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Journey through Asia. A Travel Log - Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos.


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More temples. This one is the one in the Tomb Raider movie apparently..

 

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This was the coolest one out of the main temple complex. It's pretty awesome how nature had grown around the buildings.

 

The temples I've posted so far were all pretty cool but are in the process of being raped by tourism. It is such a shame that the poverty in Cambodia ensures that things such as this are milked for all they are worth with little thought for preservation..

I remember thinking "this is cool it's just a shame about all the other tourists."

However, as I was about to discover, the coolest was yet to come..

 

Monsoon season begins

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This place. This place was the business. I heard about it from some other travellers, who told me I could forget all the other temples as long as I visited this one. Apparently it was only just recently discovered, and it's a good hours drive away from town. This means it hasn't(yet) been made into a tourist beacon. Apart from some wooden scaffolds to keep it strucutrally sound, it didn't look like it had been touched since it was first vacated. Proper adventure time!

We were the only people there, and we decided to just climb around and explore.

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Nature had really reclaimed this place.

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I nearly walked face first into this fella

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I felt like a kid again, running around exploring an overgrown ruin. Swinging of vines and shit. This was one of thhe coolest days of my trip.

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The Khmer Rouge covered the country with mines. As such, people are strongly advised not to stray off paths and roads or stick to areas which have been cleared.

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Saw this fella in town. He was about the size of a forearm.

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I ended up staying in my hostel in Siem Reap for a while. It was nice to just chill, drink beers, smoke weed(oh yeah, the hostel sold weed and you could openly smoke it in the bar) and play pool for a few days. It was here that I met Rik, an integral part of the rest of my travels.

Me and Rik started talking after 2 days sat at opposite ends of the bar, smoking weed. On the 3rd day we decided it was ridiculous that we weren't talking, as we clearly had things in common.

Rik was from Holland, and had travelled to Cambodia from there, overland. He hitchhiked about 90% of the way. Apart from in Iran, where he said he wasn't too keen on rocking the boat, so to speak.

He only took one flight, over Pakistan. And that was only because when he got to the Iran/Pakistan border they told him there was no way he was entering bandit country without 2 armed guards, which he would have to pay for.

An interesting guy to say the least.

We got on well, so decided to travel together for a bit, as we were going the same way. Rik asked if I fancied hitchhiking. With my thirst for adventure not yet satisfied, I agreed. Thus would begin the most intense, but also the most fun part of my journey.

We bought a shitty map of Cambodia and Laos, and planned our route. We were slightly limited by the lack of decent roads, so had to take a few detours, rather than go the most direct route. We got one of the guys in the hostel to write down the names of the places we were passing in Cambodian script and then we were off.

Initially we had some difficulty getting out of town, most people stopped because they wanted to help us get to the bus station. Once we got into the car only to be driven to the bus station!

Eventually we caught a ride with a family who were going the same way. The car was already full so me and Rik had the share the front seat whilst 5 people sat in the back.

After being dropped off, we were lucky enough to get picked up by some guys who were all on the way back from work.

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They had hung hammocks across the the back of the truck so we kicked back in them.

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Like a Boss.

 

That night, we ended up in a guesthouse in some middle of nowhere, closes when it gets dark town.

We were bored, and only had a couple of beers so we went to find something to amuse us.

In the hallway outside our room, we found this fella.

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He weren't shook, attacking the camera whilst I was snapping.

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We also had this guy chilling in our room.

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A plan began to form...

 

 

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You could hear the crunches as he ate.

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Shall we dance?

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Few more from the road.

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Trying to catch a ride

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whats the language barrier like?

 

In response to this, it varied. Most people in the big towns and tourist spots spoke at least some engrish, usually enough to try and sell something to you.

As we began venturing further of the beaten path, it became more of an issue. People that had no other contact with foreigners other than us spoke no engrish. It was sometimes difficult to get it across to people where we wanted to get to, as often none of us would speak the same language, and most people couldn't read maps either.

 

Near the Lao border, we seemed to run out of road..

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Can't go over it, can't go under it...

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130 ciggarettes, 50cents.

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Ghetto shower.

