The next morning we rented a couple of scooters to ride the West Vang Vieng Loop, a 15 mile loop of beautiful scenery, but with a bumpy dirt road to go along with it.
United States Travel
- 2023 Breweries
- 2022 Breweries
- 2021 Breweries
- 2020 Breweries
- 2019 Breweries
- 2018 Breweries
- 2017 Breweries
- 2016 Breweries
- 2015 Breweries
- 2014 Breweries
- 2013 Breweries
- 2012 Breweries
- 2011 Breweries
- 2010 Breweries
- 2009 Breweries
- 2008 Breweries
- 2007 Breweries
- 2006 Breweries
- 2005 Breweries
- 2004 Breweries
- 2003 Breweries
- 2002 Breweries
29 - 30 January 2015
We boarded a van with about 20 other Westerners for the 100 mile, 4 hour ride. That is right....we will be averaging 25 miles per hour because the road twists and turns up and down a mountain road for the entire trip. Although the road was rough, the scenery was beautiful and then when we arrived in Vang Vieng the scenery wasn't too shabby there either:
Back in the 2000's Vang Vieng was know as party capital of Laos. Young backpackers would come here for cheap rooms, cheap beer, and illicit drug use. Another popular past time was to float down the river in inner tubes stopping at all the makeshift bars along the way. This party atmosphere ended after 2011 when 27 tourists died due to drowning or diving head first into rocks while under the influence. Today the inner tubing continues, but the drug use has ended. What do people due here instead? We watch Friends where not one, but two restaurants play the DVDs non-stop all day and night:
After a few BeerLaos and multiple Friends episodes we called it a night and headed back to our hotel room.
The next morning we rented a couple of scooters to ride the West Vang Vieng Loop, a 15 mile loop of beautiful scenery, but with a bumpy dirt road to go along with it.
Along the way there are multiple caves you can stop and explore, but we just continued around the loop with and made only one stop at the "Blue Lagoon" where the highlight is a blue lagoon with a tree to jump off of and a cave:
On our way back to town we had our first sighting of re-appropriated bomb. More information on these bombs to come in the next few blogs:
After an enjoyable day we got back to town, had a couple of BeerLaos, ate dinner, and called it a night. We have a long 170 mile, 8 hour trip to our next stop, Phonsavan to visit the Plain of Jars.
27 - 28 January 2015
We woke up the next morning knowing that we could find a better hotel for the price, so I sent Tim out to assess the situation and he returned with reservations for a hotel on the next block. We packed our stuff, headed over to the new hotel, dropped off our bags, and rented mountain bikes from a place across the street. The main reason we stopped here in Vientiane is to get our Vietnam visa. Unlike Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos that has visas on arrival, you have to apply for and receive a visa for Vietnam in advance to crossing the boarder. So, we hopped on our mountain bikes and headed to the Vietnamese Embassy. Although we had a map, it wasn't as easy to find as we hoped and we arrive there at 11:30 AM and was greeted by a sign that said they were closed from 11:30 - 2:30. So...back on the bikes and off looking for a place for lunch and a way to waste the next 3 hours.
We wound up riding 20 minutes back to the area we were staying since that was the area that catered towards westerners and we knew that we would find restaurants with english menus. We settled on a corner restaurant mostly for the view and, according to Tim, had some of the best french fries we have had in a while:
After lunch we found a nice road that followed the Mekong River so rode our bicycles north and then south along the river until we had to return to the embassy. Here are some scenes along the Mekong River:
We left the path to return to the embassy where we filled out the form and handed over $70 US each, and was told to return tomorrow at 5:00 PM to retrieve our passports with a visa. Wow...that was easy. We then decided to return to the river path where we left off to continue our ride.
And like magic, the path ended right at a lovely looking local bar with 10,000 Kip ($1.25 US) bottles of Beer Lao served properly with ice:
Although we were hungry we decided to forgo eating there, but watched the locals chow down on the grilled meats. We also noticed that every table had an order of what looked like hard-boiled eggs. I then remembered that I read about people in this area eating eggs with partially developed duck embryos inside and determined that this is what they were eating. After some time, a group of 3 westerners appeared and I invited them to join us. Although all three were American, one was born in China and moved when he was 10. I told him about the possible "duck embryo egg" sighting and he said he was familiar with this. Next thing I know, he leaves the table and return with said mentioned egg. I just couldn't resist making a video to share:
And of course we had to stay to see the sunset. By the way...across the Mekong is Thailand, so here is a picture of the sunset over Thailand:
Since we past on the embryonic egg we headed back towards the hotel at went to a restaurant recommended by the tour book and wound up having an excellent dinner of grilled squid, sticky rice, steamed vegetables, and gaw (a weird, but tasty substance made to dip veggies and sticky rice into). Oh...and Tim ordered a "safe" roasted chicken.
