Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of you. This year Christmas Eve I am spending in Bangkok. This will be very exotic experience for me.
All the best to all of you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Beloved Laos

Lao children.
I was a bit afraid of going to Laos. On the way I had heard lot of amazing stories about Lao people, and unfortunately in my mind I created many expectations. I try to travel without expectation and try to appreciate what I come across. But somehow I was expecting to find in Lao great people. I was afraid that I will get disappointed... but finally in one month in Lao I experienced  much, much more than I could ever expected.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

iLisu – the smartest bicycle

Me and iLisu.
Lisu is a beautiful bicycle (if you do not remember why Lisu has this name, go here). Some of its part are not the best quality, but I came to the conclusion that it has to have certain intelligence, it is just a really smart bicycle.
I did not know how long I would have been bicycling, so I decided not to buy any tools to repair Lisu. I just got the spare inner tube. Now I know that Lisu deserve to get his name upgraded to iLisu and here are the reasons:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tubing and almost bar fight...

I also spent one day in Vang Vieng. I did not really plan to go here, but it happen to be on the way. Vang Vieng is a chill out place design for tourist. There is whole quarter of pubs and restaurants that are looping friends episodes. I had a feeling that this place completely does not fit to Lao and was very artificial touristic bubble. One of the main attraction of Van Vieng is tubing. One is renting a car inner tube and floating down the river in between amazing mountains. Nowadays this river is also surrounded by the bars for "tubing" tourists. We tubed with Stefan, Vik and another Malaysian guy and stop at one bar where we played mood volleyball. Mood volleyball is just simply a volleyball played on the mood field. Before we start a game we grabbed a beer.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sticky life, sticky rice

Cutting sticky rice.
When we were enjoying Beer Lao with Vik and Steffan, Kong Ma, local person approached us. He told us briefly his life story:

When he was young his parents died and partially he was  brought up in a monastery. Than he joined American army where he was trained as a nurse. When Americans left, he was arrested as a traitor and spent 3 years in the prison. Now, he has a farm where he grows sticky rice. He invited all three of  us to visit his farm. It happened that his farm was on our way, so we joined.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Religious festival - Vientiane

Local festival in Vientiane.
I reached Vientiane the day before the last day of festival. Many Lao people came for this festival to Vientiane, but for me it was not particularly interesting. But the day after this big festival finished I came across another local and much smaller festival at the Wat very close to my guest house. And this was beautiful. People walking around temple, monks chantings. Also in Vientiane I met again Vik who started to travel with Stefan, French that lives in Barcelona. We started to hang out and together we attended Vientiane festival. When we were enjoying best beer in Southeast, beer Lao, sitting on the grass among many local people. One man approached us. He's name was Kong Ma and he spoke very good English but this is already the beginning of the next story, Sticky Life, Sticky Rice.

Friday, December 10, 2010

River under the monutain - Konglor Cave

Konglor Cave.
I survived fishy and bricky hitchhike and I got to Kuon Kham, the city on the main road 40km before Konglor Cave. I was not sure if I wanted to bicycle 40km, sightsee the cave and then bicycle the same route for 40km. This would make very long day. Luckily in the evening I met two French girls that were on two scooters and planned to see the cave next day, and they proposed that I can joined them as a passenger on one of the scooter!!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fishy and bricky hitchhike...

Exploring caves.
In Thakek I decided to take one day off for me and for Lisu. After quite a few nights I got to my bed and finally there was no light on during the night!!! In the dormitory I met other travelers: Spanish and Italian that were canoeing down the Mekong, and Mr. Vik, Indian-Australian long-time traveler, who is searching for his own place around the world. Next day we went to explore neighbouring caves with Vik and in the late afternoon we split, Vik went back straight to Vientiane and I carried on in direction of Konglor Cave.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Smell of Vietnam

After amazing day in Laos I continue my trip North. My plan was to reach Mahaxai town. During the sun set I was only 10 km before Mahaxai, with the excellent road ahead. Just to make sure about the distance to the town I asked Lao shopkeeper about the distance. Instead of answering my question he organized me lift to Thakhek, much bigger city 60 km further. I did not really plan to go there but I also did not mind.
I loved the way that Lao shopkeeper organized me the lift. In his shop there were Vietnamese people going to Thakhek. He first told me that I can jump on their truck showing me their truck, and then he asked the Vietnamese people if they did not mind. Of course they did not.

I will not manage right now to go to Vietnam. I do not have enough time to visit all countries in South East Asia and I do not want to jump from country to country only after two weeks. I prefer to see less number of countries but more intense.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Amazing day in Laos

My smoking host.
I woke up just before the sun rise in the small village. When there is no electricity, then life is very much linked to the sun rise sun set times. For sure i was the biggest traction in the village and children from the whole village came last evening to see me. My host, old grandfather, was smoking home made tobacco with addition of some home made marijuana from the early morning. No one in the village spoke any word in English, so in the evening we already discussed all the issues by drawing and body language. I received some sticky rice and bananas for a breakfast.

