oh my goodness! it's been so long since we wrote!!

August 4, 2008

Ok, its been about 2 months since we last wrote i think so as you can imagine we have covered a lot of ground ( and countries!!) so i will try and update you without boring you to much!

Way back in May we crossed the border into Thailand and landed at our first Thai city- Hatyai.  Its not much of a tourist destianation but it served us well as our first taste of Thailand! we had some amazing food and the people were amazing to! We really didnt expect that just crossing the border from Malaysia we would find such a different place, but we did! We spent a few days there, eating a lot of thai green curries and buying REAL ray ban sunglasses!!  

From there we went onto a place called Krabi which would be the stopping off point for Koh Phi Phi (an island off the West coast.) This is where we experienced our first longtail boat! (for those who dont know, its a rickety old wooden boat with a motor on the back which has a long tail - hence the name- which goes into the water!) not sure that is the best description,  but hey!!  Anyways, we had a ride on one of those, who took us through the mangroves where we saw monkeys and kingfishers which was amazing! Then he took us to see a fish farm which was great! Our driver came and showed us many of the fish they had there which were bread and sent to China! Some were worth a, lot of money which was strange!! He also showed us a couple of puffer fish which he took great joy in picking up and infalting and presnting to us!! It was quite funny but couldnt help thinikng it was kind of cruel at the same time!!!


Anyway we stayed one night in a beautiful guesthouse all built out of teak and decided to pay a visit to some of the local bars which all looked equally nice. However, the first bar we wandered into happened to be a 'rasta' bar! The next memory we have is waking up in our lovely teak room, each with a dreadlock in  our hair!! oh dear!! Anyway, we managed to un- matt our hair after about half an hour and we made our way to a beach to catch the boat to Koh Phi Phi the next day.

We spent about 5 days on koh Phi Phi which were great, the actual Island is beautiful but it was devastated by the tsunami and they are still rebuilding it in a lot of places so there was a lot of work going on when we were there and the beaches werent as to clean.  We had an amazing bungalow up on a hill with a great view and got to watch the sunset every evening which was magical! The highlight was going on a day trip to the neighbouring island to do some snorkelling and visit Maya bay which is where they filmed 'The Beach" ,it was absoloutely gorgeous! We spent the day on and off the boat going from beach to beach and doing some snorkelling and kayaking- quite energetic for us really!!!

Our next destination was Bangkok (after a 14 hour- overnight bus journey) we finally arrived extremely excited! We spent our first day trying to fight off all 'tuk tuk' drivers, suit makers, women offering manicures and massages, basically anyone trying to sell anything!!  The place is absolutely buzzing, we loved it!  All day there were various stalls on the streets selling alsorts of things and at night they were replaced by cocktail bars and food stalls- its amazing!! Highly recommend it to anyone!

The next day we felt we should do something cultural so we headed to the Grand Palace! It was absolutely stunning! They made me wear a sarong over my clothes and Andy had to wear some pajama bottoms over his, on the hottest day we've had so far which was quite funny!! The palace which is home to the Emerald Buddha was amazing, covered in jewels, gold and mosaics it was incredible.  After there we went to see the largest reclining buddha in Thailand which is 46 metres long and 15 metres high!!  Covered in gold and the feet are inlaid with mother of pearl, it was pretty impressive!!

Our next destination was Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand.  We took our first overnight train up there which was exciting - and pretty uncomfortable!!!  Whislt there we were did a thai cooking course which was good fun as we got to eat everything that we cooked! luckily they gave us a cook book so we didnt have to take notes and should be able to re-create it for you guys when we get back!! (no promises on the quality though!!) I spent another day visiting thai silk weavers, jewelry makers, wood carvers and lacquerware makers which was really interesting. In the mean time Andy had a thai massage- not the most relaxing experience he was expecting!! On our last day there we went to a snake show which was insane! The guys were playing with the deadly King cobras as if they were cats or dogs! nutters!!! then they would come around and show us the fangs just to prove that they still had them!! I held one of the snakes, i think it was a python which was cool! Andy opted out, probably a good idea seeing as when they put it on my neck they were prodding and poking me trying to make me jump!!!NOT amusing!!  After the snake show we went to an elephant camp which was great. It was really well run, each elephant had its own trainer who it spent all its time with and actually listened to, it was so nice!  The elephants had been trained to do things, such as painting pictures which we were lucky enough to see them doing- it was insane! the trainers would hand them a special brush and they were so gentle, they'd paint litlle pictures with hardly any help!! All the elephants as a group have got the guiness world record for the most expensive painting sold buy a group of animals!! Random!!

