A Travellerspoint blog

The exciting stories of Vang Vieng’s Tubing scene

travel log from 7:30PM 08-07-2010 untill 6:30PM 14-07-2010

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We were about to leave the capital of Laos to head north towards the beautiful mountains, when the Asian inefficiency proved itself once again. We had been waiting for the past 45 minutes to be picked up by a “Jumbo” (bigger TukTuk) with 5 people at the doorsteps of our guesthouse. Apparently there were 3 different companies selling the same service and instead of 1 pickup per address they believed it was better to organize pickups according to the booking company. So, the 5 of us where picked up by 3 different empty trucks. We all travelled from the same place to the same destination. Really efficient once again…
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Once we had arrived at the bus station, I changed some money to get Laura a freshly made Crepe au sucre, crafted by a mobile crepe shop from one of the locals. Our seats 30 and 31 were good seats right behind the stairways. Lots of space for our legs and the possibility to lean all the way back.

A smelly fisherman joined us in the bus after 5 minutes of driving with an open door. Finally, when we drove about 40-50km/h, the driver decided to close the bus door and set course north east towards Luang Prabang.
Regularly we made stops in order not to overheat, the aircon that was promised us was not working up to standard. The VIP bus ticket meant: 1 free meal, 1 free bottle of water, possibility to lean back, air-conditioning on the bus, 1 straight line to the destination. So far everything except for the aircon was taken care of. The Laos highway restaurant where we stopped had absolutely amazing noodle soup! But, the toilets were…well… too terrible to write about. Quickly, all back on the bus because our grumpy bus driver was not in the mood to wait for anyone. The nightbus was a good option for us, we skipped one night in a guesthouse and traveled at the same time, you basically win one day using this method of transportation.

After a good 10 hours drive we arrived at the northern bus station of Luang Prabang at around 6 am. We were welcomed by a large group of enthusiastic tuktuk drivers that all wanted a share of the morning catch of freshly arrived tourists. We dealt a price of 2 euros and got dropped of at the Chitanna guesthouse in the center of town. Very well hidden away from the main road but very clean rooms and friendly staff were waiting for us. Above our daily budget, we agreed to a price of 7euros for the night. The only minor point about our room was the shower. The water pressure disappeared after 30 seconds of cold water and only little drops of water came from the showerhead.

We had an amazing time in and around this lovely little town. Many cool caves to explore and of course the impressive Kuang Si waterfalls! Like a fairytale falling right onto your lap! We posted about 5 pictures of these dream waterfalls in the public gallery. DSC01319.jpg
In the late afternoon and early morning of the following day we were on the hunt for nice souvenirs. We were not successful because we found that the prices in Luang Prabang were much higher than in other parts of Laos. We decided to spend some more time in other smaller towns to catch the items we were looking for.
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Thanks to the great experience with the night bus service from last time we bought 2 tickets for the night bus towards Vang Vieng (The ultimate party town and relaxing place of Laos). Unfortunately, we encountered a thunderstorm on the way to the Ibiza of Laos and it took us instead of 6 hours 12 hours to get to Vang Vieng. Moreover, we were seated in the baggage space on the lower deck together with the locals. No aircon, no water, no comfortable seats and 6 hours longer than expected. This drive in the night bus was a disaster. So far it is 1-1 for good and bad experiences with night services. The city of Vang Vieng itself is made of bars, bars, bars restaurants, restaurants, guest houses, hotels, hostels and ATM machines. The main reason for this little town to have been able to grown out into a party city is its famous TUBING. Tubing is the name given to the activity of renting a big tube (truck size inner tube) and floating down the river that embraces the city of Vang Vieng. For 5,5euro you get a tube and a tuktuk ride upstream. At the starting point, about 2,5km from the city, you jump into your personal tube and let yourself easily float down the river. The views are amazing and the water is nice refreshing. Along the riversides loads of bars have positioned themselves wisely. Lao locals with long ropes and smaller rubber tubes attached to the other end of their rope pull in the young tourists that are floating by. One by one youngster’s gather on the shores of the river to enjoy a drink accompanied by loud music and crazy activities organized by the bars. The Tubing scene has grown amazingly fast in the last couple of years and is now for many the only reason the visit Laos.

Since we left our TukTuk on the parking place of a guesthouse we had to head back in order to prepare the departure of the TukTuk express. After the last bad experience we had with the nightbus we made up our minds and joined the friendly couples from Holland and Mexico that we met during Tubing. They had plans to row back to the capital in a kayak instead of the boring old bus. In total we were 10 adventurous young people that took the challenge and left the following morning at 9.30 by Jumbo to the drop off site to start our kayak journey. Unfortunately we couldn’t make any photos during the water ride. The river was in certain places much wilder than we had anticipated. I was able to make a short movie just before the start of the white water rafting parts. Upon arrival in the capital we said goodbye to our new friends, Fernando and Anna from Mexico, Robert and Elke from the Netherlands. We picked up the TukTuk and headed for the Youth Inn 1 guesthouse where our other bags that we had left behind were still waiting for us.
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From here we will make ourselves ready to leave Laos behind and cross the border to head towards the north of Thailand. In Chiang Mai our adventures will continue, we keep in touch.

