Saturday, 9 May 2015

Contiki Big Indochina Adventure #4 | Mekong

Rising bright and early we headed towards to the Thai/Laos Boarder. It wasn't too long of a drive and it didn't take us all very long either to get across the boarder. I took all 30 of us an hour or so but we were all chilled and just took out Lao Kip (First time and only time I'll ever be a millionaire) and we stocked up on some snacks as we were spending the majority of the day sailing down the Mekong River, in a slow boat. After getting across the boarder we all hopped in big Tuk Tuk's. Our luggage was held on top (securely enough mind you!) and we set off to board the Slow Boat.

This was probably one of my favourite days out of my trip. The weather was beautiful, the music was great as was the Laotian food we were served. Those chicken wings were awesome. The Lao food over all was probably my least favourite but I did enjoy a few meals! I don't know if it was because I was a bit ill, which was more likely due to my gallbladder surgery, than the different food. It was such a nice chilled day and we all took a few naps and some of the girls and I took to sunbathing! We had a few line dancing sessions which I was woeful at, but still gave it a chance! I also tried (and failed miserably) to show them some Irish dancing. It's safe to say my dancing skills aren't the best, the whole group will vouch for me on this one! 
The Big Indochina Adventure is really busy and you're constantly on the  go, so it was such a lovely few hours enjoying the beauty that is Laos. It's honestly one of the most gorgeous places I've been too. It's like a postcard and we were so lucky that we had such beautiful weather. It was only cold in the mornings and sometimes in the evenings. Nothing too bad or anything- especially if you're from the UK or Ireland but you'd still need a cover up or something. We had blankets on the boat too, which was a nice touch. We had to get back on the slow boat the next morning at 7am and it was bloody freezing and I'll tell you those blankets came in handy. But once the sun came out it was scorching again and we were back outside getting some sun!
Some of us girls catching some sun, see I told ya ;) It wasn't really a tanning trip, but we made any excuse. Throughout the trip myself and Kate tried relentlessly to top off our tans whenever we got the chance, friendly competition is always a great base of a friendship! I didn't get anyway sea sick and normally the sight of a boat would make me feel so queasy, but as the name suggest it was really a slow boat. The boat had drinks on board, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic as well as noodles, Oreo's and crisps to buy in case you got a bit hungry. We spent the entire day playing cards, catching up on sleep and getting to know one another, as we were still a pretty new group!
After sailing down the Mekong for roughly 6 hours,we reached our destination Pakbang before sunset. Pakbang is a teeny tiny village in Laos. We stayed in a guest house that night, which wasn't too shabby. The beds were grand and at the reception area you got free Wifi- pretty nifty for a place that didn't have electricity 10 years ago! We were only there for the night and there's a curfew of 12am but to be honest we were all tired and there's no where to really go! After our (included) dinner we all just chilled and then hit the hay! It was basic and we didn't dare drink the tap water(another tip from our Tour Manager Alex) but it was comfortable and the fan was pretty good! Our room was right across from the loudest Asian tourists I've ever heard, singing (bad)Karaoke. I swear it was hilarious as they were so awful, the only thing really is to laugh though!
Before we arrived in our next destination Luang Prabang we stopped off to at the Pak Ou Caves,Sacred Caves of Laos. It's only 25km from Luang Prabang and hosts thousands of Buddha Statues and is still used as a place of worship today! It was awesome to see and was a great little stop off to stretch our legs and get ready for the busy day ahead. It was then back onto the Slow boat and make our way to Luang Prabang, which is actually a world heritage site as it's home to many Buddhist Temples. All the boys were very polite and helped lift all our bags into the awaiting tuck tucks, which took our bags to the hotel! Once we checked in we were ready to see what this city had to offer!

Until next time...

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Monday, 4 May 2015

But First, Coffee

I popped over to London for the weekend for the Electric Run and to catch up with some friends. I love London and hadn't been in so long. It was so nice to enjoy the city again and I've already plans to go back in the summer for my lovely pals Engagement party. I was up at the crack of dawn on the Friday morning and wanted something that was comfortable, but still presentable enough to be rambling around London. A T-shirt and Jeans combo was the easiest option!

Since I've come home from travelling I've pretty much lived in these Topshop jeans. I went for the "Jamie" cut as they're a little more high waisted - perfect if you have a tummy like me and want to avoid a "muffin top". I'm wearing a size 16 and love how stretchy and comfy they are, there's no digging in whatsoever. To make the look more casual I rolled up the jeans and wore them with my vans, which are an integral part of my wardrobe at the moment!
London was surprisingly cold on Friday so I threw on a plaid shirt for extra warmth (and style!) I picked it up in Zara before travelling. It's the perfect layering piece too as it's not too bulky and fits nicely under my River Island faux leather jacket. It was a big fit so I went for the 14 and it fits like a dreamed, it's not too long nor too short and is the only jacket I'm wearing at the moment. To add a nod to the 90's trend I threw up hair my hair in a scrunchie and I was ready to start exploring London again!

