Sorry its been so long

As you have probably seen I haven’t updated this blog for ages. I’m still travelling and taking photos but I can’t get this blog to load photos anymore. I guess internet speed isn’t fast enough for it to work here. I’m trying to find an alternative solution so please check back again. 

I’m currently in Vang Vieng in Laos. Beautiful place but very touristy. I’d love to show you photos but —–

4000 islands (finished this post at last)

The islands are like a delta area of the Mekong River just before it crosses into Cambodia. The river grows to about 14kms wide for about 60km with all the islands spread along that stretch. There are 3 main islands that have small towns and acommodation so first I’ve landed on Don Det, where most people stay.

I still can’t get photos to upload. I’m nearly back in Thailand so I hope it will work then!

The main street once you get off the ferry. Yay, no cars. Top photo and below is just lazing around on the deck outside my room. great spot.

The map shows a road around the island so off I go.

Oh well, I got a few photos up and its stopped again. so at least in Thailand it is working, some.

The track had lots of places where it was very muddy and the Mekong better not get much higher.

Laos style floaties in the fast current (plastic water bottles)

Half way round the island I saw this sign for lunch stop (I didn’t try the special brownies)

The cats looked contented. And a colour matched brolly with the bike. Very chic.

When I ordered my meal the chef went straight out to pick fresh organic herbs and veges.

Teepees for rent

Getting the evil eye to move on

A drink in the bar to end a day Don Det style.

Another day another adventure. I crossed the bridge to Don Khon. the next island south

With the Mekong splitting into at least 5 seperate flows around the islands and they all drop down rapids. 2 of them are each side of this island

There’s a lot of water flowing down through here.

A bit more riding down the island


I found a beach below the rapids

Then the track got narrower

I ended up off the bike pushing through mud and creepers. the creepers getting caught around me and the bike making progress very hard work. the map showed another track parallel so I tryed cutting across but had to give that up as well. The map said it would get through. The bush had other ideas. Nothing for it but turn back and go around to find my way onto the other track. Eventually getting to the end of the island with Cambodia across the river.

With the tracks as muddy and rutted as they were i thought chances are an oops is likely. Sure enough! The front wheel stayed on the track but the back slid straight off. I ended up knee deep in a rice paddy. Lucky I didn’t face plant. My sandals needed a strong pull to get them out from down deep.

And another. This time I held the handlebars striaght but a rut grabbed the front wheel and twisted it 90°.

Another day I booked into a kayaking and hiking trip

I spotted a monkey

Hiking to a waterfall across a very bouncy rope bridge. 1 person at a time.

Back in the kayak and cross a broad deep area of the Mekong to have lunch in Cambodia

We were lucky enough to see the rare Irawady dolphins swimming around us

Around to the next waterfall where there are signs saying this is the worlds biggest waterfall by water volume.

The truck driver picked us up at our furthest point on the Laos mainland to take us and the kayaks back to a point above our island for the paddle back but on the way our guide said we should stop at the funeral of our drivers cousin. What an unusual experience. A truck with the coffin pulls up with people walking behind and the monks.

The coffin is carried down into the paddock for everyone to have their photo taken in front of it. Then the monks do a chant.

Unfortunately you can’t see in the photo but then everyone comes forward to pay last respects all carrying peices of wood to stack up around the coffin. Then the fire is lit and everyone just walks off back to town.

No grieving, no tears. His fate was to die at 26 and move onto his next life. When I asked what he died of. They don’t know. There are no autopsies done here.

After all this activity its time to relax in my hammock and watch the water world go by or go fishing with the locals.

I wonder how they got the buffoloes to walk on and off a boat. There’s a pig in there also.

These ladies have been to the mainland shopping. Now just walk the plank to get home.

A couple of travelling salesman getting a ferry between islands

In the photo above that big tree opposite my hut. The boats would often go under it for some shade as they travel along. Half way across the river to it I kept seeing a swirl in one spot so I thought there must be a shallow spot. I asked the owner about it one day when he was in the next hammock. He said there was a rocky outcrop with a tree on it that reappears when the water level drops back down. Of course, I said, it must be dead. He said once the tree is out of the water it puts on a fresh lot of leaves every year. That had me thinking. How can this be? Months under water with no oxygen to the roots. Why doesn’t it get root rot? Pot plants of the world need a stern talking too. They don’t need to die at the drop of a hat from root rot. They just need this trick!

Time to move on from Don Det

Just love the spelling on the sign on the back wall of my hut.

Jump on another boat back to the mainland

Then an easy ride up to Don Khong. The biggest island of the group at 18km long x 8km wide. Some of the acommodation is very up market here and yet the island doesn’t have much to  offer to do. But it is quiet. It also has some of the worst roads I’ve been on. The tar has broken into huge potholes with sharp edges. 

I’m so pissed off with slow internet!!!!! Everything takes so long. It was Sept when I started this post. Its now mid Nov and its still not finished!!!!

