Sailing Down the Mekong River

So our time in Laos has come to an end and it truly has been an unbelievable experience. I forgot to tell you that during the long drives throughout the country side we would see old B52 shells laying on the ground. We were told that basically the US bombed so many B52s during the Vietnam war that the Laotian people have used their shells for things such as boats; and what I saw at a gas station they use the shell to hold the gas!  Laos is an amazing country! Literally there is no begging and everyone is smiling, but at the same time nobody lives in ‘normal’ housing. All stick huts, or people literally living in the shop that they work at. I went to a little restaurant to grab some breakfast and the place was open so I called out ‘Sabaidee’ which means hello and two people bolt straight up from their bed all in a sleepy stupor. They went right from sleeping to making me my breakfast. It is such a different life!

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Before leaving Laos, we woke up before dawn and made our way to the main street that led to the Buddhist Temple. Dressed in bright orange robes, with shaved heads and bare feet, these men and boys come from afar to make their way to the Temple. On their way people of the community feed them. A bunch of us bought baskets of fruit and sat there in the dark until the Monks lined the streets. It was such a surreal experience to be in such an intimate setting with these beautiful people.

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We then had two, ten hour days on the Mekong River. Getting to and from the junk boat itself was highly interesting. Me with my massive back pack along with two other bags (from my shopping addiction), trying to climb over rocks and sand dunes to get on the boat made for quite the feat. Getting off was far more difficult as I had to walk on tiny planks to get across a few boats. The river bed was so steep that I needed someone to hold me from behind because I kept falling over backwards. Then at the end of the journey we had to get into a tiny boat to cross the border and this is when I literally fell over on to my back. I was stuck on my back like a turtle and a local had to come rescue me not once but twice. Oh the joys of carrying your life on your back.

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Yesterday we arrived in Chang Mai. This town is up in Northern Thailand. It is a great place with lots to do. Unfortunately we have to leave today so I tried packing in as much as possible in this short period. Yesterday afternoon I met with a tattoo artist. He is one of very few people who do tattooing with bamboo.  This is the ancient traditional way where they shred the bamboo stick and then take tiny needles and tie them on the the bamboo. From there they dip the stick into ink and basically tap the ink into you. I obviously couldn’t resist getting another tattoo in this unique way. Usually it is only the Monks who do this technique so coming across this man was very lucky. I got a pretty big peacock feather along the right side of my rib cage, and along the stem of the feather I got the word ‘family’ in Thai written beside it. The feather looks amazing and life-like.  I am very happy with it. The pain was effing unreal…but you only live once. I have heard that the ribs are a painful spot for tattoos, and that myth is a FACT!

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Today I am so excited!!! I am spending the first half of the day riding on elephants, and the afternoon visiting a tiger sanctuary. We are told that the tigers are owned by Monks and have basically trained them to be like house cats by feeding them regularly every day. They are never hungry so they don’t have that urge to go attack for food. I am going to shit my pants with excitement when I see this. I can’t wait to tell you about my elephant and tiger experience!

Winding our way by land through Laos

So I forgot to tell you that the night before last some dutch guys offered me opium. Beware of the Dutch! hahaha (my dad is Dutch so I can say that). I regretfully turned it down but thanked them for the offer, haha!

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Yesterday we started on the road bright and early. I love being able to see the country by road. You really get a feel of how people live and also get an amazing view of the country side. The downfall is definitely poor roads and in yesterday’s case, completely windy roads. Literally we were on the road for 8 hours. I’m not exaggerating when I say the road was literally winding on the edge of cliffs for 7 hours of it. Because of my weak stomach I wasn’t able to sleep and had to focus my attention on the road ahead the entire time. Basically we made our way through mountain ranges and it was incredible to see how the mountain people live. Their huts are propped up on the edge of the cliff (literally the edge), and a mere step away is the road that the big trucks drive on. If a car was to sway to one side the hut would fly off the cliff. The people are the most poor that I have seen. They have rags hanging off them and dirty little children running everywhere. Most don’t wear pants because it is far easier than affording diapers. At the side of the road you see the locals busy drying leaves and when they look up at you it is a bit heart wrenching. They know nothing more than what surrounds them and their lives are perched here over top of these beautiful valleys.
At one of the stops my eyes almost popped out of my head. Do you know how they put worms in tequila in Mexico? Well, here I have seen scorpions and snakes in alcohol…(those haven’t fazed me)…but high on this mountain truck stop I nearly shat my pants. Inside this jar with a spout and shot glasses beside were bears paws. Yes a bear in a jar. They kill the bear, eat the meat and pickle the freaking paws in a jar!!!!!!!! Bear in a jar…not my idea of yum.

