A Travellerspoint blog

Pakse- 3 nights/2.5 days- wow just wow

rain
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Overview:
The reason for our visit to Pakse was to do the Tree Top Adventure with Green Discovery and we didn't get an opportunity to do anything else, other than walk to the banks of the Mekong River the morning before we left.

Highlights:
Everything about the Tree Top Adventure was amazing, including the scary parts

Lowlights:
Not classing the bumps and bruises covering our bodies as lowlights as they are badges of an active life and worn with pride.
The smelly damp boot smell that filled the room along with the clothes hanging from every possible place as we tried to wash and dry everything overnight before moving on the next day.

Learning’s:
Keep your back pack to a minimum as whatever you take you carry for about 7 hours each day, and get a good rain cover for your backpack because when it rains it really really rains.
Wear the same clothes for day 2 even if the are dirty and damp ( the guides do this) they will get dirty and damp again and you will appreciate your clean dry clothes for the journey home on the bus.
Leave a few days before trekking in Sapa so the boots can dry out

Activities:
Our 2 day/1night tree top adventure began with an hours bus ride for the 13 participants and our guide Vong- with the exception of the four of us and a Dutch couple, the rest were Thai and everybody was lovely.
We stopped at a local village to gear up and collect a couple more guides before setting off on foot to trek 7km into the jungle, and we really were trekking: up and down steep ravines, over boulders and traversing rivers and gorges interspersed with the most amazing zip lines over treetops and past waterfalls.
The zip lines were awesome but Justine was a little less impressed having to use the suspension bridges to traverse some very deep gorges/ravines.
The heavens opened during our trek in and we were sodden for the rest of the journey in.
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The second morning involved zip lining without the back packs and the sun was out, which provided for a more enjoyable experience. After lunch we started our trek out, which included a 40meter climb up a rock face: Via Ferrata.
The heavens opened again during our trek back, but thankfully only after we had scaled the rock wall.
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Our meals were prepared and eaten communally at the village base, with traditional tea and coffee being brewed on the fire. Showers were basic but refreshing: cold water from a pipe in a wooden hut, and our accommodation was reached by zip line and consisted of an open walled wooden platform with camping style mattresses on the floor covered with mosquito nets. There was an ensuite but I would certainly advice not walking below the accommodation EVER.
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Eating and drinking:
Due to timing we ate twice at the Pavilion: the roof top restaurant at the Pakse Hotel. Great views and good food.
The meals we had whilst on the Tree Top Adventure were amazing: the picnic on bamboo leaves eaten in the middle of the jungle, the breakfast, lunch and dinner at the base camp and the traditional Lao coffee with sweet condensed milk and traditional green tea.
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Accommodation:
Pakse Hotel- the advantage of this hotel is that you can see the tall yellow corner building from afar and do cannot get lost when walking around the town.
The reception and corridors were lovely, the rooms clean and comfortable and the breakfast fine.
Our first night was spent in an upgraded superior room which was a little more spacious and had a large comfy bed. The standard room was smaller with a smaller firmer bed and no kettle but fine for a one night stay.
We arranged airport transfers directly with the hotel.
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Links:
Pakse Hotel: http://www.hotelpakse.com/Pakse_hotel_welcome_en.php
Tour: https://www.greendiscoverylaos.com/eco-excursions/champassak/champassak-zip-line-canopy-walk

Posted by advb4dementia 04:48 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Siem Reap- 4 nights/3.5 days- A city of contrasts

sunny
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Overview:
A city of contrasts
Hip and happening, quaint and quiet, affluent and poor, Siem Reap is a place of contrasts and steeped in history.
Visited temples, a floating village on Tonle Sap, leaned to make Khmer Cocktails and had some downtime to relax, recharge and soak up the atmosphere.
When it rains here, it really rains- we experienced our first storm on Wednesday afternoon and the thunder, lightening and rain continued into the early hours, thankfully this was the only rain during our time here.

Highlights:
Almost too many to mention:
Angkor Wat, and the blessing by a Buddhist Monk
Meals at a local family home- the Khmer Hidden Home Restaurant
Sam, our guide

Lowlights:
Witnessing 2 motorbike accidents during the 5 hour road trip from Phnom Penh
Having been spoilt by the hotel in PP we were a little disappointed that the Fancy Boutique Villa didn't quite live up to its 'fancy' name πŸ˜•
Justine being unwell for the first 7 days of our trip

Learning’s:
Always carry your temple passes and something to cover your shoulders in case you come by a temple you would just like to visit in your travels.

Activities:
Khmer Cocktail making class at the Asana Old Wooden House- awesome night spent leaning how to make, then drinking, 3 different cocktails using local herbs and spices for just $15. The building is a traditional Cambodian wooden home, the last remaining in this area and is an amazing and tranquil settling.
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Temples:
We visited only few of the main temples: we could have visited lots more but we chose to stick to the main ones and not become 'templed out'.
On our first day we visited Angkor Wat at sunrise, followed by a tour of the site before moving onto Angkor Thom to see the Bayon Temple, Terrace of the Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King.
We saw Ta Prohm- the Tomb Raider temple on our second day and visited the Rolous Group: Preah Ko & Bakong on our way to Tonle Sap on the third day.