I spent Friday eating Five Guys, which is yummy! Probably not as good as Bunsen Burger in Dublin, but still not bad.It's worth going for their drinks alone as they've 130 or so different types of soda's everything from your normal soft drinks to the more exotic Raspberry and Lime Sprite. We took full advantage of the free refills and tried lots of different concoctions! I loved the Cherry Coke Zero, and could really go for one right now, Rumour has it it's coming to Dublin soon, so I'll have to check it out!

Outfit Details:

Tshirt: Cotton On
Shirt: Zara 
Jeans: Topshop
Jacket: River Island 

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Saturday, 2 May 2015

Contiki Big Indochina Adventure #3 | Chiang Rai

We were up bright and early to make our journey to Chiang Rai which was about 4 hours. With Contiki you're never stuck on a bus for too long and they make frequent stops. We stopped off at the amusing Condoms and Cabbages restaurant. As funny as the name is, it actually does a lot for the Thai Community. Condoms and Cabbages is a Population and Community Development Association's (PDA) public-benefit restaurant. Founded in 1974 it set to educate both urban and rural Thai people on family planning. They set out to train respected members of the community to distribute and provide avoidable contraceptives directly to their communities. They are also heavily involved in the prevention of HIV/AIDS throughout Thailand. Proceeds from the restaurants go directly back into the Thai community.

After stocking up on snacks and novelty key chains from Condoms and Cabbages for my friends, it was back on the bus for a Temple that wasn't on the itinerary. The White Temple or Wat Rong Khun is spectacular. It's definitely up there along with the Grand Palace as my favourite Temple. It's just picture perfect. It's magnificent and if you're in Northern Thailand I can't recommend it enough. What makes this Temple different is that it's a contemporary, unconventional, privately owned, art exhibition in the style of a Buddhist Temple. It's owned by Chalermchai Kositpipat who designed and contructed it opening it up to the public in 1997, and to this day there is still no entrance fee. Last May it was damaged by an earthquake, but none of the buildings were structurally damaged. Having first thought that the buildings structures were unsafe, Kositpipat was going to demolish the entire Temple and not rebuild it - so luckily for us Tourists it's still going strong. Although it's not a conventional Temple it's still a place of worship and you have to dress appropriately. They have skirts free of charge at the entrance for those wearing shorter shorts!
After an hour we were back en route to Chiang Rai which was only 13km away. If you didn't bring Dollars I'd suggest changing your money at the various money exchanges here if you're on the way to Laos, as they mainly just accept US Dollars for your Traveller Visa($43 for Irish Citizens, you're charged differently bases on your country) and we didn't have too much free time to ourselves in Chiang Rai to find a currency exchange

Hill Tribes
After we checked into the Hotel we had some free time to get a bite to eat. We all decided to meet in the lobby for a family meal after we all got settled in. Ignoring the "Divide and Conquer Rule" (where you all split up to eat in different places so it doesn't take too long) we all went to a typical Thai restaurant. I ordered Chicken in Cashew nuts, as clearly I hadn't had enough of it the previous night! It was delicious and I had no trouble wolfing it down as we were on a very tight schedule. With minutes to spare to catch our bus, we all ran in to the only department store in Chiang Rai to buy some presents for the children of the Hill Tribes. A few euro's is nothing to us, but the kids were thrilled when we pulled up with toys and colouring books! One word of advice however is to keep some of  your gifts until near the end to make sure everyone one gets something. We had to frantically find someone in the group with gifts left as one little girl didn't get anything and we couldn't break her heart. All of the group partook in this optional extra and it was a great insight into Thai culture and great to enjoy it with everyone. We saw five different Hill Tribes, including the Long Neck (Padaung) which were by far the most interesting. And as you can see in the photo's the girls wear neck rings from a very young age. We spent a few hours at the Hill Tribes and I bought a few souvenirs, I'd much rather buy off the Hill tribes, than the markets! 

After the Hill Tribes we went back to the Hotel for a quick shower before going out to explore Chiang Rai's Night Bazaar  and to get a "Shit Shirt" and some cheap food for dinner. We got some Pad Thai for something like €4 and it was good, not as good as the previous night but saying that I didn't leave much on my plate. We also picked up some Pork Skewers for €1 each and man they were good!  In terms of dodgy stomachs I'd just err on the side of caution. If something looks funny don't eat it and when in doubt opt for vegetarian. After dinner our search was on to buy the Shittest Shirt in Chiang Rai! All the shirts were pretty awful and we all had a great laugh, at each other's expense of course. We pretty much took over the small bar and danced (I remember "Shake It off" distinctly!) and drank copious amounts of Cocktails as they were dirt cheap. We all took over as DJ for the night and blasted all the music we wanted to hear. I wasn't allowed, as my taste in music is definitely shitter than the shittest shirt.The bar was in stumbling distance to the hotel which was great after  all the cheap cocktails! I wasn't too crazy and I don't do well in the morning and if you add a hangover to the mix it's a disaster! 
After retiring to bed at a not too unreasonable hour it was up bright and early to say goodbye to Thailand and Hello to Laos, our destination for the next 6 days.
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