Tagged: waterfall

Miri, Sarawak, Borneo

 

Miri we stayed at Dillenia Guesthouse, which is located downtown. Miri is the destination for Brunei locals to come on the weekend to party. The city is pretty small but there are plenty or bars and restaurants to keep entertained. It’s relatively clean (except near the water) and the locals are friendly. 

 

Vermont and I checked into our dorm then headed out for a walk. We went down towards the water, which we thought was going to be a beach, and it ended up being a dock covered in garbage. There are a few seafood restaurants on the waterfront and a massive construction site. We had wonton soup and much needed iced coffee at one of the restaurants, then kept walking around. On our way home we stopped at the spa below us and got a massage. It costs $9 for an hour, which is expensive for Asia, but it’s the cheapest I’ve seen in Malaysia.

A friend from our hostel in Seminyak arrived and we’re now officially three people traveling together. He’s British but works in Gibraltar and lives across the border in Spain. 
The three of us went out and had dinner at local street restaurant. The restaurant didn’t serve alcohol so we grabbed beers across the street. We then walked across the street to a massive bar complex and started at the first bar on one end, which also was the only bar that had people. It was a Monday night and everywhere was dead.
After there we headed towards the water to Hangover bar. We stayed here for the night playing pool and darts. I loved the darts and I wasn’t bad.
The next day we slept in late because we were all exhausted from a lack of sleep the night before. When we did get up we went for lunch and had chicken roti’s. We then grabbed a cab to take us to the main temple in Miri.  

San Ching Tian temple is the largest Chinese Taoist temple in all of South East Asia. The temple has an archway, a courtyard, the main structure and smaller gazebo’s around. Inside the temple are three buddha’s and cushions to kneel on for prayer. There are floral candles available for purchase and some were lit already. The temple is incredibly colorful (bright rainbow colors) with intricate detail and carvings. 

  

  

  

 Down the road a new Taoist temple is currently being finished. This temple is also colorful with two large dragons  boarding the entrance. There’s a koi fish pond and large red wooden doors to enter the actual temple. The temple is closed but we were able to see inside by the side windows.  

     After the temple we came back downtown and checked out Imperial Mall across the street from us. I was hoping it would have some of the cheap Malaysia stores I found in west Malaysia, but it was filled with regular western stores.

At 9ish we went for a late dinner on the waterfront at Yi Hah Hai Seafood. The restaurant had fish tanks and Gibraltar and I picked out what we wanted to eat. We chose shrimp, calamari and oysters. We were served butter shrimp, steamed oysters with garlic and fried calamari. We also got sautéed vegetables. The shrimp was absolutely delicious.  


 

 In the morning we took a public bus to the long distance bus terminal and boarded a bus towards Sibu for Lambir Hills National Park. It was a 30min ride, so an hour trip total to get there. Lambir Hills, which is a rainforest, has multiple hiking trails and waterfalls throughout. 

We first walked from the park entrance to Pantu Waterfall which was almost 2km. The waterfall wasn’t that big but the freshwater pool was Cleese turquoise and the mountain sides were completely covered in moss which gave made the scene fantasy-like. We all swam here and the water was cold and refreshing. [first image] 

We then walked backwards .34km and to Pantu Mountain (1.4km.) It was a gruesome hike up to the top with steep climbs. It started to rain on our way up which made it slippery but felt amazing in the over-heated forestry. The view was foggy when we got there but it cleared over the next ten minutes.   

 

The trek down wasn’t as long or slippery as expected. We walked the 1.4km back then 2.2km to headquarters. 


 

Along the way we stopped at Nibong Waterfall, which we couldn’t reach because it was through a pool. Then we passed Latak Waterfall, which we had to cross over a bridge to reach. There was a beach and a massive freshwater pool below the fall. I didn’t swim here because I was still wet from the rain.  

