Koh Kong

Cambodia Koh Kong

Nestled between the Cardomom Mountains and the ocean, Koh Kong ended up being a pretty good place for us to spend our time in Cambodia.

Koh Kong Mangroves

We spent some more time at the floating resort, and then set about exploring the area.  We walked through a huge mangrove forest – very different from the mangroves at home – and climbed up a tower to see views over the extensive mangrove and river systems.

Ocean Cambodia

A nice surprise for us was the discovery of the beach, mainly this area is marketed as river and jungle eco systems, so our first swim in the ocean this trip happened to be in Cambodia, rather than waiting for Lanta.

Cambodia Koh Kong

The water was warm and nice, and each day we would drive through the trees and undergrowth to find our own little spot on this completely deserted beach.

The way to the beach
Riding our motorbike to find the beach

Our mission to eat local food was harder than we anticipated, and after days of perseverance we managed to find the best black pepper crab ever, seriously neither of us think we have ever had crab that good before so we went back for the exact same dish the next day.  We also loved the Cardamom curry, with fresh cardamom from the mountains it was like no other curry we’ve had before.

Cambodian Black Pepper Crab

During our time here we had the idea to visit the huge Tatai waterfall, and each day we were too lazy to drive out there, finally on the last day though we made the 20km trip and it was amazing!

Waterfall fun

The waterfall was made up of so many terraces, it was easy to find many places to swim and hang off the edge and look at the river and trees below.  This turned out to be the best way to spend our last day in Cambodia.

Waterfall Cambodia

Now we’re heading back to our beloved Lanta to catch up with our friends!

Another Anniversary

Our 8th wedding anniversary began in Trat with a journey to the Cambodian border.  We got our first glimpses of ocean again as we traveled along the narrowest part of Thailand to reach the border.

Floating lodge

3rd time lucky, we made it into Cambodia!  After our first two attempts a couple of years ago when war broke out and the town we arrived in got evacuated, this was a welcome easy border crossing.

Staying at the floating lodge

We were really lucky to have found an awesome floating lodge in the Cardomom Mountains to stay in, and we definitely picked a winner – they picked us up from the border, took us for a special anniversary lunch, and then down to their pier to get to the floating tents which are only reachable by river.

Karen on our anniversary

The river journey was beautiful and as we headed further into the jungle we were really interested at how different it was to our rivers in Laos.

Sunset in the river

We spent the rest of the day enjoying the surroundings, seeing wildlife and swimming in the river.

Cambodian lodge

Dinner at the lodge was amazing and we spent hours looking at the stars – in this remote environment with no lighting or biting insects, it may have been the most stars we’ve seen anywhere in the world.

A very awesome day and definitely an anniversary to remember.

Holiday Time

Travelling Thailand

After a couple of days in Chiang Rai, we headed off for some exploring. Our first stop was Trat, a small town that we’ve briefly flown into and then got a van out of years ago when we went to Koh Chang, but had never spent any time in until now.

Wildlife in eastern Thailand

We were pleasantly surprised by the loveliness of the town, we had sort of expected it to be just a place to rest before heading to Cambodia, but we ended up really enjoying ourselves.

Wandering around Trat

Dre found a beautiful river walkway and we spent hours wandering along it, watching monkeys play in the vegetation across the river, discovering a 3m+ long snake skin stretched out to dry, and chatting with various locals.  We admired a lot of the houses along the river, mostly just simple shacks but with such an amazing location and river breeze.

Trat Thailand

We also spent far more time than we had anticipated exploring the abundant alleyways, seemingly endless cute little lanes almost all lined with plants made for a really pleasant time exploring.

Lovely Trat

Overall Trat was a really cool little place to spend some time, and we’re fully recharged and ready for our Cambodian adventure!

Rice & River

Wildlife in Luang Namtha

We have been making the most of the rice in the past couple of months, and now the harvest has begun. Our beautiful green lake of life has almost completed it’s annual life cycle and with that brings our winter time. Already the evenings are a lot cooler and we have had to get out our blankets.

Rice in Luang Namtha

Soaking up the rice Wildlife in the rice

Once the rice starts to form, even more beetles, insects and birds appear in the fields. There is only a period of about a month between when the first heads of rice begin to emerge and when the rice is harvested – up until that point you can only see the rice plants and no actual rice.