430377_10151370629925434_815992226_n

Today we drove about a half hour out of Luong Prabang to this jungle area. Here we came across a bear sanctuary. They rescued the bears from people who use them for medicinal purposes. (not bear in a jar). Basically the bears are held in tiny cages and they have tubes inserted into their gallbladder. The bile is said to heal things like headaches. Yah, I know we have normal medicine for that! So here at the jungle sanctuary the bears are in pretty sweet enclosures. It was very cool.

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The Kuang Si Waterfalls

We walked further into the jungle and it was another oasis. Pools upon pools of waterfalls. The water was so blue and it was so incredibly picturesque. These are photos I want to capture in my mind forever.

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Shopping has been great! The night markets are full of interesting things. Some I have no idea what I am looking at. Claws of what? Bones of huh? But I could wander forever. And down an alley you have tables and tables of food. Fill your plate as high as you want for about $1.50.

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Tomorrow we will wake up at 5:30 and feed the monks. A monk must eat everything he is given before 12pm. It should be rather interesting. Then at 7 we head on a boat. For ten hours we will sail down the Mekong that feeds into the Thai border. I definitely don’t think there will be internet for the next few days!

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The Magical Vang Vieng

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Yesterday we made our way to the little town of Vang Vieng.  The roads were pretty horrendous. Every 500 meters or so it would go from semi smooth pavement to completely jagged and pot holed. There would be a reprieve for the next 500 meters and it would start all over again. This made for a longer than necessary journey. Once we got here it was like we arrived in an oasis. Nestled in between limestone mountains is this jungle town filled with restaurants and shops selling the exact same tshirt. Our room overlooks the river and with the mountains behind it, watching the sun set from our own balcony was absolutley breathtaking. Before sunset we took a tuk tuk to this remote lagoon. It was one bumpy-ass ride, and when we all got off we were about three shades darker from the dust covering our skin. We hiked up a mountain and entered a cave. It is so surreal inside. Quiet. Cool. And dark. Inside was a shrine with Buddha which made it feel so peaceful. The trek down in flip flops was a little daunting, but after making it to ground we were able to jump in a picture perfect blue lagoon. Complete with a tree swing and fish swimming  around your legs, it proved to be  awesome and refreshing. It is amazing to see the beautiful views and I have to keep pinching myself to tell me this is real.

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The view from my balcony!

After dinner on the way back to the guest house a friend and I decided to go for a foot massage. It ended up being a half hour of full leg heaven. What a way to end the day!
Today we experienced what this town is known for – tubing. People come from all over the world to go tubing down the river. The river is lined with pumping music, drinks galore, drugs and ‘special drinks’. Basically you float down the river on tubes and the guys whip their rope at you from land and pull you in. It is a true party place but unfortunately one with many, many casualties. In fact, 3 Aussies died here last month. Not only is the booze and drugs cheap, but they equip the place with zip lines and slides. Water, shallow river beds, hard rocks and drunken idiots really equal a recipe for disaster. But if you do this wisely, it was a freaking fun day. We spent the first three hours partying with the rest of them, but knowing we had to get our tubes back to town by 6pm and had only 2 hours to float to the town,  Helen and I decided to leave the young party goers and float down the river by ourselves. Most of the river current really wasn’t that strong so we basically swam all the way there. At times the river was so shallow, other times the current took us pretty fast, but like I said we did a lot of the work. I am actually very proud that we made it to the end and those other girls who stayed back to party really missed out on some amazing views. I wish I had a camera to capture everything, but I didn’t want to risk getting it wet or lost like I did my new Rey Bens (Ray Bans that are a bad knock off).

