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1. Posted by inanon (Full Member 85 posts) 9y

Mel lead to this :D

This is the 3rd of my mass email I've send home since being away. A good read though

S'happenin!

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)

2. Posted by inanon (Full Member 85 posts) 9y

Part 2

The first town in Cambodia we reached was Strung Treng, which is completely dead. Ben and I came across a building which was signed 'English and Computing learning', which aimed to help teach English. It was very ghetto looking, but it was a place of learning none the less. I volunteered to teach a few English classes to some local kids, who were so delighted that I had been their teacher, took Ben and I around town on their bikes and showed us the main sight, an unfinished Chinese/Cambodian bridge.

We then walked around more, and joined some locals having dinner and drinking on the street (on the curb, on the ground, at the side of the road to be more precise) and left the next morning to Siem Reap to enjoy Angkor Wat. Lauren had already arrived before us as she had taken the tour and our wandering illegally in Laos made us lose some time. We only stayed one day in Angkor Wat, and I was honestly by then already templed out. Ben and I (I've actually ctrl + c, Ben and I) climbed some scaffolding on Angkor Wat for some nice pictures, even though the sky was grey and the lighting was shit, and ran around to avoid the unbearable Japanese tour groups.We then chilled with a whole crew of little kid sellers, who gave up on trying to sell me shit (even the most perservant ones gave up on me), and instead just talked with them and received little gifts from them.

We left for Phenom Penh the next day, where Ben and I had to sprint away from Cambodian police for 45 minutes in back alleyways of Phenom Penh, having no idea where we were, after having gotten caught climbing the central market (an enormous French colonial building 30m high, so we could get some nice pictures from the summit. To escape we had to jump down several 3 meter tiers, run across the roofs of the sheet metal shacks under the main building as four cops were waiting for us at the main exit. It was a proper chase, with a car going after us, and if we'd have gotten caught, it'd probably be an excessive bribe, or Cambodian jail. (It's expected this was the sort of shit I'd get up to while I'm away... wasn't it?)

While it certainly has a bad reputation, Phenom Penh is by no means a dangerous city, we were walking around at 3am after having climbed the central market again after dinner (and had to escape from a security guard who we woke up just as we were leaving; had to jump over curved spikes fence in record time to escape from him. Ben freaked slightly as he thought I'd have to knock him down as I was the first one to start climbing the fence, however we happily said goodbye though once we had gone over the fence safely), and found some more illegal gambling (as well as a hundred if not more offers for prostitutes). They were great fun as well, played a variation of 'asshole', in which not only doubles and triples counted, but also suites and doubles/triples of suites as well. Much better game, although they didn't want to gamble with us and just played for fun instead.

The next day we had a smoke and went to shoot AK-47, M16, shotgun, colt 45 and an M60, near Phenom Penh. The AK-47 didn't even have close to as much kickback as I expected, and the M16 was so smooth it was painfully boring.(I'm a great shot evidently, 28 out of 30 rounds - we shared ammo, but not targets.) The M60 was badass though, it was so loud and gave the worst ringing in my ears. (I kept forgetting to use the ear protectors). In the same day I also climbed on top of a MIG-21 and some other random machines of war.

I then crossed over the Cambodian border into Vietnam (where custom officials lost my yellow fever certificate which now means I'm not going to Africa. No worries though, I'm now buying an Enfield in India and driving into Pakistan, Iran etc and trying to get as far back home as I can), to arrive at Saigon, which felt excessively different from Phenom Penh. Phenom Penh is a fairly small, dirty and shitty looking capital (although I really enjoyed myself there), while Saigon is immense and feels a little like Bangkok, without all of the things I hated about Bangkok. It's really a nice city, with a great bar where you can pick up other tourists really easily (and did). Dope was expensive compared to Laos, but then again Laos really is a heaven for it (Not as good as northern Vietnam where I actually picked it myself from fields :D, wait till you see the pictures, man o man)

In Saigon, Ben and I climbed up onto the roofs of the family house where we were staying, and started urbexing all over Saigon, and got to take some amazing pictures. It so happened that the 26 year old German girl I picked up, was game for climbing out of the bedroom window and urbexing, which was a surprise to say the least.

Ben was then supposed to take the train to leave towards Hoi An with Lauren, while I stayed an extra night to pull some more girls, but instead Forgot forgot his small backpack with his wallet/passport/photos, absolutely everything he owned, in the taxi that brought him to the train station.

