Luang Prabang

A post, at last

First, an apology, to my family and anyone else who has been eagerly checking my blog whilst I’ve been away and found nothing from me, other than a couple of dated Istagram photos.

My first six weeks of travelling Southeast Asia have been incredible, emotional, and rather traumatic at times, but I’ve seen and experienced so many amazing things in a short space of time that I felt ready to start writing finally. I’m currently staying on the coast of southern Thailand, about three hours from Bangkok in a small city called Rayong. With a week to waste in Bangkok waiting for my Chinese visa to be processed, I thought I’d take a mini-break to see a different area, catch up with family over skype and start sorting through the tonne of photos I’ve taken so far. I’ve splurged on a slightly nicer hotel (I have a bathtub, desk and the comfiest bed I’ve possibly ever slept in) to ‘ahem’ assist with my plans.

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I’ll start with a brief overview of where I’ve been so far, and will follow up on the highlights with further blog posts later.

Starting in Bangkok on 9th June, I spent five days in the city before heading north. I packed a fair amount into my first few days, including Wat Pho, Jim Thompson’s house, a local boat ride through the city rivers, a bicycle tour around Bangkok and into the nearby jungle, an afternoon cuddling kitties at Caturday Cafe, shopping at Chatuchak and various night markets and three separate nights out on the infamous Khao San road.

Wat Pho

Buddhas at Wat Pho

Caturday Cafe

Caturday Cafe

Bangkok market

Bangkok market

Slightly over the craziness and noise of Bangkok, I caught a night bus up to Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand. The journey was nine hours of stomach-churning, panic-inducing, sleepless hell. Being seated on the top floor of a double-decker travelling way too fast through monsoonal storms, I would recommend to anyone else that the train is a much more comfortable, and safer option! My fear was confirmed last week when I met a couple whose bus travelling the same route toppled off the road into a small river.

I love Chiang Mai. Full of friendly locals, delicious street food and a lively night scene, I happily spent over two weeks there making new friends, visiting beautiful temples and eating, a lot. My list of highlights from here is huge, but includes seeing a local football match (Chiang Mai vs Ayuthaya), getting a bamboo tattoo, visiting my favourite temple at the top of Doi Suthep and watching a ladyboy cabaret show.

Wat Phra That, Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That, Doi Suthep

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I also took two separate trips to Pai, a small hippie village set in a picturesque valley just three hours north.

Pai

Pai

After Chiang Mai I caught a local bus up to Chiang Rai and spent a day visiting the two strangest buildings I’ve ever seen. Built fairly recently by different architects, the White Temple and Black House are at opposite ends of the city, both geographically and architecturally. The Black House is full of dark objects, including animal skulls, crocodile skins and cages enclosing huge snakes and an owl. The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) is beautifully designed, with mirrored glass embedded into the stonework, although work on the compound is still ongoing.

Black House, Chiang Rai

Skulls at the Black House

White Temple, Chiang Rai

The White Temple

White Temple

Hands from hell

After a rather early start to cross the border into Laos, I boarded a two-day slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, stopping overnight in Pakbeng en route. The scenery along the Mekong was stunning, but the boat was cramped and uncomfortable. Having spent seven hours on the first day packed onto a bench with no head rest or leg room, I spent the second day sat at the back of the boat with a few friends, several locals, two chickens and three freshly caught fish – a much more comfortable, and authentic experience.

Mekong River

Mekong River

Slow boat

The boat

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang Countryside

The time I spent in Luang Prabang is almost certainly my favourite part of my trip so far. I didn’t particularly love the city, although the night bazaar was outstanding, but the countryside around was stunning. Spending an afternoon at Kuang Si Falls, the 40-minute drive there was through villages surrounded by rice fields, small rivers and mountain valleys.

Luang Prabang

Sunset in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

Kuang Si Falls

Kuang Si Falls

I took a two-day trek in the area just north of Luang Prabang, and spent the night in a Khmu tribe village.