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Finally we got to Laos and crossed the border. Cambodia was an amazing experience. The place is beutiful. But the country is fucked, because of poverty and the lasting impact of the Khmer Rouge. The levels of corruption are hideous, you can do anything and everything you want if you pay off the right people. People there are hardened as a result, although in my experience once you get past the hard exterior the people are good natured and kind. It's as if many are forced into being calculating and cold and hustling, but don't actually want to.

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my friends mom survived the killing fields. he had a big party for me on my 18th strippers and all. he thought she was staying three hours away in fresno or some shit. she was 15 minutes away. when she got home everyone was gone except me and my friend she came in the door saw me and uppercutted me.

she apologized 5 years later when i brought her flowers after he was killed by a dui driver.

 

i guess i got past her hard exterior and now she is kind and good natured.

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At the Lao border, we had some problems with the guards over how much the bribe was going to be. You expect a few dollars on top of the official price, but they were asking for $10 extra each. Rik got really angry and started talking about reporting them at which point they started getting pretty aggressive with us. If there's one group of people you don't want problems with it's border guards, they can fuck up your day a lot more than you can fuck up theirs.. I managed to settle on $10 total with them then I dragged Rik away.

We started walking along the road towards our next destination. We probably walked for around 10 miles before catching our first ride, a really cool guy who let us sit in the back of his pickup truck.

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On the way he stopped the car and took us to this.

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Cold chillin.

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We had another walk of about 3 miles where he dropped us off.

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This was our destination, Don Det, an island in southern Laos.

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This place is known as a brilliant place to just chill and watch the world go by. Our room had a balcony with hammocks overlooking the Mekong. We spent our time chilling out, smoking weed and meeting other travellers.

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Of course the Dutch know how to roll big joints..

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An old steam locomotive I found.

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More waterfalls.

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We also made friends with this guy.

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Thieving monkey. He would always try and take shit out of your pockets.

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We moved on, catching various rides going North. Hitching in Laos was made easier by the fact that there is just one road going from the Southern border to the Northern one. As such we could catch any ride going north and know we were going the right way.

One evening became known as the 'sugar truck night'. We caught a ride with a guy and his wife and I think his mother in law. They put us on the back of the truck, which was laden with sacks and sacks of sugar.

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After a few hours driving the truck got a flat tire. We ended up having to lift the truck up whilst the guy put the spare on. We drove on, but after a while it became clear that the spare wasn't pumped up enough to support the trucks weight. Eventually the driver called up a buddy of his to help spread the weight of the sugar. His buddy caught up with us and we helped lift the sacks over from one truck to the other.

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We laughed at how sketchy this looked, two white boys and two locals lifting big sacks of white powder from truck to another in the middle of the night. Eventually they dropped us off at a guesthouse on the side of the road.

 

Dirty work. My t-shirt from the 'sugar truck night' next to a fresh one.

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"the best lollipop I ever had."

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Sorry I've been slacking...

 

Back on track.

This is a map of 'The loop'. A motorcycle tour around the Laotian countryside. We hooked up with a group of people at our hostel who also wanted to do it and we set of. The group consisted of me, Rik, two other Brits, a German couple, an Aussie chick, and Dutch chick and a half Lao/American chick. The trip was supposed to take between 3-5 days but because of the bikes we rented from a shifty chinaman being so unreliable it took us a week. The whole thing was a mixture of absolute calamity and incredible, unbeatable experiences. The group all became really close over the time and me and Rik ended up meeting or travelling for much of the rest of my trip. I also ended up fucking the Dutch chick for the trip and Rik got the Aussie.

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The crew in effect.

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As you can see the 'route' was hardly anything official. Many of the roads weren't maintained and were at the mercy of the elements.

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Crazy Dog beef.

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The first of many problems

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Loud little fella.

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Still flying around despite how fucked his wings were.

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More problems..

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Rik grabs an impromptu shower. When it rains in monsoon season, it really rains!

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One of the most stunning views I've ever seeen

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My socks after one day.

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hairy hairy caterpillar

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This is the entrance to Kong Lor cave, a 7km cave that you have to sail into as (in rainy season) it is also a river.

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Into the mouth of the cave.

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This was near the entrance to the cave. Once we got further in you couldn't see the light from your head torches bouncing off the walls anymore.

