Places: Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Chiang Mai, Pai, Bangkok
We safely arrived in Luang Prabang, a pretty, unspoilt little town sat next to the Mekong River in Northern Loas. It was lovely and so were the people. The food was also superb and when our tummy’s had finally recovered, we ate amazing street food along a crowded alleyway full of food stalls. The whole fish served in a banana leaf was delicious!
As a morning trip and after a bit of research, we booked to go to an elephant sanctuary. I’d been on an elephant before in Northern Thailand and it was pretty cruel but the sanctuary we went to in Laos was very different. The elephants were clearly treated very well and we had great fun riding through some forest and villages. To cool off, we then went to bathe with the elephants in the river. The elephants loved it and we were soon flicked off their backs and in the river. It was so much fun until I realised I was in a river, quite literally squished between 2 giant elephants who we’re falling about in the water. Jamie was on top of our elephant and started yelling at me to move. But I was squashed between 2 elephants on a very fast flowing river and couldn’t! Then all of a sudden, something came crashing on top of me and I plunged under water. I thought it was an elephant and I thought I was a gonna!! Thankfully it was another girl in our group. The poor girl was so apologetic but I was so relieved she was a skinny German girl rather than a 3 tonne elephant! It’s pretty funny looking back but it was really not funny at the time! After polishing off some rice wine to calm the nerves, we spent the afternoon visiting a beautiful waterfall that had many different pools and was very relaxing.
The following day we caught a bus down to Vang Vieng. The journey took 4.5 hours through long windy roads and the scenery was spectacular!! Although the town was not as pretty as Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and the surrounding countryside was beautiful! We loved it! One day we trekked up into the jungle and then zip lined all the way down. It was so much fun but being the only girl in the group gave the instructors a good excuse to pick on me. Pretending I wasn’t attached to the zip line, hanging onto me in mid hair so I couldn’t move, bouncing the zip line and pretending they couldn’t stop me whilst hurtling straight for a tree… ;-). It was an amazing experience and great fun! We also went tubing (giant rubber rings) in a pitch black cave which was also an amazing experience. Vang Vieng is famous for tubing; drifting along the river in a giant rubber ring whilst stopping at various bars along the way. It is also famous because many tourists have died doing just this as water, drink and the many swings over the river did not mix. It got so bad that the whole industry was forced to close.. Nevertheless, minus the swings and quite a few bars, it’s reopened. So we went and it was fantastic! Everyone was so friendly, happy and relaxed and it was a great way to meet people and enjoy a drink with a picturesque backdrop. We then kayaked our way back to the town. It was the best day!! We were such a high that we thought ‘bugger it’ and booked a hot air balloon ride for the following morning. We couldn’t afford it but what the heck! So 6.30am the next day we were up up and away and it was incredible! It felt like a dream!!
Our time in Laos came to an end far too quickly (again). And soon we found ourselves back in Thailand but this time in Chiang Mai in the North. It was New Year in SE Asia with basically means the biggest water fight in the world, for 3 days! Due to participating in water activities and travelling in Laos, we kind of missed the 1st 2 days. But now we were in Thailand, apparently the best place to experience New Years and we were ready to play! It was so much fun! The whole city grinds to a holt and everyone was armed with water pistols, buckets, hose pipes and we got drenched! It was insane! The water used to fuel the giant flight was all sourced from the city’s river; let’s just say I’m glad we’ve had all our vaccinations!
After recovering from the New Years activities we decided to end our travelling the way we started..on a road trip! This time on 2 wheels. After travelling India, I would love to say we rented a Royal Enfield or a Bullet. But embarrassingly we found ourselves cruising the 137kms up to Pai on a 150cc scooter!! The experience nonetheless was epic! The scenery was beautiful and we loved every minute! Our bums being very sore when we finally arrived in Pai some hours later. We stayed in lovely bungalow/hut and has a very relaxing few days eating amazing Thai good, visiting waterfalls and canyons.
The few days in Pai flew past and we soon found ourselves making our way back the Chiang Mai. The ride was pretty hairy at times as the Thai drivers are crazy; overtaking on blind bends, driving on the wrong side of the road… We made it back in one piece just in time for Chiang Mai’s gigantic Sunday Market. Jamie loved it! ;-).
And then just like that, the time has come – the real world has beckoned. We are back in Bangkok and are packing our backpacks for the last time. 365 days and its all – so quickly – come to an end. We have had the most incredible year and the absolute trip of a lifetime. Do we want it to end..? Of course not!!
Positive lessons: Taking a years career break was the best decision we could ever have made!
Next stop: Home…!
Thank you all for reading and/or looking at our photos.
Love Charlotte & Jamie x x
Sunset on the Mekong
New year in Chiang Mai