Mel lead to this :D
This is the 3rd of my mass email I've send home since being away. A good read though
First off, sorry I had to send this email 3 times. The guy who works here kept messing with connection.
It's been far too long since I last emailed, I've been so busy it's difficult to find time to write what is going to be a huge email, but I'll try and sum up what I've been up to. (I've not written in my journal for 2 months now), also the last email I sent was as big as it should have been so I'll catch on stuff from it I missed, before I start with the new one.
I spent a full month in Laos and had the best time ever, I was also stoned every single day, except for maybe 2 (not a huge change from back home except its 100 times cheaper). A lot of the friends I made from the Gibbon's were continuing through Laos, so we were actually a pretty big group which slowly disintegrated as we went our separate paths down Laos. I'm still travelling with a Canadian guy, Ben (22 years old) who is so similar to me it makes travelling together unreal because we're doing craziest and stupidest shit we can think of.
Vang Vieng, in Laos, was a completely artificial city where you go tubing down the Nam Song, stop along random bars on the way, get wasted and jump from swings and high platforms while buying joints. As I was with my group from the Gibbon's, was really fun, I also met a gorgeous girl from the 'toon' (Newcastle) and ended up at a random hotel room party with people we met on the river.
I then went down to Vientiane where a big part of my group left, nothing much to do in the Capital; went to see the Patuxai which is a rip-off of the Arc de Triomphe, and bought some dope. We stayed there just two nights, time to reunite with some people from the Gibbons, and then four of us went down to Tha Kek where we rented 3 motorbikes to do a loop around the centre of the country. First night there though, before leaving for our loop, Ben and I went to look for some dope, but instead found ourselves in the back of a pharmacy, getting absolutely hammered with some Lao teenagers who then brought us after downing 48 beers to some local nightclub where we were evidently the only foreigners in sight. We both had some crazy attention there, came back around 3am to then wake up for 7am and start a full day of biking on the most treacherous roads you could imagine. For four days we went around in the most remote of areas, so much so that they were actually illiterate (and we therefore could not converse with a phrasebook) and the kids were crying and traumatised when they saw how white I was. The roads were so rough, all dirt and mud, with potholes I could fall into; we put our bikes through so much abuse that for the three bikes, we had to repair 6 brakes, chain, chain guard, 2 flat tires, burnt out an engine (thankfully it was 30 km's away from the end of our loop) and quite a few other parts. We also had to cross 5 rivers to get to this future UNESCO world heritage cave, the locals at the guest house (who want to sell you their damn tours) and Lonely Planet both said it was impossible to get to by bike, but we managed to make it instead of taking a gay tourist boat for 50$. Far better than the cave, which was pretty fucked up, was just getting there. We had to plug the exhaust of the bikes with leaves, local style, when we crossed a river, one bike at a time, the three of us pushing while the girl was taking pictures and filming us. We also rode across one of the rivers, although we were unable to cross the last river as we had to get the bikes across a 15cm wide bamboo bridge, with a 3 meter fall under and a really bad exit, so we negotiated and got a tractor-pick-up to take us the 7km's remaining up to the cave and left the bikes somewhere along the road.
Finally got back, tired and exhausted after those 4 days, and this random guy told us about another two day loop one could do further south, so Ben, Lauren and I went straight down to Pakse to go riding again, while the other guy (who had no biking experience and crashed 4 times and dropped the bike countless times left us for Cambodia).