We hitchhiked for a private bus back to the main bus station, then headed to the public bus stop. While we were waiting a man pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride to town for 2rm each, only .50 more than the bus. We said yes and crammed in. I told him the street we were staying on and he said he knew it but once in town he drove far in the opposite direction. He then stopped to let two other people out and told us it’s 3rm each and to get out. After refusing to exit and yelling about money we finally got him to turn around. He had absolutely no idea what we were saying and I had to guide him all the way there- keep in mind he’s a private driver and it’s a tiny city. We had him drop us off a block away and I gave him 6rm (for the 3 of us) quickly and jumped out. I’m completely sick of locals trying to trick me, and this one was definitely trying to take advantage of us.

For dinner we went to The Workshop Grill for pork burgers. This trendy hole in the wall restaurant is funny because it’s a Muslim country and most restaurants have window signs saying they don’t serve pork. This place only serves pork. We sat at a table outside and I had the classic burger, which was a grilled fillet of pork covered in onion chutney. I added some chili and it was delicious.
 
After dinner we ran some errands (aka stocked up on alcohol for Brunei) and went home to chill out. It had been a long day and we had another early morning to look forward to. At 8:30 we got picked up by a mini-shuttle and rode 4 hours to Brunei. 

Lovina, Bali, Indonesia

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Two weeks ago I met a German man, his Balinese wife, and her Balinese brother on my overnight snorkel trip in Komodo. The couple mentioned that I could stay with them if I came to Lovina, so that is what brought me here. However, since I made a last minute decision to come a day early I checked into a hotel for one night.

I stayed at Ray Beach Inn, 2km out of the town center. Since I saved money by only doing 2 dives instead of 5, I decided to pay $15 and treat myself to a guesthouse with a pool. I checked in, grabbed some local food nearby, picked up 2 kilos of mangostines, and spent the rest of the time lounging. I was the only guest and loved having the entire pool area to myself.

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For lunch I went to Banyualit Hotel across the street and had fish coconut satay, and sautéed water spinach. The hotel was more of a fancy resort, but empty as well. I ate in the back of the restaurant in a large yard area that was fancy but still very green.

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Later on I ordered a pizza from my hotel and ate it in bed while I watched a movie. I expected the pizza to be bad but it was terrible. I got vegetarian and it was topped with peas and carrots. I gave the staff 100,000 rp and he said he would bring me my 50,000 rp change. He never came back so when I finished my movie I went to go find him. He pocketed my money and thought it was okay to just not give me my change.

The next morning I checked out and got a motorbike ride to the large dolphin statue in Central Lovina. The statue is grand and sits on the beach marking Dolphin Beach. Around the statue are restaurants, bars and shops, and the beach is lined with hotels. This is the main tourist area. The beach is not very nice. The “sand” is dark tiny pebbles and it’s covered in trash. Not the picturesque beach I picture when picture Bali.

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The Balinese brother, who I was friendly with on the snorkel trip, picked me up on his motorbike. We went and grabbed lunch at the local restaurant his aunt works at, then he drove me to his sisters house. The house is incredible. It’s typical Balinese architecture made mostly of wood. It has a square thatched roof, and a wrap-around porch with large wooden pillars. In the back is an infinity pool and there are large bean bag chairs to lounge on. I had my own room with a large window that opens out onto the pool.

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That afternoon the brother picked me up to take me to a cockfight- by my request. The arena was nearby and had standing room for maybe 200 people. I was the only woman there to watch. It was full of local dirty sweaty men screaming, pointing and betting. Everyone was there to gamble and I have no idea how people were able to keep track of their bets.

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The cockfighting was quick. First men hold up a bunch of cocks in a circle. Then somehow two and picked to fight. The two are placed in the circle in the middle (the court.) They fight until one falls, then the owners lift them up and try to make them both stand. If one chicken can’t stand on both feet then it’s the loser and gets killed off to the side (if it’s not already dead.) If both chickens can walk on both feet then they will fight again, again until one falls. If they are both still alive then they will get placed under a wicker basket and will fight in here until one dies. The shortest fight I saw was a few seconds and the longest was 30 seconds. I was fine with it all until we saw a white cock fight and then I was really able to see all the blood. The cocks are trained to fight, and all the dead cocks are eaten so at least the meat is not a waste.

