

Posted by jented 08.05.2008 20:44 Archived in Laos Tagged animal Comments (0)

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