Oh yeah...on the way to dinner we came across another restaurant that had a halfed Volkswagen Beetle out front that they were using as tables...check it out:
We enjoyed riding the bicycles around all day that we decided to rent the same bicycles for the next day and do a tour of the city of Vientiane. Here are some of the highlights:
Wat Si Saket: Vientiane's oldest temple turned national museum. Home to thousands of Buddha figures:
Talet Sao Mall:
Patuxai: Victory Monument AKA Vientiane's Arc de Triomphe AKA The Vertical Runway because it was built with cement donated by the USA to build a new airport.
Finally, back to the Vietnamese Embassy to retreive our passports and visas:
And then we just couldn't resist not going back to that awesome local hangout before heading back to the hotel:
On the way back to the hotel we passes through a park that had a public yoga session going on :
After a dinner of grilled squid, pizza, and salad we called it a night and prepared for waking up early for a 4 hour bus ride to Vang Vieng at 7:30 AM.
22 - 26 January 2015
We woke up the next morning full of wonderment of what a 7-8 hour public bus ride will be like. We have seen many torn-up buses driving around here with people hanging out of the door and just can't imagine what 7-8 hours will be like riding one of those. But first...I want to show you some of the French colonial buildings around Pakse. It looks a lot like the buildings in New Orleans, except for the crazy outdoor electrical wiring:
Actually...many of the towns here in Laos have similar French-style colonial buildings...kind of cool.
Next the big surprise of the day...the bus we got on was actually really nice:
The only negative was the never ending Laos karaoke that went for the entire trip, although it did get interrupted by the vendors that boarded the bus at every stop:
After all was said and done, the 7-8 hour bus ride turned into 9 hours mostly due to us sitting at bus stops waiting for who knows what, but at least the seats were comfortable and eventually we were able to ignore the karaoke and get a lot of reading done.
Next stop was to check into our hotel which wound up being one of the nicer places we have stayed in a while. The only downside was that we were only staying one night:
The next morning, after a way comfortable nights sleep, we headed to the motorbike rental shop to get our bikes and hit the road. Here is the Tha Khek Loop we are riding. Most people ride it counter-clockwise, so of course we are going to ride it clockwise.
The first 65 miles was a basic highway with little scenery, but as soon as we turned east...that's where it became beautiful:
We pulled into our hotel around 3:00 and were the only people there. By 9:00 PM there were about 8 other people doing the loop as well:
Total Miles Day 1: 93 miles
The next day we left the hotel around 8:30 and headed to the highlight of the loop, Kong Lor Cave, but first the 30 mile ride there:
And now Kong Lor Cave:
To explore this cave you get on a boat for a 4.3 mile ride along a windy river through a really high limestone cave. About 1/2 mile into the ride you get out of the boat and walk down a path showing off some of the caves formations.
Then back on the boat for 3.7 miles of darkness until the exit comes into view:
When we exited the cave the scenery was spectacular:
Then we pulled up to a village where some of the residence were selling food, drinks, and weaving:
Back on the boat for the return trip up the river and back into the cave:
The 30 mile ride back to the hotel was just as nice as the ride there:
We arrived back at the hotel in time to grab a quick snack before heading out to the Cool Springs. We rode about 15 miles up and down a mountain road and then turned onto a dirt track for 3.5 miles across a savannah and over a bridge:
Until finally arriving at Cool Springs where I took a dip...and yes it was cool!
Back on the road in time to catch sunset just before pulling into the hotel for some awesome dinner and a good nights sleep:
Total Miles Day 2: 93 miles
Total Miles completed: 186 miles
The next morning we woke, had breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and said goodbye to our new friend, Hauke from Germany:
The plan for today is to continue the loop and stop at a guesthouse on the Nam Theun River. We heard this place can fill up fast, so we wanted to get there in time to get a room. The biggest obstacle standing between us and the guesthouse is that 18 of the 75 miles we need to cover is a dirt road...so let's get started.