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After we saw enough fighting we drove around central Lovina and walked along the beach. We ran into one of the brothers friends who was just sitting on the sand, and some other friends kids came up to us with a cup of hermit crabs and a fish. After chilling we went to sports bar near the statue for happy hour. We played pool and drank Bintang’s and snacked on peanuts with fried garlic.

After the bar we went back to his aunt’s restaurant for some mei gorang (fried noodles.) I then went back to his sisters house to find out she bought me dinner, so I ate again. It would have been rude not to. She brought me traditional Warung food- white rice topped with chicken, an egg, vegetables, liver and a broth soup on the side. I gave her the liver but at the rest. After dinner we all relaxed on the porch listening to music and drinking beers.

The next morning I woke up to fresh French bread and a French coffee press; truly a good start to the day. After eating breakfast on the deck the brother picked me up and we drove 15 minutes into Singaraja, the local city. We stopped at the local notary/lawyer office, which looked like the DMV. Afterwards he took me to an incredible waterfall area. It’s 5 waterfalls, one after another, but we just went to two. The waterfalls were through lush greenery. We were the only people there- it’s not a major tourist spot. We swam near the rocks to be near the big fall which was so powerful I got churned like in the ocean.

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After playing in the falls for a while we drove to his grandmothers’ house. In a village nearby, through a gate, sits four house structures where a bunch of family lives together. I met two grandmothers (married to the grandfather at the same time,) an uncle, an aunt and a bunch of neices and nephews. We went into the kitchen (traditional style of a separate room outdoors,) and ate the leftover lunch that was sitting out under plastic baskets. [Food is never refrigerated here.] First we filled our bowls with rice. Then added cooked sprouts, green vegetable and chillies, and mixed that. Then topped that with fried pork, fish sausage (handmade in a banana leaf,) fried tempeh, and fried tofu. As usual the food was delicious. We are on a mat outside.

Later than evening my gracious Balinese host made an incredible dinner for me. Fresh fish topped with sautéed carrots and peppers, fried potatoes and a tomato cucumber salad. It was much more than I expected and a treat. For dessert we enjoyed melon, oranges and papaya. [The whole time I was there she kept the house stocked with papaya, dragon fruit and mangostines for me.]

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After dinner the German and I sat around listening to music and drank gin and tonics and peach wine.

The next morning I woke-up and to my French breakfast. Just as I finished the wife brought back lunch, so again I ate again. It would be rude not to. This time I had a bowl of rice, added chicken soup, fried chicken, and spicy eggplant.

I then walked into town but most things were already closed because it was Balinese New Years Eve.. (Next post)

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Mandalay, Myanmar

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We arrived in Mandalay and went straight to our local’s cousins restaurant for lunch. Italy and I ate fried chicken with a bunch of little side dishes. We then went to our accommodation to change for the night.

I stayed at Yoe Yoe Lay Guesthouse which I saw on many blogs. The hostel was amazing. Mama started the hostel out of her home ten years ago to learn English. The girls that work there come from families that couldn’t afford them so Mama took them in. A few years back the government found out about Mama’s home hostel, which was apparently illegal, so she bought another building around the corner and expanded. The hostel is now the place to be for backpackers. The breakfasts are huge (eggs, toast, a hot side dish, fruit plate, coffee, tea, juice) and she’ll feed you until your stuffed. You get complimentary water bottles everyday and free refills. Free packaged snacks when you buy beer and every night there’s free peanuts and watermelon to snack on. She treats you like family, the way your grandmother would. Every single night she’s overbooked and if anyone shows up and there’s no space she’ll let you sleep on her floor. The place really feels like a home in the best way.

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After setting in our local picked us up with his cousin and we drove to Mahamuni Pagoda to see the large golden sitting Buddha. Like most temples women are not allowed in the front near the Buddha so I stood back and observed all the praying women while the men went up.