Chilling in the rice

Project Laos is coming along nicely, and we recently spent a chilled out day there picnicing on the Nam Tha river and learning to play majhong with Melanie and Bianca, and Wilke also joined us in the afternoon.

Nam Tha river fun

We also spent a few days staying on the Mekong, chilling out and exploring the Thai side of the border.

Near Chiang Khong Thailand

We welcomed yet more people to Luang Namtha to help Project Laos, Ryan and Melissa and their kids Talia and Elise (officially the first western children to live in Luang Namtha!) and also Dave have all come to help us do good stuff here in Luang Namtha.

Loi Krotong Luang Namtha Laos

Finally we celebrated another end of Buddhist Lent, our favourite ceremony of the year with releasing lanterns and sending flowers down the river to send away any bad luck and welcome good for the coming year. So it looks like now we’re all set for our next adventure – our third attempt to get into Cambodia!

Thailand and Lao and Thailand again

Wildlife and Nature Luang Namtha

The past few weeks we’ve been running back and forth between Lao and Thailand a lot.

Firstly we met our new staff Wilke and Sandor in Chiang Rai, for a welcome drink and catch up since we last spoke to them on Skype.  They then continued on to Luang Namtha and were welcomed at Forest Retreat by Lindsey and Keala, while we spent a few more days in Thailand.

Dinner at Forest Retreat Laos

We then returned to Luang Namtha to meet up with Keith and Aleisha, a welcome surprise for us!  We had no idea they were even in south east Asia, and got a cryptic text from Lindsey saying “Your brother in law’s brother has arrived to see you!” and by a process of elimination we figured it must be Sam’s brother Keith.

It was really, really nice to catch up with both Keith and Aleisha, we spent an evening catching up over dinner and then as it was their last night in town (after having spent a few days seeing all of the nature around here) we treated them to a Chinese disco experience…. and we all had a ball for a while and then decided that since they were catching a 7.30am tuk tuk to the bus station we better call it a night.

Wildlife in Luang Namtha

We spent some time yet again finding cool animals and watching many sunsets out in the rice paddies.  Then it was time to farewell the amazing Keala, who has given us so much help over the past few months.  We eagerly await her return next year!

Artwork upstairs at Forest Retreat

We also spent time training new staff in the shop and working on Project Laos 2, and with so much happening here it turned out that we actually needed to go to Chiang Mai to source more stuff for the building.

So back to Thailand we headed, this time to visit some temples, trawl furniture and fittings stores, and eat at some of Chiang Mai’s awesome restaurants that we hadn’t tried yet.

Chiang Mai TempleChiang Mai shopping

After all of this we thought it was time for another break, so stopped at this amazing forest lodge half way in between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.  We spent a few days surrounded by so many birds and trees, and managed to see 8 different species of bird just by sitting on our balcony.  We also took bicycles out for a small amount of time, we didn’t get far before Karen’s ankle didn’t want to go further, so we returned and swam in the ginormous pool.

Forest lodge near Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai

So another fairly action packed month again, and with the tourist season beginning and the eco-suites on the river progressing, it looks set to continue until our next proper holiday in November.

An Eventful Few Weeks

Nature in northern Laos

We started off our time back in Luang Namtha exploring all of the new insects around the stupa, and taking our new friend Jonny around the place to show him some of our upcoming projects.

River fun time in Luang Namtha

Luang Namtha's beautiful natureWe have spent an increasing amount of time out in nature, appreciating the most stunning time of year.  All sorts of animals can now be discovered out in the rice fields and jungle, amazing us yet again with the huge eco-system that develops when it rains, and when the rice grows.

The rice fields are especially interesting this year, as we have been able to literally see the rice grow from day to day.  After our first week or so back in Luang Namtha, when it  rained every day, we started to have nice sunny days again and so started to venture out back into the rice fields.  Karen discovered that it is exceedingly hard ground for her to walk on, with it being very uneven, so we decided to make visiting the rice fields a daily activity to strengthen Karen’s leg, and with the added bonus of getting to see all the animals and sunset every day.

Wildlife in Luang Namtha

There are thousands of spiders each day faithfully extending and remaking their webs, and when the sun is almost about to set the entire fields light up with their webs stretching as far as the eye can see.

Pizza in Luang Namtha

It was also time to re-surface the inside of the pizza oven with some new fire bricks that we bought back from Thailand. Dre also thought that it was time to render the bricks on the bottom of the pizza oven, and painted them also. The new bricks are working really well and the pizza is tasting even more awesome.