As soon as we started going up the mountain the fog got thicker and thicker. Luckily it was only really bad at the very top, so we kept on going...until we crossed a bridge and looked down to see boats made out of drop tanks left in Laos during the Vietnam Era:
During this stop I was able to get pictures of the fog:
Then came the dreaded 18 miles of dirt. It wasn't just a dirt road. We also had to ride through construction sites. When I say construction sites, I mean that there was front loaders dumping rocks into dump trucks in the middle of the road without any flag crews or anything. We had to time it right to pass in between "dumps". Here is the damage done during these 18 miles...I am completely covered in fine red dirt:
But look at this beautiful road we now get to ride for the last 20 miles of the day:
After riding a bit further we entered this really, really cool area with trees growing out of the water. We decided to get to the guesthouse and check in and then come back out here for pictures, so here are some of the better pictures taken when we returned to this cool landscape:
Oh..and by the way...here is our bungalow for the night at the low price of 50,000 Kip ($6.25 US):
Most people stay across the street at Sabaidee Guesthouse, but we were worried that it would be loud there at night with all the typical backpacker types partying the night away, so we stayed here instead...but that didn't stop us from walking across the street and hanging out there a bit:
We didn't stay out partying with the other backpackers since we decided to get up early so we can return the bikes by 10:59 AM so we didn't have to pay for another day. So after a couple of beers and a pretty good dinner we walked back across the street and went to sleep.
Total Miles Day 3: 75 miles
Total Miles completed: 261 miles
The next morning our plan was to be on the road at 7 AM, but first we went back to Sabaidee Guesthouse for a freshly baked chocolate croissant and then we hit the road. It was a little chilly, but what a beautiful morning:
We were making pretty good time, so we decided to stop and see Xieng Liap Cave. We were worried about missing the sign for the cave, but luckily some local entrepreneur kids yelled at us as we passed it, so we turned around and the kids parked us and told us that they would take us to the cave. One girl stayed behind to watch our bikes and two boys led us through a field, through the jungle, and into the cave:
When all was said and done we gave each of the kids 10,000 Kips ($1.25 USD) each. The most excited was the girl who probably never gets money for "watching" the bikes, especially since she inside her house when we arrived back at the bikes, but giving her the money was worth the smile we got in return.
We arrived back in Tha Khek around 10:30 AM and returned the bikes...now we need to find out what time the bus is tomorrow to Vientiane and find a hotel room.
Total Miles Day 4: 62 miles
Total Miles completed: 323 miles
We went across the street to a tour guide and he said the van to Vientiane wasn't until tomorrow morning, but we can go to the bus station and wait for a local bus heading that direction. He said there wasn't a schedule, and if we went we might have to wait a few hours, but they show up pretty regularly until around midnight. I was game, but Tim was looking forward to spending the day chilling out in town and in the hotel room. After some discussion I convinced him that the best thing to do was head to the bus station and if a bus didn't come within 3 hours we would get a hotel. So...off to the station and as luck would have it, there was a bus to Vientiane siting there. Ten minutes later we were off to Vientiane for a easy 6 hour bus ride.
After 6 hours of...you guessed it...Laos karaoke, we arrived in Vientiane, found a hotel, had a quick dinner, and went to sleep. Oh...here are some interesting pictures I took at the bus station in Vientiane of what they load on top of the passenger buses:
17 - 21 January 2015
The next morning we slept in, had breakfast, and then picked up our scooters and a map of the Bolaven Plateau around noon. Looking at the hand drawn map we will be lucky if we don't get lost!
The plan is to do the loop clockwise and stop at a few of the waterfalls pointed out on the map. The goal for day 1 is to make it to Tad Lo only 50 miles away...thus our ability to sleep in.
We headed east out of Pakse and then turned north looking for Mr. Vieng Organic Organic Homestay. This was in the tour guide as a place to stop for a coffee brewed from the beans picked right here in the Bolaven Plateau. We don't drink coffee, but we thought we would stop for a snack. But, before we knew it we hit the town of Bane Lao Ngam and knew when we looked at the map that we passed the place.
Oh well...next stop is our overnight town of Tad Lo. According to the map we should make a right...well...somewhere. We saw a possible right turn and stopped in front of a sign put up just for us...tourists. I don't know why I didn't take a picture, but here is one I found on the internet:
With such a nice sign you would think that we wouldn't get lost...but we did. We decided that the turn we were on wasn't the right right turn, so we went back to the main road and continued north looking for the next right turn. When we found that turn there was another sign and a bunch of kids. I said "Tad Lo?" and pointed and they all nodded, so we headed up the dirt road looking for the town. Alas, the road didn't lead to a town of Tad Lo...it led to the waterfall Tad Lo:
After a nice break, it was back to the main road where we headed south, back the way we came, and back to the right turn we didn't think was the right turn and continued on that road that turned to a dirt road that turned back to a paved road and finally into a village. Here is where we found our accommodations for the night overlooking a river and the waterfall Tad Hang:
Just as good as the view was the dinner I ordered. I ordered fried fish in chili sauce and was expecting pieces of fish in sauce, but this is what was served:
Believe me...it tasted as good as it looks! This place was beautiful and inexpensive. Our room cost 90,000 Kip ($11.25 US). We did have the option of a 50,000 Kip ($6.25 US) bungalow, but it had an outside shared bathroom and no shower. We thought we made the right decision until people stayed on the balcony drinking till midnight right outside our door and then people were up at 6:00 AM ordering breakfast. I guess everything can't be perfect.
