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.


Mekong Sunset in Vientiane

After 15 hours on a bus to Udon Thani, then another bus to Nong Khai (about an hour or so), then a tuk tuk to the border, a border exit, a bus to the next border crossing entry point, entry at the Lao border and another tuk tuk we arrived in Vientiane and met Dre’s dad Tom’s friends Garry and Suni.  We had lunch with them and after a few hours of chatting and formulating a plan of action for the following day, we set out to find somewhere to sleep.  This time thankfully we have stayed in a much nicer area of Vientiane than last time, near the Mekong and the main temples and cafes.  Vientiane is still really hot, dusty, and congested with traffic, but we are pleased to say that with Garry and Suni’s guidance we have managed to enjoy aspects of this city this time.  We have really enjoyed their company also – it’s amazing to us (but not surprising) how much like Tom and Lili they are, such kind people wanting to do anything and everything to make our stay more comfortable and enjoyable and always giving helpful advice.

Garry and Dre walking in Vientiane along the Mekong

We  had tentatively planned to head south to finally see southern Laos – and we still could if we wanted a really whirlwind tour – but with the visa process taking a few more days than expected (or perhaps more truthfully it was partly expected, since we are in Laos!), we’ve decided that instead of rushing to see the south and missing half of it, we will once again not go there yet.  Instead we will head north and see some of the northern parts of Laos that we haven’t seen yet, as well as probably a few that we have, and have time to have a more leisurely break before meeting Dre’s sister Kate in Luang Namtha.  We might have to come back to Vientiane again anyway in a couple of weeks to collect the visa, so perhaps we will have time then to see the South.  Ironically we would have had plenty of time if we had have left Luang Namtha when we had intended to instead of staying for the Buddhist Lent celebrations; but no regrets there.  So tonight we board yet another night bus, and head for Phonsovan to see the Plain of Jars.  Our photos of our time in Vientiane are here.

Seen in one day

Seen in Chiang Rai, Thailand

We’ve had a funny day seeing spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and sentences that just don’t make sense at all.  We are the first to admit that we can’t read or write (yet!) in Thai or Lao. And we probably make plenty of mistakes in English too. So sorry Laos and Thailand, but we saw all of these things in one day on the way from Luang Namtha to Chiang Rai, and by the end of the day we had to admit that it’s pretty funny.

Where do we even begin?

We even had another group of tourists ask us ‘What is a sandwich cup?’ erm… order it and find out? Guess? And as for trying to do western food… well this pretty much sums up what we were talking about in the last post – real western food doesn’t really exist in most of Laos. Anyone who wants to eat ‘grill bread with ham, mackerel, and cheese’ or ‘ham, egg and orange sandwich’, please order here! Click on the pictures below to see the larger versions of the photos.