He started to seriously freakout as it meant he'd need to get a temporary passport, thus ending his trip. He told Lauren to not miss the train, and then he managed to get a taxi to take him to the headquarters, thankfully he remembered what company the taxi he took belonged to. He went absolutely berserk because he felt I needed to show them how serious he was about getting his shit back. He banged his head a couple times against the dashboard of the taxi, screamed in rage as the taxi pulled in the headquarters He must have looked pretty depressed and desperate, because within about 40 minutes he got his bag back, with absolutely everything untouched. Over 300$, and the taxi driver was honest enough to not take anything. Vietnam has a reputation for having a lot of scams and dishonest people, but up to now in my experiences I've found only the nicest locals and this goes the same for Ben. Ben gave both taxi drivers some money for their help and honesty, and came back to the bar with both his bags. I was sitting with 2 girls and when I saw Ben and after he explained his story, handed him my beer and every beer on the table. After his traumatic night we got extremely high and watched National Geographic for the next 6 hours. Having pulled the night before, National Geographic and Ben was the priority.

The next day, we go around the posh neighbourhood to find a DVD burner, and instead go in the Park Hyatt hotel, climb up to the top floor, find a window and start walking around the exterior of the building on a ledge about 25cm wide, 11 floors above the ground, taking pictures (I sweet talked the hotel manager into letting us wander about the hotel taking pictures, I'm a photography student back home arn't I... haha). As night falls, we find another rich hotel, and start climbing to the roof, when we see a crane from a construction site which is sort of accessible from the hotel roof, and overlooking some important building, although I'm not quite sure which. We were already about 12 floors high by the time we were on the top of the hotel roof, and then we go all the way up the crane to the very tip, it was a tough climb though as you had to lift yourself up through most of it and the horizontal part did not have a walkway so you had to go through the truss. Got some crazy pictures from there though. For anyone who has seen Casino Royale, exact same idea. As we got back down, security guards with some torches came around, so we hid on the roof for a little while and got some pictures of them, before finally coming back down and taking the sleeper train up to Hoi An.

3. Posted by inanon (Full Member 85 posts) 9y

Arriving in Hoi An, I chilled quite a bit, not much to do there. It's an UNESCO world heritage site, but I don't really see why. Lots of tailor shops and shoemakers, but that didn't quite appeal to me, and other than that there was a nice beach. After Hoi An, we went up to Hue, where we spent only 1 day and night. Climbed up onto a bridge for some more nice pictures and visited the Imperial city which was disappointing. We left for Hanoi the next day.

In Hanoi we didn't really do a lot, until, yet again, we got motorbikes. When we originally went to the motorbike place we rented Mink's for $7 a day but they were pieces of shit. The next day we took them back and exchanged them for 10$ a day scooters. These scooters were nifty little things and we were both happy that we took them. After several hours of driving, we noticed a mountain which in our opinion was accessible. We drove up and then realised the mud was worse than clay. It took us 30 minutes of driving at 5 kph to find somewhere which had water on hose. It then took another 2 hours to clean the treads on the bike so that we could actually have some grip. Further down the road we ended up in a Vietnamese family run house, drinking shots of vodka. For all those who disapprove, it's impolite to refuse a drink, and furthermore they don't listen to you when you say no.

That first night we were away we went out looking for something to do. As usual we followed the sound of the music, which led us to what looked to be a communist talent show. It was pretty dire, but Ben and I noticed some Vietnamese teenagers on scooters and went over to speak to them. 20 minutes later we were street racing at full speed on a road which had bumps, grid, lorries, other crazy drivers and of course it was pitch black. In total we did 90 km that night. After the 'initiation process' which we clearly passed with flying colours, the Viet kids invited us out for drinks. 3000 VD for a glass of beer, which is 9p. We happily paid for them all and then gave them lifts home (2 on the back of my bike) , they were intentionally looking for a chase from the police, which almost happened but the police didn't bother to chase us. They were probably more drunk than we were.

The next 2 weeks kind of just run into each other with mentionable stories, so I'll just give you the stories. In the north of Vietnam, the scenery is absolutely breath taking. I've never seen anything like it, and in 3 months I've already seen a lot of mad and beautiful things. When driving in the very north of Vietnam, Ben and I had a knack for going on tracks, not even considered as roads, which by Vietnamese standards tells half the story. It doesn't help when you ask hill tribes for directions when you are so far off the bad road that your on no road. We asked for directions once and 30 villagers crowed around us. One mentionable story involves us trying to get to a place called Mau Vac. The route we took was laughable for those with experience. We persisted in the rain and the dark on a muddy, slippy mountain trail for 4 hours, crossing a blockade of rubble which had been caused by a landslide. I was inches away from slipping off of the landslide rubble, and falling 30m down into a canyon. We still persisted on only to find that a bridge had also been destroyed in some landslide, which meant there was no way we could get to Mau Vac. We later found out we were only 18 km away from our destination. That pissed us off. We drove back 500m to where we had seen a light and ended up staying in a workers shack overnight. We got food and drink and generally had a good time.