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Anyway, back to land I finished off the day with yet another massage. This time an hour of legs and arms. ahhhhhh.

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It is hard to believe this trip has wizzed by so fast. I cant stop dreading the fact that a week from Monday I will be back at work. grrrrrrr

 

 

Good bye Vietnam, Hello Laos!

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Standing in front of the Mausoleum where Ho Chi Minh lays 

Our last days in Vietnam were definitely grey. The skies were completely overcast and you couldn’t see across the river as it was completely covered in fog. It sure made us want to leave Vietnam and experience some sun again. The other day we woke up early so that we could see the dead body of Ho Chi Minh. We got to the mausoleum and had to go through some rigorous searches in order to get through. They took away our cameras and water, and kept asking if we had knives. I’m not quite sure what we could do with a knife as the dude is already dead!  Then we had to walk single file, NO talking, and NO hands in pockets around a massive square building. It was like we were in boot camp. Finally we get to the steps of the mausoleum and the guards are decked out in fancy white garb, but with poor little rain boots. Something was amiss. They kept telling us ‘shhhhhhhh’ and because they had guns the size of King Kong we complied. I actually smuggled in my camera thinking I would snap a pic of Dead Man Minh, but clearly you don’t mess with these guys! When we got to the body we were not allowed to stop. Keep walking…keep up the pace. This little man with his spindly fingers lay there looking as if he was asleep. His body is literally about 35 years old dead and his hair is perfectly coiffed. Apparently every year they send him to Russia to get groomed and embalmed yet again. As well, this dudes dying wish was to be cremated. hmmmmmmmm. Half the country loves him and half hate him. Obviously the haters won out.

 

After dinner  (and after it turned dark outside) my roomie Helen and I decided to walk back to the hotel from the main shops. In retrospect this was probably a mistake. We thought we knew the way, but obviously every street looks exactly the same and with no signs in English we just couldn’t read where we were going.  As we walked on a dark road this man on a motorbike pulled up to us and grabbed me. With his arm around me he wanted to know if we would like a ride on his bike. UMMMMMM NO! Then he proceeded to ask if we would like some ‘good drug’. UMMMMMM NO. He told me that he likes me and wants us to come with him. OHHHH SHITTTTTTTT. He was very persistent and was not taking no for an answer. Helen was ready to give up her purse, but I kept talking to him with hopes to diffuse the situation. Finally I told  him to have a good night and he eventually left.  We certainly thanked our lucky stars that we got out of this situation unscathed.
Vietnam’s roads are CRAZY. This country left us lessons how you cross streets.  Literally hundreds of bikes, motorbikes and cars fly by at a blink of an eye, and the only way to make it across is to step on the road and go. At the beginning there were plenty of yelps and screams, but by the end of our time here we really learned to take a breath and just walk. The secret to not getting killed  is to not stop or run… just walk at a steady pace and they will go around you. It is quite an art and I have successfully mastered it.

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All Nammed out we got on a plane and within 1 hour was in the capital of Laos. Sun shining and people smiling again, this feels just perfect. Vientiane is a beautiful little city that is dotted with temples at almost every corner. People are friendly and last night I was happy to walk alone and feel completely safe. The country itself is poor, but the people are much better off than those in Cambodia. Everyone has enough to eat and a home. It is a slow paced country but so far I am utterly impressed.425791_10151370597475434_1820059907_n

Do you want to join me on another adventure?

418452_10151367185795434_1867833814_nThis post was originally from January 24, 2012

Hi there Everyone,
It is that time again… I decided to get my ass out of here Canada during our winter rather than waiting til things turned to bloom. I might not have the full holidays banked or the money saved…but lets worry about that later. Life is too short!
This time I am headed to Southeast Asia. I fly into Thailand, travel throughout Cambodia, then into Vietnam up through Laos and back through Thailand.  I actually had this trip planned at the end of my Australia trip (over ten years ago),  but due to lack of funds (or no funds at all) I had to skip Asia and come straight home. I will be traveling by almost every mode of transportation…trains, planes, automobiles, boats, tuk tuks, elephants perhaps…but I will DEFINITELY not be sporting the camel this time. I think I have had my fare share of camel for this life time! I am incredibly excited for this adventure. I am traveling alone, but will meet up with the same Adventure Group (G Adventures) that I did in Morocco and India. I am sure I will meet a ton of amazing people.
Anyway, just wanted to give a shout out before I left and until next time I will see you on the other side of the world!