Total Miles Day 1: 50 miles
We woke up a bit tired, but we got up and decided to walk to the Tad Hang waterfall just upriver before breakfast:
We also walked down the road a bit and found Tim's Guesthouse along with some pigs crossing the road:
After breakfast we hit the road. Today's plan is to ride another 50 miles to Sekong and spend the night there. Here is what the scenery is like during this ride:
We are doing good. From the stop in Thateng it should be less than 30 miles to Sekong. We should get there with plenty of time to relax. We entered Sekong and it didn't look like much. The travel guide mentioned a place on the other side of town to stay in so we headed that way...except we didn't see any place so we kept of riding. New plan...there is a guesthouse about 35 miles from here.
At this point of the trip the roads are supposed to get worse. So far we have been on nicely paved roads, but here the map mentions that this road we are turning right onto is under construction. We have been dreaded this part of the trip since we started the loop..now here we go.
Of course, after all the worrying the road wasn't too bad. Yes, it was under construction and there were some areas of unpaved roads, but nothing that was too bad. About 11 miles after the turn I spotted a small sign that said waterfall, so we stopped and checked it out. It happened to be Nam Tok Katamtok Waterfall. A 330 foot tall fall that is one of Laos' highest.
Now it should be only 8 miles to the guesthouse, so we got back on the scooters and continued east looking for our overnight stop, which we found, which had no vacancy. The inn-keep told us that it was only 25 miles to Paksong and we should continue to there. So...back on the bikes and on to Paksong where we finally reached before dark. We found a guesthouse ($11 US) that looked OK with the only issue being a karaoke bar across the street that was kind of loud, but we figured we could turn up the TV and deal with it. We checked in and headed to the restaurant next to the karaoke bar, had some soup since it was actually chilly up here on the plateau which ranges between 3,280 to 4,430 feet above sea level, then headed back to our room. We turned on the TV to drown the awful karaoke, only there wasn't any channel in English so we had to try to sleep with the karaoke going. Luckily with the long ride we did we were pretty tired, so it didn't keep us up.
Total Miles Day 2: 111 miles
Total Miles completed: 161 miles
We were now only 33 miles to Pakse, where we started the loop. So we decided to head back there, get a hotel room, drop off our bags, and head south to Wat Phou, a temple ruin dating back to the 5th century. So, we continued east until I saw another waterfall sign, so we followed the signs and wound up at Tad Gneuang Waterfall. This one had an admission fee ($1.25 US each) and was a bit more touristy, but it was worth the visit:
After Tad Gneuang we rode the rest of the way to Pakse where we dropped off our bags and headed south to Wat Phou and some more beautiful roads and scenery:
After 30 miles from Pakse we made it to Wat Phou. We were worried that after spending time in Siem Reap, Cambodia seeing Angkor Wat and other amazing ruins that Wat Phou would be a disappointment, but it wasn't. The setting was spectacular making Wat Phou a highlight of Laos.
After an awesome visit we headed back to Pakse, turned in our bikes, bought bus tickets to Savannakhet for tomorrow, ate dinner, and headed back to the hotel for our last night in Pakse...or so we thought.
Total Miles Day 3: 93 miles
Total Miles completed: 254 miles
The next morning Tim was not feeling well and after he "lost" last nights dinner I knew we were stuck in Pakse for another 2 days. So now we are skipping Savannakhet and heading to Tha Khaek. Luckily the guy I bought the bus ticket from understood and switched the day and destination of the ticket with no problem.
So...two days later we are now heading North to Tha Khaek to rent scooters and head to some amazing caves. But first we have to survive a 7-8 hour public bus ride that should be quite an experiance.
14 - 16 January 2015
After a fiasco of a day crossing the border into Laos, we woke up in our room and wondered what it was like outside since we arrived after dark. We sat down for breakfast and got a feel for the island we were on. Don Khon is part of 4,000 Islands such called because in the dry season there are around 4,000 islands in the middle of the Mekong River. Here is what we found outside our room:
OK. This looks like a nice chill place to relax for a couple of days. One thing to do on the island is to rent bicycles for the day and ride around. The other thing to do on the island is grab a hammock and relax. Today we chose options 2...oh...and welcome to a new beer...Beer Lao!
