Thursday, July 29, 2010

Back in Bangkok

The bus ride was long and unpleasant but I am back in Bangkok where my money was waiting for me. So the rest of the day has been catching up on sleep, I didn't even bother to try to sleep on the bus ride and just read a book for the whole way, and trying to figure out what I want to do next. I am still not sure on that count but am leaning towards flying back to Nepal and doing some walking in the cool clean air.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Finally on the move again.

Today my visa for Laos runs out and although my Visa card still hasn't arrived I will have to call it a day and leave for Thailand.
Once in Thailand I should be able to replenish my funds via Western Union money transfer and then rearrange my onward travels.
I am considering flying back to Nepal straight away but a visit to Cambodia is also still a possibility.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Plan B

Today I tried plan B and failed miserably.

After wandering across town I visited the main post office here in Vientiane and asked various people there for their help in locating the letter with my visa card that has now been in transit from NZ for over a week. Like good civil servants they all listened politely and then told me they couldn't be of assistance and went back to drinking their coffee.

Ah well it was worth a shot.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Getting bored.

Today marks my first week in Vientiane and I am getting pretty bored. There is still no sign of my visa card and I am trying to come up with a plan B.
Meanwhile I am settling in a routine of breakfast, walk, read, read some more, dinner, watch tv and go to sleep again.
If nothing else my attention has been focussed on my spending and I manage to make do with $15 a day for accommodation, food and entertainment. Not a lot of entertainment though other then walking around town.
Anyway hopefully that card will arrive soon.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I walked for hours around town yesterday and visited a number of temples and monuments, figured out where the market was and generally enjoyed myself.

Plenty of temples.

The victory gate looks good from a distance.

The Sign is correct though.

And the view is pleasant indeed.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Penniless in Vientiane

I spend another twenty minutes on the phone to the ASB bank in NZ this morning. The upshot of it was that they will mail out a new card to my hotel here in Vientiane and all going well it should arrive in about three days time.
I am not holding my breath but have worked out that I can stay here for another two weeks before my money runs out as long as I spend no more then twenty dollars a day.
Somehow I suspect I'll be doing a fair bit of reading over the next few days.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Money problems

I am currently in Vientiane the capital of Laos where I am trying to sort out a problem with my bank and Credit cards. When I checked my account two days ago I realized that somehow someone managed to get access to it and had transferred almost four thousand dollar to an account in the UK.
It would appear that this was done after I used my credit card to make an online payment in Bangkok a few weeks ago. Somehow my card number must have been intercepted and three transactions were made against it.
Yesterday I rang the ASB bank in New Zealand that issues my card and they have now canceled it. While that is all well and good it also leaves me without any method of accessing my funds, so apart from the two hundred dollars in cash that I have on me I am literally stuck. If all goes well they should contact me today in an attempt to sort out how the fraud occurred and hopefully how to get a replacement card to me.
I'll keep you posted.

Plain of Jars

The plain of jars is an area in the North West of Laos where a large number of stone jars have been cut out of sandstone boulders and then transported to fields surrounding them to, most likely, be used as funerary urns.
As the area is wide spread I decided to join a tour for the day and it turned out to be a good option indeed. We visited two jar sites as well as one of the villages nearby and a cave that was used during the Indochina war thrown in for good measure.
The other rather nice part of it was that I met some very pleasant people who I have now been traveling with for the last five days or so, including a Nepali guy and his English girlfriend as well as a Singaporean Historian who is gathering material for a book. As Michael from Singapore is closer to my age then most we have spend a lot of time talking, eating and drinking coffee together.

A collection of Jars.

Drying Chillies.

Grandmother and Granddaughter.

Mother and Child.

Fence Post.


If nothing else life is pretty relaxed out here.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

What's Cooking

Today I tried to come to grips with a small part of Lao cuisine by cooking it.We did the obligatory market tour in the morning led by an English lady who's Lao partner runs the cooking school. She gave excellent descriptions of the various ingredients and the seemingly endless herbs that are used in the local dishes. Then it was off to the cooking school and straight into the food. First up was the preparation of sticky rice and Jeow Mak Keua, a spicy eggplant dip. while we were snacking on that we made preparations for our next dish, Mok Pa or Fish steamed in banana leaves. This was an interesting challenge to me as I never eat fish but under Joy, the teacher, his guidance it turned out well and to my surprise it didn't taste fishy at all! As you can't have just one or two dishes for lunch we continue our lunch preparations by preparing a combination of minced chicken and herbs and proceeded to stuff this in a basket made out of lemon grass which is the deep fried. The result is a lovely lemon tasting chicken dish. Last but not least we made Orlam a traditional Luang Prabang stew and finished it all off with purple sticky rice in coconut sauce. I just love those sweet coconut dishes. Our group had the diverse make up that you only seem to get when you travel around with the range running from a carpenter to a Harvard professor. I still was the oldest one there though.

Plenty of greens

and plenty of meat

The cooking school

Friday, July 02, 2010

Moving around

Since my last entry I have been pretty much continually on the move first from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai about a four hour ride in a comfortable air conditioned bus. Then a two and a half hour ride from Chiang Rai to Chiang Kong in a clapped out old bus to the border. After clearing Thai immigration a ride in a longtail boat across the Mekong to Hua Say in Laos then from there two days on the slow boat to Luang Prabang where I arrived last night.
The slow boat trip was greatly enlivened by all the other travelers that make this journey. The locals probably take the bus these days as apart from the crew there were only a handful of people that joined the boat at various riverside villages then disembarked again a few hours later.
The travelers contingent on board alternately make me feel old, I must easily be twice as old as most of them, and still young enough to join in. Two days on the river gives ample time and opportunity to talk and I managed to practice my Dutch with a beautiful young thing from Utrecht, discover that there were two other people from Auckland on board and listen to an impromptu violin and flute performance by two Irish musicians who were taking a break from touring with the River Dance ensemble. There were also Poles a Brazilian and of course some English on board. Funnily enough no Germans who you can normally find just about anywhere.

I was going to load some pictures but this connection is so slow it times out before I can get even started. So maybe tomorrow .