Taleeho!

The G Adventures Tour that I took –Indochina Discovery

Sailing down the Mekong River

So our time in Lao has come to an end. It truly has been an unbelievable experience. I forgot to tell you that during the long drives in the country side we would see old B52 shells. Basically the US bombed so many B52s during the Vietnam war that the Laotian people have used their shells for things such as boats; and what I saw at a gas station they use the shell to hold the gas!  Lao is an amazing country. Literally there is no begging and everyone is smiling, but at the same time nobody lives in ‘normal’ housing. All stick huts, or people literally living in the shop. I went to a little restaurant to grab some breakfast and the place was open so I called out ‘Sabaidee’ which means hello and two people bolt straight up from their bed all in a sleepy stupor. They went right from sleeping to making me my breakfast. Bizarre.

Before leaving Lao, we woke up before dawn and made our way to the main street that led to the Buddhist Temple. Dressed in bright orange robes, with shaved heads and bare feet, these men and boys come from afar to make way to the Temple. On their way people of the community feed them. A bunch of us bought baskets of fruit and sat there in the dark until the Monks lined the streets. It was such a surreal experience to be in such an intimate setting with these beautiful people.420796_10151370664645434_426082434_n
We had two ten hour days on the river. Getting to and from the junk boat itself was highly interesting. Me with my massive back pack along with two other bags (from my shopping addiction), trying to climb over rocks and sand dunes to get on the boat made for quite the feat. Getting off was far more difficult as I had to walk on tiny planks to get across a few boats. The river bed was so steep that I needed someone to hold me from behind because I kept falling over backwards. Then at the end of the journey we had to get into a tiny boat to cross the border and I literally fell over on to my back. I was stuck on my back like a turtle and a local had to come rescue me not once but twice. Oh the joys of carrying your life on your back.431678_10151370668325434_1555763995_n
Yesterday we arrived in Chang Mai. This town is up in Northern Thailand. It is a great place with lots to do. Unfortunately we have to leave today so I tried packing in as much as possible in this short period. Yesterday afternoon I met with a tattoo artist. He is one of very few people who do tattooing with bamboo.  This is the ancient traditional way where they shred the bamboo stick and then take tiny needles and tie them on the the bamboo. From there they dip the stick into ink and basically tap the ink into you. I obviously couldn’t resist getting another tattoo in this unique way. Usually it is only the Monks who do this technique so coming across this man was very lucky. I got a pretty big peacock feather along the right side of my rib cage, and along the stem of the feather I got the word ‘family’ in Thai written beside it. The feather looks amazing and life-like.  I am very happy with it. The pain was effing unreal…but you only live once. I have heard that the ribs were a painful spot for tattoos, and that myth is a FACT!419830_10151370690400434_37012383_n
Today I am so excited!!! I am spending the first half of the day riding on elephants, and the afternoon visiting a tiger sanctuary. The tigers are owned by Monks and have basically trained them to be like house cats by feeding them regularly every day. They are never hungry so they don’t go attack for food. I am going to shit my pants with excitement when I see this. I can’t wait to tell you about my elephant and tiger experience!