Don't worry. We didn't stay on the patio all day. We also walked down the road for some dinner just in time for sunset over the Mekong.
The next day we rented bicycles for 10,000 Kip ($1.25 US) each and headed around the island:
This is kind of interesting...when the French came upon 4,000 Islands they saw the potential of logging and built canals to transport the logs down river and built bridges and even a railway to transport supplies around the island:
After a pretty nice ride lasting a couple of hour...I guess Tim's seat was a bit uncomfortable plus add in the rocky roads,it wasn't the best...we went back to our cabin that was now moved to the riverfront.
The next morning we ate breakfast and waited for our boat back to the mainland. We figured it was going to be the nicer one with the roof and nice cushioned seat...NOT! It was the one next to it...you can see my purple bag on the boat. But at least it was daylight and we could catch the sites which we couldn't do on the way out to the island.
After the 40 minute boat ride we caught a van...the nicest one we have been on in a long time...and headed north to Pakse. It took about 2.5 hours which was fine since the van was so comfy, and checked into our Pakse hotel. Next I walked around looking for scooters to rent. The plan is to ride scooters around the Bolaven Plateau for a few days checking out the countryside known for coffee plantations and waterfalls.
I found a place that had scooter for 50,000 Kip per day ($6.25 US), so I reserved 2 and told them we would pick them up in the morning. The next few days should be awesome!
12 - 13 January 2015
We checked out of the Mekong Dolphin Hotel and awaited our transportation to the bus station. Our experience in Cambodia has been that when you purchase your transportation ticket at the hotel it includes transit from the hotel to the destination. When we went outside the guy we purchased the ticket from was there to wait with us for the van. Why was he out there? Because, yesterday when we booked the van the guy warned us that they put 4 people across in the minivan. Having been on these vans before, we knew that three across was a tight fit and we couldn't imagine having four across. He said that if we wanted to we could purchase 3 seats and that he would guarantee that they would bot put someone in the third seat, so for another $7 US we did just that for the 3.5 hour ride to Stung Treng. So, he was there to ensure that the van company knew that we had purchased an extra seat and that they cannot put someone in it.
When we left the bus station there was 13 people (including the driver) in the van, leaving 5 seats empty. We wondered if we wasted our money purchasing the extra seat since there were many empty seats...and then...we stopped and picked people up...and then we picked more up....and then even more. Eventually there were 25 people in the van that should hold only 18. How did the extra 7 people sit? The good news is that they didn't seat anyone in our third seat, but they 2 in the front passenger seat sitting on a lap and...you won't believe this...the driver was sitting on someone's lap! Then, they had a bench behind the driver's seat facing the first row where they put 5 people and then 5 people in the front row that should really only have 4.
Anyway...we felt a little bad, but not bad enough to give up our seat. We finally made it to Stung Treng around noon and had some lunch before checking into our hotel where we watched TV and surfed the internet until dinner when we went back to the same place we had lunch and then back to the room for more TV and internet. You see...Stung Treng is only about 1 block with a few hotels and restaurants basically set up as a transportation center for those crossing the Cambodia / Laos border.
The next day we got onto our van around 3:00 PM and headed to the Laos border that was less than 1 hour away. They dropped us off on the Cambodia side and told us that we needed to get stamped out of Cambodia then walk over the border and get our Laos visa and there would be another van waiting for us to leave in about 30 minutes. So we checked out of Cambodia that cost us a $2 USD "service fee" and then walked to the Laos border:
When we got to the Laos visa window is where the problems began. First, there was a big group of people since our van and another van showed up at around the same time. They were quick at taking our paperwork and our passports, but processing the passports took a bit of time. Finally they started calling people's names and asked each for a $2 USD "processing fee". From all the research I did before hitting the border I knew that this was going to be the case, so I had no issue with this "processing fee". However, other people didn't think it was right to be required to pay a "bribe" or whatever they thought it was, so they refused to pay. I went up to the window and showed the guy our $4 and said I was willing to pay and others started chastising me. I told them that it was getting late and that it was going to be dark by the time we all got to the ferry and our hotel and they just need to pay the money, but they still refused. Tim and I got our visa as did 2 other guys, but the other 9 people kept refusing.
Finally, the bus company called the driver to ask why we haven't arrived at 4,000 islands and the driver handed the phone to the idiots at the window. They were finally able to convince these people that the van had to leave because the ferry will stop running. So...finally....at around 6:30 PM...2.5 hours after arriving at the border...we were on our way...in the dark...to 4,000 islands.