We came back to Bangkok briefly before going to Laos and met up with my Auntie Lesley and Uncle Paul for a wonderful evening (thank you both very much!!) They took us to the most amazing open air bar on top of a hotel with fantastic views over the city (definately the most fabulous bar i've been to!!) and then for a lovely thai meal.  The next day we went on a boat along the khlongs (canals) which were an eye opener!! There were houses practically falling down into the water and people still living in them, right next door to a huge mansion.  There were also big lizards (about 6feet long) swimming along in the canal which was weird! looked like crocodiles which was worrying, our driver assured us they were'nt though!!

Our next destination was Laos! we took another overnight train (upgraded to aircon this time- much more comfortable!!) and arrived in Vientianne which was  a bit of a ghost town coming from Bangkok!! Considering it is the capital of Laos we found it to be really quiet.  We did the tourist thing and visited the temples and statues etc which was good and then headed to the local bowling club for some ten pin!!! 

Our next place in Laos was Vang Vieng where we were due to go tubing -not really worth mentioning as due to bad weather and hangovers we were'nt able to go, but we knew we would be travelling through the town again so we would do it next time!!! 

The next town, by far the best in Laos was Luang Prabang. We spent 3 days here soaking up the atmosphere!! one day we dragged ourselves away to a waterfall nearby which was gorgeous!! Andy was loving it, jumping off trees and rocks and even off the top of the waterfall! i was a little more hesitant after feeling how cold the water was!! it was freezing!! i had a quick dip- just long enough to take my photo as prooof that i did go in!!! The market in Luang Prabang has to be one of the best we've been to so far (and we've been to a lot, just ask Andy!) There were mostly people who have come down from the hilltribes to sell the crafts and things they make which were absolutley stunning! needless to say we purchased a few items and browsed for a good couple of hours!

One morning i decided to get up at 5.30 (not like me i know!!) to watch the monk recieve their alms (food donations given by local people).  The ownwer of our guesthouse asked me if i would like to take part so i obliged and we knelt on the pavement with our basket of sticky rice waiting for the monks! Then about 150 monks all silently approached in single file and we had to give them each a small amount of rice without saying a word and without touching the bowls they were collecting in.  It was an great experience but it was also really scary as it seemed as if they were coming so fast and it was like a race to get the rice into the bowl before the next monk came along. It was an amazing sight to see over a hundred monks filing down the road in silence just as the sun came up.

On our last evening in Luang Prabang we went to a local herbal sauna which is run by the red cross.  We both had a tradditional laos massage which was more relaxing than the thai massage Andy had, however i found a litlle hard to totaly relax as the man giving my massage was about 100 years old!! After the massage we went into the herbal sauna which was great! it was all local Laos people and seemed more like a social event for them.  They would use the sauna for about 10 minutes (or as long as they could last in there- some of the old ladies were amazing, doing 25 minutes at a time! i think the longest we did was probably about 6 minutes!!) then they would come out and sit and drink tea and chat until they were ready to go in again! it was so nice to do something really traditional that the locals do for fun and they were all really nice to us and talked in english so that we could join in the conversations.

We returned to Vang Vieng after Luang Prabang and finally got to do the tubing! ( for those who dont know what it is- you float down a river on an inner tube and they have built little shaks with bars in on the banks and as you go past they pull you in for a drink- ideal!!!) It was one of the best days we've had in Asia. We met loads of really nice people and jumped in the river a lot! Even though it was a nasty brown colour - funny what seems like a good idea after a few drinks!! They have these huge swings which you have to climb up onto, then jump off and swing down, then let go and fall in the water! Andy was a big fan of them- i only managed one! They were pretty high! 