Trekking in Laos

Trekking in Laos

Hmong Girl

Hmong Girl

Khmu Village

Khmu Village

After Luang Prabang I took a minibus to Vang Vieng, a small town once known only for its parties and drunken tubing. I’m proud to say that I didn’t even ride a tube down the Nam Song, and instead spent four days relaxing by the river, eating pie and mash, and shamefully watching at least two full seasons of Friends.

Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng

After a short stay in Vientiane to visit the COPE centre, an extremely informative and inspirational centre established to treat victims of unexploded ordinance (UXO), I headed back to Bangkok. Taking a short train ride across the Laos/Thailand border, I then boarded an overnight train to the city.

COPE, Vientiane

COPE, Vientiane

Luang Prabang night market

Luang Prabang night market

My plans from here are to spend a few weeks on the southern islands, before flying over to China (visa-dependent, of course).

11 replies
  1. Phil
    Phil says:

    Hi Charley, wonderful description of your adventure so far that captures both the beauty and tragedy of the area (COPE). Most impressive are the incredible photographs for which you have a real talent. I can but imagine the real thing. Looking for to your next blog update x

    Reply
    • admin
      admin says:

      Hi Dad!
      Thanks for the lovely comments, I am hoping to do a more detailed post about what I learnt at the COPE centre as it truly was inspiring to visit. I reckon you’d be interested in the history aspect of it also! xx

      Reply
  2. sandie
    sandie says:

    wow Charley!!! amazing pictures! It all sounds just wonderful and look forward to the next update. Take care x

    Reply
    • admin
      admin says:

      Hi Sandie! Ah, thanks so much – I promise I won’t leave it so long for the next one :)
      Hope you’re doing well xx

      Reply
      • sandie
        sandie says:

        All good here thanks despite having just started Holiday Club for 6 weeks!
        Your dad commented on how wonderful your write up and photos were and they really are stunning..keep up the good work and stay safe xx

        Reply
  3. Sue
    Sue says:

    Hi Charley- just caught up with your blogging (you know I’m always behind with these things!) Your photos are wonderful and really give a flavour of what you’re experiencing. Looking forward to your next update with more fab photos. Take care xx

    Reply
  4. Jonathan Leach
    Jonathan Leach says:

    Hi Charlotte, I have explored your site avidly, you have a wonderful way with words and photos. Are you backing up your precious photos? They are brilliant, looking forward to seeing your next update.
    Jonathan

    Reply
    • admin
      admin says:

      Hi Jonathan,
      Thank you for your lovely comment. I do back up my photos, I use GoogleDrive & spare storage disks that I carry with me. I’d be devastated if I lost any photos – all those memories!
      The next post is on its way shortly, I’m currently in China however and the wifi is definitely a challenge!
      Take care, Charlotte

      Reply
      • Jonathan Leach
        Jonathan Leach says:

        Hi Charlotte,
        I am pleased to hear you are backing up your lovely photos. They could be a valuable future source of income to you especially if you market them through photo libraries like Alamy.
        What make of camera are you using?
        I hope all is well with you.
        Jonathan

        Reply
        • admin
          admin says:

          Hi Jonathan,
          I use a base-level Canon (the 1100D) for almost all of my more recent photos, it’s fairly light and easy to travel with – but still manages to take up a lot of room in my bag! Do you enjoy photography also?
          Hope all is well with you too,
          Charlotte

          Reply
          • Jonathan Leach
            Jonathan Leach says:

            Hi Charlotte,
            Your Canon 1100D is obviously working well for you and giving you very good image quality.
            I have been interested in photography for over 40 years and been a professional for over 30 years!
            In the last year or so cameras producing good qualiy images have got alot smaller and lighter.
            For everday use I have a Panasonic Lumix FZ200 which has integral zoom lens (up to 600mm (35mm equivalent))
            I hope I haven’t bored you with these details, wishing you all the best with your photos.
            Jonathan

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