The next morning we left to backtrack and ended up driving 700 km on a mixture of good and bad roads, which took us 22 hours of riding. At one point Ben and I were driving at 70-80 kph on a bad road for 140 km. We were driving in perfect formation, very close to each other and we became no longer away we were driving. It was the best example of my driving and I loved it! We had decided we were going to reach our destination (Bac Ha) that day and we did. 16 km before we reached it I got a puncture though, but it only slowed me down to about 50 km. 2 days before hand I had got 2 punctures simultaneously and cut the base of my foot, exactly what I use to change gears, so I knew what I could get away with. I also seem to instinctively know if I have even the slightest puncture.

In Bac Ha, Ben and I saw 2 minks and 3 tourists and went over to speak to them. They turned out to be French and cool (Ben speaks English and French fluently and would translate when needed). We decided we would travel together the next morning to Sapa. Before we left Bac Ha that morning we all drove in the opposite direction just to see what was there. On the way back Ben was using no hands (which both of us have the habit of doing) while driving down the mountain. At the bottom of the road there was loose gravel and this karmicly speaking caused Ben to skid and slide along the asphalt for a good 8 metres. His road rash was nasty and caused him to be in pain constantly, and also resulted in a serious limp. We drove the 200 km to Sapa none the less and ended up spending 6 days because for 4oz of dope it was 1 pound, accommodation was 1 pound, we got delicious food delivered to the room constantly, and Ben physically couldn't move, or at least struggled enormously. Other than eat and smoke, I didn't do much in Sapa. I did drive out to local villages and see the hemp fields among other things. The French couple, Anne and Nicole we were travelling with had left us in 4 days previously in Sapa.

On our way back to Hanoi, we again managed to take the off road trail which resulted in driving in the dark as usual. Driving in the dark back home is fine, we have street lights and lights are checked when you get your MOT. Driving here, neither apply. We had to stop over night in a town of nothing again and in the morning raced back to Hanoi. For this trip we were away for 14 days.

When we arrived back at the hotel in which we had left our luggage we recognised the bike next door. It was Anne and Nicole's. We dropped in and surprised them and decided that we would go on another motorbike trip. Just a small one.

The next afternoon we rented 3$ a day scooters (mine was actually pretty good, but Ben's was shit) and made our way in the general direction of Halong Bay. We drove like total dicks along the highway, dodging in and out of trucks, overtaking on the inside, or outside, or splitting and doing both. In my time away, I am now completely desensitised when driving. I've almost crashed 50 times, but the word almost means nothing now. I stopped getting the mild shock you get when the back of the bike drifts out weeks ago, although I nearly hit a young girl who randomly appeared in front of the bike, I had to put all my weight on the right of the bike to allow her to duck under the handle bars, which protrude from the side of the bike. All 3 of us began getting into the habit of skidding... a lot. 2 days of this resulted in Nicole making me crash by drifting too close to me, close enough that I hit him, no injuries though. Ben wasn't as lucky though. The next day he drifted in front of me, I had to emergency brake, but I never had brake discs. This meant I crashed into the back of him and veered of the side of the road. I managed after putting my feet down twice to control the bike and stop, however, when I turned round I saw Ben and come off and ripped the scab off of his old injury. It looked terrible but it was only superficial, well the blood was, the pain and the loss of 10 days of healing was a total bitch for him. On this small trip we also plugged a 110v DVD player into the 220v socket which caused the DVD player to puff a humorous amount of smoke out of the air ventilation.

FINISH!!!! It's taken me nearly 4 hours to write this email. Glad it's done now though.

I'll try and put up some more pictures when I find the time and a suitable Internet connection, but I'll be sending some DVD's with pictures home in the next few days. I'll let anyone who wants to see them know when they arrived and you can just hop on my pc.

Hope all of you are doing well and enjoying yourselves,
Give me some news,
Take care,

Craig

This is only one of the 3 emails :D

4. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru 4567 posts) 9y

Thanks Howie
Something for me to read today.

Mel

5. Posted by sofe1978 (Respected Member 127 posts) 9y

wow it sure sounds like you have the best time!! I hope we have a fraction of the fun you have and we'll have a great time too

6. Posted by CanadaGuy (Respected Member 199 posts) 9y

Sure sounds like you are having quite the time.
I went to the same places last year, but as I read your post I kept thinking that you are lucky not to be dead, maimed or in jail.... But then again maybe that just tells me I've gotten old.......

7. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru 4567 posts) 9y

I was thinking the same thing, Canadaguy
But I am old too. And wise?

8. Posted by CanadaGuy (Respected Member 199 posts) 9y

Mel- since we are both about the same age- let's stick with wise....

9. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru 4567 posts) 9y

Howie reminds me of a guy I met in Berlin, a month ago, except he is around 60.
The stories he told about travelling accross land, to India in the 60s are astonishing.

10. Posted by Helena224 (Budding Member 54 posts) 9y

Seriously enjoyable read. Cheers very much for posting it up. I'm even more excited about going now. You seem to have met some really good people along the way. Am really hoping that I do too. It would be great to find someone along the way to join.

Thanks again,

Helena
xox