Much love Coen en Laura!!!!

Posted by Bouts 07:46 Archived in Laos Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

trouble with the internet!

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Uploading the new set of photos took us much longer than anticipated. Even in the bigger cities with a stable internet connection we did not manage to upload photos. We had to deal with some technical errors from the website provider. After many visits to different restaurants (with wifi connection) and internet café’s we are proud to show you all the latest images of our adventurous tour through the jungle. Soon new stories will follow on our blog, so stay tuned ;)

Posted by Bouts 10:11 Archived in Laos Tagged photography Comments (1)

Laos- Land of a Million Elephants

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We crossed the border crossing at Don Kralor at 4pm on July 3rd. On the way there we had ran out of fuel and there was no gas station to be seen anywhere. Luckily, we always carry an extra jerry can of fuel and some oil, so it was not a problem.

Although the working hours are officially from 8am to 6pm, everything later than 3.30pm counts as ‘overtime’ and people wishing to cross the border therefore have to pay $1 extra. All went smoothly on the Cambodian side and after a health check on the Lao side we had to show our visa and obtain the entry and exit card. This already proved to be slightly more difficult since none of the ten immigration offices had any staff in them. After a while a guy showed up. He looked as if he had just been woken up from a nice little nap and was still buttoning up his shirt and doing up his pants as he already asked for my passport. We also paid for ‘overtime’ and some other inexplicable charges before he told us to head down the road for 1 km to the Customs Office to obtain the necessary legal documents for the TukTuk.

Now the funniest part started! When we arrived at the ‘Customs Office’ we found it guarded by a herd of cows that only moved out of the way very unwillingly. The actual office was completely deserted; the only thing that indicated its existence was a table and a sign ‘Customs Office of Laos PDR’. It turned out that the staff was having a party behind it. They had installed huge disco speakers, set up a whole bar and were busy drinking Beer Lao and playing boule. They seemed to take no notice of us. Finally, one guy yelled something and a few minutes later someone appeared. Again, he looked like he had been asleep and was still getting ready. He took our motorbike registration card and told us to wait in the ‘office’. After a while he motioned me to come somewhere else. He took what seemed to be an eternity to fill out an A5 form and then, with his alcoholic breath asked for a fee seven times the amount of what it said on the sheet of paper he handed to me. It was obviously his monthly beer money, but given the circumstances, we thought it better to pay it and leave with the TukTuk. After a few kilometers the next adventure followed; suddenly, a huge pop sounded and our rear bike tire had burst. Although we were in the middle of nowhere, we were lucky to find a woman selling tires on the road. Our air pump had gone astray so she told us that the hairdresser - three houses down the road - could fix it for us. Now we have a sturdy new tire and all the tools to fix the next flat tire ourselves.

Posted by Bouts 02:25 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

To the Vietnamese Border and Back

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Early in the morning we left Phnom Penh by TukTuk Express and drove 140 km to the border of Vietnam. The drive took about four hours and was extremely tiring due to the bad condition of the road. We were happy to finally have reached the border. The town where we planned to spend the night lay 20 km into Vietnam.

Everyone had told us that it would be no problem to import the TukTuk to Vietnam since we already had a Visa, would only stay for one month and had an international driving license. We had been assured that we would only have to fill out some papers and pay a small fee at the border. Since this country lacks all sorts of rules, regulations and formalities, this sounded very plausible and we believed it. It would have been better to check this though!

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Upon arrival at the border we were greeted with loud cheering and starring since no one had ever seen a white person driving a TukTuk before. We went to the Cambodian passport control and asked them which papers we had to fill out for the TukTuk. After trying to communicate by sign language for a long time, we found someone who worked for an English company and was waiting for them at the border. He was very helpful and served as an interpreter for us. He took us to the Vietnamese customs office and they told us that it was impossible to take our TukTuk to Vietnam without the papers issued by the Vietnamese customs office at the Embassy in Phnom Penh. We tried to negotiate for a while but were assured that even if they would let us pass, the Vietnamese transport police would stop us after the first 20km in Vietnam and take everything away from us. Without any other option, we started heading back 140km to Phnom Penh.

We arrived at the Vietnamese Embassy at five past 5pm. Exactly five minutes after the closing time! The next morning, we went back to the Vietnamese Embassy. We asked where we could find the Customs Office and after a lengthy conversation amongst his colleagues, the officer directed us to the Cambodian Customs Office. Having clarified that we were after the Vietnamese one in the Embassy and that we had been sent here form the border, an expression of utmost astonishment rose on his face as he declared, “It’s in Hanoi.’ In short, there was no way that anyone at the Embassy could give us the document we needed.

He told us that it is possible to take the TukTuk to Vietnam but that we would have to apply by email or post to the Customs Office. We did this but figured that it would take much too long to wait for approval so instead we adapted our plan.

