It looks like I will be moving on from Laos this evening. I was planning on spending the night here in Vientiane, but found out the bus I want to catch to Vietnam only heads out in the evenings so instead of waiting till tomorrow evenging I think I will catch it tonight. The last few days have been very relaxing. Taking it easy in Luang Prabang then moving onto the laid back village of Vang Vieng. Vang Vieng is a wonderful little town sitting on the Nam Song river with a beautiful backdrop of impressive limestone cliffs. I spend a couple days exploring the caves in the area along with tubing down the Nam Song then eating a lot of great food. I'm currently relaxing in Vientiane after exploring the downtown district of the city.
Currently working my way through the beautiful country of Laos. Upon entering the country I quickly started a two day slow boat journey down the Mekong River which was an interesting experience (and one that I do not want to repeat any time soon). The scenery along the way was wonderful, but the tight conditions and the hard wooden seats made the two days on the river almost unbearable at times. Right now I am trying to rest in Luang Prabang to recuperate from the journey, before I keep moving South. Luang Prabang happens to be a great old French colonial town on the banks of the Mekong as well so it is very picturesque. I almost forgot to mention the markets and the stores sell rip offs of almost everything (such as I am sure everyone knows). If you want 5 season of 24 I could get the pack of them for about $40. Any movie imaginable for about $2. Jack Wolfskin or The North Face packs starting at $10. Birkenstocks starting at $2. You name it they will copy it. Some is legit stuff, but it costs a bit more (however still much less than back home). Laos food has been enjoyable. Being an old French colony there is a lot more baguettes and sandwiches around which is a nice change from fried rice, steamed rice or sticky rice.
The Whitewater rafting trip through the remote jungle was a blast. I have done tougher rapids before, but the whole atmosphere was great. Somehow everyone (even the guide) fell out of the raft throughout the rapids, but somehow I managed to stay in for the whole journey. I really enjoyed the jungle lodge (lodge might be a bit generous- more like huts) that we camped at for the night. There were monkeys the ran around making trouble, I tried to catch some catfish, a quick trek to a waterfall not far from the camp, then after dark the guide and two other guys that were working at the lodge took me out on a hunt for small creatures (only caught frogs, but were looking for snakes) that was kind of crazy as I only had a small pen light and they had these big lights and went running off into the jungle so after a while I was all by myself in the absolutely dark jungle (thankfully they did come back for me after a few minutes). I did want to go for an elephant trek tomorrow, but there is some special celebration the are needed for so I am going to move on to Chaing Mai and then on to Laos shortly after that.
After my initial shock of Bangkok (I'm not a big city fan) I have been trying to take the road a bit less traveled (at least I am trying to stay out of the big city centers). This has taken me to Khoa Yai National Park for a couple days of trekking, then on to Sukhathai to explore some ancient ruins and now to Pai in the far Northwest of Thailand where I will be starting a two day whitewater rafting trip in the morning. It currently doesn't seem like I can upload photos, but I will keep trying.
It's been a very, very long day, but I have finally made it to Asia. So I'm excited. If my calculations are correct I traveled 14 time zones to make it here, but I am here. Initial thoughts are of crowds of people and lots of good cheap food. The place I am staying at tonight isn't much to look at, but seems to be a good fairly clean spot with lots of travelers. I'm off for some shut eye.
The island of Hawaii (known as the "Big Island") was quite interesting. Some highlights were the lava flows (how cool is it to walk on and feel the heat of molten lava. It actually melted the soles of my shoes); Swiming along when a school of about 40 dolphins appears out of the deep blue (thought they were sharks initially); along with lots of time swimming with the ever graceful turtles (found one spot away from the tourists that I counted over 20). Overall I put well over 500 miles on my rental while on the Big Island, but it was well worth it.
Maui has really been a fun spot to tour around for the past couple days. The Coastal roads are stunning with all the pristine beaches and jagged volcanic cliffs. Maui really does not have much for public transportation so I had to rent a car to get around which made it that much more fun. Everyone who has driven around Maui knows how much fun it can be driving around along the coast with all the one way roads that host two way traffic. Once I have the capability to upload pictures I will show a few spot I really enjoyed.