My host was sitting in front of his home.smoking some tobacco and contemplating the surrounding. I joined him in contemplation. On the other side of other side of village there were children sliding from a very small hill on an old tire. They were really good in this. Every ten minutes a motorbike passed by. Someone was going very far, very fast. A pig walked in front of the house. My old men tried to turn on his old radio, it did not work. Probably batteries were too old. So he rolled a new cigarette and spilled through the hole in between the floor. We continue sitting. This was a great experience of "wsi wesola, wsi spokojna" feeling - idealistic calm village feeling. Basically nothing was happening, but at the same time, so many small things were happening. We were sitting like this for a while enjoying the surroundings. After some time my host had to go to his farm, and I jumped on the Lisu and left this quite place behind me.

Rubber trees

Rubber trees plantation.

I went North from Phin. I hoped that the road would be a bit better this time. In the afternoon i reached the village that was kind of surrounded by jungle. I missed my way and had to come back some kilometers.

On the way back I had to cross huge plantation of new trees. This initially made me very happy since

Young hunters.
I thought that this is sort of re-foresting project in Laos. Later i got know that this was the rubber tree plantation and the jungle was cut in order to plant those tree. I got completely lost on this plantation... to many roads. I was about to return and to try to find the way back to Phin, but luckily again I met road builders that pointed me a correct road and in the evening I arrived to a small village.

Village in the middle of jungle.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lisu, the Explorer of Laos

With Lisu we are doing fine STOP we are heading north STOP today we reached Phin STOP we have many stories to tell STOP but internet is very slow and expensive STOP hope to be able to update you in few days STOP
Miku & Lisu

Ultimate Jungle experience

From Salavene to Phin it is about 160 km on the road 1G, which I mentioned in my last story. I expected that I would be able to cover this road in 2 days, but at the end I needed three very long days for it. As always it was a bit challenging to figure out where to stop for the night.

Children of my host.
At the first dusk, I stoped a small truck. One of the guys on the truck spoke some English. I asked him about the possibility of accommodation for the night, and he definitely advised me to come back few kilometers because in front of me there was only jungle for next 30 km. The truck was full so I could not jump with Lisu at the back. When we finished the conversation, it was already dark, so they told me to bicycle before the truck and they used their lights to lighten the road in front of me. Great experience to ride a bicycle with such a lights. After twenty minutes of crazy ride, we reached the hospital. They advised me that I should search for a shelter in a hospital. I was not very keen on staying in village hospital, but for sure I did not want to stay in the jungle. None in hospital spoke any English, but they showed me that I can not stay there for a night. But they pointed the house of the local doctor, surgeon. The surgeon was a young guy, he spoke only few words in English and he invited me to stay for a night at his place. I am not sure if I understood him correctly, but he apparently had studied only two years to become surgeon... We ate together dinner and breakfast and in the morning I continued my journey north.

Map of Laos - Quiz!!!

In Laos at Don Det I bought a road map of Laos. It was a map printed in Germany in 2004 on a very good paper and seemed to be very detailed and original. On this map I have chosen the road that I wanted to bicycle.

There is a main road going parallel to Mekong from South to North of Laos. It is a very nice, new asphalt road not too busy and I biked on this road for one day, covering the record distance of 135 km. But still this is the main road in the country. I wanted to experience a bit more quite Laos. So I decided to follow other road that was 100 km more east and was parallel to the main road. I chosen the road going from Salavan-Nalangngen – XeLanong–Phin-Xethamouak–Phongsavag-Namon-Mahaxai - Thakhek. This road on the German map was also marked in red like as a National road, the same as the main road, but I hopped that it will be a bit less busy from the main road.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bolaven Plateau – Land of Coffee and Waterfalls

Coffee, coffee, coffee...
Do you know the taste of condense milk? This taste always reminds me my childhood. You know long, long time ago there were no sweets and no chocolate in Poland and almost the only sweet thing available was the tube of condense milk. There was also an upgrade of condense milk with the taste of chocolate. Sometimes on Saturdays we were going shopping to Rynek Balucki in Lodz with my mother and sister, and from time to time on the way back my mum.... bought us a tube of condense milk each. Of course there was a temptation to eat the whole tube of condense milk straightaway, but usually I was dosing the milk for days. Hhmmmm, condense milk is sooooooo good.

Four Thousands Islands - marvelous sun set and touristic bubble.

Marvelous sun set over Mekong.
Finally I managed to cross the border to Laos. On the boarder I received visa on arrival, but unfortunately I was forced to pay additional two dollar “stamp fee”. Two stamps in the passport - two dollars. This was my first bribe during this travel.

I was a bit tired of my Cambodian off the beaten tracks and I was happy to get to the Don Det, the most touristic island in Four Thousands Islands (Si Phan Don). Next day I bicycled around the Don Det and Don Khon and I went on the boat to see the Sweet Water dolphins – they are very rare, and indeed very sweet animals. In the evening I have seen one of the most marvelous sun sets in my life. Additionally to the great sun set.... there was a rainbow on the other side!!! Amazing. I am not carrying with me the polarization filter, so you have to believe me that the rainbow was bright and spectacular.

Lisu, You made it to Laos. Congratulation.

Lisu is relay very reliable bicycle. We manage to get through Cambodian jungle to Laos. Hope to update you about Lisu adventures when I manage to fine internet for reasonable price :) which might take some time....