November 2007 Archives


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I think I've got it fixed now.  Individual entries are working, comments appear to be working, publishing looks to be working.

Not a bad bit of work for a sick day.

M-150: Heroism, Leadership

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Across Laos, this little 8 ounce bottle seemed to be the national drink in towns and villages and along the highway. Its a small wonder, packed with Heroism and Leadership in every bottle. We didn't try the stuff, but I think our culture could sure use a beverage that lends both Heroism and Leadership.


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24 hours of travel, and we wound up back in Austin from Phnom Phen.

It's been a terrific trip, and there's more photos to get posted yet, but today and tomorrow, we're catching up with some sleep, some tivo, and eating some tender beef and turkey.

Cambodia - The Big Deal. Angkor Wat

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In the 12th Century, these people had a lot of time on their hands to move rocks and carve AMAZING bas reliefs! We've explored plenty, and now we're both turning our minds toward heading home. Today was a trip to Banteay Srei, one of the more delicately carved and created temples, and a 40 minute hike up a mountain to Kbal Shree (?) where 1,000 lingas are carved into the river bed, along with more hindu gods. I had a terrific time, Chaz not so much, considering the heat and the long trek up the mountain. He's pretty much done for the trip, and while I'll go see a few more minor temples tomorrow, my thoughts are on the return trek.

Cambodia - Siem Reap

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Have been crazy busy exploring Angkor Wat, Angkor Tom, and all over the place.

Its sweaty hot, food's good, and noontimes in the heat of the day, we beat a retreat to the hotel pool, and I haven't typed any offline entries.

2 more days then we head toward Texas again.

We made it to Cambodia, and our hotel has just about made up for the jungle resorts, what with its fluffy towels, swimming pool, and staff falling all over themselves to serve. Our guide seemed competent, although we're getting another tomorrow. The tour had us at 2 ruins today, one where the trees are overgrowing the ruins, the other on top of a hill to watch the sunset over the plain, along with about 600 other tourists. It is hot and steamy, and certainly the crowds and fact that the ATM spit out US dollars makes it feel just like Las Vegas, only quite a bit hotter and with more guys trying to set us up with hookers in the street. Tomorrow the Roulus group of ruins from the 9th century, and more of Angkor Wat, the big one. And more swimming at the hotel to be sure.

Laos Back Entries

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Here's 2 entries from the laptop from the jungle when we didn't have a connection.

Laos Update - Today Pakse, tomorrow Cambodia!

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14 November 07
Pakse Hotel

We've returned from the land of 4000 islands, the deepest south of Laos, on the border with Cambodia, where the Mekong shatters along the floodplain into tons of little islands. On the way down, we had an amazing visit to Wat Phou, a 10th century Khmer temple at the foot of a mountain crowned by a rock formation that looks like a Shivalingua. The sun beat down on us as we climbed and explored, and our local guide was totally useless, but the trek through the tiny temple and among the ruins was pretty amazing. This was just the first Khmer ruin along the Mekong valley all the way to Angkor which is our destination tomorrow morning. Other highlights of the past few days:

  • The ultra scary ferry to Wat Phou. Three barges with a wooden deck. 6 or 9 vehicles, and Lao ladies coming on board with a pot of soup and veggies feeding drivers on the way across. Dishwashing? Done in the river. Ew.

  • Watching thunderheads light up the sky downriver while eating dinner outside.

  • Another Iron-butt Survivor challege: a slow boat to Don Khon and Don Det. 1.5 hours down, 2..5 hours up sitting on a 1 by 4 with a lawnmower engine pushing the boat.

  • Waving back at countless kids on the shores of the islands while floating along.

  • Swimming in the Mekong at Don Khon.

  • Finding another Shivalingua behind the Wat at Don Khon.

  • Telling the guide we were taking a shortcut that he didn't know about.

  • Having dinner with Malcolm and Veronica, a well-traveled older British couple we'd met at Wat Phou, and who had some outrageous stories. These old farts have been travelling Laos like backpackers, which is something to admire. We were going to the temple in a minivan, and the two of them were bouncing around in the back of a tuk-tuk.

  • Our driver nearly falling asleep at the wheel on the way back to Pakse.

  • Seeing more Khmer ruins in the forest at Oum Muang and recognizing some of the carvings as similar to Wat Phou. This was a fantastic site under a canopy of trees where time and nature have been reclaiming the stones, aided I'm sure by people that have made off with most of the carvings long ago.

  • Finally telling the guide we've had enough of the modern temples. We brought the ABC tour to an abrupt end.

We've retreated to the air-conditioned confines of the hotel room for Wednesday afternoon as splash and dash showers come off the plateau through town. We've seen some amazing things, but I think we are both a bit road weary at the moment.

Us with the staff at Pha Souam "Resort", Nov 10.
David on his 110cc scooter somewhere, Nov 10.
Chaz at Wat Phou, Nov 13.
Scary Ferry at Wat Phou, Nov 13.


Laos - quick update

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I've got some journal entries on my laptop, but not with me at the moment.

We've spent 4 days in the jungle of the Bolaven Plateau in resorts of dubious stature.

Its been fun, we had a day of rest on Sunday, today we toured Wat Phou, a temple from the 10th century, and we basically taught our guide about it. I'm complaining to the firm about him, as he's been pretty piss poor.

We've got 3 more nights in Laos, before we head to Cambodia and Angkor Wat.

Food's good, weather is rainy in the afternoon. Skeeters are biting fierce on the Mekong... we're taking our anti-malaria drugs.

