Tag: Adventure

Why Laos is My Favourite Country

Laos is a magical place. Unlike anywhere I have ever been before Laos managed to make me feel like I was on one of the biggest adventures of my life while also making me feel like I was completely at home. I didn’t know a lot about the country before I ventured to Asia in 2017 and thank goodness I did because Laos is now officially my most favourite country I’ve visited… so far, anyway!

The Scenery
The views are incredible. From the mountains and the greenery to the rivers and the waterfalls, Laos does not disappoint. My favourite moment was visiting Pakbeng, a small village in between the Thai and Lao borders. I remember waking up before 6am to stand on my balcony and look over the mighty Mekong River to see wild elephants enjoying themselves by the water. A memory I will never forget.

The People
I think the Lao people were the nicest people I’ve ever met bar none. So sweet, kind, and happy to help. I only spent seven days in Laos but our Contiki local guide is now my friend on Facebook! He was the best and we all grew incredibly close to him after playing cards on a slow boat for two days straight. Ahhh, the epitome of serenity.

The Currency
Ever wanted to feel like an absolute baller? Go to Laos. Taking 1,000,000 Kip out of the ATM will feel awesome. (That’s only $150 AUD!)

The Pace
Time goes slowly in the best way possible in Laos… it’s relaxing to be there. I loved every slow minute and wish more and more every day that I could be back on there and on Lao time.

The Adventures
Want to go cycling through the streets with no helmet on after a shot of the strongest whiskey you’ve ever tasted made from fermented lizards and snakes? Laos. 

The Story
The history of Laos is not common knowledge. That’s why the bombing that occurred there in the 1960s and early 1970s is referred to as the American’s ‘Secret War’. By the time the war campaign ended in 1973 a tenth of Laos’ population had been killed. Laos is the most heavily bombed nation in history. Conducted during the Vietnam War, the US military dropped 260 million cluster bombs onto Laos. This is equivalent to a planeload of bombs being unloaded every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years – nearly seven bombs for every man, woman and child living in Laos. Can you believe that during the war Laos was supposed to be neutral?
When I was learning about the history of it all while visiting the COPE (Co-operative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise) Centre in Laos it was explained to us that the only reason these bombs were dropped was because the US military had to get rid of them before they landed back on US soil… Laos was just a dumping ground. There are still millions of unexploded bombs, grenades and landmines left with at least half of Laos still covered by them causing 300 new casualties – mostly children – per year due to accidentally stepping on or playing with an unexploded cluster bomb.
I was really proud of my tour group when we donated enough money to the COPE Centre to fund two prosthetic arms and two prosthetic legs for the victims of the bombs.
Knowing all of this, visiting the COPE Centre and viewing the documentary films there, and then realising how beautiful and kind the people are in Laos… that’s what makes this country so worthy of all of our love and visits. I bought a ring at some Lao markets made from the materials of a detonated cluster bomb and I have not taken it off since I bought it. Laos is very special to me and I can’t wait to go back.

Have you been to Laos? I’d love to hear stories from other travellers who have experienced this beautiful, wonderful, incredible place!

Katie

Travel Diary: Thailand

DAY FOUR. 

Today has really just been a full day of travel. I checked out of Tokyu Rei Hotel at 7am and made my way to Osaka Station. I found my way to the JR for the express service to Kansai and hopped on. Being inside the airport was amazing because of how much warmer it was! I checked in and found out that my flight was delayed two hours. Not great, but not terrible. At least it wasn’t cancelled! I caught up with an old friend from Sydney because she was at the airport too, on her way home, so that passed some time.

My flight to Kuala Lumpur was the BEST. I have never been so content on a flight. Great service, great food and a comfortable setup. I watched a bunch of movies thanks to Malaysian Airlines’ great film selections. I was very relaxed .

We landed in Kuala Lumpur at 7:15pm… and I had to be at my next gate by 7:30pm! Which was all the way on the other side of the airport. If you haven’t been to the Kuala Lumpur airport… it’s VERY BIG. That experience was not so relaxing. I legged it through the terminal and ended up being the very last passenger let through the gate. Thank goodness! I got a window seat and a row to myself so at least I had a comfortable flight setup again.

DAY FIVE.

I’ve been so busy that this diary entry will just be dot points!