We then headed south down to Si phan don down in the mekong river near the border with Cambodia.  The area is also known as 4000 islands as it is a series of 4000 islands on the mekong river with a couple which have poeple living on them and guesthouses etc. I think it has to be the most laid back place we have been to- everyone was so chilled out! We stayed for about 4 days and didnt really do a lot other than eat and read!! Actaully one day we did go for a bike ride! Big Mistake!! what we thought would be a nice little ride around the island turned out to be a treturous journey! we had ride over the bumpiest terrain ever and then negotiate an extremely old bridge which had fallen down in parts and was ready to collapse!!! and all this is 35 degrees heat! Thats the last time we try and exercise this holiday!!

Next we headed to Siem Reap for a day and went to visit the Ankor Wat which was great.  We hired a tuk tuk driver for the day and he took us to all the best bits! There were some really impressive buildings/ruins. One was totally over grown with trees- it looked as if the trees were growing out of the buildings it was crazy! there should be a picture of it on here somewhere! 

Next stop was Phnom Penh after an interesting bus journey! First stop off Andy sampled some of the local delicacies- deep fried cricket!! At the food stop there were people selling all sorts of animals and bugs deep fried it was quite an eyeopener!! A lady on our bus bought a bag of locust or something similar and she just sat there eating them as if were a bag of crisps!! The next stop however was by far the worst food stop we have ever had!!There were even more deep fried bugs and this time fried turantulas!! i was extremely freaked out by this when suddenly Andy told me to turn around and go back and get on the bus as he had seen 2 buckets of live turantulas in the direction we were wlking! just as turned around to go to the bus i came face to face with another lady carrying 2 buckets of live turantulas! i screamed and ran onto the bus, getting laughed at by all the local people who thought it was very amusing!! Andy was engossed by it all and had a good look at everything whilst i watched from the bus!

Phnom Penh was a really cool city, so much bigger than we expected it to be.  It was so busy as well- mopeds everywhere!!  One day we went and visited the killing fields and the prison which were both owned by the khmer rouge during thier regime in the 1970s.  It was quite an emotional day as we learnt a lot more about the regime which devastated the country in the 70s, killing over 25% of the population in about 4 years.  It gave as a greater respect for the older generation of Cambodia who have actaully lived through all the pain of that time.

On our last day in Phnom Penh we went for a traditional meal sitting out on the street.  The brought a little stove with a terracotta pot of soup and meatballs and then a tray full of all sorts of vegetales and leaves as well as some beef, eggs, spices and noodles. We then would add what we wanted when we wnated and make our own little soup! when it started to get low they would bring more soup and we would start again!! i think we were there nearly 2 hours just sitiing slurping soup! Whole families and groups of friends woould come and enjoy the soup all together, it was a really nice thing to do.

Our next place was Sinhoukville down on the coast in Cambodia. We had not seen a beach for over a month so were really excited to be going there and we were not dissapointed at all! It was a gorgeous beach with such a nice atmosphere.  As you laid there soaking up the sun, people would come passed selling all sorts of fruit, seafood, drinks, manicures, massages!!! it was an amazing place! Teh fruit salad was a favourite-the ladies would walk past with a basket of fruit on thier heads the sit and chop it all up for you there an then!! another favourite were these shell fish which were a bit like massive prawns or really small lobsters! the lady would peel them all, sprinkle kampot pepper on and squeeze lime over them! they were so tasty!

Ok well this has been o long one so i will leave it there!! i promise to write again soon and fill you in on the last month which we have spent down on the islands in the gulf of Thailand! we are off to Vietnam in the morning so very excited!! hope alls well with everyone! lots of love from us!


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August 6, 2008
Dear Elly& Andy,
Lovely reading you latest addition to your journal although some of your adventures made me cry.I am so pleased that you have done so many local things as well as beaches and of course bars!!! Keep healthy and happy. I am going to Josh & Amy tomorrow and then on to France. Keep safe much love Guardi xxxxxx
August 8, 2008
Hi guy, sounds so fab and the pictures are amazing cant wait to see everything when you get back! Off to france this afternoon cant wait,carry on enjoying your travels and keeping us all updated. Speak soon -lots and lots of hugs and kisses from maddie xxxxx
Dad S:
August 31, 2008
Hi Guys At last I see that you have had time to eat and drink! Pics look great. Love to you both
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