After a dangerous ferry ride in the dark to the popular island of Don Det we told the ferry driver that we were staying at the other island of Don Khon, but he said that it was too dark and too dangerous to go to Don Khon. At this point I thanked the idiots for their inconsiderateness and that because they refused to pay $2 Tim and I could not get to our hotel...they didn't care. Luckily, there was a footbridge connecting Don Det to Don Khon and it was only a 2.5 mile walk, which Tim and I did at 8:00 PM and arrived at our hotel around 9:00 PM hungry, tired, and pissed off.
Welcome to Laos!
9 - 11 January 2015
We woke up in Phnom Penh and Tim was feeling fine...good thing since it is a 7 hour bus ride from here to Kratie. We arrive in Kratie just in time for dinner so before even checking into our hotel we stopped and ate at a street-side restaurant. By the time we got to our hotel, The Mekong Dolphin Hotel, it was dark, so we just went to our room and watched TV until we fell asleep. The next morning we woke to a view of the Mekong River off our balcony...beautiful!
We went downstairs, had breakfast, and hired a tuk-tuk to show us the sites. First he took us to a picnic area on the Mekong. We had just eaten breakfast, but it was fun to walk around the boardwalk and see how the locals spend their Saturdays:
Next we got on a boat and went Irrawaddy Dolphin Watching on the Mekong. The Irrawaddy Dolphin is listed as an endangered species. In Cambodia and Laos they are found in a 190-km (118-mi) freshwater stretch of the Mekong River.
We traveled on a road along the Mekong north of Kratie. This stretch of road had some of the nicest wooden homes we have seen in Cambodia:
Along the road we stopped for a local treat, bamboo stuffed with sticky rice:
And, of course, what is a day out without a stop at a temple. This one is called Phnom Sambok and was at the top of 361 steps.
Even after all that got back to our hotel with plenty of time to check out the rest of Kratie including the market:
Finally, to end the day, a beautiful sunset over the Mekong River and a new beer, Black Panther:
The next morning we took a ferry across the Mekong (5 minutes) to the island of Koh Trong. There we rented a couple of bicycles and rode the 8.5 miles around the island. It was nice since there were no cars and we only passed a few motorbikes during the entire ride...but we did have to look out for the animals:
There was also a really cool floating village on the other side of the island:
Then back to our room to watch the sunset from our balcony:
Tomorrow we leave Kratie and head north to Stung Treng to position ourselves closer to the border of Laos.
5 - 8 January 2015
After another sleepless night in Sihanoukville...do I see a pattern here...we got on a bus for a 4 hour trip back to Phnom Penh. We only plan on spending one night in Phnom Penh and then we head north towards the Laos border. We have 8 days to get to Laos because our visa stamp for Cambodia expires on 13 January. Eight days should be plenty of time to cover the few more places we want to see before then.
Wait...did you feel that?!? It felt like we just ran over a speed bump. This isn't your ordinary speed bump. This is the "I don't feel well" speed bump. The kind of speed bump that can really freak someone out when you are in a foreign country with somewhat questionable medical care. The kind of speed bump that delays traveling for days. The kind of speed bump that might send you packing for home...luckily it didn't come to this. Let me explain.
We arrive in Phnom Penh and a really nice bus ride. The bus was a nice charter bus type and the road was actually pretty smooth. Our hotel is just over a 1 mile walk, so we planned on walking it and getting some exercise after spending 4 hours on a bus, but Tim didn't feel well so we took a tuk-tuk.
We arrived at the hotel and Tim was feeling better...just a little tired. We contributed his bad feelings to the sleepless night and the hours of traveling, but now we are in a comfortable room where we can relax until tomorrow when we head out.
As Tim napped I began researching 2-day, 1-night treks in Banlung where we were planning on going in a few days after a visit to Kratie. I emailed 2 trekking companies and was awaiting a reply when Tim woke up and said he didn't feel well and felt like he was going to pass out. As some of you know from reading our Pacific Crest Trail Blog, Tim did pass out, so I was familiar with the symptoms.
At this point I knew that he was dehydrated and we needed to go to a hospital to get an IV in him. I called the front desk and they said that a taxi was on the way, but I was worried if he sat or stood up he would pass out. Without an option, he had to go in the taxi. The entire hotel staff (4 people) came up to our room to help carry Tim down the 3 flights of stairs and into the taxi. I thought that he would be able to lie down in the back seat, but no...2 of the people that helped him down the stairs got in the backseat with him. I went in the front and told the driver to take us to the international hospital. He nodded.