The main street of the other town on the island

Which then comes down to here, with convenient ditch to park the bike

Across the middle of the island around the rice paddys

My guest house was behind this tree. One morning I heard parrots in it. The only time I’ve heard parrots in SEA. The manager of the guest house came straight out with a sling shot to see if he could knock one down. I suppose if he killed it he would eat it but I would think they would sell well at the market otherwise. He didn’t get one while I was there. So back tothe mainland and to Pakse again.

The Laos know how to do an outdoor dunny with a sense of adventure!

Pakse and heading south(updated a bit and a bit more)

Lots of grumbling about hopelessly slow internet trying to load photos. 

It was good to be back in Laos and revisit Pakse. A step back into the past. Not that the people seemed overly different. Mostly they still appeared middle class. All had mobile phones, eating out and dressed neat and clean just they generally can’t afford a car like the Thais and their scooters were on average more basic models. There is still lots of new houses going up or doing up old ones so there is money around. Also everyone seems to have at least 1 child under 5 and they seem young having them. I read the average age here is 19. Anyway back to Pakse. It rained most days. Generally late in the afternoon or into the evening. After being here 3 months ago, at the start of the wet season the Mekong river is now about 10m higher. It looked a big fast flowing then, now even more so. This headland where the 2 rivers meet was a long way above the water.

This is a sitting spot at the guest house overlooking the xe don (river).

This little piggy went to market and so did his friends, by bike and sidecar. There’s geese in the baskets at the back.

Gold fish for sale and farmers buying and selling off the back of the truck.

I cycled up to the the big Buddha on the hill a couple of times and I had seen there was stairs so I thought I would walk it, from town. 14km round trip (riding is 20km).

Don’t trip on the stairs or I don’t think I would stop till I hit the bottom.

Then there is the unwalkable timber stairs to walk around. I had to pull myself up with my hands a few times.

Pakse looks peacefull from up here

I spoke to the abbot of the temple on the hill so he offered to show me around and said a good luck chant over me in this temple.

Back at the guest house (with aching legs) and the cat knows how to keep out of the rain and away from the dogs. When I stayed with the family in Thailand they picked the purple flowers at the bottom of the photo and put them into the rice while it was cooking so we had purple rice to eat. 

Lots of monks in this town.

I hadn’t ridden down to 4000 islands yet. So off for a ride.

Not much headroom where I stopped for a break

A lao iced coffee often comes in this super sized plastic bag and its strong

Its made like this. A wood burner at the bottom with a 20ltr drum of water on that, then the jug with a filter sock of lots of coffee steeping in hot water. Ready to be poured off. Rich and strong. Crunching up the ice blocks with it is great on a hot day too.

 There is only acommodation at one place on the way so an easy 50km the first day to a tiny town that would only see tourists go past in a bus.

This wetland was just behind the hut


Fungus growing on a stump by the door and this huge gecko also near my door

Next day hit the road for 100km day which I haven’t needed to do in ages after breakfast here on the main street of town which is also the highway.

The office 


In general not a lot to see along the road just open farming country but it was still pleasant with little traffic, the little single cylinder tractors chuffing along the road, scooters, buffalos, cows, goats, geese, chooks and a few pigs all on the road. Lots of houses dotted along with more people waving and children shouting hello(sabah dee) than I’ve experienced in a long time. The trees were getting smaller, like scrubby bush, so not many shady trees to stop under for a break from the sun. Once again I saw 48°c in the sun on my speedo. Lots of drinking needed.

Now for the ferry to the islands.

Yah, I’m here!

Crossing back to Laos

Ubon is the last big town in eastern thailand before crossing into southern Laos. Having friends there helps to make it a good stop but I had little time before I had to be out of Thailand so it was only a short visit.

My room in Ubon. How long since I’ve seen a phone like this?

I found a very impressive temple here too.

Here’s a winner. Coffee coated peanuts.

It’s lucky I gave myself a spare day heading for the border as 1 day out then a day of solid rain. 150mm was predicted and probably what came down.

Next day I didn’t what to expect after that much rain. My digital map was telling me to take the main road but I could see a back road that wouldn’t add much distance. So I took it. Bumpy at first then it turned to dirt and potholes full of water. My mudguards didn’t clog up so I got through ok.

My last 20km in Thailand were back on the highway.

Leaving Thailand and a new visa in Laos was easy and within half a km there was a dozen cows walking over the road and not much further was the goats and geese.

Homemade dam with a net to catch the fish. The water was flowing pretty fast.

I do like a waterside mansion, complete with geese. I like the trench dug across the drive to divert the water. Maybe a bit late. People still lived in it.

Those clouds building again. Luckily I missed the worst and just got a sprinkle for a while. Notice I’m on the other side of road in Laos. Nice to have such little traffic after Thailand which also means less dust and pollution. Although Laos does have a lot more rubbish strewn about.

Mud everywhere once I turned off the tar for a liquids stop.

By the way the road is snaking up the hill my granny gear is about to get a workout. Next thing I know I’m back in Pakse.

