Category Archives: Laos

Thanks For The Memories

This is it guys. My last post here in Southeast Asia before I set off for the next half of this extraordinary adventure around the world. I can also finally say that I have accomplished something that most backpackers traveling throughout Southeast Asia for a long period of time have not done. And that is, not getting sick! I got motion sick a few times but I can’t really help that. I’m talking no colds, no coughs, no fevers, no vomiting, no stuffy noses, none of that! I had a great run in Asia. Here’s how I spent my last couple of days…

The day after Rob and I went biking, we didn’t do too much besides relax and eat all day. Us, along with Lulu, Schunk, and Toni went out to a Mexican restaurant near pub street that night. Leticia was supposed to meet us but unfortunately she was stuck at her volunteering organization. I have been craving some good Mexican food ever since I left the States and this restaurant didn’t disappoint! Afterwards, Rob went back to the hostel but the rest of us stayed and enjoyed 50 cent draft beers and pizza. I taught them how to play a fun card game I learned in South Africa last year called $hithead, which they caught onto quick and even beat me in a few times. Soon, we called it a night and went back.

The next night, as Lulu and Toni went to Angkor Wat, Rob, Schunk, and I pretty much ate, played cards, and lounged all day. It was exhausting! ;). Once the girls came back, we all went upstairs to the Sandbar for one final night of fun before everyone departed in the morning.

Rob was supposed to leave two days ago, but never could time his buses and flights properly, but this morning he would be leaving for sure. I never met any other person in Southeast Asia or even at home that could eat as much as I can! Whenever we both finished off a meal at a restaurant, we always decided it was a great idea to both order another full dinner! It was easy to be a pig when I had a buddy who was a pig just like me. And ever since we’ve met in Phnom Penh, we have been on the same page with everything. He’s been a really great traveling buddy and someone I know I’ll visit in the future. He was on his way back to Holland for a couple of weeks before he started up a year of Uni in London. Safe travels home Sean Connery! I say that because every word that started with an “s” he pronounced with a “sh”, sounding like Sean Connery. Next, I said goodbye to the three German siblings. I literally only met them a couple of days ago but we all hit it off very fast. They were on their way to Bangkok and straight to the southern islands. I’ve already traveled that route so I was able to give them some useful tips. They are frequent visitors of Oktoberfest so they told me whenever I’m up there, to let them know! This is a picture of Lulu, Schunk, and Toni below.


All of my friends were gone and I was now by myself. I could easily meet more people around but I chose to recluse myself because I had a few things I needed to do. Respond to emails, laundry, and most importantly, catch up on my blogs. For my Facebook friends, you may have noticed that I have been posting more frequently the last few days than usual. Thats because I wanted to be entirely caught up before I start the next phase of this trip in Africa.

I’ve met tons of unique and awesome people in each of the four main countries (Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia) that I’ve been to. Even though I left home alone, I was never, ever alone here. Lucy, the volunteers, teachers, and students in Saigon. Kimmie and Ibriham in Hanoi. Alison, Abbie, Tristan, Megan, Claire, Alys, Josephine, Si, Meg, and Lauryn in Laos. All the crazy Brits in Chiang Mai. Björn, Kevin, and Viola in Pai. Clint in Bangkok. Leonoor, Thom, Jack, Kevin, and the two German friends in the islands. Rob, Leticia, Luke, Schunk, Lulu, Toni, Djoeke, Lianne, and Other Dan in Cambodia. It was them and a host of other random zany backpackers and locals alike that made this trip even better than what I could have imagined! I’m sorry if I’m forgetting anyone significant. I met SO many people out here!























And to my main traveling buddies that were there with me through the long haul: Lucy, Björn, Kevin, Viola, and Rob. You guys are all great! Thanks for sharing in the memories.

Initially, Malaysia and Indonesia were supposed to be a part of the Southeast Asian excursion, but I spent so much time in each country I visited that I couldn’t fit those two in. I’d have to save them for a different trip in the future. I spent my last two days completely resetting myself in preparation for the next three months where I will cross continents and go back to Africa.