Dinner in Luang Namtha

We took Korly out for dinner and Thong at a Chinese restaurant, which Korly was particularly excited about since she has only eaten food other than Lao food (and food in the shop) a couple of times in her life.

Insects in Luang Namtha

There are so many dragonflies and beetles around now. The other night we were driving to a restaurant and a giant beetle flew into Dre and then wouldn’t let his t-shirt go for about half an hour. The guy at the restaurant told Dre it would be better if he put the beetle back in nature but despite everyone there trying to prise the beetle off Dre’s shirt or hand it wouldn’t let go so we just let it chill out on his hand and then our table for the following hour while we ate.

Wildlife in Luang Namtha

We also welcomed Josh and Jillian to our team, joining us and Lindsey and Keala. They are the perfect fit for us to get to the next level and help more people in Luang Namtha. Now we’re heading to Thailand to buy supplies for Project Laos 2, and meet Wilke and Sandor, who are also joining our team in a few days time. Hooray for more people helping us help Luang Namtha!

Cocktails at Forest Retreat Luang Namtha

SEA sunsets rock
Sunset in the rice
Luang Namtha Culture
Lady coming back from fishing in the rice fields


15 Years Together

We arrived back in Chiang Rai to have a couple of days time out to celebrate 15 years together and also get some fire bricks for the base of the pizza oven.

Chiang Rai Chill Out

It ended up being a really nice way to spend our 15th anniversary since we met.  We stayed in a nice place and spent our days swimming and walking as well as using the gym to further strengthen Karen’s leg.

Chiang Rai

We also discovered a new weird fruit – with hard yellow flesh near the skin and bright red seeds inside.

New fruit in Thailand

We had several good meals at our favourite Japanese restaurants and just generally chilled before heading back, yet again, to Luang Namtha.  This month has been so much travelling between Thailand and Laos, it’s been really good though to make so much progress towards Project Laos part 2 and also combine that with relaxing in Thailand.

The Start of Lent

We travelled back to Luang Namtha a bit short on time – we had to get back to meet Ryan, who wanted to check out Luang Namtha and Forest Retreat Laos because he is interested in coming to work with us.

Temple at the start of Lent, Luang Namtha

We also wanted to be here for the start of Buddhist Lent, a lovely day where all Buddhists visit their temple and give food and money to support the temple and give to the monks entering Lent.

Start of Lent of Luang Namtha

This also coincided with our 3 month anniversary since the accident, so we celebrated by taking Ryan, Lindsey and Keala to the Chinese disco and dancing until the music got so bad we had to leave.

Start of Lent

We only managed 3 days back in Luang Namtha before heading back to Chiang Rai, to finish the stuff we didn’t get time for last time, and have a chance for some chill out time too.

Luang Namtha sunrise

Chiang Mai

We headed over to Chiang Mai again to source some things we can’t get in Chiang Rai.  We spent most of a week here eating at restaurants that have different food from Luang Namtha and our usual Japanese places in Chiang Rai.  One of our favourites was African food from an awesome place called Sahara.

Sahara Restaurant

We didn’t do much sightseeing this time, just going around seeing shops and finding materials for Project Laos part 2.

Getting out and about again in Luang Namtha

Our return from Chiang Rai has seen Karen being able to walk around a bit and starting to increase her fitness walking around the town.

Snail eating birds

The rice fields are filled with huge birds that eat all the snails living in the water.  With a wingspan of almost 2 metres, it’s awesome to watch them swirl on the air currents each time before it rains.

Wildlife in Luang NamthaLuang Namtha animals

One of the days we were driving around we saw this snake with a brightly coloured head on the road. It was light blue, white, yellow, red, green and grey around it’s head – beautiful. Also we saw this big moth, almost the size of Karen’s hand.

Handicrafts of Luang Namtha

We headed out to one of the local villages we support, Ban Nam Ngaem, to buy some hand woven cloths made from cotton grown in the village and woven by women in the village. This is the same village that Forest Retreat and Stray will be building a handicraft centre in and sending tourists to for the women to sell their beautiful products.

Rambo Fusion restaurant Luang Namtha

On our last night we took Keala and Lindsey out for dinner at one of the local Lao BBQ hotpot restaurants. We had awesome fun and it was a cool way to round off this couple of weeks before heading back to Thailand.