Phitsanulok, Lopburi and back to Ubon

I hadn’t been to Phitsanulok before. It’s not on the tourist trail but interesting enough for a quick visit. A couple of the best temples I’ve come across.

Outstanding, big murals

And carvings

By the evening the clouds were rolling in

Time for dinner with a beer and watch the storm hit.

Lopburi is another town of very old ruins

The town is also renowned for its monkeys which bring in tourists but for townspeople they must be a real pest. They get into everything. A lot of shops close by their main area are closed. Of course they can’t get rid of the monkeys as that would be bad kharma for the people.

The monkeys had a ball jumping off the fency into the pools, cooling off.

I was sitting talking this couple (he a Londoner and she was Italian) at the guest house and the tourist police rolled up for a chat. I never come across such happy, friendly police before. I guess they don’t have too many tourists being a problem here.

It was a boring ride from here back to Ayuthaya again. Just a short visit to get a train.

There is a moslem village just off the island so we rode over for a look and stopped at a little riverside eatery. As I found in other places in Thailand the moslem people were some of the friendliest people anywhere.

Their baby was happy to be shared around.

Back in Ubon and catch up with Top at his bike shop

Too many coffees later. The best coffee in thailand by Tops father, Neng, who is also a keen touring cyclist. Great people. Neng took the photo so the other guy in the shot is from South America and lives here in Ubon.

Travelling, Lampang to Phitsanulok

Time to hit the road again, in a few broken steps. Heat and humidity, rain and mud, but lots of green beauty. I saw my speedo showing 49°c in the middle of day with humidity so high I may as well have just sat in a pool my clothes were so dripping wet. So the distances I’ve travelled a day haven’t been high. 70kms has been a big day lately.

Lounge suite delivery to the humpy

I might try another way!

 Quiet back roads like this have been a joy, especially as I’m travelling parallel to a main highway yet hardly ever even hear it.

I think this yellowy rice is jasmine rice.

Beautiful gardens of a guest house where I stayed in Thoen.

Guess where these pics were

The apprentices at the dam must have needed a project.

So must the apprentices at Tak tech collage

They seemed to like tree houses in Tak. This swing on such long ropes was really good. Took no effort at all for a gentle swing.

Some exercise bikes fixed opposite my hotel in Tak.

Tobacco seller in new Sukhothai

This guy rode up while I was having a coffee and stopped for a chat. With his little bit of english and my nit noi of thai we managed a good little talk. He was a really happy guy.

Lunch stop beside the rice.

Sukhothai

I’ve had 2 visits to the ancient ruins at Sukhothai in quick succession. Sukhothai was the capital before Ayutthaya, which was the capitol before Bangkok. Once with John and Pinny and family. We had intended to go swimming at a waterfall but it was closed when we arrived after heavy rain the night before. So we went to Sukhothai instead. The route I’d planned to take cycling south was taking me that way also. So the pictures are a blend of both visits. On the visit with the family we hired bikes there to get around so I grabbed a bike rather like my old style Gazelle from back home.

Nobody told these guys there is no fun at the waterfall today!

So here we are at Sukhothai. Except Pinny. She must have the camera.

The bike I hired for the arvo

John hamming it up

Pinny’s Mum

Pinny and a statue

The great thing about the statues here compared to Ayutthaya is they are mainly complete. In Ayutthaya they tend to have their heads chopped off at the least.

Once the rain stopped I could get out for a ride

Buddhas foot print (so the sign said). Big foot.

I’m sure I saw this shot before

Chiang Rai again

John and Pinny were going up to Chiang Rai and asked me to join them. How could I say no to good company. First stop was the white temple

This was the toilet block

Absolutely stunning place. Privately owned and built by an artist and free to get in.

Next day it was off to the black temple. Once again privately owned and built by an artist and free also.

Very different to the white temple. Beautiful gardens. Both well worth the visit

Also a visit to a tea plantation

Ladies picking tea leaves

My hosts, John and Pinny.

Lampang and Sap prap

I was enjoying a revisit to Lampang, getting to know the sights, checking out the markets and catching up with a friend in a touring  bike shop. Walking through a shop I nodded to a westerner and a minute later he came over and said “you look like an aussie”. We hit it off straight away. John and his wife Pinny from Canberra were staying with Pinnys family in Sap prap, south of Lampang. We kept in touch and he asked me to come down to the village, stay and meet all the extended family. I ended up staying much longer than I thought as there was always something going on and the family were such happy welcoming people.

Picnic time with some of the family

Pinny, her Mum and sister (Kag), sisters son YoYo then opposite is Kags husband Yot, then me and John. Out for dinner in Chiang Mai.

Sap prap is in a beautiful valley of rice paddies with a ring of mountains around that are national park. Very picturesque.

A patch of black rice in the green.

Happy dog

Into the national park on scooters

So many photos, how to choose?

Back in Lampang

Horse and carts still in use around town

When a ripe jack fruit falls out of the tree in my guest house.

Lovely place and people