A Travellerspoint blog

The Temples of Bagan

Straight Out Of A Fairytale....and An Absolute Do-Not-Miss

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I flew to Bagan the next day. I didn’t tell my mom this going into it, but the airlines in Myranmar are mostly all black-listed because of their mechanical problems and tendency to well, um….crash. But I survived!! And I survived to explore the most majestic place ever!
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Bagan is famous for its temples, and it shows. They're everywhere!
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I arrived in Bagan and spent the next 3 days completely immersed in the wonderful temples of Bagan.
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Mythical, enchanting—these are words I use to describe a fairy-tale world and yet, Bagan was a fairy-tale-world in and of itself. Imagine standing atop a tower and everywhere you look—all 360 degrees, you see these beautiful ancient structures rising from the green countryside. large_DSC09919.jpg
It’s about as mythical as one could get outside of European fiefdoms.
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And it was worth every bit of the time I spent there. Visiting the temples of Bagan is the reason I went to Myranmar and I would encourage anyone to go to Myranmar for that specific reason, as I wasn’t disappointed.
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Ananda Temple - Bagan's holiest temple, built by the third king, Kyan-zit-tha in 1091. Ananda comes from the Pali word "anantapannya", which means "boundless wisdom". The temple houses four Buddhas facing the cardinal directions, which represent the four Buddhas who have attained Nirvana.
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Ananda Temple
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Bagan is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The best way to see it is from the top of a pagoda for sunrise and sunset
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View from the top of one of the temples during sunset

Biking around the myriad of temples is an experience like no other
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While biking, we passed the oddest site I have ever seen: two dogs stuck together. Talk about the dangers of doing it doggy-style!! :)

One of the days while I was biking, I got a flat tire when I was still 3 miles away from where I was staying. So I stopped a truck passing by and offered them money to give us a ride back.
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Oddly, there were gas canisters in the back of the truck (which was more of a school bus) Something tells me it wasn't the safest method of transportation, but once again, I survived!
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Since Myanmar "Just opened up to tourists" at least to Americans, the government was making every step to make sure that the locals gave the tourists a great experience as you can see by the frequent posting of this sign: large_DSC09837.jpg
The truth is, tourism will really help the economy of Myanmar so they welcome tourists in with open arms.

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Another amazing view at sunset
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The beautiful views of Bagan at sunset
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On top of a Pagoda
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View at Night
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Au revoir, ancient temples. It's been grande!

Posted by kendallwallace 13:39 Archived in Myanmar Tagged bagan Comments (0)

Yangon

The Shwedagon Pagoda is Lovely and Full of Monks :)

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I arrived in Yangon in the evening and woke up the next morning to get money changed from American dollars (the only thing they accept) to Myranma kyat. Many people approached me on the street to exchange money but they were scammers. I thought I’d give it a go though. After I carefully counted out 85 bills (the correct amount) and handed over my $100 dollar bill, the guy had the gaul to tell me that they don’t accept bills with the series that begins with an A or that they wouldn’t accept the bill because there was a mark that was supposed to be there. It’s my country’s money yo! I found their obsession with clean money really annoying, because if there was a speck of dirt on the bills, whoever was taking the money would reject it.

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Anyhoo, I explored the market that afternoon (where ladies were making clothes: see picture above) and then headed to the crown jewel temple of Myranmar: the Shwedagon Pagoda. It was such a beautiful and vast complex.
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Me at the Shwedagon Pagoda. Palm Trees were everywhere in Myranmar--even as part of the complex
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Lady Monks aka Buddhist Nuns
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I love monks....there's something so noble about them
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It was great to see how beautiful the complex was lit up at night.
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Posted by kendallwallace 13:07 Archived in Myanmar Tagged yangon Comments (0)

Fun at DMK Airport

Stress, stress, stress...

Since my flight was at 7:15am, I went straight from partying in the Bangkok nightlife to the airport, arriving at 4:30am. Air Asia started operating out of the lesser-known Bangkok airport DMK, not BKK, just a few days before my flight to Myranmar. The only problem is, DMK wasn’t prepared for people to go to Myranmar. That is to say, Myranmar is a cash economy and everyone who goes there must bring all of their cash with them that they will spend, as there are no ATMs. The only problem is that all of the exchanges at the airport open at 8am. Uh oh!

So after trying to find out if there was a 24-hour exchange ANYWHERE in Bangkok, I came up empty. My next step was to try and convince the airport manager to open any of the exchanges, particularly since their airport needs to be able to provide its passengers with a means to obtain funds when they are going to a country that is so strict with its currency situation. And when that came up empty, AirAsia put me on the flight later on in the afternoon. So I had to wait in the airport for a good 10 hours.

One other oversight I made in withdrawing funds was that I withdrew more than my daily limit. After all, you are supposed to bring enough money with you for the full time you are there in Myranmar--which could be a couple of weeks. To make matters worse, none of the phones at the airport could dial internationally so that I could call my bank back in the States. I offered to pay different Thai people for the use of their phone, but I was turned down over and over. Finally, I was able to find an information lady who shared her internet connection with me long enough for me to Skype the helpful customer service agent at Schwab! Nicole, you were a lifesaver!! So I grabbed the money I needed, and finally stress-free after a day of nothing but stress, I was off to Myranmar.

Posted by kendallwallace 13:04 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Muay Thai Boxing

Battle Royale

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One thing that is uniquely Thai is Muay Thai boxing. It’s a boxing match where pretty much anything goes, from kicking in the shins to punching someone in the face. The only difference is—even young kids do it. In fact, the opening act was a match-up of two 13-year-olds.

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It was a pretty intense couple of hours watching the fighters battle, but it was the first fight I’ve ever seen as well, so it was good fun.
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And in the end, we got a great group picture with the winner of the night's top match
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Posted by kendallwallace 13:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (0)

Ladyboy Show and Ping-Pong Show

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Some mates and I out in Bangkok

A lot of people who go to Thailand must attend an entertainment show. For curiosity’s sake, I attended two. The first was a ladyboy cabaret show.
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Marilyn...yes, by the way: that's a man

Although some of my travel friends had gone to them in the islands and said that the ladyboy shows were great, the one I went to was sub-par. It was just a bunch of ladyboys lip-syncing to songs, and their surgeries were so good that they looked like women. So it basically was a bad cabaret show..lol. The part that made it fun was the pictures of my friends and me with the ladyboys afterwards!
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Yes, those are all dudes
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Still a man...lol

The second show I went to was one of the infamous ping pong shows. To tell you the truth, I just wanted to see what all of the fuss was about. These women blow out candles with their vajajays; they shoot a dart out of it and pop a balloon; they pull knives out of it; and not surprisingly, they shoot ping pong balls out of it. I went out of simple curiosity, because let’s be honest—I have the same anatomy they do (cleaner mind you), but I can’t fathom using that part of my anatomy for the same purpose. Its like a magic show! Seriously, I wanted to understand how they do that.
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I came away from the experience with no understanding of how they drink a bottle of water with their hoo-hah and then have Coca-Cola come out of it (it must be magic, right?) I also came away from the experience a little disgusted; it’s a pretty sad experience watching a 40-year-old make a living doing that. Once was enough. But I don’t regret it—I wanted to see what all of the fuss was about, and now I know.
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Classy Bangkok

Posted by kendallwallace 11:05 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (0)

Shopping in Thailand

Bargains, Baby!

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Shopping in Thailand is epic! The night market in Chiang Mai consisted of stall after stall along the street at least a mile long. The stalls include everything under the sun from tourist knick knacks to scarves and dresses to fake Tiffany & Co. jewelry to carved soaps in the shape of candles. large_DSC09397.jpg
It’s truly amazing to shop in this country. Definitely never a dull moment. The Sunday market in Chiang Mai was definitely a highlight, as was MBK in Bangkok, where I splurged like crazy, as it was my last time to do any shopping in Thailand.

Posted by kendallwallace 15:06 Archived in Thailand Tagged chiang mai Comments (0)

Tiger Kingdom

Cuddling with Tigers...For Real

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Friends that I’ve met travelling rave about the Tiger Kingdom, outside Chiang Mai. After hearing all of the roar (no pun intended), I had to check it out for myself, and I have to say, it was one of the best experiences I’ve had yet while traveling!

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There are several controversies around the establishment, but all of them were quelled in my mind. A friend who I met traveling accompanied me who had volunteered at a travel sanctuary, so I learned a lot about tigers from him. First, somehow a rumor began that they are drugged, when in fact, they’re pretty lazy animals. Seriously, they give lazy dogs a run for their money! Actually, tigers sleep 18 hours of the day. They are most active at night as they are nocturnal hunters. They have full tummies by the time the Tiger Kingdom opens, so there’s no need for concern that they’re hungry and that’s why they’ll eat you. Keeping in mind that they are predators, the only cause for concern is when they are playing because they are so massive and their teeth are so sharp, so a friendly playtime could turn dangerous for us if we’re caught in the wrong position. Fortunately, the guides at Tiger Kingdom ensure that you don’t put yourself in any danger ie you can’t touch their heads, you need to approach them from behind, etc. Second, people complain that they are caged, but it was explained to me that if the tigers were set free, most likely poachers would kill them. There are only 250 of the tiger species alive in the wild in Thailand, so the 50 in the Tiger Kingdom are actually safer in the cage than they are if they were to be released in their natural habitat.

First, we played with the baby tigers, who were 2-5 months.
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I even spooned one—they were the most adorable things I’ve ever seen.
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Yep, that's a tiger's paw on my neck...

Next, we snuggled with the medium tigers, which were 6-9 months.
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One was in such a slumber that we played a prank on him and put a stuffed tiger right by his face....just priceless :)
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I just hope he doesn't wake up and rip my face off
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Sleeping beauties....haha

Finally, I hung out with the Big Cats, which were 10-20 months, and fully-grown. They were massive.
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But what beautiful creatures they are!
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Open wide!

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Originally, the guide lifted up the lip to show me the size of the teeth. When I asked him again so that I could get this picture, you should have seen the look on his face. He was like, "You first." Needless to say, we waited a few minutes for the tiger to fall back to sleep and then could go for round 2.
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To think that the tigers let me snuggle with them is amazing! After all, I would be a goner with just one swipe of their paw or one bite in the right place.

Did you know that tigers are the only cat that enjoys the water? They love it!
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Posted by kendallwallace 14:50 Archived in Thailand Tagged tiger kingdom Comments (0)

Flight of the Gibbon

A Tree-Top Flying Adventure....Monkey Style

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Since I had missed out on The Gibbon Experience in Laos, I instead did the Flight of the Gibbon right outside Chiang Mai in the rainforest. We flew like Gibbons high above the forest floor in the canopy and even saw a few real-live gibbons!
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The guides were awesome—spoke impeccable English and were quite the pranksters, which made the afternoon so much fun.
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We even did the largest zipline in Asia. It was really, really, fun! I would SO recommend anyone coming to Chiang Mai has this experience.

Posted by kendallwallace 14:36 Archived in Thailand Tagged the flight of gibbon Comments (0)

Cooking Class

Thai Cooking....Yum....

Having enjoyed the delicious Lao food that Beth cooked a few days prior, I decided to give it a try with one of my favorite types of food: Thai. When I checked into my guesthouse in Chiang Mai, they recommended the Galangal Cooking School, and I’m so glad I went with them. Two of the protégés from the Baan Thai Cookery School, one of the most famous in Chiang Mai, broke away and started their own business: Galangal. Since they had just started up a month prior, I happened to be their only customer for the day. Benz and Ooi gave me so much individual attention. First, we went on a tour of the market and bought the necessary ingredients to make the 6 dishes I wanted to make: Panang Curry, Massaman Curry, Chiang Mai Noodles, Stir-Fry Chicken with Cashew Nuts, Pad Thai, and homemade Spring Rolls.

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Here is my instructor: Benz

When we arrived at the Cooking School, Benz put me straight to work, grinding chilis and all of the natural ingredients to make our curry pastes from scratch. We had a blast making all of the dishes.

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Here I am cutting the chilis

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And grinding the chills
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Now, let's make some massaman curry!

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Chicken with Cashew Nuts--YUM!!!! My favorite!! The only downside was the post-meal slumber after every dish.
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It was again like Thanksgiving Part II! But boy was it delicious!
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And what an incredible team that they were. I would recommend Galangal Cooking School to anyone going to Chiang Mai!

Posted by kendallwallace 14:16 Archived in Thailand Tagged chiang mai Comments (0)

Gibbon Experience Mishap

I was going to do the Gibbon Experience, an epic 3-day, 2-night exploration via zip-line of the gorgeous canopy forest in Northern Laos. I even took the 2-day slow boat along the Mekong River just to get to where the Gibbon Experience starts.
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Unfortunately, when I arrived at the Gibbon Experience, they told me I was going to be the only one on it. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t bother me, but for something this fun, you have to share it with someone. (And apparently, the guides don’t speak much English). Just to be sure, I read some reviews and after reading one from a girl who did it this month, I decided against it. It being rainy season, they trekked through knee-deep mud and apparently, they had so many leeches on them that they stopped counting after 50. I’ll save my $290, thank you. It’s one thing if it’s the dry season, where apparently, it is out-of-this-world amazing, but going through all of that doesn’t sound appealing. Instead, I’m off to Chiang Mai to cuddle with tigers ☺

Posted by kendallwallace 14:07 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

One Year

Reflections....

I’ve been travelling for 365 days…..that’s right, it’s my one-year anniversary of leaving home in Virginia to explore the world. For my anniversary, I was able to celebrate with Hayley and Shiobhan. We went out to a place called Utopia, played some night volleyball (of course the American had to represent and show them all why we won gold in this summer’s Olympics ☺ and then we went bowling afterwards, as the bowling alley is the only place in town that stays open past 11pm.) It was a wonderful celebration to cap off a year’s worth of travel.
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It’s weird being away for a year. When I think back to where I was a year ago, just having quit my job at UVA, just arriving in Auckland for the epic Rugby World Cup, it’s seems like a lifetime ago. It’s hard to believe all of the places I’ve been, things I’ve experienced, and great friendships I’ve made since I’ve left. The fun really began the moment I stepped on that Kiwi Experience bus. What an epic excursion that was that resulted in some great friendships! It was so great that I was then able to bump into those friends along the way as I traveled Australia, and even lived with some of them for my 7 months in Sydney. Since my travels have recommenced, having left my job in Sydney, it’s been non-stop on-the-go. I’ve seen a lifetime’s worth in the past 2 months, checking off many of the bucket-list items in this part of the world: the Full-Moon Party, Angkor Wat, Halong Bay, just to name a few.

The biggest surprise to me in my year of travels is how much I’m connected to home, or rather, how much I miss it—specifically, my family and friends. When I first left home, I thought I could be away for a couple of years; it really came as a shock when I realized that wasn’t the case. Perhaps it’s been the time differences, because let’s be honest, the Australia/U.S. time difference sucks!! It’s honestly the worst. I’ll take the Europe/U.S. time difference any day (6 hours) over the 17-hour time difference I experienced in Sydney. But I think it has more to do with not being able to fly somewhere for a weekend to go to a friend’s wedding or join in on a family vacation.

I only really came to that conclusion when my new nephew, Lewis, was born and when my cousin, Emilie, got engaged (and I’ll have to admit, when I missed the US Open, having gone the previous 2 years—what can I say, I’m a tennis freak! :p). Missing meeting my new nephew or missing the fun of Emilie’s bachelorette party and wedding next year is not an option. Being that it would be a bit far to fly from India to Vegas for the weekend, I’ve decided to alter my plans. I’m going to be applying for jobs in NYC and hopefully landing one come the New Year. The thing about it is, while my travels may simmer down, the adventure won’t. In fact, living in NYC next year would be the ultimate adventure! Not to mention, I could actually start my career, and let’s face it, earning an income isn’t half-bad. ☺ While I may have made this decision while dancing on a table in Koh Tao screaming the lyrics to Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind,” I have to admit, it’s the right next step, having been away for this long. After all, I can always work overseas again and in-between job changes travel to my heart’s delight, but for now, “Let’s here it for…the concrete jungle where dreams are made!”

Posted by kendallwallace 13:51 Comments (0)

Massages and Cooking Classes

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The following day, Danielle and I met Beth at her cooking class.
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She had woken up early to go to the market and shop for items that she then used with the Chef to cook an exquisite traditional Lao lunch.
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Danielle and I arrived and gorged ourselves with the deliciousness. We laughed about it being like Thanksgiving because we were all in food comas and needed to go flatten our stomachs afterwards.
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Later on that evening, we all had traditional Lao massages at a place called Hibiscus. Mine was good except when she banged on the spot on my back that was still sore from the rock-climbing incident

Posted by kendallwallace 13:33 Archived in Laos Tagged prabang luang Comments (0)

Sabaidee!

“Obladah, life goes on, ah…la la la life goes on”

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We woke up at 5:30am to check out the monks receiving their alms. At the monastery in town, the monks receive their food only one way: through the donations of the townspeople. So we woke up to see the parade of boys in orange robes.

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After going back to bed and rising at a more reasonable hour, we rented bikes for the day and headed to the temple called the jewel of Luang Prabang, Wat Xieng Thong.

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We had to rent clothes to be covered for the temples (even though men could show their knees) and proceeded to sweat profusely. So we decided to “Show a Little Shoulder” in the temple. Although slightly sacrilegious, it was a good idea at the time. So word of advice to you: if you are ever in a temple and are completely miserably hot, show a little shoulder. If it doesn’t cool you off, it will at least make you laugh and be less miserable.
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Then we rode bikes to an old communist bridge.
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Afterwards, we were templed out, and hot….did I mention how bloody hot it was?!?! So we headed to the pool.
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Instead of the “tourist pool,” we met a Colombian named Gabriel who showed us where the local Laos pool was. As soon as we jumped in the pool, we became surrounded by the Lao children.
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Our afternoon then existed of playing with the cutest Lao children. It was a blast tossing them around. Beth and Danielle, both being former cheerleaders, taught me how to basket-toss. Oh my…my nephews better look out for the next time I see them ☺

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That evening, we headed to Phu Si, the temple overlooking the city, for the sunset. It was a lot of stairs, but the view at the top was worth it!
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Gorgeous sunset
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That evening we splurged on an amazing dinner. And when I say splurge, I mean paid $7. It was amazing, and Anthony Bordain recommended.

Posted by kendallwallace 13:08 Archived in Laos Tagged prabang luang Comments (0)

Waterfalls in Luang Prabang

Elephant Rides and Waterfall Jumping

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Danielle, Beth and I chartered a tuk-tuk to take us to the 2 waterfalls surrounding Luang Prabang. Beth and I decided to ride elephants since the pictures made it look so appealing. It was not. I was terrified and felt like I was going to fall off, which didn’t make it very enjoyable for me, but made it extremely enjoyable for everyone watching me and laughing their heads off.

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After the “elephant trekking,” we bathed the elephants. It was just me on the elephant, and the elephant was supposed to listen to the commands of the trainer. I stress the word supposed to. My elephant did what he wanted and started swimming, holding his breath underwater and pulling me down with him. Then Beth’s elephant tried to mount my elephant with me already on my elephant’s back. Being crushed between two two-ton animals is not the way I wanted to go. Those cheeky slags. Then one of them shat so a giant turd started floating in the water between Beth and me. I know this sounds crass, but it was a crass experience. In retrospect, I would have rather ripped up 25 dollars.

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Make it stop!

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Where the hell is my elephant taking me?
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Where is the other elephant?

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No seriously, make it stop!!

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At least we had fun at the waterfalls themselves.
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We went for a dip and then got back in our tuk-tuk and headed over to the big waterfall.

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Just a typical guy driving a motorbike and drinking a beer at the same time...cause it's Laos and that's what you do here :p

On the way, we passed an Asiatic bear reserve, so we checked out the bears, which looked more like giant Pomeranians than bears. Then we decided to pose with all of the bears of the world...lol
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Once we arrived at the falls, we saw a bunch of people swinging off a rope swing into the water and then jumping off the top of the waterfall, so naturally, we followed suit ☺
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And a bit of waterfall jumping
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The Dream Team
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Posted by kendallwallace 14:39 Archived in Laos Tagged prabang luang Comments (0)

Tubing in Vang Vieng: Prohibition Style

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Vang Vieng is world renowned for its partying ways. Every backpacker who travels through SE Asia passes through this town for the tubing. The river is lined with about 20 bars on either side and the guys at each bar throw you a rope to get pulled over to the side and come in and join whatever activity awaits: mud volleyball, mud tug-of-war, a giant slide, to name a few. So basically, it’s every parents nightmare ☺

Rumor had wafted through the backpacker trail that the tubing had closed down (due to the number of deaths). Unfortunately, so many 18 year-olds who couldn’t hold their liquor combined with shallow water resulted in about one a week, so the Australian and American governments got together and basically pressured the Laos government into doing something about it. For more information, you can check out this article: http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/life/24-signs-partys-over-vang-vieng-965782. Naturally, however, I had to check it out for myself.

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So I took the first bus out of Ventiane (Unfortunately, I had to stay the night there as my taxi driver took me to the wrong bus station so that I missed my bus. Then he had the gall to ask for more money to take me to the correct one…ugh!) and got to Vang Vieng. I met up with 2 awesome Georgia girls from my Halong Bay trip, Beth and Danielle. We grabbed a beer for the tube and headed down the river in our tubs. As we floated down, we realized it was like floating past “what could have been.” Everything was closed.
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It saddened us to see all of the mud volleyball shut, but after seeing the slide, which would shoot people out on shallow water, the zip lines, etc, we realized what a good thing it was to have shut them. Let’s just say they didn’t seem the safest.
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Tubing did make me nostalgic for my times tubing with Jason and Katie last summer on the river just outside San Antonio I must say.

We stopped at the last, first, and only bar that was open.
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After chilling out there for a while, we took a tuk tuk back to the start and did it again.

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By the time we finally got off the river, it was dark outside, but boy, was it a fun day!
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What made it even better was a second day of tubing with some Canadians followed by a reunion with my friends Hayley and Shiobhan.
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Side note: each of the restaurants in Vang Vieng played Friends episodes back to back all day long. It was actually awesome—none of us had seen Friends in forever. It was so hilarious to be reacquainted with “We were on a break” and “Greenes don’t quit! I’ve been trying so hard to not be my mother that I’ve turned into my father. I did not see this coming!” What a hilarious show!

Partied out, it was time to move onto to a more cultured place: the jewel of Laos: Luang Prabang.

Posted by kendallwallace 13:48 Archived in Laos Tagged vang vieng Comments (0)

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