Winding our way through Lao

So I forgot to tell you that the night before last some dutch guys offered me opium. Beware of the Dutch! hahaha (my dad is Dutch so I can say that). I regretfully turned it down but thanked them for the offer, haha!431366_10151370622695434_666383493_n
Yesterday we started on the road bright and early. I love being able to see the country by road. You really get a feel of how people live and also get an amazing view of the country side. The downfall is definitely poor roads and in yesterday’s case, completely windy roads. Literally we were on the road for 8 hours. I’m not exaggerating when I say the road was literally winding on the edge of cliffs for 7 hours of it. Because of my weak stomach I wasn’t able to sleep and had to focus my attention on the road ahead the entire time. Basically we made our way through mountain ranges and it was incredible to see how the mountain people live. Their huts are propped up on the edge of the cliff (literally the edge), and a mere step away is the road that the big trucks drive on. If a car was to sway to one side the hut would fly off the cliff. The people are the most poor that I have seen. They have rags hanging off them and dirty little children running everywhere. Most don’t wear pants because it is far easier than affording diapers. At the side of the road you see the locals busy drying leaves and when they look up at you it is a bit heart wrenching. They know nothing more than what surrounds them and their lives are perched here over top of the beautiful valleys.
At one of the stops my eyes almost popped out of my head. Do you know how they put worms in tequila? Well, here I have seen scorpions and snakes…those haven’t fazed me…but high in this mountain truck stop I nearly shat my pants. Inside this jar with a spout and shot glasses beside were bears paws. Yes a bear in a jar. They kill the bear, eat the meat and pickle the freaking paws in a jar!!!!!!!! Bear in a jar…not my idea of yum.

430377_10151370629925434_815992226_n
Today we drove about a half hour out of Luong Prabang to this jungle area. Here we came across a bear sanctuary. They rescued the bears from people who use them for medicinal purposes. (not bear in a jar). Basically the bears are held in tiny cages and they have tubes inserted into their gallbladder. The bile is said to heal things like headaches. Yah, I know we have normal medicine for that! So here at the jungle sanctuary the bears are in pretty sweet enclosures. It was very cool.427086_10151370639980434_288366099_n We walked further into the jungle and it was another oasis. Pools upon pools of waterfalls. The water was so blue and it was so incredibly picturesque. These are photos I want to capture in my mind forever.

426194_10151370647890434_1876955707_n
Shopping has been great! The night markets are full of interesting things. Some I have no idea what I am looking at. Claws of what? Bones of huh? But I could wander forever. And down an alley you have tables and tables of food. Fill your plate as high as you want for about $1.50.421886_10151370651255434_1533382912_n
Tomorrow we will wake up at 5:30 and feed the monks. A monk must eat everything he is given before 12pm. It should be rather interesting. Then at 7 we head on a boat. For ten hours we will sail down the Mekong that feeds into the Thai border. I definitely don’t think there will be internet for the next few days! 577133_10151215092859122_1267217479_n

Vang Vieng

Hey there!

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Yesterday we made our way to the little town of Vang Vieng.  The roads were pretty horrendous. Every 500 meters or so it would go from semi smooth pavement to completely jagged and pot holed. There would be a reprieve for the next 500 meters and it would start all over again. This made for a longer than necessary journey. Once we got here it was like we arrived in an oasis. Nestled in between limestone mountains is this jungle town filled with restaurants and shops selling the exact same tshirts. Our room overlooks the river and with the mountains behind it, watching the sun set from our own balcony was breath taking. Before sunset we took a tuk tuk to this remote lagoon. It was one bumpy-ass ride, and when we all got off we were about three shades darker from the dust covering our skin. We hiked up a mountain and entered a cave. It is so surreal in there. Quiet and cool and dark. Inside was a shrine with Buddha. The trek down in flip flops was daunting but after making it to ground we were able to jump in a lagoon. Complete with a tree swing and fish swimming with you around your legs, it proved to be  awesome and refreshing. It is amazing to see the beautiful views and I have to keep pinching myself to tell me this is real.421686_10151370605465434_1003771449_n
After dinner on the way back to the guest house a friend and I decided to go for a foot massage. It ended up being a half hour of full leg heaven. What a way to end the day!
Today we experienced what this town is known for. People come from all over the world to go tubing down the river. The river is lined with pumping music, drinks galore, drugs and ‘special drinks’. Basically you float down the river on tubes and the guys whip their rope at you and pull you in. It is a true party place but unfortunately one with many, many casualties. In fact, 3 Aussies died last month here. Not only is the booze and drugs cheap, but they equip the place with zip lines and slides. Water, shallow river beds, hard rocks and drunken idiots really equal a recipe for disaster. But if you do this wisely, it was a freaking fun day. We spent the first three hours partying with the rest of them but knowing we had to get our tubes back to town by 6pm and had only 2 hours to float to the town,  Helen and I decided to leave the young party goers and float down the river by ourselves. Most of the river current really wasn’t that strong so we basically swam all the way there. At times the river was so shallow, other times the current took us pretty fast, but like I said we did a lot of the work. I am actually very proud that we made it to the end and those other girls who stayed back to party really missed out on some amazing views. I wish I had a camera to capture everything, but I didn’t want to risk getting it wet or lost like I did my new Rey Bens (Ray Bans that are a bad knock off).424532_10151401955655500_1826394948_n
Anyway, back to land I finished off the day with yet another massage. This time an hour of legs and arms. ahhhhhh.