Laos update - Food

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Today we stared off with a cooking class at one of the good restaurants here in LP. Tum Tum Chang I think was its name. 5 hours of class, 6 recipes made, and some of the top secret ingredients learned. Some of the big ones are going to be hard to find in the states. There's a forest basil that's called for, a variety of ginger that's not common, then a jungle vine they call "spicy wood" which is really wood. We had a terrific time, interacting with some other curious tourists from Germany, Canada, France, Singapore, and the Netherlands, and the food turned out awesome. I made the papaya salad, and I didn't do bad at all!

Afterwards we had a trip to the Khoung Si waterfalls which were amazing. A nap was in order, then dinner on the street at a Laotian "Subway" shop. Photo below.

Tomorrow is a travel day, and we'll head to Pakse by air. Easy day.


Laos Update - Adventure Weekend

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The weather finally broke its cloudy rainy phase here, and just in time as well. We had a big couple of days, complete with mountain biking, elephant rides, a powerboat up to the Tad Sae waterfalls, then today was a big day of meeting the Lao Spirit Resort's 3-yr old baby elephant, and kayaking down the river from the resort back to the city. Chaz and I hate kayaking together, and today's misadventures were no different, but we made it through. The untouched nature of the hills and mountains along the river made up for our struggle to get down the river. I had an interesting evening at the resort. Chaz had gone to the bungalow, but I stayed back and had a few drinks with the staff while they were eating dinner. It didn't take long before I was invited to join them at the table (their food was quite better than the stuff they served us on the gringo-tour). I learned how they share a beer, and I think the innocuous flirting at the table made a couple of the girls blush. The tour guides are quite the playboys, and they like leveraging the language barrier to put the moves on the young hotel staff. We're going to eat a western meal this evening I think.

We're also hoping the good weather continues to hold. 80s to 90s during the day, and I think probably upper 60s in the evening. We've got a cooking class together tomorrow in the morning, then another waterfall trip in the afternoon to cool off.

Photos: Tad Sae waterfalls, Nuek the baby elephant grabbing a banana from my mouth.


Laos Update - from Nov 1.

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1 November 07
Phonsavan, Laos
Our hotel here, Phou Pha Deng, is a retreat from the world on top of a hill above the town. With the windows closed, the sounds of kids playing, tractors ferrying people, and the domesticated turkeys and ducks squacking still carry into our tiny cabin. We're about 50 yards from the main house where a gourmet french kitchen has been cranking out delicacies while we dine by fireplaces. Without TV or radio in the room, much less an ethernet port, it certainly qualifies as rustic, but it's certainly peaceful.
From craters to ancient stone jars, and French cuisine to Laos traditional noodle soup with chicken heads in to, this trip has run the gamut of experiences so far. Today we started off in the wet market of Phonsavan; the progeny of our Central Market at home, only this one has been running as-is for decades. It started innocuously enough with some baskets and baked goods. The veggie section seemed normal enough, but as we dove deeper into the market hall, we ran into the stranger sights and smells of the fish and meats. Fermenting fish paste was particularly salty and pungent as we walked by it, and vendors hawking fresh squirrel, bird, and rat had some fragrances to add to the mix. The pork and beef and water buffalo counters were benign of themselves, and pretty clean, I should add, although I didn't dally through the section. Dogs wandering through it seemed to be enjoying themselves just fine. I suspect they got a few scraps here and there, much like the dogs that frequented the roadside restaurants that we zipped by on the highway while getting here. Fresh noodles and veggies came together in another section of the market where impromptu kitchens would put together a bowl food on the wok in no time. Central Market Cafe has met its match.
After the market, we did some pure tourism, visiting 3 sites wifh the monolithic jars, and some ancient ruins in Muong Khoun. The paths to the sites were muddy and slippery, and while the jars are certainly interesting, the highlight of the visits was the panorama of the plain around the sites. The plain itself is surrounded by mountains, and the rolling golden fields of sticky rice and green trees under a low ceiling of clouds was impressive in its timelessness. Probably the fact that the route to the sites was punctuated by people walking or biking along the dirt road in their traditional dress and bamboo hats helped make it scene from an old wartime movie. The people may have cell phones and satellite TV, but in the grand scheme, time has stood still for how the people here make a living, caring for their families, growing and raising their food, and trading with one another here.

Laos Update - Nov 4

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4 November 07
Louang Prabang, Laos
I think I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm not going to be able to spell many of these towns correctly.
We've spent 2 days in Louang Prabang, who's entire old city is a UNESCO world heritage site. As the country has been torn over centuries in different directions toward the Siamese, the Burmese, the Chinese, and the Vietnamese, LP prides itself as having withstood many of the assaults. Its old town is close and old, with a strange mix of colonial French and traditional Laotian architecture. Yesterday was spent visiting the Wats and seeing more Buddha images than we could have ever imagined, and today was spent boating up the Mekong to a couple of caves where the Laotians keep some buddha images which aren't quite worthy of a temple, but aren't quite ready to be tossed out yet. The boat ride was a step back in time, as we cruised among the jungley hills and past densely rural villages. The caves were interesting to be sure, but seeing this ancient landscape is certainly unforgettable.
Chaz has a bit of the GI bug, and we're hoping our magical western medicine mops that up in short order. The food has been good, but I think he's been tempting fate by rinsing his toothbrush under the faucet.

Laos Update

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2 nights in Phosavan were quiet. Now in ancient royal city of Louang Praban. Good food, cool weather. A few nights of tourism here coming up. Been a bit disconnected, as both hotels we've been in have neither TV nor radio. Touring the plain of jars was fascinating - lots of bomb craters from the vietnam war. Timeless scenery that could have been right out of a movie. The road here wound through the mountains, and we dipped in and out of heavy wet cloudbanks.

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