Sampling the delights of Indochina
Our Indochina highlights: Our Indochina highlights:
After a thrilling day of climbing through stunning caves and kayaking past fisher-women and water buffalo in Vang Vieng, Laos, we recharged with a delicious dinner and a cool, comfortable night’s sleep. We also did the mind-expanding tour of Angkor Wat, and we relaxed in our hotel pool with mangoes literally falling into the water and geckos serenading us.
The sensory overload of the Chiang Mai night market was pleasantly hallucinogenic: pulsing didgeridoo music, squid on a grill, a row of 20 women massaging feet, acres of exotic handmade goods, produce from another galaxy, deep-fried tarantula — we want to go back tomorrow (though my wife wouldn’t kiss me after I ate the spider).
We’ve always made our own travel arrangements or just improvised after we got there. Never again; Rickshaw has spoiled us forever. What an incredible luxury having wonderful accommodations and transport needs magically appear. We were sceptical that things would go smoothly in developing countries; but we finally relaxed, knowing there’d be a smiling face standing by a tuk-tuk or shuttle or boat exactly where they said they’d be at the appointed time. Ahhhh. Every guide was friendly and knowledgeable, and invariably knew a back way the crowds hadn’t discovered or a quieter area with a statue the teeming hordes usually missed.
We had ample free time to get lost, one of our favourite things. And NEVER did we feel unsafe or uncomfortable in any way—including gastrointestinally. We ate all the curry chicken and fish soup we wanted and never had an unpleasant experience. We drank only bottled water and never had ice in a beverage (though we had a laugh in Siem Reap when a waitress put it in both our beer and wine and I had to quickly dredge it out!), and we could both eat sumptuously every day for $20–about $5 a meal, and breakfast was free. We quickly figured out that one reason SE Asia is becoming so popular is that middle-class folks like us can eat and sleep in luxury for a fraction of what we’re used to paying.
We loved the serene little Laotian town of Luang Prabang. We’d been told it’s very conservative compared, say, to the Sodom that is Bangkok. We got the idea when we saw the Rules of the Hotel in our room, which included this bit: “Do not any drugs, crambling (gambling?) or bring both women and men which is not your own husband or wife into the room for making love.” We don’t cramble, and we’re married, so we had no problem…
While there, we rented a scooter and drove about 20 miles to the incredible Kuang Si Waterfall. Most of them deliver what they promise, i.e., water, falling, and are kind of disappointing. Kuang Si is actually a series of little falls and aqua-blue pools that are breathtaking in their purity, leading to the Big Daddy falls that—HOLY MOLEY!—cascade through the luscious jungle canopy from skyscraper height! But first you get to see four or five endangered Asiatic Bears—like little black bears—who seem pretty happy in their spacious enclosure, and multi-coloured butterflies by the kajillion, fiery botanical wonders, and several gargantuan banyan trees right out of Lord of the Rings. Five Stars for Kuang Si.
After what the American war machine did to Cambodia and Laos, I expected disapproving glares or rude service if we admitted we were Yanks. The opposite was true. Quite often, guides and other service people smiled and said very sincerely, “Thank you for coming to our country.” The sweetness of the people was overwhelming. We want to go back as soon as possible, and will confidently put our entire trip in the magical hands of the wizards of Rickshaw“.
BIG thanks to Mack & Teri, we are so pleased you had such a fantastic trip!