Now we are en route to Laos. Afterwards we will travel through the north of Thailand and back to Bangkok, from where we will send the TukTuk home and fly to Vietnam. It was either this or having to part from the TukTuk immediately, so we preferred the chosen option.

Posted by Bouts 02:20 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

The largest religious monument in the world

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Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

We got up early in the morning to visit Angkor Wat for sunrise. Although there was no sunrise since some large rain clouds loomed in the sky, it was still a completely magical experience. We were one of the only visitors and it was a great feeling to have the temple ruins practically to ourselves.

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Ta Prohm- stunning trees growing out of the temple walls

Ta Prohm- stunning trees growing out of the temple walls

Posted by Bouts 02:12 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

‘TukTuk Express’ is launched

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In Siem Reap we bought a TukTuk.We spent almost two days looking for a good one and practicing our haggling skills before we chose a red motorbike and red TukTuk. We pimped it a little and painted the Dutch and the German flags on the side and added he words ‘TukTuk Express’ at the back. Now everyone will recognize us!

Posted by Bouts 02:07 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

TukTuk Express foto shoot

Russian market 30-06-2010 Pnhom Penh

overcast 32 °C

Upon request from our fans we made some more photo's of the TukTuk by daylight. It is indeed very hard to see what you are dealing with in the night photo. In the Gallery you'll be able to find more photo's taken from different angles.
For now big hugs from Cambodia!!
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Posted by Bouts 05:36 Archived in Cambodia Tagged motorcycle Comments (1)

Jungle adventures

Saturday, June 19th Pailin-Battambang

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After a restless night due to strange jungle noises infront of our fragile looking door which woudn't close properly, we were relieved to get up at 6am and catch the 6.40 am bus to Battambang. The bus didn't leave until 8 am, but that was only a minor detail for the Cambodians. After half an hour of driving the driver got hungry and pulled over at a small hut on the side of the road where we had a 30 min break.

The 'highway' was also extremely interesting- it was more like a small dirt track and when we wanted to cross a river we saw that the bridge had collapsed completely. A van had fallen off and lay in the river, upside down. Coen and I clenched our teeth and held onto the bus as tightly as we could as the driver took an alternative route -down a halfpipe shaped track which steeply descended down to the river and then back up to join the road on the othere side!

Finally, after about about 5 hours, we arrived in Battambang where we were picked up from a tuktuk driver from the 'Royal Hotel' . He showed us pictures of fancy rooms but assured us we could have a $3 room. The lady at the Royal Hotel insisted on showing me about 10 nice rooms before taking me to the $3 room on the rooftop. The cleaniless of the room was even better than the room of the prior night, although the other one had cost $5. However, the loo and shower were shared with the kitchen staff. A mere bucket filled with water and a scoop replaced the flush, it smelled awful and it was impossible to lock the door. There was no mirror insight anywhere, which proved to be very interesting for putting in contacts! Thank God we had the reflection of our mobile.

Our tuktuk driver picked us up in the afternoon and took us to the fish market. It was a really big market with stands selling all kinds of fresh and dried fish as well as fish paste. A family that has a business there, earns about $10,00 pa. This is extremely high for Cambodian circumstances. A normal worker in Camodia earns between $1,000 and $1,200 pa.

Afterwards, we visited a local business led by two women who produce rice paper. Rice paper is used for the outside of spring rolls. It was fascinating to watch them. in one day, they are able to produce 2,000 sheets of rice paper. Rice paper is sold in bundles of 500 sheets on the local market. Every bundle costs $1. Their combined profit is less than $3 a day. However, their business is dramatically affected by the rain season since the paper needs to dry outside for about an hour.

village near Battambang

village near Battambang

Our next stop- the bamboo train- was extremely much fun! The railtracks were put down during the French colonial era but the train was recognized as an offcial mode of transportation by the Cambodian government in 2000. It consists of a very light bamboo frame, powered by a 6 horsepower gasoline engine which runs on a single track railway. Wheneever a train approaches from the other side, the less loaded train is taken off the tracks to let the other one pass. The ride was extremely bumpy and quite fast.

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We also saw a woman who produced bamboo sticky rice. This is cooked rice with coconut milk and black beans, inside of a bamboo cylinder. It tasted very nice and we even bought two!

In the evening we found a little backpackers bar. It was the only place in town which was not already closed at 8.30pm . We sat on the side of the road an watched Holland play Japan. The game was projected on the side of the opposite building.

Posted by Bouts 01:25 Archived in Cambodia Comments (2)

Introduction

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Hi everyone and welcome to our blog!
On this site, Coen and I will keep you updated about our travels and adventures in Southeast Asia. We will post some photos every now and then and share our adventures and experiences with you. You can even follow our footsteps on the interactive map which we will update regularly. We hope this will give all of you a little insight into our mind-opening, exhilarating and invigorating ventures through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

our tuktuk!!!

our tuktuk!!!

Posted by Bouts 21:43 Comments (3)

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