Monday, November 28, 2016

Slow Boat with a baby

When deciding which cities to visit in Laos, we were faced with the dilemma of how to actually get to them. Flying within Laos is quite expensive, as there is only one domestic airline; and bus trips are very long.
 One popular way to travel up to Luang Prabang, in Northern Laos, is by taking a two day slow boat from the border town of Huay Xai.' Two day slow boat' does not exactly sound very fun, especially with a baby in tow, however I have to say the experience totally overcame my expectations.
 To start with, it is not two days of continuously sitting on a very slow boat, as the journey is broken up into two 5-7 hour days. We stopped overnight in Pak Beng after the first day of traveling,  and found a place to stay easily, despite not having a booking.
The scenery along the Mekong river was just stunning, and as we made multiple stops along the way, either to deliver or pick up goods,  we were able to see more of rural Laotian life.
Charlotte was so good on both days, and she had lots of people giving her attention and playing with her. It was a bit difficult to get her to nap on the boat, but she did really well despite it all. Above is a picture of her having a nap in her daddy's arms on day one of the slow boat.
Overall, I really enjoyed taking 'the long route', and it was really quite a good way to see the country, which you could never do in an overnight bus or a flight.
It's all about the journey, right?

Thanks for reading,
Hannah xx

Monday, November 21, 2016

Chiang Khong- Next Stop Laos

*Edited to add, we have now arrived in Laos. I wrote this post last night.*

On Friday morning, after a two and a half hour bumpy ride on a local bus, we arrived in Chiang Khong. On the bus ride, Charlotte was entertained by a friendly older woman, who told us, "you need a place to stay in Chiang Khong? You follow me".
When we arrived, she negotiated with a tuk tuk driver for us to be dropped off at her friend's guesthouse.

Unfortunately, when we arrived the guesthouse was full. We needn't have worried however, as when we were walking back up to the main road, a woman leaned out her window saying, "Do you need a room? Come and stay in my guesthouse!"

We walked around to the entrance and straight away I could see it was a beautiful old teak building, but one that unfortunately had been let go a bit.
Nathan walked upstairs to look at the room, while I stayed downstairs with Charlotte.
When he came back down he told me, "it's like something out of a movie". I said, let's stay here then.

We agreed on a price with the owner, and said we would like to stay for two nights. I still hadn't seen the room yet, but when I saw the view from the huge balcony, I was amazed. It really does look like something out of an old movie. The room itself is quite old and very dark. We could tell that there had not been any guests staying there for quite some time.

On our second day in Chiang Khong, we met a man who is a friend of the lady who owns the hotel. He told us that he was working on a film as a location manager, looking to use the hotel as a filming location. He was talking to the owner, who said that she built the hotel up starting over 50 years ago, and that the wood to build it came from over 300 houses. There is certainly a lot of history in this place, and it feels like it should be a museum, as it is filled with so many photographs and beautiful pieces of wooden furniture.

It seems there are not many tourists in Chiang Khong these days, as most people skip visiting the town, and head straight to the new Thai-Lao friendship bridge, opened in 2013. The friendship bridge is located about 5km south of the town, meaning that you can cross straight over into Laos, arriving from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai.
It is sad to see so many guesthouses and hotels looking run down and empty here, as it's quite a pretty town, despite there not being much to do. The view across the Mekong river to Laos is just incredible.

Today, after our two night stay in Chiang Khong,  we will be crossing the border into Laos, and we are very excited to explore a new country. We still do not have a set itinerary, but we will be taking a slow boat up to Luang Prabang first, and then making our way down to Si Phan Don, the 4000 Islands in the south.

Hope you enjoyed reading our Thailand adventures,  next stop- Laos!

Hannah xx

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The White Temple

Just before we arrived in Chiang Rai, our bus driver made a quick stop at Wat Rong Khun, also known as the white temple. We were only allowed a 20 minute stop here, which we knew wouldn't be enough time to go inside, so Nathan and I agreed to come back to visit it properly.
In the morning on our second day in Chiang Rai, we went out into the street to find a taxi who could take us there. The temple is about 11 km outside of the city, so we wanted to combine it with a trip to a park nearby. We found a taxi easily,  agreed on a set price, and off we went. 
It was a slightly cloudy and overcast morning,  yet when we arrived at the temple it shined brilliantly, even in the cloudy sky. 
The temple was built by Chalermchai Kositpipat,  a local Thai artist. The temple which stood their previously was in a state of disrepair, so Kositpipat decided to invest his own money into rebuilding it, and it was opened in 1997, with construction on some parts still ongoing.
This is, without a doubt, the most unique temple we have visited so far. It was definitely an interesting glimpse into the beliefs and thoughts of the artist. I'm not sure of all the ideas behind it all, but everything from the hands reaching across the bridge, skulls and faces were all fascinating to look at. 
The whole temple is basically an art gallery, full of works of art and strange symbolism. 
You are not allowed to take pictures of the inside of the temple, but this site has some good pictures. I didn't really look at it closely when we walked through, and am now kicking myself for it. Click the link to see the pictures,  and you will know what I mean.

After we had explored the temple, we got back into the taxi and drove to the Singha Park. The park is owned by the Singha beer company and there is a tea plantation in the middle of the park. You can also buy their tea there at the gift shop. We had a lovely time  walking past the fruit orchards and fields of flowers. 

Today is our last full day in Thailand. Tomorrow we will be crossing the Friendship Bridge into Laos, and Charlotte will be entering her sixth country in her 8 months of life. 

Thanks for reading :)
Hannah xx