We wound up at a local hospital, but they took us immediately...maybe because we were tourists? They rolled him into the emergency room and hooked him up to an IV. There were other gurneys all over the room with bloody people and old guy that was having trouble breathing. Tim then said he needed to use the bathroom, so I asked for a bedpan. They said something about me having to go outside. What...no...it is Tim, not me...and they kept saying outside. They then gave me an escort that took me outside across the parking lot to a pharmacy to buy the bedpan that cost me $3 USD. I went back to the emergency room and they were about to put us in a private room. I was surprised since there seemed to be people dying in the emergency room that should have been put in a private room...maybe because we are tourists?
And then, a woman came up to me and asked if I was OK. Who was this? She said that she was the owner of the hotel and that the staff called her and told her what was going on and that she was sorry it took so long for her to get to the hospital but there was a lot of traffic from her house. She then said that we had to leave this hospital and go to the international clinic. She helped me explain to the doctor that we were leaving and helped me pay the bill...$30 USD ! (she said that if we were local it would have cost $5 !!!)...and we got in her husband's car and drove the 10 minutes to the international clinic.
Anyway...to make a long story longer, her, her husband, and the security guard from the hotel stayed with us until the doctor diagnosed Tim and said that everything was going to be OK...this was around 10 PM. Oh yeah...Tim was diagnosed with Acute Gastroenteritis. He has a fever of 101, was dehydrated...the sunburn from snorkeling didn't help...and had a bacterial infection probably caused by something he ate, probably on the boat. After 2 liters of fluids he was released and we arrive back to the hotel at around 2:00 AM.
The next morning I saw 2 emails from the trekking companies and replied that we weren't going to make it. I was a bit disappointed, but there will be plenty of trekking opportunities in Laos. We spent the next 3 days in the hotel room with a regiment of tylenol, antibiotics, antidiarrheal, anti-nausea, and drinking electrolytes until Tim was finally ready to get out and walk a bit to test if he could travel in the morning. I found a Mexican place online that had free beer when you ordered a entree so we walked the 30 minutes there thinking that we would take a tuk-tuk back if Tim wasn't up to it. The burrito was really good and the free beer was even better...at least for me...Tim stuck to water:
Tim was feeling fine, so we walked back to the hotel. On the way back we stopped at the night market and bought 4 t-shirts for the 4 hotel staff that helped us out the night Tim got sick. They were very excited when we gave them the shirts.
Tomorrow we are finally out of here and off to Kratie to see the endangered Irrawaddy freshwater dolphin in the Mekong River.
3 - 5 January 2015
We arrived back in Sihanoukville and went straight to Scuba Nation to fill out our paperwork for the trip that is leaving tomorrow. Since we had to return to Scuba Nation at 7:00 AM the next day, we decided to stay close by. There was a place right across the street for only $25, so we took it.
After spending 3 days at Last Point Resort and eating from the limited menu we needed something different. I have been craving Mexican for a while, so we walked down the street and found a place called The Big Easy that had some Mexican choices on the menu and we both ordered the quesadilla that tasted really good:
After dinner we walked around town some and then returned to The Big Easy at 8:00 PM for the 2-for-1 cocktail special after which we went back to our hotel around 9:00 PM to go to sleep since we had to be up early. I guess you can tell where this is going. Noise came out of the bar in the lobby of our hotel and when then finally stopped there were people talking in the courtyard outside our door all night long. We "woke up" groggy and sleepy and headed to Scuba Nation and then down to the pier to get on the boat that was to be our home for the next 2 days:
On board is 2 local crewmen, 3 diving instructors from Scuba Nation, and 6 other Americans who are all scuba diving versus snorkeling. It is crazy that all the guests on board are American since we rarely see other Americans on this trip...most tourists we meet tend to be Europeans and Australians. Anyway, it was cool hanging with people that speak our language and without having to figure out accents.
We were underway for about 2.5 hours when we approached an island called Koh Rong Saloem. We were supposed to go further out, but the headwind was too strong so they changed the plan. We jumped in for the first of 2 scheduled dives that day. The visibility wasn't the best thanks to the tropical storm in the Philippines, but we were still able to see an incredible underwater landscape. The most prominent thing down there seemed to be sea urchins. They were pretty scary looking with long spines and what looked like beady eyes. Every time I kicked I thought that my feet were going right into one of those spines. We did't have an underwater camera, but here is a picture that I grabbed from the internet of what the sea urchin looks like:
After lunch they moved the boat to a different part of the island and we did a second snorkel that was similar to the first. At the end of the day we were rewarded with yet another beautiful sunset along with a moon rise:
We woke up the next morning feeling great. We both had a great night sleep with the slow and steady rocking of the boat all night. We really needed the sleep after a restless night in Sihanoukville. Here is what the upper deck looked like in the morning with all the mattresses set out:
The second day we did two more snorkels before making the 2.5 hour trip back to Sihanoukville where we arrived around 2:00 PM. Overall the trip was really enjoyable and for a cost of only $90 each, including food, snacks, and beverages, it was really worth it and we would definitely do it again.