My Magical Disappearing Shoes

The five hour van ride north to Luang Prabang was a pain in my stomach! The windy roads up and down the hills made me feel woozy. I was getting sick but luckily the driver stopped many times where I could get out and get some much needed fresh air. But besides feeling like crap the whole way, the views were quite scenic. At one point, we made a stop at the top of a mountain overlooking the countryside. It was here that I saw THE BEST. TOILET. EVER.


Finally, Lucy, Abe, Tristan, Claire, and I arrived in the city of Luang Prabang. We booked a guest house at Khammany Inn and found that we were in the same room as other backpackers we met previously in Vientienne, Meg (England), Si (England), and Justyne (Germany). Cool coincidence! This guesthouse was big and the rooms were actually pretty decent. But we didn’t stick around for long; we wanted to see the town. So what is there to do in Luang Prabang? Well, the town itself is pretty relaxed. There are markets down the road with tons of tasty food and stalls of freshly made fruit smoothies along the road.

We ate here a few times. Not only was it delicious but also super cheap!
We ate here a few times. Not only was it delicious but also super cheap!

There are temples everywhere here too. I’d say the main attraction are the two waterfalls that everyone must go to when they visit here, Kuang Si and Tad Sae. We decided to only do Kuang Si. The next day, the group of us, including two German girls we met in Vang Vieng, took a minivan about 25km to the Kuang Si waterfalls. I’ve been pretty good about not vomiting from motion sickness so far on this trip…until now. On the way to Kuang Si, I cautioned the driver to pull over! And then it happened, all over the side of the road. But at least I felt better afterwards!

Upon walking to the foot of the waterfall, there was a fenced off area that held rescued Malaysian Sun Bears just playing and laying about.


Furthermore, we came to a crystal blue pool of water where we could Tarzan swing in and swim underneath some of the falls.


The water was cool and refreshing and I lost count of how many times I swung and splashed into the water. Every time I made my way out of the water, I could feel fish nibbling at my legs and feet. A bit strange a first but then barely noticeable after awhile. Soon, Tristan and I made our way further up the falls until we found the grand daddy of the Kuang Si! Tristan is great with a camera, much better than me, and was able to take some great photos.

Yes. Yes, it was amazing.
Yes. Yes, it was amazing.

We spent a couple hours at the falls before we headed back. I was worried about the ride back but I sat in the front this time and was able to fall asleep. Falling asleep is the only sure fire way I won’t get motion sick!



Here in Luang Prabang, the town shuts down at around 10pm. Everything except for a bowling alley in the middle of nowhere! Once all the bars and restaurants close, all the backpackers frolic to this one and only place that remains open to continue their fun there. We made a night of it and all went to Utopia, which is a bar when everyone takes their shoes off and sits on the floor, with pillows of course. The atmosphere was neat as the bar played familiar western music and everything was made of bamboo and stone.


It was also here where things got a little crazy. Once again, just like in Vang Vieng, after a few drinks we all accidentally split up! I have no idea where the others went, but I ended up in the alleys of the bar with a German guy who also stayed in our dorm and with one of the German girls who came with me to the waterfalls earlier. Both were hammered. Me, not too much. All I knew was we had to get to the bowling alley! That’s where everyone else probably stumbled to.


I am skipping a lot of stuff, because I’m sure none of you want to hear the stuff that happened in between getting separated and getting to the bowling alley. Just a lot of a boozy mess. Once I finally made it, I reunited with a couple of the others. Everyone was all over the place, but we eventually early and went to sleep. I am skipping a LOT of stuff here but you can ask me in person and I’ll tell you all about it. It’s pretty funny.