  • Arrived in Bangkok and my luggage was lost, so I had to deal with that for the first time ever! Luggage has officially been in Malaysia longer than I ever have.
  • Airport transfer that I’d booked and paid for didn’t arrive so I had to get a taxi to my hotel instead. Turns out the taxi was extremely cheap and I’d been way over charged for my transfer anyway!
  • Met some of the Contiki gang in the lobby (after they walked back from a bar where they’d been held up by police for drinking on a religious holiday!) and we all stayed up chatting until about 2am when my luggage arrived – yay!
  • Breakfast at 9:30am the next day before exploring Bangkok.
  • There were eight of us from the Contiki tour so we went to see Wat Arun and Wat Pho (temples).
  • Had lunch at ‘Slow’ across the road from the hotel
  • Relaxed by the pool and met my Contiki roommate before the 6pm Kickstart meeting where we met our tour manager Jess
  • Went out for a night – a crazy night! – on Khao San Road! We ate dinner in a big group at the Nat Guest House, went to Lucky Beer Bar and met Jess, danced on the road, went to Rastafarian bar and went to a Ping Pong show in a tuktuk! CRAZY!
  • Went home for some sleep but I stayed up to repack my bag and do the first of many discards – this time I chucked out my $3 boots and a turtle neck

DAY SIX.

  • 7am breakfast at the hotel, followed by checkout.
  • Guided tour of the Grand Palace with our local guide, Nutty!
  • Private boat ride along the river where we fed the hundreds of Catfish bread
  • Walked home and we all had lunch at Jade’s House
  • Went to Khao San Road for shopping and Fishy Foot Spas!
  • Caught the coach to the train station and got on the very cool Sleeper Train to Chiang Mai!

DAY SEVEN.

We woke up this morning at 6am on the Sleeper Train to a little man yelling “You wake up please! Wake up!”. He swiftly moved through the cabin and turned all of our beds back into chairs. We had a bit of time to mingle before arriving in Chiang Mai! We were taken from the station in our new coach to our Chiang Mai hotel, The Empress, where we had the best breakfast imaginable! Waffles, omelettes, fruit, bacon, potatoes, juice… you name it, it was there and it was awesome. After breakfast we were all very excited to get ready to go and see the Elephant Sanctuary. It was an hour and a bit away so we all boarded little safari taxis to get there. When we got to the sanctuary we made elephant food out of tamarinds, salt and rice and fed them. The youngest elephant we saw was 6 and the oldest was 65. After they had eaten we took them down to the river to have a swim and a bath. The experience mixed with the scenery was unreal. It was a major highlight and I’m so glad I did it.

The next activity on the agenda was our Thai cooking class. We met our instructor Perm at the markets first where we spoke about all the ingredients we would be using and then we all went to his house where he taught us how to cook four traditional Thai dishes. We made Tom Yum soup, Pad Thai, Penang curry and chicken cashew nut. My Pad Thai was burnt but the rest was really yummy! I enjoyed the class a lot.

Afterwards we went to the markets to see the Ladyboy Cabaret! AMAZING! They were awesome and very funny. The best part was when four of the boys from our tour had to get up and be dressed in drag to be part of the show! Extremely hilarious.

We all went home after the show for a well deserved sleep. Party Night in Chiang Rai tomorrow!

DAY EIGHT.

Coming soon.

Travel Diary: Japan

DAY ONE.

I guess I finally did it! The big solo trip I have been wanting to go on for forever and a day. Although the plan had always been to travel solo in Europe, I am glad I changed my mind.

I arrived into Kansai International Airport at about 8:20pm. After going through immigrations, finding my suitcase, and visiting information desks, it was time to hop on the JR and head to Osaka station. Getting on the train was easy enough… it was the one and a half hour train ride that I found a little rough! I was expecting forty minutes tops so I was a little surprised. I have decided to turn my phone to roaming while in Japan to ease the difficulty of finding my way around – relying on WiFi is just not good enough for me on my lonesome. I’ll get better and more confident one day… but hey! I’m in another country completely on my own so it’s not a bad start, right?

When I got to Osaka Station I went outside and grabbed a taxi. It was nearly 11:30pm so I was now well and truly 12 hours into transit. The hotel was actually much closer to the station than I had realised, so the taxi fare was very cheap! My hotel check-in was smooth and painless and the room is super cosy. The bathroom is my favourite part – a tiny little bath tub and a toilet seat that kindly warms my very cold tush.

