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Tag Archives: kayaking

Phranang Beach… and the most penises I’ve seen in my life

In conversation recently, I was asked what my favourite beach in Thailand is. Of what I’ve seen, I think I would have to say here:

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The water was perfect for swimming, the white sand perfect for lounging, the caves ideal for exploring, and the ingenious longtail boat restaurants made for a tasty beach picnic. The whole setting was something out of a photograph, a gift of nature that one could only hope to see. Aonang.com claims that this beach was voted one of the ten best beaches in the world. Who polled that, or when, I’m not sure because sadly there isn’t even a beach in Thailand on the National Geographic list. However, the beach surely is gorgeous; add to the fact that it’s not really a resort beach (I think there were only one or two in the general vicinity) or a party beach makes it that much more special. Read the rest of this entry

Ha Long Bay Cruise

A fishing Village with the best view in the world

Much like the beauty of the Limestone Mountains in Vang Vieng, Laos, the beauty of Ha Long Bay can simply not be described. So I’ll describe the boat and ride and post some pictures instead.

We arrived at the ferry docks the day of our tour and got on the boat after only a little waiting, just enough time to buy and drink an overpriced, harsh tasting tourist coffee.

The boat we ended up on was quite beautiful, complete with “VIP” written on the side. We felt special. Not to mention after a couple days’ talks with other people on the boat, we still paid less. Awesome

Our guide spoke incredible English and explained exactly what it was that we were going to be doing in the next couple hours, so we all sat back and got to know each other while we eagerly awaited lunch to be served. I don’t know how we do it, but everywhere we go, Melisa and I always find the Canadians. So we end up on a boat with three Canadians teaching at the Canadian International English School in Beijing, a couple Newfies and an Australian girl who also has Canadian Citizenship who may be doing a year at U of T next year. (Her uncle also works at York) That’s 8 out of 16 people that have Canadian roots, all on one boat. It IS a small world after all.

Surprise Cave formations complete with lights

So we spent most of the first day dumbstruck at the beauty of everything around us, and take a hike through a couple caves. One was the Surprise Cave and the other was the Bo Nau Grotto. Both were beautiful, the first was discovered only about 5 years ago and some of the stalactites and stalagmites have been recognized as animals, the image of Buddha, and even shadows of Romeo and Juliet. The exit has a place for any other discoveries that people may notice in the shapes of the rock formation.

The second cave was home to the Vietnamese army, where they would hide out when they were sharpening their weapons in preparation against the Mongolians. Our guide explained that when they enticed them into battle, they would hide out in the cave and wait for the water to recede; causing the Mongolian boats to be impaled by all the rock, and planted steel tipped spears, under the water. Walking through, I could almost feel myself walking back in time watching the commander and all his men plotting their battle win.

After seeing the caves we waited on the pier for our boat to come around and pick us up, it’s at this point that there is a serious boat traffic jam and our boat crashes into the side of another boat. No big deal all the crew claim and help us all onto the boat. At this point, we all start to notice the dents and broken sides of our boat and all the other boats around us. Turns out those boat drivers in Ha Long Bay are just as careless as motorcycle drivers in Hanoi.

My only regret about our tour of Ha Long was that it wasn’t warmer so we could sunbathe while watching all those amazing rock formations slowly move past as we cruised through the bay, I’m sure that there would have been more activity in the fishing villages and that we may have been able to see the fisherman at work. Although at one point, our giant junk boat got caught up in the line of a tiny little boat and pulled them almost a kilometer before the crew recognized their frantic screaming and stopped to allow them to untangle themselves.

Despite the cold we got into Kayaks and steered ourselves through a mountain tunnel that I am absolutely in love with, and around the bay. Later some of the people in the group went swimming, despite the frigid temperatures outside and the fact that everyone else was wearing double pants, double sweaters and scarves. (Turns out we weren’t the only ones completely unprepared for the cold weather.)

Kayak tunnel: my favourite place on earth

All in all it was a great three days away from the city, and despite the frigid weather and wind keeping us inside the cabin, we made the best of it.

And no, the Aussie children were not on our boat! I think the lady we booked with hooked that up after we told her that we weren’t actually friends with them.

“In the end its not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away”

Living, Eating and Walking like a Laos Khmu Villager

So we arrived in Luang Prabang the other day after the most beautiful drive through the mountains, and settled in to a hotel around 9, only to realize that everything closes at 11pm. So Laos culture (which we were NOT exposed to in Vang Vieng) follows pretty close to daylight hours. Because most Laos people are used to living in villages (80% of the population still lives in one) with limited electricity, and working in fields during the day, they are used to living and working between sunrise and sunset.

So despite being in a full-on city, there is nothing to eat and no shops open past 11pm. That’s lucky for us old ladies because by the time night fell we were too exhausted to stay out anyway and headed to our room to Facebook and sleep.

On our second day in town, we woke up early to join a couple other girls for a trek through the mountains and a few Hmong and Khmu villages by a guide who we later learned had been a monk for 11 years.

The trek, also known as the first time I ever experienced heat stroke, lasted about 7.5 hours. Most of it was uphill, all of it was beautiful.

Walking through the villages and seeing the children laughing and playing with each other was heartwarming. All the kids came out to smile at us and yell, “Sabaidee” (Hello) before running away shy.

By the time we got to our homestay in Hou Fai for the night everyone was thoroughly exhausted (me especially, Melisa has a video of my final words taken somewhere in the hills). We showered with a bucket (the cold water was seriously refreshing, but the first bucket caused every single girl to hit operatic notes), and wandered around the village before sitting down for a dinner of chicken stir fry and sticky rice.

Also in the village was the most adorable 5 month old monkey whose mother had been killed. The villagers had taken it in and fed it rice and bananas, but the only thing the poor thing wanted was to be held and cuddled. She would jump from one person to another, but once she found a warm, comfortable spot, you would have to pry her hands off of your clothing.

The next day, we sat around the fire for breakfast with the local people, men who would walk past and warm themselves for a minute by the fire as well as an old lady who tended the fire and won Melisa’s heart.

After breakfast, we headed back onto the trail for another hour to get to the Tad Sea waterfalls where we had intended on swimming. Once we got there, however, the water was so shallow that it wouldn’t make sense to even sit in the water, let alone swim. The falls were truly beautiful though, surrounded by huge trees that the sun was shining through. It was beautiful to sit and relax listening to the sound of the water flowing. (I forgot how relaxing that was! The Sanctuary in Thailand feels like ages ago.)

Off to the side, there were some elephants that were part of the elephant sanctuary where we started the trip. We bought some sugar cane and bananas and fed them, picking favourites and rubbing their trunks. I seriously love elephants, their sheer size and the way they turn their head to look you right in the eye kind of makes my heart skip a beat. We met a girl at the bus station in Chiang Mai who talked about the elephant sanctuary that she went to in Thailand where they played videos of how elephants are mistreated and their spirits broken in order to be a more obedient worker, and just hearing the story seriously broke my heart. If I had $20,000 I would buy a work elephant and donate it to one of these sanctuaries that actually takes care of them and loves them and lets them live relatively wild.

After the heartbreak of the chained elephants, The real fun began. I’m not sure why water sports are the most appealing to me, but anything in, on, or around water makes me happy. We kayaked down the Nham River, falling in only once when Melisa and I got out of hand with our coordinated paddling.

After another day back in Luang Prabang walking around the city, watching the sunset from the top of the temple on the hill, and eating another buffet dinner at the night market for 10,000 Kip ($1.25) we called it an early night. Mostly because we were quickly running out of Kip, partly because we were still exhausted from our trekking and kayaking the day before. It was a work-out with a view.