So at our guesthouse, every guest has to take their shoes off and leave it at the door. It’s disrespectful to walk around inside with your shoes on. With all the guests at the guesthouse, there was always 50 pairs of shoes outside, if not more. The next morning after Utopia, I found that my Nike trainers were missing! My favorite shoes that I have had for a long time were gone! I had them on last night and I always take them off at the door. I checked everywhere! Didn’t find them. I was pretty bummed about it, more so than losing my iPhone earlier. It’s hard to find a good pair of shoes that last long, fit perfectly, and never look like they’re dirty no matter what I put them through. I’ve seen places to buy shoes in Luang Prabang, but they were all knock off’s and crap quality. All I had were my hiking boots and my wet shoes. I’ll wait until I get to Thailand to buy some quality shoes. I predict, some homeless guy was walking down the street in the middle of the night and say my trainers and claimed them for himself. Shoot, if I were a bum on the streets, I would probably do the same! What made matters worse was what happened the next day. Now my wet shoes were missing! If you’re not familiar with a wet shoe, it’s a shoe that fits tightly over your foot. It’s basically a wet-suit for your foot. It’s one of the best items I brought with me, as I wore it through hikes where I had to cross rivers and step through ponds, streams, and mud. They were also easy to clean. Just rinse em off. I thought it was weird that out of ALL the shoes laying out front that both pairs of my shoes, were missing. A sick joke. Now all I had were my cheap hiking boots, which were breaking down everytime I put them on. They sucked compared to my old ones. I didn’t want to wear these around for long. I hate these boots but I had to make do.

This was our last full day in Laos with everyone until Lucy and I depart to Chiang Mai, Thailand. As a matter of fact, from here we would all be going our separate ways. Tristan and Claire are heading to Hanoi, Vietnam. Tristan is buying a motorbike while there and biking down the entire country! Abe is staying in Luang Prabang for a couple more days until he heads back south. Before I came to Laos, I didn’t expect to meet a group of friends in such short amount of time. What was great was we traveled through Laos together.

Lucy, me, and my hiking boots said our goodbyes and went to the bus station and waited for a bus to take us through the border of Thailand. Laos has been more than I ever expected, especially with the people I have met.

Thailand time :).


Tubing in the Vang Vieng

With a new group of friends I’ve met in Vientiane; Lucy, Claire, Tristan, Abe, Megan, and myself took a VIP bus fours hours north to Vang Vieng, a town in Laos known for lots of boozed up backpackers and merciless tubing down the river.


It’s considered the party capital of Laos, as most backpackers who make their way through this country, almost always stop here on route. I’ve read articles and seen documentaries on TV about Vang Vieng; how backpackers get a little too crazy and end up dead after doing something foolish along the river. There are bars located along the river, and after drinking a few too many Beerlao’s and whiskey shots, backpackers grow feeble-minded. The rate of deaths of backpackers was so bad that tubing was shut down all together for a while. Eventually, it was brought back but with many revisions: less bars, no zip-lining, no huge mudslides, and a few other changes which makes for a “safer” experience. The fact is, there are still some bars along the river with plenty of booze and alcohol for someone stupid to do something stupid. With all of these blurbs and tidbits, Lucy and I were initially going to skip this tubing part altogether, but decided to do it because neither of us would do anything stupid and other than all of the downer news about the deaths, tubing along the river all day sounded super fun!

We went to Vang Vieng without pre-booking a hostel. Once we arrived in the town, we walked along the streets and found a place on one of the corners. I forget the name of the hostel, but the six of us were able to nab a single room together which meant we didn’t have to lock up our stuff since we all trusted each other. It just so turned out that the hostel was in the center of everything! There were bars along the street, a place to rent tubes directly next door, and a bike rental shop right across from us. Perfect! We didn’t have to venture too far for food either as there was a delicious bakery just a few yards away and a sandwich stall in front of our hostel. I thought the bánh mì sandwiches in Vietnam were phenomenal, but the sandwiches here in Vang Vieng blow those ones out of the water! They are massive, stuffed with meat and veggies, and best of all, incredibly cheap! It costs about 20,000 kip which is a little less than 3 USD. One night after bar hopping, Megan, Tristan, myself, and another backpacker we met named Jackson, got split up from the others and decided to chow down on sandwiches as it started to pour rain.