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We then drove to U Bein Wooden Bridge. It’s made from timber and is the longest wooden bridge in the world. Our local and his cousin sat behind while Italy and I walked the bridge. If you walked regularly it would probably take about 20 minutes to get from one end to the other, but we stopped continuously along the way to watch the fisherman. There were local fisherman fully dressed (some with helmets) standing in the middle of the lake with fishing rods not making a single move. The better fisherman had a string of alive fish attached next to them. Apparently they stand there from sunrise to sunset daily.

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After our stroll we headed back to the boys. I got a coconut and tried the dried mutton that was already on the table. When our local paid the restaurant didn’t have enough change so they offered him a cigarette instead.

After the bridge we went to a liquor store and the local bought a bottle of Johnnie Walker Platinum, which apparently was released in 2015. We then drove to Mandalay White House Hotel for a “pool party.” A DJ party next to a pool. There were two other older westerners there who were guests of the hotel but Italy and I were definitely the ones the locals were looking at. We went through a few bottles of Johnnie Walker that night.

The next morning Italy left for Bangkok and our local picked me up at noon for a day outside the city with his cousin and dj friend tagging along. We drove to a local restaurant outside of the city. The restaurant is known for serving different types of meats and that day they had mountain goat, rabbit, hog, mountain cat, deer, and snake. We got dried goat, rabbit, hog and fried eel. We also got Myanmar beer’s of course.

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After lunch we drove on winding mountain roads to Pyin Oo Lwin city. We went to the small waterfall, which was more like a multi-level babbling brook. However there was a old wooden bridge there that was fun to run across.

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We then went to the national park, to the botanical gardens. We walked around a massive landscaped park area that had a pond. There were musicians playing on one side and local tourists lounging around. We went to a coffee shop inside the park and I had a cappuccino which almost tasted legit- too much milk and cold.

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Later that night I went to see the Moustache Brothers with a guy from my hostel. The brothers became famous in the 90s as comedians who repeatedly made fun of the Myanmar government which led them to prison more than once. The main brother passed away last year but the second brother still runs the show from their house downtown. He’s the MC, his cousin (the third “brother”) is a clown, and his wife and sisters are traditional dancers. The show itself wasn’t that amazing but the brothers personality shines. It was great seeing locals go against the government and risk their lives to do so.

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Fyi. The locals here love Obama. He’s visited twice since being in office and whenever someone finds out I’m from America they just scream Obama in my face in a jolly way.

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The next day I bicycled to Mandalay Hill with a guy from southern France. We drove throughout all the temples near the hill (didn’t actually go inside any) then parked our bikes and made the long walking journey up. The walkway stairs had multiple levels of temples. Every time we thought we were at the top we weren’t. When we did eventually reach the top we thought the view was terrible. All I could see was pollution in the air. I decided to take my photographs halfway down when I could actually see what was in the city.

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We then biked to Amaravarti Spa to get massages. I got a Thai massage which was incredible. Along the way we saw a group of about ten cows walking in the middle of the Main Street. They were completely on their own and stopped at a local deli to try and break open the pastry wrappers sitting in the front. It was absolutely hilarious. We had to stop just to laugh as the store women came running and screaming down to the street.

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The next day I just chilled around at the hostel with a few other people who were also leaving later that night. We drank some beers and feasted of free peanuts and watermelon.

I splurged on the VIP bus to Yangon. The bus had reclining seats and mini-tv’s like an airplane; however, the movies were all bootleg AVI films most of them completely un-watchable. When the bus started the stewardess handed out orange soda and pastries then sang a song in a soothing voice.

I got to Yangon at 6am and headed straight for the airport. The cabbie took a short cut and drove through Okkalarpa village on the way which was especially rural and cute. I left the airport terminal since I couldn’t check in for another 10 hours and headed across the street to Food Center and camped out there for a couple of hours, then I went to the airport hotel to see if they rented rooms hourly. The receptionist was incredibly rude to me and tried to charge me $50 for 5 hours, which is a rip off and I did not do. I later asked if I could use the wifi and she said $5 for an hour, which is also insane. I didn’t pay for anything but chose to camp out in that lobby versus the airport for a few hours. Later I caught a flight to Kuala Lumpur at 7pm that landed at 11pm. I was planning to sleep in KL’s airport in terminal 2 but I was forced through immigration and couldn’t get back in. I ended up renting a Capsule bed in the airport for $30 for 12 hours. It was expensive but I just had to. And the hotel was actually really cool. Storage containers are transformed into double decker capsule beds, and bathrooms are also in containers. The color scheme was turquoise, yellow, black and teak, which made the whole thing look modern and relaxing.