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It was in this cave that we encountered this guy:

World's largest spider

We saw this huge set of legs creeping over the side into the boat. The two locals looked just as shoock as us and were quick to beat the thing off the boat. My skin still crawls thinking about it.

 

Mountains and rice paddies for miles.

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Pushing the bike, managed to get it to 135km/h.

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Asphalt melting in the sun.

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I love views like this where there is no evidence of human interference..

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Sunset.

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This was at the end of a hard day riding along mountain dirt roads filled with potholes(and a result, puddles). We were all wet, muddy and in some cases, bloody. As you couldn't see how deep the potholes were, we'd all fallen off the bikes at least once during the day.

Rik happy to be on asphalt again..

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We sat in this roadside bar and got some food, these guys were all drinking beer and invited us over to drink with them. In Laos, they drink with just one bottle of beer and one glass between everyone. Whilst I'm sure this is partly due to financial reasons, but it also gets you fucking drunk quick as the next person is always egging you on to drink quicker so they can have their turn. We decided to buy everyone a beer, for which we were incredibly popular. We ended up sitting with them and getting shitfaced drunk, which resulted in several drunken mishaps as we left including someone knocking over the row of everyone's bikes and one of the girls driving her bike directly into a ditch. We made one hell of an exit!

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Mist rolling down the hills

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One of many stops at a 'rest station'.

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Another malfunctioning bike. This one totally gave up, so we put it into neutral and Rik used the bike and his leg to push her 40km back home.

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Fuck those hairy Caterpillars, those things have ruined too many of my days.

 

Also, regarding the spider:

'Distribution and habitat

 

The giant huntsman spider is found in Laos,[2] and is probably a cave dweller because of its pale colour, long legs and special hairs on the second foot of the male. There is no apparent reduction of the eyes, however, possibly because the species lives near cave entrances."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_huntsman_spider

 

Sounds about right, ehhh.

 

Surprising that they were only discovered in 2001.

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Surprising that they were only discovered in 2001.

 

Yeah. Like that quote down the bottom says, 'some of these species have no business just being discovered.'

To be honest though I suspect there is a certain amount western superiority going on. I reckon the locals knew about these things for ages but never thought to 'discover' them for western experts...

 

Damn. How did you guys wind up fixing the bikes? Did they give you tools for the trip just in case something like that happened? Or did you/someone you were with just happen to have them and know how to do the repairs?

 

Everybody from the age of about 6 upwards knows how to ride, take apart and fix bikes, as they are an integral part of life there. We usually just took the bikes to the nearest house and asked them to fix it. They had the tools and the knowledge and frequently the parts(and if they didn't, their neighbour did). Obviously we would give them some money for their trouble and pay for parts, but the disposition of the Lao people is such that they view helping their fellow man as the priority rather than the money.

 

 

These next few are from the ride we caught after we finished the tour and were heading north again.

We got a ride on the back of this truck, it was once we got on we saw who we were sharing the ride with.

On the truck were 7 Lao guys, 4 live chicken(and a sack full of dead ones), a live goat and 3 live pigs. And there was a boat strapped to the roof. In a landlocked country. Laos is a crazy place.

 

The chickens

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Mr Goat.

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The pigs

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Our next stop was Vang Vieng. Let me tell you about Vang Vieng. Vang Vieng is an unremarkable town on the Mekong river. What makes this place extraordinairy is the main activity everyone egages in. Tubing. Tubing involves going down the river in an inflated tracktor inner tube. Along the river are various bars, who throw ropes to you that you grab onto, then they reel you in. At the bars people get absolutely shitfaced drunk on (frequently free, though I'm not sure why) Mekong whiskey, basically moonshine. Everyone paints on each other, parties, waterfights, beer pong, flaming limbo, mud wrestling and volleyball, rope swings, water slides.. The place is ridiculous. As fun as it sounds it's also a fucking death trap. In fact, someone had died the day before we got there from flying off a rope swing and hitting the 'wrong' part of the river. You know, the part which is shallow and covered in jagged rocks but which looks exactly the same as the rest of the river... The water slide was known as the 'slide of death' because of how many people had died going off it. People wouldn't tuck their heads in so would smash them on the end of the slide, knock themselves out and the current would drag them away before they could do anything.