Our first day, we didn’t really do much besides walk around town, getting familiar with the atmosphere and getting to know each other a little better by bar hopping. The next day is when the real fun began. We woke up around 11 in the morning, got into our swim gear, and all wore our Fat Monkey shirts we got from the Fat Monkey Bar yesterday and went to rent our tubes. A tuk tuk ( a taxi bike on steroids) took us down to the river, to the beginning of the tube fest. We were pumped and ready for the eventful day!

Claire, Megan, and Lucy ready for some tubes!
Claire, Megan, and Lucy ready for some tubes!
Tristan and Abe!
Tristan and Abe!
Me, Abe, Claire, Megan, Tristan, and Lucy.
Me, Abe, Claire, Megan, Tristan, and Lucy.

The river was brown, cold, but bearable. The current took us along with the flow. We just had to paddle with our hands to the side of the river that had the bar.


It was literally 30 seconds after we first got on and we already made it to the first bar. Kids on the shore would throw ropes at us to catch us and reel us in. Here, if you miss a bar by some chance, there’s no point paddling against the current, just go to the next bar. Fortunately, we all were caught and reeled in by these kids, who seemed to enjoy their job! At the first bar we got our first beers and our first bracelets. During tubing, you get a bracelet for every drink you get.

The amount of drinks I had totaled more than I thought.
I didn’t drink too much…

We played a sorry game of volleyball (we all had drinks in our hand) and returned to our tubes and moved on to the second bar. We’ve been told the second bar is where the real fun is, as most people stay there for the longest amount of time. What we’ve heard is definitely true. This bar was ridiculously fun! Beer pong, ping pong, free shots galore! A basketball court that sprayed water at you, some weird bowling ball lane, tasty food, and great music! The best part was the mud fight that ensued after it started to drizzle!





Rinsing off all the mud.
Rinsing off all the mud.

I was covered from head to toe, a lot of people were. I haven’t been that muddy since last April, when I did the Tough Mudder. After a couple hours, our group kind of split up. The girls stayed behind while the rest of us tubed on to the third and fourth bars. More drinks and fun happened there as all the tubers familiarized themselves with one another from the previous bars. It got kind of messy as my group split up into even smaller units by the end of the day. It just became hard to find each other as the day progressed and the more intoxicated everyone became. I found myself separated from everyone and ended up tubing to the finish with a group of friendly Germans, who gave me plenty of tips about what to do when I get to Germany. Eventually, we all made it back to the hostel where we passed out from the crazy fun day.

The next day, we all rented mountain bikes and rode them about 15 km through the villages of Vang Vieng towards a blue lagoon!


Megan along for the ride
Megan along for the ride


Tristan, Megan, and I made it first and the others joined us about 20 minutes after. It was here we could swing and jump into the fresh running water. It was also here where I jumped from a high branch of a tree into the water and hurt my neck (again).

Bombs away!
Bombs away!

I couldn’t help myself but I manned up and did my best to not let it bother me. Right after, we climbed a small mountain and entered a cave that went very deep. So deep that locals outside of the cave said we needed torches in order to see, otherwise it would be pitch-black. I was the only one in my group to rent a torch, I still don’t know why anyone else didn’t but oh well. As we went through the massive cave, one by one my group started to stay behind as it grew darker and the route became more difficult. Why on earth did no one else rent a torch? I had to slow my pace in order to light up the path for some of the others, which got old real fast. Eventually, it was only Tristan, Abe, and I who were brave enough to go super deep into the depths of this ginormous cave. We took some photos!

The entrance to this massive cave!
The entrance to this massive cave!
Abe and I, exploring through the depths!
Abe and I, exploring through the depths!

We decided it was best to turn around because it was easy to get lost and it became dangerous. On the way we passed signs warning us to watch our steps because of giant pitfalls. I wanted to keep going, but it was for the best. I had to leave the group early and go back to get my neck brace unfortunately.