I woke up and caught a flight to Penang at 1:30pm the next day.

Dalat, Vietnam

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In Dalat I stayed at Gold Night Hostel. It was originally a hotel but recently they converted the top floor into dorms. The dorms are really nice and modern. Each bed has it’s own ledge and curtain, and each room has it’s own bathroom with a bathtub (not that I would use it.) The entire floor is carpeted and there are only a few bedrooms so the entire place feels quaint.

Dalat reminds me of a small European village. The first hostel was built two years ago and although there were hotels before, the city is not very touristy. The buildings are all small and there’s a church and synagogue downtown. The locally grown produce is strawberries and artichokes which are sold all along the streets. If the locals weren’t Asian I would honestly assume I was in Europe.

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The weather here is also cooler than the south. It’s in the 70s daytime and 50s at night. Certainly not freezing for us; however, for the locals it’s a true winter. They all walk around in winter coats with gloves, scarves and hats, both during the day and at night. Because of the setting I feel like I’m in a European ski village.

I arrived in Dalat around 9pm. I met a Scottish friend at the hostel that i’m now going to travel around with for a while. We met on the bus to Vang Vieng and I have run into him almost every place I’ve been since. That night we went for street food and got a large mixed meat hot pot- beef, pork, fish, squid, etc. I’ve had a hot pot before but turns out I was doing it wrong. First you add all the meat to the broth and let it cook for about 7 minutes, then add the vegetables and let it cook for another 3 minutes. Add the noodles to your little bowl then add the soup concoction. I thought I was supposed to cook it until the meat was done (a few minutes) then add the noodles to the pot too.

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Afterwards he showed me around the night market. It’s not touristy at all which is great. The foods here are somewhat different than elsewhere. There are wrapped pizza flatbreads, hot soya milk, grilled corn/potatoes, street meat, and strawberries everywhere. I woke up the next morning to see flower markets lining the streets. I felt like I was in Paris.

Scotland met a guy from Wales his first night who started hanging out with us too. He’s also going to travel Vietnam with us for a bit.

My first day in Dalat we went canyoning which is the thing to do there. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect- rock climbing and cliff jumping? It turns out canyoning is scaling down rocks into waterfalls with ropes aka serious rock climbing. I was absolutely terrified- tall heights and the fear of falling. I was too scared to lean back to be 90 degrees with the wall, and I was even more scared to release the rope and jump down on the rock. I did the first two cliffs but that was enough. I did the 7 meter cliff jump (also tall enough for me) but skipped the waterfall scaling and the 11 meter jump. Unfortunately, since it’s winter here, the water and air outside was cold. It felt awful going in and out of the water all day especially because we were wearing clothes and sneakers the whole time. But although I didn’t love canyoning it it was worth trying.

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After canyoning Scotland took me through the daytime Central Market. I bought a pair of Converse since I really needed closed toe shoes for the cold. The clothes market is all locals which was great, but it was the food market that I really liked. Fruit from all over the world (including apples from the U.S.), dried fruits and vegetables by the pounds, and fresh meats (including live chickens.) I love the dried mixed vegetable bag (like chips.)

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We went to check out the famous bakery, Lien Hoa. The cakes in the shop were elaborately decorated with neon jelly frosting and only cost $1.25 each. They had every type of pastry each costing less than $1. I walked out with nothing but Scotland walked out with 9 pastries, most of which were delicious. We went back to that bakery twice more in the next day.

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That night we went to a bar in town to play pool. It was me and about ten guys.. Sausagefest. The bar was really cute. It was small and dark with a real European feel but their were weird ornaments around which made it feel like an old timer stoner bar. The owner was an old man who was very social without speaking much. He challenged all of us in connect four, and then became heavily involved with who plays pool and teaching me how to play, assuming I had no clue.