After putting two extra scarves on I went outside in pursuit of some food. I wasn’t properly fed on the plane thanks to a stuff up by my old travel agent so I was pretty darn hungry. There was a curry place across the road from my hotel – yum, Japanese curry! – so I decided to order there. After grabbing some bottles of water from the 7/11 and collecting my meal – as well as declining two invitations to the nearby bar in the process – I made my way back to the warmth of the hotel. I managed to load an episode of Gilmore Girls to watch while I ate, and once I was done it was a nice warm shower and off to bed.

DAY TWO.

I woke up at a quarter to 8 this morning and called my mum before getting ready to go to Universal Studios. I left the hotel at 9am and started the walk to Osaka Station. It was 6 degrees and raining so I was VERY glad to be wearing two scarves again. I bought an umbrella and, after much confusion and agitation, found my way to the Universal City train. I missed the train transfer and had to spend an extra 15 minutes fixing that but I eventually made it to Universal City Station.

I was cold and wet so I went into Starbucks to warm up. I ordered a white mocha and I was pretty nervous about it thanks to the disgusting drinks at the Starbucks in Sydney… but Japan knows what they’re doing! I will miss these when I leave.

I entered the park with my ticket and wandered through before deciding to spend most of my day at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I had lunch at Mel’s Drive-In Diner and I saw the Monsters Rock’n’Roll Show. After that I walked around the park a little longer before deciding to go back to the Wizarding World to buy myself a wand (and drink some more Butterbeer).

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On the way out of Universal I had a quick look through the Universal CityWalk. I bought myself a denim jacket from The GAP before catching the train to Osaka-Namba Station. I wanted to find an Aussie bar I’d heard of called Coolabah. It was meant to be very close to the famous Dotonbori strip so I figured I’d hit two birds with one stone. I found the bar  eventually but it was still early so I was the only person in it and I didn’t find the staff very friendly, so I ordered some food and sat minding my own business. I regret not finding a cool Japanese place to eat but you live and you learn!

After dinner I moved through the streets in search of Dotonbori. I was very excited to see the giant Glico Man sign which indicated that I had indeed found Dotonbori. After taking a bunch of photos I Facetimed Mum and Dad to show them the hustle and bustle. I spent some time shopping in H&M and bought some warmer clothes – I might only have one day left in Japan but I’ll definitely be trying to make the most of it. My feet were very sore today because they were so cold so I’m hoping I have a more pleasant day tomorrow!

By the time I left the Dotonbori district it was 2am, so I found a taxi and got myself back to the hotel. It might snow tomorrow – fingers are crossed!

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DAY THREE.

Today was quite an adventure!

I woke up around 8am and repacked my suitcase in preparation for leaving Japan tomorrow. I’m nervous to buy anything in case the weight goes over – which isn’t very good considering I just got here!

I ended up leaving the hotel and arriving at Osaka Station around 11am. I figured out which train I needed and set off for Nara. On the way I caught my first ever glimpse of snowfall out the window of the train. Even better was that it was still snowing when I got to Nara! I ended up getting to feed the roaming deer IN THE SNOW! Pretty magical for someone who had never experience snowfall. It was very light but better than nothing. I enjoyed the experience for a while before making my way back to Nara’s Kintetsu Station to move on to Kyoto.

On the way to Kyoto it was really snowing. It was incredibly beautiful but I was absolutely frozen. I was wearing an extra two layers in comparison to yesterday but I was much colder. When I got to Kyoto I found a little coffee shop where I ordered a hot chocolate and an avocado and tuna panini. It’s crazy – the food in Japan is SO good and I haven’t even really had anything typically Japanese! It was 3pm by the time I finished lunch and dealt with some flight issues… so I turned around and headed back to Osaka Station. I literally just popped over to Kyoto for lunch!

When I got back to Osaka Station I spent about half an hour trying to find my way out to the street – it is such a HUGE station! When I finally made it out I noticed a large Red Ferris wheel in the distance, so I made my way over to it. It was called HEP Five and it was part of the Hankyu Entertainment Building. I got to do the Ferris wheel for free and happened to be at the very top for sunset. It was beautiful. Afterwards I found a ramen place for dinner and wandered through the building until it was time to go to the hotel.

I enjoyed a plunge bath when I got to the hotel – what I am sure will be my last moment of luxury for the next two weeks! Bags are packed… let’s go to Thailand!