This was our last full day in Vang Vieng. We would all leave and take a minivan further north in Laos to Luang Prabang. This would be the last time we would see Megan, as she headed back to Vientiane. Vang Vieng is definitely the party place in Laos and rightfully so. And being with a bunch of people from around the world who just want to have a great time is one of the greatest things to experience. Refreshing. 🙂

Laos: The Forgotten Country

I lost my iPhone! I think I left it in Sapa. It’s a horrible feeling. I’d say it’s comparable to losing a beloved pet, that’s been your loyal companion for years. It’s what you get for bringing an expensive gadget on a long trip Dan. I brought it mainly for when I return to Africa in September; the kids loved playing the games on it. It also served as a backup to my backup backup camera. I’m not entirely upset that it’s gone. I planned on getting a new one when I returned back home anyways. If it was any of my other cameras or my iPad that was missing….oh I don’t even want to think of the lengths I’d go through to get them back! So whoever found my phone in Sapa Town…enjoy. There’s nothing I can do now, Lucy and I are off to Vientiane, the capital of Laos!

I don’t know what to expect here!

Vietnam is known for it’s pristine beauty and landscapes. Thailand for it’s diverse beaches and lively city culture and Cambodia for it’s world renowned temples and architecture. Landlocked in the middle of those three countries is Laos, which is perpetually forgotten, bypassed, and lost within the mix. Unfortunately, it has the gloomy reputation of being the most heavily bombed country in the world. Hundreds of people every year are still killed or severely injured by bombs that have been left untouched since the Vietnam War. I have to remember to never go off unmarked paths while traveling through the country, there could be land-mines. Because no one ever talks about Laos, Lucy and I went into the country knowing almost absolutely nothing. We flew from Hanoi into Vientiane completely naked; no place to stay, no one to meet, no nothing. After a quick hour flight, we retrieved our bags and looked for internet. There was an internet station on one of the floors where we were able to book a hostel for two nights at a place called Sihome Backpackers, just seven minutes away. We exchanged some money into Laotian Kip, the currency used here. One US dollar equals roughly 7,500 kip, to give you an idea. We took a taxi to Sihome and came to find out that they overbooked and we couldn’t stay. No worries though. Sihome reserved us another hotel for the night about two minutes away. Two guys on motorbikes came and picked us up and off we went!

We got settled into our room and lounged for a bit. I was starving! Lucy was feeling a bit under the weather and decided to stay in for the night while I went into the unknown to search for food. It was pass 10pm, raining, and almost lifeless outside. Unlike Saigon where there were always people and motorbikes everywhere, the streets of Vientiane were basically empty. I had my rain jacket and walked along to try and find a bite to eat. I went down the block, turned the corner and walked about a block down hoping to run into a place to eat. As I walked aimlessly, I heard loud “kissing” noises and guys shouting “Hey boy!”…at least I think they were guys. Suddenly, out of the depths of the dark alleyways and corners, a gang of ladyboys came up and surrounded me! Definitely not women, but skinny Laotian guys dressed in drag. It caught me off guard as I was not expecting this at all, I started to laugh. “You look for a good time?” said one of them. “Noooo.” I responded, with a bit of a laugh. There was one on a motorbike, who rode past me and slapped my butt in the process as the others howled and swooned at me. That’s when I decided I wasn’t that hungry, turned around, and went right back to Lucy at our hotel. I told her what happened and she thought it was the most hilarious thing in the world.

The next morning we were instructed to go back to Sihome backpackers and stay there for the next couple of nights. Sihome is a very laid back hostel with backpackers mainly from Europe and Australia. Lucy and I had the “ninja” room and settled in. Afterwards, we roamed into town to see what Vientiane had to offer. It was super relaxed and easy going. We did finds loads of cool buddhist temples around. I had to take off my shoes in certain areas.