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My second day in Dalat we went to Prenn Falls. We went to ride ostrich’s but it turned out to be an activities park. Elephant rides, camel rides, ostrich rides, a cable car, a bow an arrow contest, a pool contest, row boats, a zoo, and a waterfall. First we headed straight for the ostrich’s. Riding an ostrich was hilarious. I got on and about 5 seconds later he started running. It was scary but fun at the same time. The ostrich was huge, about twice my size.

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Next we went to the zoo, which was awful. Someone call PETA. There are monkeys chained by their necks throughout the area. Bears and porcupines in tiny cages. Other small animals in even tinier cages. A loose snake on the ground in the middle of everything. A crocodile pond and right next to it a gift shop selling crocodile handbags. And then there were 4 deer chained down with their antlers cut off. I played with one of the monkeys a bit and he tried to open my backpack but we couldn’t stay long as it was too much to handle.

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One of my friends tried the pool contest and lost, and another tried the bow and arrow contest and lost. We then walked under Prenn Falls before leaving.

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Next we took our cab to Linh Phuoc Pagoda aka Dragon Pagoda. The pagoda was stunning. Modern, decorated with colorful tiles of animals (mostly dragons) and Buddhist symbols. There are two temples within the complex. There was also a shop selling massive wooden furniture including a 15 foot carved tree.

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That night I didn’t do much. I wandered alone through a part of town I hadn’t see before. It ended up being a touristy area with all the restaurants I had read about on Lonely Planet. I ate at Chocolate Restaurant. I had Chicken corn soup with shrimp wontons. After that I walked home through the night market and picked up a grilled corn and a hot green tea soya milk.

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Luang Prabang, Laos

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In Luang Prabang I stayed at Kousavan Guesthouse, which is rated #1 on Hostelworld. The guesthouse is very nice. All the dorm rooms are colored, the showers are always hot, and it’s the first place I’ve had a legit free breakfast- eggs any style and a baguette.

My first night I did the typical backpacker routine- went to the night market for dinner, then Utopia bar, then the bowling alley. The night market is the best I’ve been to so far for shopping so it’s too bad I don’t have room to buy anything. Most of the clothes, bags and jewelry is handmade and looks expensive even though it’s not, or at least most of it is not. The style reminds me of Tibet or Nepal. The food on the other hand was disappointing. There are fewer food stalls and not much choice. The new thing here is a vegetarian buffet option at the market, which I chose to do. A huge pile of vegetables.

Utopia bar is definitely a utopia. Hidden behind a side street the bar is half indoors and half outdoors. After taking off your shoes you walk into a rounded open space with a thatched roof. The inside is filled with short tables, stools and couches. There are no exterior walls. After walking through the interior you step on a pebble pathway which winds around passing tables and palm trees. To the right in the back is a beach volleyball court and to the left is a small wooden bridge that leads to the bathrooms. At 11:30pm the bar shuts down and there are a mess of tuk tuks waiting outside to take everyone to the bowling alley.

The bowling alley is a large open white room with bright white lights. To the left side is a bar selling bottles and to the right are the alleys. The alley is in no way glamorous and the brightness is shocking after Utopia. Each game is 20,000 kip per person. I played against a guy I met from the Midwest. Barefoot of course. Bottles of whiskey, vodka and BeerLao crowded the tables. All the alleys were full for hours. I only played two games and went home but the party definitely continued.

My first day I walked around the town. There is a huge French influence which is apparent in the architecture and cuisine. Many of the hotels and restaurants on the Main Street have French names as well. Baguettes, paninis, quiche and aperitifs are on all the menus, and there are a few French pastry shops. The buildings all look French colonial with a hint of Asian design.

I had lunch at Le Cafe Ban Vat Sene, a lovely restaurant on the Main Street. Wicker chairs, glass lampshades and large colorful paintings adorned the walls. It definitely had a Balinese style to it. Although the menu has a French influence I had Beef Pho, which was very cheap. The rest of the menu is very expensive. I managed to get a table that faces outside. Behind me was a large tour group of older Italians having the tasting menu. It reminded me of the Yale trips I’ve been on.