Frequently, you would float past the last point where you could get a tuktuk into town and would have to float down river till you got there. This wasn't a problem for most but as I rarely rented a tube(run by tubing maffia, kept your deposit if you got back after 6, which you always did, plus I'd hitchiked this far...) it often resulted in a tough, drunken swim back home.

There was also an epidemic of pinkeye running around the town. You quickly learned not to talk to anyone wearing sunglasses.

The town was filled with bars that playd family guy and friends on repeat, all year round from what I hear. You could also buy weed, mushroom shakes and opium in some of them.

As you can imagine, I didn't think to take many photos.

Here is the only one I have, of the town as we arrived.

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After a week of debauchery it was time to go. The place had taken it's toll on us. All of us were kind of ill and I had cut my foot on a rock so badly I couldn't walk.

Here's a photo of Rik catching out, I had to sit down.

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A small bus picked us up. This was basically a locals bus, most tourists got the 'VIP buses', a bit nicer, a lot more pricey. I remember feeling like I was going to puke my guts out the entire time, a weeks worth of heavy boozing on horrendous alcohol was catching up with me..

Along the way we got held up because of a truck caught in a mudslide that was blocking the way. Mudslides in the mountains are a common occurence in monsoon season.

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This was a long journey, probably about 11 hours long. At some point during the evening we stopped for a piss break and to fix a flat tire. Whilst stadning out there, mindind my own I was stung by some huge, red wasp like insect. One of the most painful stings I've ever experienced. The stinger part got trapped in me and my arm was swollen adn huge for a few days until I got drunk enough to scratch it out.

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Trip is long over. I did all this in the summer of 2010.

 

We moved onto Luang Prabang, a welcomingly chilled out town. It's really nice, but super super touristy. Like family tourism though rather than backpackers tourism. Here we slowly recovered from Vang Vieng by smoking weed, getting massages(noo happy ending though) and seeing some sights.

We went to bars in the evening which annoyingly had a curfew. Luckily we managed to meet the owner of one of them who also happened to be the nephew of the chief of police in town. He could stay open as late as he wanted and continue serving booze as long as we weren't too loud.

On one night, on our way home from the bar we were nearly attacked by a pack of dogs. They started barking and chasing after us. Normally this would have been scary, I'm not too keen on rabies. But for some reason that fire whiskey gave us the courage to charge at them shouting abuse and throwing bottles. We alpha maled the shit out of them.

 

In our room..

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The best thing we went and saw was this.

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Getting a closer look.

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Man versus Nature.

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The group shot.

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We actually climbed up and round this waterfall. Standing at the top looking out was awesome!

 

On our final night in Luang Prabang Rik got super drunk and decided to buy some 'cocaine' from a tuktuk driver. Rik had never taken cocaine before however. He was boshing it telling me how fucking awesome it was. Eventually I was persuaded to have a line. Heroin.

I'd always intended never to do heroin. But I figured at this point I had already started so...

We got through about half the gram, sniffing bumps at a time. The next day I've never felt so bad from anything ever. Me and Rik both spent most of the day throwing up and trying to sleep it off. Not cool. The only upside is that the hangover was so bad that it ensured I will never touch it again.

Thats the last of my photos. Following on from this, we went to Vientiane, the capital. Here we got KFC(first fried chicken in 3 months!!) and lazed around.

Next, we got a train to Bangkok, where my flight home was leaving from. I only spent a few days in Bangkok. As I wasn't getting the chance to really see the city or Thailand in general, I didn't make any effort to sightsee. I resolved to come back at some point and see the country properly. Plus I had already seen a lot.

We spent the few nights in Bangkok relaxing and boozing. And avoiding the ladyboys.

Every evening we ate at a particular street stall where we had made friends with the people working there. One night one of the girls took us out to a Thai ska club. Fun!

 

This trip was one of the if not the best experience of my life. I had so much fun, made some great firends and had some amazing adventures. I cannot reccomend doing something similar enough. Hitching was a great thing to do as it made the trip feel more like our own, rather than a sort of national chaperoning of tourists round each country's tourist attractions. We got to see parts of the country that most others didn't get to see. Plus women in 'travelling mode' get all moist between the thighs when you tell them about your crazy adventures.

 

I hope you've all enjoyed this thread.

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