We went back to the hostel and mingled with other backpackers; many traveling solo and some with a friend. The ones who traveled solo aren’t really alone, they’ve met other backpackers in different cities in Asia and decided to travel together for awhile, which I found to be very neat. We played rounds of pool, drank a few beers, and talked about where we’ve been and what we plan on doing. The backpackers who range from age 18 to mid 30’s come from all walks of life, but we all feel a bit of unity in the sense that we all enjoy wandering the world and are completely open to new ideas and vastly different cultures and beliefs. Here we met Abe (Marrakesh, Morocco) who currently lives in Netherlands, Megan (Liverpool, England), Claire (Darlington, England), Tristan (Cambridge, England), Allison (Australia) and a host of other interesting backpackers. The next day, Lucy and I decided to rent motorbikes and go to Buddha Park. Abe and Allison would be joining us. Both have done a massive amount of traveling! Abe is a teacher at home, and has biked across Vietnam and ventures to different countries every summer. Allison puts every single traveler I’ve met to shame. She’s been to 53 different countries and counting! They have both been on motorbikes numerous times, where Lucy and I have not. The plan was for me to drive while Lucy rode on the back but she didn’t feel comfortable, but I couldn’t blame her because I didn’t feel comfortable at first either! I rode on the back with Allison to get the hang of things until we eventually switched places as I drove about 20 kilometers down the streets of Laos. Lucy rode with Abe. After a bumpy ride through mud-pits and potholes, we finally made it to Buddha Park.

Lucy didn't ride with me. This was just for the picture.
Lucy didn’t ride with me. This was just for the picture.

Buddha Park is a plot of land full of sacred buddhist statues and structures built in charismatic and anomalous ways. It’s very religious here, as people would take off their shoes at certain statues and kneel down to pray. Everything looked so cool…and climbable. There were elephants, horses, and buddha statues that were just screaming to be climbed on. So that’s what we did.









I don’t think we were supposed to climb on them at all. We certainly got some looks, but no one came and told us to knock it off. It certainly made the day more fun! Other patrons at the park began to follow my lead.

After sweating all day, we rode on our motorbikes back to the hostel. Abe and Lucy took off and left me and Allison in their dust. I felt comfortable, but not that comfortable as I didn’t trust the traffic in Lao, and I wasn’t sure how I would react to an impending road accident with this unfamiliar vehicle. I drove at a steady pace, and all of a sudden Allison says “You just crossed a red light!” Thats when I heard a loud, irritating whistle as soon as I realized what I’ve done. We looked around, but didn’t see any police. “Should I pull over?” I asked Allison. “I think so” she said. I pulled over and saw a Laotian police office walking towards us from the intersection that I zipped through. His English wasn’t great at all, as he used hand gestures to explain the crime I just committed. He asked for identification but I didn’t have any on me. Actually that’s a lie, I had my driver’s license but I pretended like I didn’t have it. Allison did the same. He then started to check out the motorbike I was on. No license plate, no identification number. The only thing on there was a phone number to the company we rented the bikes from. He proceeded to call them but no one answered. He checked under the seat of my bike and grabbed a set of papers which I assumed were registration papers for the motorbike.


He told us to follow him back to his office but Allison told me not to budge and stay put. She’s been all over the world so I trusted her advice. “We are going to stay here and wait because it’s dangerous to drive backwards to your little office area.” she told him. He continued to walk away and kept flagging us to follow him, but we just stood there playing dumb. He walked about 30 meters to the corner. “Should we just go?” I asked. “He has our insurance papers, so I don’t know.” responded Allison. Soon enough, instead of standing around, Allison walked to the police officer and moments later I saw her walking back with the papers in hand. I think the officer meant for us to wait while he wrote a ticket but this guy had no information about us, so we took off!

Allison and I.
Allison and I.

We managed to escape, periodically looking behind us to see if we were being pursued. It was risky but I am without a ticket! I actually let Allison drive the rest of the way because I didn’t want to get pulled over again! We made it back to the hostel and hung out some more. I gathered a group of about 12 backpackers and we all went out to eat dinner at a live music joint down the street. Lucy and I had plans to leave the next morning to head a bit north to a town called Vang Vieng, known for drunk backpackers tubing down the Mekong river. Sounds fun! Abe, Megan, Claire, and Tristan joined our party and we decided to travel north together, since they were headed that way anyway. A great thing is, like Lucy and I, many of the backpackers I’ve met have no set agenda so are able to flex their schedule as much as they like. We found a group of newly found friends who would stick with us for the duration of our Laos getaway.

Let the wackiness begin!