At the end of my last email I said I was going on another motorbike trip, which is this one. Unfortunately the random guy who suggested this loop, passed along some misleading information. Basically his information was 'turn left at the end of highway 6 and you will see a dirt road which is the best dirt road I've ever driven on', so I drive onto this dirt road at about 80- 90 kph with a girl on the back of the bike, and it so happens that this dirt road is atrocious (at the start). There were 3 raised dirt mounds similar to that of speed bumps (about 20 cm high and on a steep incline), followed by a road covered in pot holes, in addition it had been raining. I managed to control the bike on the first 2 of the bumps, but when I saw the pot holes and the third bump I physically could not hope to not crash. Considering the speed I was doing we both came off with only mild road rash, but the girl on the back (Lauren - English girl, 22) got scraped up. She wasn't pissed at me as she understood It wasn't entirely my fault, and I wasn't driving as I do when it's just me myself. I did manage to open up a 2 inch gash in my arm though. After the crash I got up and started laughing until I realised I had someone on the back and then became solemn, hoping I wasn't going to get a bollocking. We went 100m to clean up our wounds and then she went on the back with Ben . We then went back to the road where we crashed and then Ben crashed as well. Turned out the mud was extremely slippy. Lauren still wasn't really too pissed off. She wouldn't let us go that road for the next 80 km though, we had to way until the way back to convince her it was fine. After doing the 300 km we arrived at our destination, the Bolaven Plateau. After driving about looking for a 30cm by 15cm sign, which was facing the wrong way, we found the place we were told to stay which was right beside a waterfall. Here, Ben and I were invited (Lauren went to bed, and as usual missed out on the shit we do at night) to a yearly festival celebrating the monks (which no white person or foreigner had been to). It was an amazing night, the newly built temple had some speakers and a DJ brought over there, in the smallest village (maybe 200 people), and blasted some ghetto Lao music. At one point the head of the village calls through the mic for the foreigners to go dance, and while both Craig and I were drinking some Lao Lao that the locals were offering us (the traditional way to drink in all these countries is to pass one glass around the table with a shot's worth in it), we were not even close to being drunk enough to dance on that fucked up Lao music. In consequence, I said "Fuck that" and pour myself a full glass of Lao Lao (a fucking strong local rice wine, a good 50% of more, pure methanol; locals were pointing at our eyes and saying no no because we were drinking too much and could become blind). I then return the the dance floor with a big smile. Ben, not to be outdone (see what I mean by our similar personalities) pours himself a glass as well, and till the end of the night we drank not less than 5 full glasses of that shit, ended up hammered; At one point I went for a piss and never came back, a Lao guy carried me home, and when Ben got back about 20 minutes later, carried as well, he found me on the floor exactly where the guy who had been carrying me laid me down. I reckoned I was comfortable on the floor and saw no need to move.
Back in Pakse, as usual looking for dope, Ben and I stumbled upon some illegal gambling, they were really great people who offered us cigarettes' and ice coffee, we gambled a bit (after watching them play for 45 minutes we understood the rules; it was a form of me-gong, but with cards) and then continued on our quest, only to find a bunch of Lao teenagers who we smoked up with. They also tried to make us take some "Yama", which we finally understood to be crystal meth.
We went back home, rolled a few joints, discovered we didn't have any lighter, so went back out and found a homeless guy to chill with for a little while who was taking yama before we met him.
We then headed off to the 4000 islands, completely at the south of Laos, which is basically the most chill spot you can find. Unlimited dope, you swing on hammocks watching the beautiful Mekong scenery and spend the whole day smoking up and eating delicious Lao food, banana pancakes and a lot of ice fruit shakes. Spent 4 nights there, and then decided I absolutely had to go, or I'd just stay there till the end of my trip, you get so very lazy and unmotivated over there.
Ben and I refused to take the package tour shit to get us into Cambodia, so instead we had to cross the border by foot, walking for a little more than 1km through a no man's land, got stamped out of Laos and into Cambodia, only to discover that some taxis at the border were trying to scam us to get to the next city, seeing as we had no choice. There was no way we were paying up and encouraging the scam, so we walked right back across to the Lao border under the rain, and waited in Laos for a few hours as illegal immigrants in order to hitch a ride and sneak back into Cambodia.
I didn't stay very long in Cambodia in total, only maybe 5-6 days, but I certainly did a lot in that little time. (I didn't spent long there as Ben was going to Hong Kong to do his MCAT's, and I didn't mind sacrificing some time in 1 country to continue travelling together; In northern Vietnam were decided we were going to do a mammoth motorbike trip; Ben never did go to do his MCAT's in August, he is still delaying it but 15th September he is going to do them)