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It is hard to believe this trip has wizzed by so fast. I cant stop dreading the fact that a week from Monday I will be back at work. grrrrrrr

Goodbye Vietnam, Hello Lao

Our last days in Vietnam were definitely grey. The skies were completely overcast and you couldn’t see across the river as it was completely covered in fog. It sure made us want to leave Vietnam and experience some sun again. The other day we woke up early so that we could see the dead body of Ho Chi Minh. We got to the mausoleum and had to go through some rigorous searches in order to get through. They took away our cameras and water, and kept asking if we had knives. I’m not quite sure what we could do with a knife as the dude is already dead!  Then we had to walk single file, NO talking, and NO hands in pockets around a massive square building. It was like we were in boot camp. Finally we get to the steps of the mausoleum and the guards are decked out in fancy white garb, but with poor little rain boots. Something was amiss. They kept telling us ‘shhhhhhhh’ and because they had guns the size of King Kong we complied. I actually smuggled in my camera thinking I would snap a pic of Dead Man Minh, but clearly you don’t mess with these guys! When we got to the body we were not allowed to stop. Keep walking…keep up the pace. This little man with his spindly fingers lay there looking as if he was asleep. His body is literally about 35 years old dead and his hair is perfectly coiffed. Apparently every year they send him to Russia to get groomed and embalmed yet again. As well, this dudes dying wish was to be cremated. hmmmmmmmm. Half the country loves him and half hate him. Obviously the haters won out.428162_10151370587620434_1797304436_n
After dinner and dark my roomie Helen and I decided to walk back to the hotel from the main shops. In retrospect this was probably a mistake. We thought we knew the way, but obviously every street looks exactly the same and with no signs in English we just couldn’t read where we were going.  As we walked on a dark road this man on a motorbike pulled up to us and grabbed me. With his arm around me he wanted to know if we would like a ride on his bike. UMMMMMM NO! Then he proceeded to ask if we would like some ‘good drug’. UMMMMMM NO. He told me that he likes me and wants us to come with him. OHHHH SHITTTTTTTT. He was very persistent and was not taking no for an answer. Helen was ready to give up her purse, but I kept talking to him with hopes to diffuse the situation. Finally I told  him to have a good night and he eventually left.  We certainly thanked our lucky stars that we got out of this situation unscathed.
Vietnam’s roads are CRAZY. This country left us lessons how you cross streets.  Literally hundreds of bikes, motorbikes and cars fly by and the only way to make it across is to step on the road and go. At the beginning there were plenty of yelps and screams, but by the end of our time here we really learned to take a breath and just go. The secret to not getting killed  is to not stop or run… just walk at a steady pace and they will go around you. It is quite an art and I have successfully mastered it.421085_10151370574030434_1482648981_n
All Nammed out we got on a plane and within 1 hour was in the capital of Laos. Sun shining and people smiling again, this feels just perfect. Vientiane is a beautiful little city that is dotted with temples at almost every corner. People are friendly and last night I was happy to walk alone and feel completely safe. The country itself is poor, but the people are much better off than those in Cambodia. Everyone has enough to eat and a home. It is a slow paced country but so far I am utterly impressed.

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Today we take a 6 hour journey and I look forward to what lays ahead.