I had a Laos massage at L’Hibiscus. It was not at all what I expected and it also wasn’t very good. Instead of getting a good stretch like in Thailand the girl just poked at my pressure points very weakly. I will not be wasting my money on any more of those.

On the Main Street in town there are good vendors all selling the same thing- fruit shakes and baguette sandwiches. For a snack I had a bacon avocado sandwich which was delicious. I then walked up the mountain to the temple in the middle of the town to watch the sunset. The viewing area was jam packed, which made it hard to take pictures, but at least I ran into all my friends. The view from the top is spectacular. You can see the Mekong River snake along side the town and mountains surround the whole city. The sunset was a deep orange.

The next day I walked around again, this time checking out the street near the river. The road has guest houses and restaurants on one side, and outdoor restaurants on the waterfront side. The river is down a slight hill. Across the river is a poorer residential area. I walked across the bamboo bridge which was actually scary. At points I definitely thought it was going to break. The bridge is built by a Laos family once a year and only stands for 6 months (during the dry season.) On the other side is a fancy river view restaurant, a handmade jewelry store, some delis and the hand weaving scarf store. The silk scarves are beautiful but not practical for a backpacker.

I decided to try a foot massage but it was just as weak as the Laos massage. Found a cheaper place at least though, $5 for an hour instead of $7.50 like the day before.

On Saturday I finally went to an elephant park. Everyone else I’ve met went somewhere in Northern Thailand so I kind of felt like I needed to get it over with. I feel that way about all the super touristy activities.

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I signed up for Elephant Village but when we arrived at the park we realized the wrong company picked me up. I ended up at Nam Ou Elephant Farm. The rest of the crew in the van was part of a tour group and they were only doing a half day, so I did a full day at the park by myself, or the second half of the day I was by myself. It was awesome, like a private tour.

My elephant for the whole day was named Kham Mun, and she’s 35 years old. She was rescued from a logging farm where she was worked daily and her female organs were constantly internally tortured. She was really gentle but slow and not keen on taking directions quickly. I didn’t mind though, and felt bad when she was yelled at. I insisted on riding only on her neck which was not as prickly as I expected. With the big group we walked a bathed with the elephants. The group then left and I was given a lesson on commands. I really needed to speak forcefully otherwise she’d just ignore me.

I was then taken to the nearby resort for lunch. It ended up being a 5 star resort on the Nam Ou river. I was the only person at the restaurant and was fed an incredibly elegant lunch. After which I had an hour to relax at the infinity pool next to the restaurant, which also overlooked the river and was empty. The setting was to die for. A huge mistake turned into a private day of elephants and elegance.

After lunch I was trained to be a Mahout, someone in charge of elephants. I learned how to guide them and get on and off in different directions. We rode around the camp for a few hours then went back on the river again. My elephant continuously snorted on me, too funny. I got a Mahout certificate for the course.

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My last day I went to Kuang Si Waterfall. It’s supposedly one of the top ones in SE Asia and by far the nicest and biggest one I’ve ever seen so far. The main fall was massive and there were many smaller falls on the sides. The fall had a gushing wind and mist. My friend and I climbed up the bumpy steep dirt path on the right side (literally on our hands and knees.) When we got to the top we found out there were also a stairs path on the left side, so we did that going down. Climbing up was fun though. On the top are a few lagoons that we could swim in. There were rand trees and leafy plants jetting from the water, and short bamboo bridges connecting the pools. The area looked like utopia. There were monks swimming in their robes and a Lao man pushing around a bamboo raft. The water was cold but refreshing and clean. We swam around for a while before heading back down to the town for some soup and our trip back to town.

That night, my last night, I went to the other river for dinner. It turned out that on the other side of the night market there’s another street full of restaurants on the Mekong River. So happy I randomly went with them and discovered this. The restaurants were cheaper than the ones on the other side and authentic Lao for the most part. I had a beef noodle soup with dried burnt peppers and garlic, and a coconut milk shake. Then back for one last night at Utopia.

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