Tag: Travel

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.ย 

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.ย This is equivalent to a planeload of bombs being unloaded every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years โ€“ 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 theย 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

Adventures in Far North Queensland: Glacier Rock Lookout Hike

I’m a pretty big fan of walking up giant mountains and I am not afraid to admit that it’s at least 85% because of the view at the top. Yes, I definitely enjoy the physical aspect. Of course, I am most certainly crazy about the influx of outdoors ensued endorphins. Absolutely, I love getting amongst nature in one of the most beautiful rainforest filled parts of the world. And obviously, working up a sweat under the tropical sun is awesome. BUT that view!? That view is good enough to surpass all those things.

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Glacier Rock is a three hour round hike suitable for reasonably fit people of all ages. When I say ‘reasonably fit’ I really do just mean reasonably. It is not the most difficult hike I have ever done and there are plenty of options for stops along the way. As long as you can walk at a normal pace you should be fine to do Glacier Rock!

The hike starts at the Stoney Creek carpark, so type that straight into Google Maps and make your way to the carpark. Cross the bridge above Stoney Creek and start your journey through the rainforest. From there it’s all straightforward and simple – just make sure you keep going until you get to the top! Some people stop about an hour in because they think that’s all it is. If it’s not the view in these photos, keep going up!

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The hike is a very well established network of Aboriginal walking tracks boasting a great deal of history. The Djabugandgi Bama walked these tracks for trade, seasonal food gathering and to visit ceremonial sites. In the period of early European contact – around the late 1800s – the network of walking tracks was adapted by gold miners, cattle drovers and railway workers to cater for pack horses which is what inevitably turned it into what we see today when we walk the track.

The first time I walked the track I took my mum with me. We made it up and back in 3.5 hours, but that time included a half hour stop at the top for some refuelling (snacks, lots of snacks). We are not crazy fit nor do we do long distance hikes often, but we made it there and back with relative ease.

The second time I took my friend, Kate, with me. Again the actual walking part took three hours. The third time Kate and I invited another friend, Rhianne. Once more, three hour walking time. So I am very confident to say that three hours is what you can expect if you are planning to take your time and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Here are my top tips for the Glacier Rock Lookout Hike:

  1. Bring lots of water and plenty of healthy snacks. I would recommend a litre of water per person, especially in the Summer months. Cairns is a very hot and humid place and the sun is no joke – trust me on this one, water is essential. We usually take a backpack and take turns carrying it. Snacks like sandwiches and fruit always make us feel much better when we get to the top and it’s also nice to enjoy the view with a little picnic.
  2. Go early in the morning – that’s when it is the coolest here in Cairns. The middle of the day is the hottest, so try to avoid the main part of the uphill walk between 11am and 1pm. The view is also much clearer in general in the early hours of the morning.
  3. Bring swimmers! Stoney Creek is a beautiful and safe swimming hole with fresh water for cooling off. It’s also a quiet swimming hole, so most days you may get a whole area to yourself! Be sure to keep an eye on children though as there are a lot of rocks.
  4. Stop when you need to stop – this hike is stunning and there is SO much to see. I am confident that you will want to stop and look around as much as possible, so do that! There’s nothing like Far North Queensland.
  5. This IS a nature hike so please be mindful of the things that can be surrounding you while out and about in Australian nature. Always be aware and don’t venture off the very clearly marked path. Be cautious!
  6. If it has been raining or it is raining, I would recommend rescheduling your hike to the Glacier Rock Lookout until it is dry. This can be a steep hike in some parts and as it is all dirt it can get very slippery and dangerous in wet weather. Again, be cautious!
  7. Most importantly – take some kind of camera! You won’t want to miss this shot! Your friends will be reeling with jealousy when they see the amazing things you got to see and do in Cairns.

I’d love to see your photos and hear about your Glacier Rock experience – leave me a comment down below!

Katie