When we got back to Sihanoukville we took a tuk-tuk back to Otres Beach and checked into a beach bungalow that we arranged before the snorkeling trip.
After checking in there was time to sit on a beach chair and relax before watching the sunset and grabbing some dinner.
It seemed like a good idea at the time staying in a cute little bungalow on the beach until we realized that the bungalow butts right up to a bar.
Question: How late can people party? Answer: All night long!
Luckily the only plans tomorrow is a bus ride back to Phnom Penh.
30 December 2014 - 3 January 2015
During this trip I have been making hotel reservations one or two days before we get there. This is mostly due to the fact that we usually don't know where we are going next, plus, it keep us flexible to stay longer at one place if we like it. This strategy has been working out fine until now, around New Year's Eve.
We decided to go to Sihanoukville, a beach town, but accommodations are now hard to find. During the web search I came across a new resort that recently opened and still has beds available. Yes...I said beds...not rooms. This place has a two-story bamboo structure with 6 bunkbeds on the ground floor and 4 queen-size beds on the top floor. A queen--size bed costs $10 and is equipped with a mosquito net. Oh...did I mention that this resort is located on primitive island, a 1.5 hour boat ride from Sihanoukville, and has power only between 6:00 - 10:00 PM.
We decided to think about it for a day before booking the bed. Meanwhile I had a thought that if we are going towards the Gulf of Thailand then maybe there is a live-aboard boat we can get on for a couple of days and one night. After a web search I found a 2-day, 1-night snorkeling trip that leaves out of Sihanoukville on 4 January...perfect.
Now we just have to book 1 night in Sihanoukville , then the bed for 3 nights, followed by 1 night in Sihanoukville, then board the boat for 1 night, then finally one more night in Sihanoukville before heading into northern Cambodia towards the Laos border. WOW...this is the most advanced planning I have done so far.
So, the morning of 30 December we board a minivan from Kep to Sihanoukville for the 4-hour journey. Oh...I forgot to mention...while hanging out at the pool at Le Kep Bungalows we talked with a guy from Australia (Andrew) and mentioned our plan on going to the primitive island in Sihanoukville. He said it sounded great and decided to join us. We got to Sihanoukville around 2:00 PM and checked into Sihanoukville room for $45 USD. The room was far from worth the money, but when we walk down to the private beach, we now knew what we were paying for:
The next morning, New Years Eve, we made our way to Otres Beach, just over 3 miles away, to catch the boat to the island Koh Ta Kiev. At 11:30 AM we board the "Green Fairy" and made it to The Last Point Resort by 1:00 PM.
By 4:00 PM, after a swim, I was living the island life:
At 9:00 PM New Years Eve a bonfire was built on the beach, by 10:00 PM both Tim and I gave up and went to bed...you know we are getting old when we can't hang till midnight! However, we did promise that we would be awake for New Years in the US at noon tomorrow. Even though we went to sleep, we were woken by pretty good fireworks at midnight.
The next day we ate, drank beer, swam in the Gulf, and did more hammock swinging and then walked the 5 minutes to "Naked Beach" to watch the sunset....and what a sunset!
When the sun went down is where it really got incredible:
The next day's sunrise, as viewed from our bed, was just as spectacular:
How do we view a sunrise from our bed? Well...here is our bed (the one on the right with the pink netting):
And where it is located...top right corner facing east:
The next day, 2 January 2015, we wondered to the other side of the island where there is a few more resorts along with a absinthe distillary. Here we sampled the forbidden drink with extreme levels of thujone levels. Thujone is what gives absinthe its supposed hallucinogenic properties and is illegal in the U.S. Although Tim had a double shot of absinthe...we were supposed to share, but I couldn't drink the stuff...he said he didn't feel (or hallucinate) anything. Maybe you have to drink the whole bottle?
The next day we woke up, had breakfast, and boarded the boat back to the mainland. For a place that took us 2 days to book because we weren't sure, it sure was hard to leave. However, knowing that we would be boarding a boat the next day for a 2-day, 1-night snorkeling trip made leaving much easier.
By the way...here are some more pictures of Last Point Resort: