A Travellerspoint blog

The things that Kuala Lumpur does to your wallet

sunny 34 °C

From Saigon I took my first flight since arriving from Helsinki to Bangkok and starting my trip. Months ago I had found a bargain flight for 40 euros from Saigon to Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia Airlines, which also happens to be one of the better airlines. It sure was nice to fly again, especially when there was a decent meal included and a chocolate bar for dessert.

Couple of hours later and I had landed to a whole different world. It was Sunday and it seemed that everything was therefore more quiet. After the Vietnamese traffic it was like a miracle to walk the peaceful streets of Kuala Lumpur. It was actually possible to cross the road! Cars were stopping and letting you go! The whole traffic was organized!

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I was excited to arrive to Kuala Lumpur. It was so good to land somewhere modern and westernized. I have now realized just how much I like my home comforts... Kuala Lumpur was again back on the zone where you can get anything you want 24 hours a day. I'm not ashamed to say I love it! I was ridiculously happy to spot a 7/11, and after a month apart I was reunited with my beloved ice mochas.

From my hostel I could see the Golden Triangle looming in the distance, and decided to walk there. The Petronas Towers were glistening in the night, they were luminous. I thought they were so beautiful, and I don't even know why. After all, they're just a pile of steel!

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Unfortunately there is a big shopping centre next to the towers. When I stuck my head to the shopping mall I was gone. As I made my way past Bvlgari and Cartier towards the more affordable shops on the lower floor, there was no stopping from there. It is the most stupid and shallow thing in the whole world that one feels like coming home when spotting a Zara and Topshop. Yet I found myself from the fitting room surrounded by things that I didn't need nor could afford (let alone fit in my backpack). And curiously for the first time I was not cold at all despite the air con, what with all the blood rushing through my veins in excitement! Just some hours earlier I had been in Vietnam, not caring about material things, only caring about the experience. And 15 minutes into being inside a western style shopping centre I was again totally brainwashed into spending and buying and consuming again!

The next day I went up to the Menara KL Tower (not to be confused with Petronas). I had heard that the view is great, but my main reason to go there was that it reminded me of Seattle's Space Needle. Being a huge fan of Grey's Anatomy I have a rather odd obsession to visit the Space Needle. Weird, I know. The admission fee was a little bit more than I expected, and even when I tried to do my student card trick (presenting whatever card from my wallet as student card) that didn't give me any discount.

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The admission fee included entrance to this weird Winter World place, which basically was a corner with snowmen and carol singing animals. Don't really know what was the function of that place! Next to the Winter World there was also a small zoo, or whatever you would call it, this sad space with caged animals. They had lots of different snakes and spiders, and bigger animals too like monkeys, foxes and raccoons, all trapped in their small cages. It was so sad to see them desperately making circles in the small space they had.

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Kuala Lumpur has a very modern look and it seems to have every single American chain from doughnuts to books and coffee. I have started to see my own country as rather original when it comes to this, for in Finland there's no Burger King or Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts or KFC to be found.

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Kuala Lumpur has the most amazing food streets I've ever seen. There is a huge selection of Asian food on the streets, Indian, Malay, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese. However, I was starting to worry a little about money, so I attacked the problem by eating chicken fried rice for three days in a row. And of course bringing my own bottle of water with me! Since starting my trip I have been having the most disgusting restaurant manners: never ever tipping and by now I'm not the slightest bit embarrassed to carry my own drinks around.

I visited the Petronas Towers on my last day in Kuala Lumpur. If you can bear the long wait in the queue early in the morning you'll be rewarded with a free ticket to visit the skybridge between the two towers. I found it funny that there is no admission fee, seeing as the towers are the most popular tourist spot in Kuala Lumpur. It's not like you can go up to Eiffel Tower for free when in Paris! However, going up to the towers is not very interesting, and the view from KL Tower is actually much better.

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I finally made my way to the famous Chinatown market too, and I thought it was full of unbelievable crap and no air. I was trying to find a cheap, simple black handbag, but turned out it was impossible to find anything that didn't have a massive fake Chanel label or something like that on it. And the guys selling them were driving me mad too, piling their fake shit in front of me and going over and over again: "What? You don't like Chanel? Why you not like Louis Vuitton? This one is CHLOE! Very nice!"

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I decided to take a quick look at the Times Square shopping centre too, which is huge and apparently has an amusement park with rollercoasters and stuff in it. It really was massive, sporting the same labyrinth style than the shopping centres in Bangkok. It was too much of a bazaar for my liking, and most of the shops were rather not my style. See below!

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Upon arrival to Kuala Lumpur I was so full of excitement, but three days later I was definitely ready to leave. Interesting place to visit but not something I would return to. Only if I was loaded with money and could go for a no limits shopping spree!

Posted by Maria8 20:16 Archived in Malaysia

Last days in Vietnam: Saigon

sunny 32 °C

After my experience in Hanoi, I had minimized the time I was gonna spend in Saigon. (The official name these days is actually Ho Chi Minh City, but it is still often called as Saigon, and I will use that one as I like it better.) I enjoyed the peaceful days I had in Mui Ne, and I wasn't overly keen on returning to the madness. However, there were a couple of things I wanted to see and do in Saigon.

I took my final sleeper bus from Mui Ne to Saigon, and luckily I was able to make my way straight to the hotel as Kerry had arrived before and kindly booked us in. It's always a small luxury not having to do the accommodation search. Especially at that moment when the Vietnamese New Year was coming closer and the places were filling up and the prices going up the roof.

I didn't take many pictures in Saigon, as it's so crazy on the streets that it's enough just to stay alive and stay out of the motorbikes' way! Basically Saigon was just like Hanoi, only whereas Hanoi was mad and cold, Saigon was mad and hot and humid. You guess which one is better...

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It seems that in Vietnam nobody walks anywhere. I was going to walk to the War Remnants Museum, and as I was studying my map I asked the receptionist at our hotel how long it would take to walk there. She started to laugh so much that I got all confused, and thought I must have misread my map somehow as I was obviously being ridiculous here. She goes: "Walk??? You want walk?! Loooong way. Looong way!" She's looking at me like I'm the silliest girl she's ever met. I asked how long then. Her answer: "LONG. Maybe 40 minutes." Now, for me 40 minutes walk is just fine, if I'm on a holiday and have all the time in the world. She looked at me like I was crazy as I left. I got to the museum in 20 minutes time, and probably would have been quicker if the streets weren't so confusing!

The War Remnants Museum was as shocking as I had heard it is. The most horrible part of the museum is all the pictures that show how deformed babies are still being born to this day because of all the toxic stuff that the US army dropped in Vietnam during the war.

There was another part of the museum with cells built to look like the cells where the prisoners were kept. There were pictures on the walls showing all the different ways the prisoners were being tortured. It was unbelievable, I was looking at it and thinking how can somebody be disgusting enough to come up with something like that! One way to torture the female prisoners for example was to let snakes loose inside their trousers. Sick! Another form of torture was sticking a hose deep into the prisoner's throat and fill their stomach with water.

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Me and Caileigh also took a half day trip to the Cu Chi tunnels, which is a massive tunnel network used during the war. I was kind of expecting a long walk underground, so was very disappointed to find out that you can only walk 200 metres in the tunnels. When the guide asked how many of us wanted to do the whole 200 metres leg, everyone's hands went up, but it was quite a different story once we got underground! It was only possible to crawl (which I couldn't do because I was wearing an impossible outfit - the only clothes that I hadn't left at the laundy!) or walk really low, meaning your body's doubled in half. It was hot, dusty and totally claustrophobic! I only lasted until the second little exit point. Oh well, seen it already, no point in staying there?

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We're both grinning like we're at the funfair with the soldier boys or something - not sure we remember where we are!

Vietnamese food has been slightly disappointing so far, so I was thrilled to have one fabulous traditional dinner in Saigon. Kerry was telling me and Caileigh about this little Vietnamese place where she had eaten fantastic Vietnamese pancakes, and we decided to give it a go. This humble little restaurant was a good one hour's walk from where we were staying, but turned out it was worth it! We were joined by an Australian girl whom Kerry had met before. We had Vietnamese pancakes stuffed with pork and shrimp. I had never eaten anything like that before: you take small pieces of the pancake, wrap them inside lettuce, and dip the whole thing in peanut sauce. Delicious! We also had the best fresh springrolls I've had - they were beautiful with rice, vegetables and shrimp. Easily one of the most interesting meals of my trip.

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Apart from this I spent my time in Saigon running errands, exploring the big supermarkets, doing laundry and getting some last minute cheap stuff before leaving Asia. I scored some super cheap copy Lonely Planets from the street, and some hideous fake sunglasses as I figured it would be my last chance to get dirt-cheap sunglasses for 2 US dollars (I am furiously trying to get rid of the Dolce&Gabbana label on the other pair, the other pair can keep its dodgy Ray Ban label seeing as they're already broken!).

Out of the countries that I've visited on this trip Vietnam was definitely the most interesting. Not as enjoyable as Thailand, nor as relaxed as Laos, but definitely the most interesting, the most exotic. I am still kicking myself for not having enough time in Vietnam - I had to leave out lots of things that I wanted to do, like boat trip to Halong Bay, Sapa, Da Lat and the Central Highlands. I feel like Vietnam is the kind of country I would have liked to see properly at once. I don't think it's a place I would return for a holiday, it's more of a place to tour and experience. Rushing through from north to south is not a good idea.

My last memory of Vietnam will be arguing about the taxi price to the airport, after 10 minutes getting my way, getting off the taxi outside the terminal and watching in astonishment as the taxi driver snapped the money from my hand and threw all my luggage flying to the ground before speeding away like a madman, leaving me to stuff my belongings back to the bags. Bye!

Posted by Maria8 03:15 Archived in Vietnam

Sun, Sea and especially Sand - Vietnamese style

sunny 30 °C

I was filled with hope for sun and beach time when I boarded the night bus for Nha Trang, Vietnam's busiest beach town. When I got there at 6:30am it was suspiciously cloudy and chilly, but I decided to give it a couple of hours and see if the weather was gonna clear up. I was planning to stay there for two nights, maybe take a boat trip or the cable car to the amusement park. I also had a 6 USD dorm bed at clean and modern hostel, so I was happy with that.

By noon it seemed that my plans for beach holiday were a little too optimistic, as the sky was still thick with clouds and it was too cold and windy on the beach. I met Kerry from the US and a lovely couple from Melbourne, where I'm going soon, and spent the morning chatting with them at the hostel. I had a disappointing, tasteless lunch in a nearby restaurant - so far the Vietnamese cuisine has failed to impress me. I do like their fresh spring rolls though. Vietnam is the first place where I've tried spring rolls that haven't been deep fried and I love them.

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I went for a walk to the beach in the afternoon, and by then it was nice and warm, although not quite what I'd call beach weather. Somehow Nha Trang reminded me of some coastal cities in Spain, there was same kind of feel to it. As I had heard before, the beach in Nha Trang was really dirty. I don't know how many kilometres I walked by the beach, and all the way the sand was covered in trash and plastic bags and rotten food. I wonder if anybody goes to that beach! It's such a shame cause otherwise it would be quite pretty really. It seems that in Vietnam they have no environmental conciousness whatsoever, and it makes you wanna shake the people and force them to take a good look at all the litter on the beach. I can't fathom is that the way they want their nature to look like, and is that where they expect tourists to come and spend their holidays!

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That was my time in Nha Trang really. I had some ice cream from Romy's Italian Ice Cream whilst walking on the beach, and despite the dirt and all I was so happy to be near water again. After the big, chaotic Hanoi I was in high spirits for just seeing the sea again and being able to breathe fresh air. Even though after four years of living on islands I'm always quick to claim that it's not enough just to have the beach and the good climate, this once again came to prove that I am a beach girl at heart and love to be on the seaside. Maybe not enough on its own, but perhaps essential all the same?

So I only had one night in Nha Trang, and I didn't explore its famous night life. Somebody at our hostel recommended an Indian restaurant on the other side of the road, and me and Kerry headed there for dinner. It was one of the best Indian meals I've had for a long time!

From Mui Ne I finally found what I had been looking for. The sun was on the sky, it was hot and the place was small and quiet. Bliss! Me and Kerry found a nice guesthouse for 11 dollars, dropped our bags and went to explore. Mui Ne consists of just one road, which I thought was fabulous. You can only go left or right, and you definitely don't need a map. It's a sleepy surfer town mostly populated by kitesurfers, expats on holidays and a huge number of wealthy Russians.

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I wasn't gonna stress about doing anything in Mui Ne, it was to be beach time no more, no less. The beach was clean and nice, a perfect spot to be when there wasn't a sandstorm. And when there was, well, then it was sort of impossible to be by the sea! The many kitesurfers of Mui Ne may like the wind on the beach, but for anyone else it's just a nightmare of three days later still trying to get the sand out of your ears...

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That night I was happy to find fresh tuna steak for 45.000 dong (approx 2 euros), and I swore to Kerry I'd be eating fish every day whilst in Mui Ne. And that I did! Amazingly I'm still not sick of chicken and rice, but I have been missing seafood.

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I didn't really take many pictures in Mui Ne, as most of my time was spent on the beach or chilling at the guesthouse. I didn't even go to see Mui Ne's famous sand dunes because I didn't want anything to interfere my perfectly lazy beach life. On my last night I went for a dinner with my Ko Pha Ngan travelling buddy Stefano and his friends. He's working in Mui Ne over the winter as a kitesurfing instructor so it was a good chance to catch up with him as well, and freeload workers' discount at the best Indian restaurant of Mui Ne!

Mui Ne was so much better than Nha Trang, and I would have liked to stay longer, but with my schedule there was no postponing to be done - after three nights it was time for another sleeper bus to take me to Saigon, my final destination in Vietnam.

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Posted by Maria8 04:37 Archived in Vietnam

Quick stop in pretty Hoi An

overcast 16 °C

I was relieved to leave behind all the madness in Hanoi, and excited about the real sleeper buses in Vietnam! I had almost bought the ordinary bus pass because it was 15 dollars cheaper (always willing to go for the hardcore option if it saves a few bucks) but I finally came to my senses and decided it would be 15 dollars well spent if I could arrive to a new place well rested and without a stiff neck.

So I was excited about my fancy sleeper bus ticket due to take me all the way from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. In fact I might have used the word 'luxurious'. Well, that certainly was before I laid my eyes on this fabulous form of transport, let alone tried to fit my bit-bigger-than-the-Vietnamese body in the tiny upper bunk bed. Good luck for anyone taller than me trying to travel on these! My biggest problem were all my bags. After somehow getting myself in the upper bunk, I had no choice but cover my body with my bags and the damned shoe box - one of my brilliant ideas was an impromptu purchase of high heels in Hanoi (I couldn't resist the haven of clean and nice Nine West store in the middle of the madness). And it doesn't stop there. If you're in the upper bunk, you have to deal with the air con blowing straight into your face. I, of course, had to choose the one bed that had a broken reading light. Lights off at 7pm and happy travels!

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Well of course it really wasn't that bad, the sleeper is obviously better option than the normal bus. It was hilarious, because I boarded the bus expecting to find a little luxury! That I didn't find, but I did meet two Canadian girls Caileigh and Shauna, to share hotel with.

The weather was miserable. We were supposed to have four hours transit in Hue before catching another bus to Hoi An, but luckily that was cancelled. It was pouring down in Hue, so it was a fantastic surprise when another bus materialized at 8am to take us straight to Hoi An. I was only gonna have one night there anyway, so that bought me some extra time.

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Hoi An is famous for two things: its many, many tailors and its beautiful old town that is actually a UNESCO world heritage site. Most people go to Hoi An to get some clothes made - the tailors can fix you anything you want, be it clothes or shoes. They have lots of catalogues and magazines, or you can just show up with your own pictures or designs. Caileigh and Shauna were both gonna get quite a few things done, and as I followed them to different tailors I was worried I wouldn't be able to resist the urge to start shopping... However, turned out I'm stronger than I thought I was! The girls thought I was gonna get bored with them, but actually it was great - I got to have the whole tailors experience without spending a penny! I was tempted for a while, after all you are bound to see a few nice things when you're leafing through a copy of Vogue, but in the end I didn't think it was so cheap, and I didn't wanna pay for anything before seeing it. So the temptation quickly passed and I decided to do my shopping in Kuala Lumpur, home to some of the biggest shopping malls in the world. Now that is a temptation I can't guarantee to resist...

Hoi An was very pretty. It has such an atmospheric old town, with almost all the buildings yellow. It was a great relief to be out of Hanoi and have less traffic (less motorbikes!) around. There were not many interesting sights, mainly we just walked aimlessly around. The whole town only seems to have tailors, art shops, restaurants and cafes. At night it was full of beautiful yellow light, just like old European cities with those lovely old-fashioned street lamps.

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We stayed in a nice little hotel, and because we were three sharing we only paid 5 dollars each. The prices of accommodation is one bad thing in Vietnam - my guidebook can claim that there are rooms to be had for 5-7 USD, but I don't know when that information was checked because there just isn't anything for less than a tenner. It's all very nice, sure, but I just really don't need to be paying for TV and air conditioning, two things that I never use. Vietnam clearly doesn't have the same kind of array of cheap rooms like Thailand.

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Shauna and Caileigh having lunch in Hoi An

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Vietnamese fresh spring rolls are so good!

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The next day when the girls were going around the tailor shops trying on their dresses and shirts, I walked around some more. I went to the fruit and vegetable market to pick up some snacks for the next sleeper bus and saw the Japanese covered bridge in the old town.

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Even if Hoi An was beautiful, one night there was enough for me. That was plenty of time to see the place plus it was cold - I was in a hurry to get to the southern beaches. Oh how I missed the beaches! And the sun!

Posted by Maria8 05:30 Archived in Vietnam

Welcome to the jungle

Three days in Hanoi

overcast 16 °C

I had my doubts about the 24-hour bus journey from Vientiane to Hanoi, and was even looking at flights at some point. However, when the flight was 140 USD and the bus 18 USD, then what do you do? In my case, obviously jump on the bus!

When I boarded my bus, I noticed that I seemed to be the only western passenger. Not that I have anything against travelling with Asians only (I can handle their cheesy music videos), I was just surprised that it wasn't the usual backpackers' bus. I didn't think much of it at that point, and the journey began just like any journey so far, my only worry being that I didn't have any reading material apart from the painfully boring vampire book Twilight.

I was slightly worried about the border crossing as I didn't have a visa. I had read from the internet that Finnish citizens don't need visa for trips less than 15 days, but as Vietnam is notoriously strict with visas I was a bit nervous all the same.

When we got to the border, I didn't realize we had arrived as there was nothing in sight. I had been asleep and when I woke up the bus was almost empty. There were a couple of Vietnamese guys outside and when I tried to ask them what was going on, turned out nobody spoke any English. Fair enough, we were in Vietnam after all, but these people were just awfully rude. No matter how polite and friendly I tried to be, they didn't give a damn. More people came along, and amazingly enough, all the others were just as horrible! I have never ever met people with such manners. And this is not a language barrier I'm talking about here, as I know for a fact that it is always possible to make yourself understood way or another as long as someone is willing to listen. It was a pretty helpless feeling to be there in the middle of nowhere, not knowing what to do, not knowing the language, surrounded by people who couldn't care less if you were dumped there on the side of the road.

Somebody eventually came who spoke enough English to angrily tell me to walk to the office (where the hell that was, I had no idea). I asked if the bus was gonna stay where it was and he said yes, the bus was gonna stay right there.

After finally getting my passport stamped - fortunately with no problems - I was going to return to the bus. Only the bus was nowhere to be seen. I finally found someone whom I recognised and asked where it was, but the only answer I could get was "Bus go to Vietnam", but I couldn't get anything more out of him, just an unpatient wave of his hand towards the fog and the mist somewhere there in direction of Vietnam. Everyone I tried to talk to made it very clear they had no interest whatsoever listen to me or try to help, either they were plain rude or they were laughing at my face.

I started to get really pissed off at this point. I lost my temper for a bit, but as everyone knows (especially children) the worst thing that can happen when you're throwing a tantrum is people laughing at you, so my outburst only left me raging even more. I had all my bags in the bus and I was desperate to get to them. I finally found a person who was willing to talk, but the only thing he said was "Go to Vietnam!", pointing into the fog. There was not much else to do then - I followed some people into the fog and after 10 minutes walk arrived to another building for more check-ups. On the way a car passed by with some of the rude men I had talked to earlier hanging out from the windows, laughing and pointing at me screaming something that I don't want to know. Somehow I resisted the childish urge to give them the finger. It was freezing cold and it started to rain. I found my bags next to another bus, abandoned on the wet ground. Then it was more queueing, more stamps, more fees, more rude people and a long wait in the rain before the Hanoi-bound bus appeared.

I was so relieved to finally be on the bus, succesfully in Vietnam and most importantly with all my bags. From then on it was just a long, long drive with occasional stops at disgusting toilets. After almost two whole days of not eating I was starting to get really hungry towards the evening, and the only thing I could think about was food. I was imagining doing grocery shopping in a huge supermarket and what all the things I would buy. I couldn't wait to get to Hanoi and EAT! The starvation had been worth it though, as I didn't feel sick anymore.

When I finally did arrive to Hanoi 26 hours after leaving Vientiane, it was already pitch black, and as I got off the bus I was immediately surrounded by a bunch of drivers screaming "Taxi!" or "Moto'bike!". At least a few different ones of them were already carrying my bags to their vehicles. I was so exhausted and I had no energy left for these hawks, I was hungry and dizzy and all I wanted to do was to crawl into my dorm bed and cry. That was, if I could find my hostel first. I wasn't getting anywhere with my negotiating of the price, they all wanted 10 dollars, but as I had no clue where I was in Hanoi and how far away my hostel was I couldn't know if I was being ripped off (well, that much was obvious). Finally I left them all there screaming after me and found a cab from the street for 5 dollars. The driver spent the whole journey whining "Six dollars, madam, please madam, you give six dollars". I had a little tiny amount of patience left, so I decided to completely ignore him.

My hostel Hanoi Backpackers turned out to be excellent. The dorm was really comfortable with spacious lockers and en-suite bathroom, and best of all, proper duvets! It was almost 9pm and I was starving, so when a girl at my dorm said she had had a good meal in an Italian restaurant just round the corner, I ran straight there, ordered a tomato bruschetta and lasagna, and for the first time in days (weeks?) had a meal and felt totally fine afterwards. I clearly had healed just in time for my Vietnam adventure.

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The next day had a wonderful start when I found out that my hostel had the first burning hot shower I had experienced since my parents' hotel in Krabi. Then it was time to explore Hanoi. Well, if I had found Bangkok very normal and organized and easy to navigate - and therefore not that exotic - then Hanoi was exotic all right! It was sheer madness! After I had walked to the Hoan Kiem lake and found a bank with a good enough exchange rate to get rid of my US dollars (I'm obsessed with the rates and I WILL walk around until I find something close to the official one), I was already exhausted. I felt like I needed to consult my map every few minutes, but taking out a map was the perfect invitation for the Vietnamese to surround me, trying to sell anything or offer a motorbike or cyclo ride.

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I visited the Ngoc Son temple, one of the most photographed spots in Hanoi, that is situated on an island in Hoan Kiem lake. After that I was done for the day! It's the chaotic traffic that tired me, the constant stream of motorbikes that never stops, and having a near-death experience every ten minutes. One would think one would be safe walking on the pedestrian street, but no, they seem to merely be there for the Vietnamese to build their motorbike workshops on. And of course when they can't fit any more motorbikes on the road, it's perfectly fine to drive on the sidewalk. Just to honk some horn to give a little warning!

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Vietnamese people also seem to be carrying anything on their bikes. I saw one man with a massive mattress hanging from the back of his bike, and another navigating the impossible traffic with a tiny baby - the baby sitting on a highchair! Yes, he had attached a highchair to his motorbike! Some people are casually texting as they go - as if they wouldn't be almost destined to die in the traffic even if they paid their best attention. I saw a couple of crashes, but instead of people yelling at each other and figuring out whose fault it was, they just shrug their shoulders, get back on their bikes and move on. I took motorbike taxi once, only because it was getting late and I needed to check out from my hostel. It was hardly enjoyable, but after hanging onto my dear life I was delivered home safe and sound (and cheap).

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I did a fair bit of sightseeing in Hanoi, mainly because the admission fees are really low, often just 5000 dong (that would be approx 20 cents in euros). I mostly walked everywhere - in a city like Hanoi it takes some effort and lots of patience, but with a good pair of trainers and a couple of maps it's doable. I went to the Temple of Literature, which was pretty, but pretty boring too if you ask my opinion.

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The most interesting sight in Hanoi for me was Hoa Lo Prison Museum, better known as Hanoi Hilton. It was possible to take a look at the shocking cells where the prisoners were kept, the guillotine and numerous items that belonged to the prisoners from their toothbrushes to their cigarette packs and clothes. The pictures didn't turn out good though cause it was so dark in there. One of the most famous ex-prisoners include John McCain.

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Unlike in Thailand and Laos, in Hanoi I didn't experiment with street food. Let's just say that the sickening smell coming from their pots did little to my appetite... So it's a little wonder that somewhere along the way (starting in Laos) my budget's gone out of the window. And to think that when I started my trip I was carefully writing down everything I spent money on, and would've never stepped inside a real restaurant! I used to get upset if my meal cost 60 baht instead of 30 baht, and would walk around town trying to find the cheapest bottle of water. I must say that I can be very good at being on budget when I set my mind into it, but I suppose the moment comes for even the most budget conscious traveller when they just have to let it go a little bit. In my case, I went from getting upset if I had to spend a whole euro on meal to finding myself holding a 5 dollar jar of Nutella in a Vietnamese supermarket, with an obvious intention to buy it. Before reaching the till some voice of sense was screaming in my head CHUCK THE NUTELLA! NOW! (I now know that I did wait until Australia before getting some Nutella. And then some.)

On my last day in Hanoi I went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where Vietnam's much-loved late president's corpse lies for all the world to see. Apparently Ho Chi Minh himself wanted to get cremated but well that didn't happen. One Vietnamese man explained that the Vietnamese loved him so much that they didn't want to let him go, instead they wanted to keep a part of him there. Weird!

It was a rather bizarre place. They let in small groups of people at time, and once you're in it's all over in five minutes. Visitors can walk around his corpse and it's strictly prohibited to lift your arms above your waist. There's lots of guards keeping a watchful eye over the people.

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The mausoleum complex is well worth visiting though, as there's lots of things to see. I didn't have much time over there as I was in a hurry to get back to my hostel to check out, but I did take a little walk around. The area is quite pretty and there is lots of places to visit such as the Presidential Palace and Ho Chi Minh Museum.

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I enjoyed Hanoi, even if the weather was freezing cold. When I left from Finland I thought I had packed too many warm clothes, but since Pai it's been clear that I should've packed more! In Hanoi I had to layer on all the jumpers with long sleeves and put on a scarf and a hat. Before I had been gutted that I didn't have enough time to visit Sapa, supposedly amazingly beautiful town in the north, but after experiencing the cold in Hanoi I was actually glad I wasn't going to brave the freezing temperatures over there.

I was still regretting that I had so little time in Vietnam. It was obvious from day one that this country was going to be so interesting and not a place I would like to rush through!

Posted by Maria8 04:20 Archived in Vietnam

Laos seen from the sick bed

Vang Vieng and Vientiane

sunny 30 °C

I've been lazy with my blog lately, but it's finally time for some updates... I'll have to go back all the way to New Year!

The bus journey from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng was one bumpy ride! I quite enjoy moving from one place to another, but it was extreme even on my standards. I had heard that the roads in Laos are really rough, and indeed the whole 7-hour journey it was potholes all the way. The bus kept flying through the holes keeping questionable noise, and what's more the roads were also full of cows and other animals so the driver was constantly honking the horn (instead of using the brake, of course). It was definitely the most uncomfortable bus I've been on so far, but the scenery on the other hand was probably the best. I didn't know Laos had such a dramatic landscape of mountains. It was so green and beautiful, so it didn't really matter that it was impossible to sleep or read.

Vang Vieng is the party capital of Laos, totally occupied by backpackers. I was looking forward to going there, as everyone I had met seemed to have such fun and fond memories of the place. Turned out, I couldn't quite find the good vibe there. The main road is dusty and a bit depressing (although I'm sure it's only me - didn't see many people looking depressed in Vang Vieng!), full of restaurants that are copies of each other with exactly the same menus. If Luang Prabang had some fabulous restaurants and bakeries, then Vang Vieng definitely doesn't have much going for it in terms of food. Many of the restaurants show Friends and Family Guy all day long.

The only really good meal I had in Vang Vieng was in an Indian restaurant. However, when I returned there couple of days later, everything was pretty horrible. I had convinced Scottish Scott to join me after much praise for the place, and he's probably still talking about the dodginess of my fabulous Indian restaurant. In fact, I don't think the guy's had Indian ever since!

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Speaking of dodginess, I started throwing up again in Vang Vieng. I had better days and worse days, but in general my time in VV was pretty much spoilt by feeling sick most of the time.

As for going out, I just didn't find Vang Vieng very atmospheric place, for me it was the typical whisky bucket hell. (Drink a bucket and you WILL have fun!) I didn't dislike Vang Vieng for it being such a backpacker's trap, after all I loved Pai, I even loved Khao San Road in Bangkok! It's just there was something about it that made me wanna gather my bags and run.

On the other side of the river the nature was spectacular, and I walked there one day to explore. Annoying thing about Vang Vieng is that in every corner there's someone trying to make a buck. You pay for crossing the tiny river - if you have a bike or motorcycle you pay more - and once you get to the other side you basically have to pay for laying your eyes on anything with any scenic beauty. These are all very small fees, of course, and I do understand that the Lao people don't have much and are just trying to make a living, but still. I couldn't help but feel annoyed about having to pay to stick your head in some pitch black cave.

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The most popular activity in Vang Vieng is tubing. Basically there are plenty of bars by the river, and people float down the river stopping at the bars and getting drunk. There's also swings and slides and lots of mud, and pissed people doing crazy jumps. This is all supposed to be great fun.

I was saving tubing for New Year's Eve, when everybody was going. Everybody except me, that is, as I had the worst day on New Year's Eve, and just couldn't get out of bed. So as everyone else was having a blast down the river, I was lying in my bed reading a book and wondering if I could stomach some apples. That was exactly what I was doing at midnight, too, although I'm not sure if I actually stayed awake till midnight. I was trying to see the positive side of my lonesome NYE: I must have saved bucketloads of money by staying in that day and night. Hell, why not to see the positive side of being sick too - unable to eat = no food expenses. Fabulous!

I can hear that I sound very whiny! To stop for a second, I must say that admittedly I had some nice relaxed days in Vang Vieng, lying by the river and sipping a watermelon and mango shake. I also saw lots of friends there. Generally it seems that everybody travelling in South East Asia keep bumping into each other all the time. And it's easy to recognize people seeing as most of them are always wearing the same clothes!

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On New Year's Day I took a bus to Vientiane, Laos' capital. The previous day I had purchased my ticket, thinking that sick or not, I couldn't stand another day in Vang Vieng. Luckily the bus journey was OK, and I was seated with two nice Canadian guys to keep me company. The guys were gonna catch a flight later that night, so once we arrived to Vientiane we hung out together for the day. I found a guesthouse for myself, too expensive at 70 000 kip (6-7 euros) but it was the fourth of fifth that I checked and the cheapest one of them.

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We had a long, late lunch in the one restaurant that seemed to be open - it was dead everywhere, probably because of New Year's Day. Well so it seemed! Later when the guys were gone I took a walk around and all of a sudden the city was alive. Full of gorgeous restaurants, romantic little bistros and cool cafes! Because I had had no expectations and didn't even want to visit Vientiane, I was totally delighted to find it to be a wonderful little place. Especially after the days in Vang Vieng I was happy I had three nights to spend in Vientiane. I also found a cheaper room for myself in a guesthouse that turned out to be one of my favourites so far.

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None of the sights in Vientiane were particularly interesting to me, but I did walk around a lot. I didn't think Vientiane was that boring at all, but as the main attraction has got to be food, it was lousy timing to be sick. There was a fabulous Aussie place called Sticky Fingers just round the corner from my guesthouse. I went there to have a Caesar salad for lunch, and when it appeared on my table as perfect and proper as it can be, with parmesan cheese shavings sprinkled on top and warm bread roll on the side, I almost clapped my hands in delight. I ate every bit of it, and of course felt dreadful afterwards, as I did after everything that I ate.

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I bumped into some English guys I had met briefly in Vang Vieng, and went out with them and their friends, and an Australian girl who joined us. If I wasn't feeling very good to start with, then I definitely wasn't any better after sharing a jug of Lao-style sangria - look closer on the menu and it's actually called Lao Gria, with sickly strawberry taste, not unlike those horrible fruit wines I used to drink at 15. I don't know what was in it, but definitely no alcohol! Later we changed a bar, as the guys had been tipped off that there was this great place by the river where everyone goes. Everyone being western men and Lao women, as it turned out. When we arrived it was obvious that whoever recommended the place was clearly looking at a group of guys thinking they'd be up for some good time. This gem of a bar was seedy, and the conversations the guys overheard at the gents' were creepy. Funnily enough in this very place I ran into Scottish Scott and Polish girl Alex, whom I had met in Luang Prabang and then again in Vang Vieng. Maybe it was the place to be? Well I for one was happy that the place closed at midnight and I could escape home!

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I was seriously starting to consider seeing a doctor, but somehow I never got round to it. Instead I took a risk and bought my ticket for the 24-hour bus journey from Vientiane to Hanoi, Vietnam. I showed great willpower by stopping eating altogether on the departure day, and hiding my expensive Swedish chocolate (found from the Scandinavian Bakery) in my hand luggage. And off I went to the journey from hell!

Posted by Maria8 20:31 Archived in Laos

The Epic Journey Down The Mekong River...

...to spend Christmas in Luang Prabang

semi-overcast 27 °C

As my time in Thailand was coming to an end, it was time to think about moving on to Laos. From north of Thailand you can either take a 1-hour flight to Luang Prabang, or choose to do it cheaper way, which means a bus ride to the border followed by two days on a slowboat. I thought it sounded like good fun and I was up for a boat ride down the Mekong river. It was exactly the kind of journey that had me all excited - for some reason I have a very romantic outlook on long travels on buses, trains and boats. Anything that takes a long while and gives you luxury time to read and a chance to see the scenery.

Well. It was quite a journey. I left from Pai together with Pauline and Sebastian whom I had met earlier in Chiang Mai. The overnight bus from Pai to Chiang Khong was hellish, the minivan crammed full of people, and my arch enemy air con was on full despite the freezing cold night outside. (A guy who sat next to me later told me he had thought I was seriously weird as I was sitting there shivering under six layers of clothing and a blanket, giving him an evil eye as he took the seat next to me and forced me to pile my numerous bags on my lap.) We got a couple of hours sleep in a guesthouse at the border, and in the morning continued to the visa proceedings and the border crossing. Lao visa on arrival cost us 36 dollars, not 30 like it was supposed to, because it was Sunday. How typical!

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The slowboat was pretty much how I had imagined (and seen on pictures), very simple wooden boat with hard benches. The scenery was nice of course, but the novelty of travelling this way pretty soon wore off. The benches were uncomfortable and it was actually better to lie on the floor. For most of the journey it was really cold. Every now and then we would stop, and local children came running to the boat selling expensive snacks and drinks. That was the first sign of how expensive everything imported was going to be in Laos. (By the way the Lao children are remarkably beautiful, they have such pretty faces.) I would've been fine - I had books to read, snacks to eat and friends to chat with - but on the first day I started to feel really sick. Luckily I didn't throw up on the boat. Up until this day I still can't even look at Oreos biscuits or crisps of any kind without feeling nausea!

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We had a one night stop in Pak Beng, a small village merely grown to lodge the passengers of the slowboat. Not much to say about that place really. I went for a dinner with a group of people from the boat, and then me, Pauline and Carrie had an early night while the guys started to experiment with the local Lao Lao whisky. I was feeling really sick and dreading the next day on the river!

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The second day on the slowboat was actually a lot better - save the enormous spider hanging from the curtains, my first encounter with a BIG spider! It wasn't so cold anymore and I even got some sleep on the floor. In fact I think I slept past all the best views. I'm really glad I did the boat trip, it was a good experience, but put it this way... I don't need to do it again! We arrived to Luang Prabang in a beautiful sunset, tired but happy to be there. Pauline and me had booked accommodation in advance, and I was so relieved just to hop on the hostel's minivan and avoid the gruelling walk around town looking for a cheap place to stay.

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Luang Prabang was very sophisticated, very pretty, very European. Someone I met had described Luang Prabang as "very boutique-y", and it was obvious what she meant. Walking on the main road in Luang Prabang you could easily imagine you're in Europe. It's very clean and there's none of the usual beggars or stray dogs around. The street is full of cozy restaurants, stylish wine bars, French bakeries and beautiful little shops selling art. The prices were also closer to Europe! The saving grace was the 5000 kip (in euros that would be less than 50 cents) vegetarian buffet at the night market...

I did like Luang Prabang and I thought it was beautiful, but somehow I had built it up in my head as this magical, stunning piece of art, and it didn't quite live up to my expectations. Maybe I had read too much about it beforehand. I still wouldn't call it a letdown as the town deserves to be described beautiful. The architecture is very different to Thailand, the French influence is seen everywhere, and there are many beautiful buildings.

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The first couple of days in Luang Prabang I continued to feel sick, and had some truly mortifying moments throwing up on the picturesque streets... I'm not going into details about that! To recover from my sickness I obviously had to find a nice hotel, pay 3 dollars to use the swimming pool and lie there on the sunbeds with the elderly French tourists.

One day I climbed up to the Mount Phou Si to check out the temple on the top. The temple itself wasn't even worth seeing, but it's a wonderful viewpoint to see Luang Prabang and the surroundings.

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It would've been hard to tell it was Christmas had I not seen it from my calendar. Although they did have the odd Christmas tree there for tourists' sake, there obviously was no Christmas atmosphere whatsoever. I'm a big fan of celebrating Christmas in Finland, and although this was the third time abroad, it was the first time when I was truly alone, sleeping in a dorm with strangers. This year there was no stressful pre-Christmas shopping trips to Santa Cruz, instead I went to the night market and bought myself some beautiful handmade photo albums. Nor was there excessive chocolate consumption, for in Laos they only have couple of tiny chocolate bars in sale, and for example a mini sized Mars bar costs more than a dollar. I did, however, find some Danish salty liquorice from the Scandinavian Bakery. I suppose that after all the pre-Christmas Ferrero Rocher that I had in Thailand, it was for the best that I was left with no chocolate for once!

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In Luang Prabang all the bars have to close early (around midnight) and while for most people it's quite unconvenient, I loved it, as for once I could say I stayed out until the closing time and didn't fall asleep on my seat!

After the bars close, people head for the bowling alley as it is the only place that stays open till the morning hours. This is a funny Lao phenomenom, so I had to check it out once. It was such a bizarre place, with bright lights and people drunk on Lao Lao, bowling away and doing funny little dances as they go. By that time I was obviously already yawning and looking for a good spot to have a little nap - after all, it was past midnight!

We had a couple of good nights out at Hive Bar, and there I met the first Finnish people since starting my trip. That's also where everybody went on Christmas Eve. Hive and another bar/restaurant next to it, Lao Lao Garden, were both full of people, and everybody got a Christmas hat.

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I spent the Christmas Day at my hostel, where they cooked us a Christmas dinner of turkey, mashed potato and vegetables. It really was quite good, not as good as the real thing of course, but good. It was lovely of them to organize Christmas for us. However I was quite tired and didn't feel like participating in the whole drinking and partying thing afterwards, also I was gonna catch an early bus to Vang Vieng the next day. I was a bit homesick too, and because I was missing both Finland and Tenerife, it felt like double homesickness!

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I was delighted to find a little kitten at my hostel! On Christmas Day she was so tired after all day of playing that she fell asleep on my arms.

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On my last morning in Luang Prabang I got up at 6am and went to see the monks. This is a typical touristy thing to do, watch the monks collect their alms early in the morning. Well I didn't quite realize how touristy! I had heard stories of how magical and beautiful it looks as all the monks are walking through the town in the morning mist. It wasn't quite like that though, as it was pitch black and there wasn't much to see anyway, as all the rude ignorant tourists were up the monks' faces with their cameras and tripods trying to get a good shot. It was horrifying! Well, if not for anything else, then at least I was up early to grab a fresh chocolate croissant from the Scandinavian Bakery...

Posted by Maria8 07:07 Archived in Laos

InsPAIration in Pai-land

sunny 27 °C

I am about to tell you about my favourite place in Thailand so far, a small town called Pai. It lies only 130 or so kilometres north from Chiang Mai, but getting there takes about 3 hours as the road that leads to Pai is curves all the way. There's a big chance that those suffering from motion sickness won't enjoy the journey, but if you get past that the scenery is stunning. My minivan to Pai happened to be filled with really cool people, and we ended up looking for accommodation together and hanging out the whole time in Pai. We were a nice mix of nationalities with Pauline from Ireland, Caroline and Stephen from the US, Tim from Bulgaria, Gina from Korea and Jonathan from Israel.

We stayed in a guesthouse called Pai In The Sky on the main street. It was an all right place, no atmosphere to speak of but the rooms were spacious and came with hot showers and flushing toilets so one could hardly complain. We checked in there before seeing the cute huts by the river, so by the time we got to the riverside our jaws dropped and we realized we were clearly in the wrong end of the town!

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I loved Pai. It's charming, absolutely adorable. I had heard a lot of good things about it before actually getting there, and once I was there I couldn't understand what took me so long. I only had three nights and four full days to spend there, yet it would have been the perfect place to linger longer. The only downside to this hippy little place was the fact that this time of the year the nights were freezing cold. I was desperately missing a winter jacket!

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Most of the people I've met loved Pai with a passion, but some find it too touristy. Granted, Pai is touristy, especially on weekends when the little town gets overcrowded by both foreigners and Thai people. (I left Pai on a Saturday night, and when I had to make a last minute run to 7/11 to pick up some snacks, I could hardly move on the main street it was so packed.) Apparently there was a movie made in Thailand some years ago set in Pai, and now all Thais want to see the place and photograph every bit of it. So yes, Pai is touristy and commercial, it's almost like a textbook cliche of backpacker's heaven. Despite of that or perhaps exactly because of that, I fell for it. It's just so cute it gets forgiven. How could you not like Pai? Especially if you avoid weekends.

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I am a little bit ashamed of the fact that a big chunk of my time in Pai was spent by the swimming pool lying in the sun. When Tim first mentioned the public pool where you can spend a day for 60 baht I thought it would be waste of time, but the first day me, Pauline and Tim spent there was so lovely that I ended up going back there three days in a row. The sun was just perfect and they played really good chill out music all day long. Walking to the pool through the beautiful roads of Pai and lying on the grass by the pool made me feel like I was a kid on a summer holiday, spending couple of weeks in the countryside. Those were perfect days!

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So. I didn't go to see the hot springs, temples or waterfalls. Every day I told the others that I was gonna rent a bicycle that day and go to the nearby villages. However, the bike was never rented and those villages never seen as I remained in a horizontal position by the pool, followed by lots of eating and wandering around, and I was happy like that. Suddenly it just seemed a great idea to follow the slogan they print on postcards here: Do nothing in Pai.

There is a countless selection of good eateries in Pai, and the food was out of this world. I had the best meal ever, Phaenang Curry (not sure about the spelling!), in a little place called Na's Kitchen. There are many places offering healthy food and organic food and some of them organize yoga and meditation classes. There's a wonderful little place called Divine Healing center & Cafe, where they have the most divine chocolate cake and really good selection of creamy smoothies. The street food was also some of the tastiest that I've had so far.

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Pai was the first place where I really wanted to go out, as its funky little bars were just irresistable. There was an art gallery with live music, little bars with dim lights and late-night hang-outs with bonfires. Walking on the streets at night you hear the distant jazz and reggae, and in general the live music scene was amazing. We kept going back to a place called Fiddler's where we saw a great live band on our first night out. There we met a friendly Canadian guy called Mike, who had been backpacking in Thailand but ended up staying in Pai. In a bar called Sanctuary, us girls got free cocktails and all of us got free cake! My kinda place!

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Being in Pai insPAIred us with some pretty lame Pai jokes. First night out I realized how funny it was that every time we left a bar we would shout 'bye', which obviously sounds like 'Pai' (especially with Finnish accent). Maybe my sense of humour is a little bit limited or something, but I thought it was the funniest thing. That very same night, when I was already drifting asleep, I heard Pauline talking about not Thailand but, er, Pai-land, and in my exhausted state that was even funnier. We soon discovered that her joke wasn't actually that original, and there was even a travel agency called Pailand.

What I saw in Southern Thailand was very nice but didn't leave me with an immediate urge to go back, whereas the north is definitely a place I wanna return to with more time and more money. I enjoyed my time there so much and it was the perfect end for the Thailand chapter before continueing the journey to Laos.

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Posted by Maria8 20:14 Archived in Thailand

Charming Chiang Mai - and so many things to do!

sunny 28 °C

I am horribly behind on my updates - I've already been to Laos, am currently in Vietnam, and still haven't written a word about Northern Thailand! Well here goes.

After a month in the south I was so glad to get to the north, and my first port of call Chiang Mai didn't disappoint me. Immediately the north of Thailand appealed to me more than the south. The sun was more gentle, people friendlier, things cheaper, everything just better!

I thought Chiang Mai was an ideal place to spend couple of days. It's a city, but it's not too big. Chiang Mai also had a brilliant selection of bookshops. Many of them only sold good books, there wasn't that usual load of crappy chick-lit at all. The downside was that prices were unusually high, I thought it was strange that you should pay almost the same for a secondhand paperback that you would pay for a new copy in Europe! Still, it was bookworm's heaven.

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I was aware that Chiang Mai is considered as the intellectual treasure of Thailand, and that it's a good place to study anything from Thai language to Thai massage. I also knew that treks to visit the hill tribes are extremely popular, but it soon became evident that there is so much to do in and around Chiang Mai. As soon as I started to go through the information leaflets I was hit by stress. With all those interesting options and limited budget it was very difficult to decide which activity or excursion to take. I was wondering and pondering whether I should go for a trek or perhaps take a cookery class. Spend a day with rescue elephants - or maybe with tigers? Go zorbing or do a bungee jump? Everything was quite pricey, so with my pathetic budget I could only afford one thing.

In the end I couldn't resist the Flight of the Gibbon. It's a canopy ride through the jungle, you basically fly from platform to platform (built high up on trees) wearing a harness attached to a zipline. So you hang on a wire with the jungle beneath. It was something I had wanted to do in Costa Rica, back when Costa Rica was still on my itinerary, so when I found out that there was something similar in Chiang Mai, I couldn't miss it.

We started very early in the morning, I was picked up from my guesthouse at 6.30am with a Scottish girl who was doing the same thing. When we arrived to the village where the Flight of the Gibbon was taking place, it was so freezing cold that I thought I was gonna die before even getting into my harness! Fortunately it did get better once the sun was up, and we ended up having so much fun. Some of the ziplines are quite long, which is great cause then you actually have the time to look down and admire the jungle below. There are also couple of skybridges to cross. The funniest part was coming down - after flying from treehouse to treehouse, we got to fall down from a really big tree. I loved it! I think the whole thing was worth the money. Also the Thais working there were so funny, doing their best to scare us as went through the tour.

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Afterwards we had a delicious lunch in the village, and then headed for a little trek to the waterfalls. The small waterfall itself wasn't that impressive but it was nice walk all the same, and we had a guide with us telling us about the surrounding nature and plants.

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I have to say few words about my guesthouse called Julie's, as it was the best and cheapest place I've stayed so far. Julie's is extremely popular and getting a room there for 5 nights was a stroke of luck. It's recommended in Lonely Planet and on numerous websites, so every morning when they open the office at 8am the lounge is already full of people hoping to score a room. It's all for a reason though. Julie's is super cosy with roof terrace with hammocks and sofas to lie on, there's a pretty garden, the restaurant downstairs serves good and cheap food, and even the cheapest rooms are cute. The staff call you by name and remember your room number, which I think is a nice touch. As is the possibility to just help yourself for drinks in the fridge and write down what you've had.

As the dorm was full they hooked me up with other lone female travellers to share a twin room. That way I only paid 70 baht per night which is the cheapest I've found so far. After the cockroaches in Krabi and the cell in Bangkok, I was so happy with my little room with its dark wooden floor and bamboo walls. During my stay at Julie's I had three different roommates, from 35-year-old Belgian nurse to an American girl just out of high school. My first roommate was an English girl on an amazing, inspirational journey, and just chatting to her and watching her photos made me green with envy as I was getting prepared for my own tight schedule in Laos and Vietnam!

The most noticeable thing about Chiang Mai is that it's full of temples. You literally can't walk many metres without bumping into one and then another and another. It certainly makes for a picturesque city, but after a while they're all pretty much the same. Temples in Chiang Mai offer "monk chats" which allow tourists to ask questions from the monks and them to practice their English. There is also an interesting program available called 'Monk for a month'. It's a chance for ordinary people to experience the simple life that monks lead. I really wanted to participate for an over-night introduction to meditation, but as it was only organized once a week I missed it.

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Every now and then there were buildings that looked so out of place in Thailand, that it almost felt like walking into a movie set in the middle of a Thai city.

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When the stress of having to do things was coming back, I did what I always do when there's too much choice and I can't have it all - I got angry and decided I would do nothing. I played with the idea and came to the conclusion that not much harm would be done if I just ignored all the activities and the rest of the sights. If I just sat by the river for four hours reading a book, or walked around with no destination whatsoever, or wrote my journal in a cafe called Banoffee Coffee House (for obvious reasons), or for the first time on my trip went for actual breakfasts and sat in a normal cafe having a banana oatmeal instead of rice at all hours.

I did go to the famous Saturday market though, which is an attraction itself. Two Chilean guys I met at Julie's were looking for presents for their families, and I just hanged along. I've seen enough markets already and I wasn't gonna buy anything anyway - I'm dragging an impressive amount of luggage with me as it is! It was so crowded there, mostly Thais. It was a bit too much for me, in fact I think I'd be quite happy if I never saw any markets ever again! (Well food markets don't count!)

So I had a nice time in Chiang Mai, but to get the most of it, I need to return with more money one day!

Posted by Maria8 17:58 Archived in Thailand

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