Phnom Penh was quite a surprise: on Saturday night it had a great atmosphere around the palace area as people were sitting outside on the gras and enjoying life. It was a wild mixture of people also including quite some monks.
What we saw and experienced the next day wasn’t easy to digest and I think it changed us for good. It was by far the saddest day of the whole trip. I am pretty sure I wouldn’t find the right words to describe the killings fields of Choeung Ek – all I can tell you is that we find it to be a must-see in order to understand Cambodia and make genocide like this not happen again.
After we took our time to digest our first impressions not only at the killing fields but also in the Tuol Sleng Museum also called S-21 we moved on to see the Royal Palace (which was a very weird mixture of sightseeing – we suggest to take the day off after the killing fields). The Royal Palace is really nice to the with its traditional Khmer roofs and the calm atmosphere in its gardens.
Loads of people on the street…
We only stayed one day in Vientiane but for us it was enough to see most sights the city has to offer. As we got told hopping on a bike is the best way to explore the city we didn’t mind all the Tuk-Tuks and taxis and hopped on a bike for the first time in a long while. On our tour we discovered some temples and a huge beton field where the locals do all kinds of sports e.g outdoor fitness courses, soccer, badminton and much more. Exhausted from our tour we had dinner in a restaurant that supports disadvantaged kids. The food was amazing and we can only highly recommend this place.
The next day we left for Cambodia already.
Someone seems to be happy to ride a bike again…
The bus ride to Vang Vieng was longer and harder than expected an assured us even more why we prefer flights over long bus trips. It’s not only because the roads from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng are windy – no – it is also due to the mad driving skills of bus drivers which made it hard not getting motion sick.
But after 7,5 hours the final destination was reached and the adventure could start. Exhausted from the bus ride we only managed to plan the next day and had dinner with two girls we just met. The night turned out to be shorted than planned because the lovely staff of our hostel started to clean the whole place at 8am! But fu** it, we wanted to go tubing anyways.
What followed was absolute madness. We went with the girls we met yesterday night and rented some tubes. The tuk-tuk took us 3 km up-river where everyone started. We hopped in our tubes, just to go straight for the first bar (they throw bottles filled with sand and ropes attached at you – so they can actually pull you out of the water)
the next thing we remember is that we nearly missed the last stop and would have gone into the dark jungle (it was already night…) if it wasn’t for a local that got us out of the water (thanks again!). The evening ended by us going to some bars and clubs with all of our new friends.
The next day and the bus right to Vientiane was horrible. Luckily, we were well prepared and had some Vomex on board 😛
The city of Vang Vieng (the one and only normal picture we have of this place)
The peninsula is a UNESCO protected area with 33 temples. What makes the city so special is the mix of charming temples and chic old french colonial buildings. While walking down the small and cute streets there is no way of resisting to do some temple hopping. At every turn a new temple shows up and most of them are free of charge. But be aware always cover your shoulder and knees! The old quarter on the peninsula which is bounded by the Mekong and Nam Khan River is the place were most sights can be found and it invites you for just strolling around.
Our guesthouse was right at the river-front with a nice restaurant where we had a sun downer before dining at the night market. In the morning french flair is in the air: You find freshly baked croissant and many french cafes all around the place and it’s impossible to leave the place without having a good cup of coffee and croissant. Our favorite cafe was a bakery called “Le Bonneton” in the Main Street.
The next two days we not only explored the old quarter but also did a Mekong River tour, visited to the famous Kuang Si Waterfall and the Pak Ou cave. Especially, the waterfall was great. After seeing more than a dozen waterfalls it’s hard to impress us but the menthol blue Kuang Si waterfall with its many cascades managed to do so. By accident we found an amazing swimming spot without anyone else. Ok, we had to risk our lives by climbing up in one of the sidearms but it was worth it 😉 Contrary to the waterfalls the river cruise is nice but the cave visit is just a waste of time and money.
Every day after sightseeing our batteries needed to be reloaded. Is there a better way to do so than with a a foot, back, neck and shoulder massage for only a few dollars? We enjoyed quite some relaxing massages in one of the several spas. One of our visits was very weird though: Evas masseuse must have had some stomach issues as she burped so hard that walls vibrate. At the same occasion Niels masseuse asked him if he likes her and told him that he is a very handsome man (hope this wasn’t going into the direction that we thought) – this was especially disturbing as Eva was laying next to me….
It would have had been very easy to spent more time in this lovely city but for us it was time to move on after only 3 days.
View over Luang Prabang
After Bangkok and the islands, Chiang Mai is definitely the most visited place in Thailand. As we found out this is for a reason. The pure number and density of temples is breath taking. Basically there is a temple at every corner.
In our hostel we met Tom and Judit. Both were Germans and we went sightseeing together. We shared a car and went on a temple sightseeing spree. After that we had food together which is quite different to the south of Thailand. It has less coconut but more stew with potatoes. Also there are less Muslims than in the south (for instance Koh Lanta had 90% Muslims) and therefore you wouldn’t find any food with pork in it. In Chiang Mai that was very different.
In the evening we went for an event of its own kind (Iris and Jaap). Together with a dutch couple we went for Thai Boxing in a little “stadium”. We managed to secure seats in the first row and sat right next to the blue corner. We could even hear the coach giving advice but of course didn’t understand a single word – however we were right up close. The fights were very brutal but still very good Entertainment. We were betting 4 Times and manged to only win once :P. Especially, the last fight was spectacular. It only lasted a few seconds but a guy from England (!) in his first fight (!) did a round-house kick and knocked the other guy out. After this event Iris and Eva took a fish massage and the guys got some McDonald’s.
Next day was all about elephants. Before deciding for a elephant tour Eva did a lot of research. There are countless places in the surrounding of Chiang Mai who offer the elephant experience. But Eva wanted to be double and triple sure that we’d only go to a place were elephants a treated right and nothing would be done with them that would harm them. She wasn’t sure especially about the riding part. So our main focus would be to spend time and interact with these gentle giants. Therefore, we deciding for a sanctuary with an extremely good reputation where you are allowed to ride elephants bareback because it shouldn’t harm them. And yes, also Eva was very curious about the feeling of riding an elephant.
She shouldn’t be disappointed. Riding an elephant is quite different to a horse. Also they interact way different than horses. The whole day was just amazing – but see yourself….
Just after 3 mins Eva felt super comfortable and took a nap on her new friend
To be honest there is not a lot to write about our stay on Koh Jum because we didn’t do too much besides relaxing and eating. The best way to describe our place is the name of it: “peace paradise”. If you add hippy to it you’d have the right picture in your mind. The bungalows are very basic – like everything else – but that’s what gives the place it’s special atmosphere and there is no chance resisting the laid back vibe. Next to our place there were a few other cool hippy places with tree and hanging houses. Only once we needed Internet and therefore went to a place with wifi. The best part about this place is the empty beach. You almost have the beach alone to yourself. Along the whole stretch of around 1 km you might see 10 other people.
Also we had a fun encounter with a mouse in our bungalow. We are still not sure if Eva or the mouse was more frightened… When we told the owner he just smiled at us and got his cat. Luckily for the mouse the cat got fed by the tourist all the time so it didn’t even try to find the mouse 🙂
A hanging house – next time we should stay in one like these – not sure if you get sea sick in them though.