We hired a guide for day 1 & 3 and it was money well spent: Sam was extremely informative, knew how to avoid the other tourists and provided an insight into Cambodian life and his experience during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Day 1:
We arrived at 5am with a pre packed breakfast and shared sunrise with a few hundred other people.
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Despite the masses we were able to explore Angkor Wat without it being too crowded as many of them apparently left for breakfast and returned about 8.30am, just as we were moving on. The bas-reliefs carved around the walls on lower level were amazing and we received a blessing from a Buddhist Monk before progressing to level 2 where Johnny was able meditate in the same place monks and others have been doing for hundreds of years. The upper level is 'restricted' to a maximum of 100 people at a time and appropriate dress code is required to visit the highest level where the royalty once prayed.
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Sam suggested we go back to our hotel and return mid afternoon to visit Angkor Thom, but we wanted to see everything then spend the afternoon relaxing so we continued on and as a result it was much more busy: we still managed to see everything but our photography opportunities were limited.
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Day 2:
As suggested by Sam we arrived at Ta Prohm for 7.30am and had the place almost to ourselves for the first 30 minutes which allowed for some great photography of an amazing place where nature has reconquered. Allow 1-2 hours
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Day 3:
We visited the Rolous Group- Preah Ko & Bakong, which are the earliest large permanent temples built by the Khmers.
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Wanting to see the stilted and floating villages around Tonle Sap, but having heard negative things about Chong Kneas, we drove a little further out to the village of Kampong Khleang, here we took a boat through the villages and flooded forrest into the lake. It was certainly an eye opener to see the simple way of life along the lake.
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The previous night's storm resulted in an abundance of frogs being roasted at the roadside stalls but we were happy with just the bamboo sticks containing sticky rice and black beans.
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Siem Reap and Pub Street.
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The streets were lined with markets and places to eat and drink, and happy hour seemed to last all night. Pub Street was loud and full with the back streets a little quieter and tuk tuk drivers everywhere offering their services whether you wanted them or not!
We did see a stall offering all varieties of bugs, but we were advised if partaking in them to do so only if they were freshly cooked in front of us, unfortunately we couldn't locate anywhere cooking them insight so we had to do without πŸ˜•

Eating and drinking:
Khmer Hidden Home Restaurant- we found this authentic and cheap local food served from a family home just down the alley way from our hotel- absolutely amazing πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»
George's bar - great relaxed atmosphere
Little red fox- fantastic coffee
Essodrip- great coffee
Sister Srey- great coffee with a good cause

Accommodation:
Fancy Boutique Villa - doesn't quite live up to its name. On the surface it's quite nice, and is clean, comfortable and located in a great spot however their attention to detail and customer service is just a little lacking. The bottom sheets don't quite fit the king sized bed, the safe can literally be carried out of the room, there is nowhere to hang/store clothes, they appear to have a limit on toilet rolls and are very inconsistent when it comes to cleaning the rooms. And a door to the bathroom would have been a great idea. But with a little more attention to detail this place could be awesome.
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Links:
Fancy Boutique Villa: http://www.fancyboutiquevilla.com/
Guide: http://www.angkorpura.com/

Posted by advb4dementia 04:47 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Phnom Penh- 2 nights/1 day- short but sweet

semi-overcast
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Overview:
Our time in Phnom Penh was limited and we didn't have an opportunity to fully explore the city but what we did see we loved.
Visited Cheung Ek (Killing Fields) and S- 21 (Genocide Museum), explored the Riverfront and sipped cocktails at the FCC.
Loved loved loved the Blue Lime Hotel- a hidden oasis behind wooden doors down a dead end alleyway

Highlights:
Sipping cocktails and watching the sun set over the Mekong River from the top floor balcony of the FCC.
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It doesn't feel right to include Cheung Ek and S-21 as a highlight given their somber nature but they were the main reason for our visit and provide a great insight to the atrocities and their impact on Cambodia and her people.

Lowlights:
Our flight arrived at 7.30pm and we were booked to leave for Siem Reap at 8am so only had 1 day which limited our opportunity to explore
The no show of the pre booked transport for the 5 hour road trip to Siem Reap

Learning’s:
Whilst we couldn't extend the number of nights, an earlier flight would have provided us a little more time to get a feel for the city.
Always have a couple of choices for meals as the first choice is often not available.
Bring friendship bracelets to place by the mass graves in Cheung Ek.
Confirm pre booked transport/activities to avoid no shows- and do not use Cambodia Taxi Driver as, despite and email trail that confirmed the booking, when contacted they indicated there was no booking and have not responded to any email correspondence since πŸ‘ŽπŸ»

Activities:
Cheung Ek - We visited here early in the morning when it was a little cooler. The admission fee included an English speaking audio guide which was extremely informative, as was the video show in the museum. Despite the number of people visiting, there were lots of quiet shaded spots to sit and reflect whilst listening to some of the harrowing stories. There were lots of friendship bracelets placed around the mass graves and we wish we had known to bring some as we would have bought some to wear in the lead up to our trip to then leave at the site.
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S-21- This was our second stop and we choose the $6 admission fee which included an English speaking audio guide- essential to get a full understanding of the events.
Whilst we felt reasonably well informed it did not prepare us for what we would see and hear during the tours, they were extremely confronting and emotionally draining but are definitely a must do.
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Eating and drinking:
Breakfast at the hotel was lovely as was the food and drink at the FCC, and if you go for sunset the cocktails are 2 for 1.

Accommodation:
Blue Lime Hotel πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»
We have absolutely nothing but praise for the Blue Lime Hotel. It's location was awesome, although a little hard to find as it was located down a little dead end alleyway but it was a hidden oasis located behind a set of wooden doors.
The lobby opened up into the bar and pool area with a backdrop of greenery and twinkling lights.
Our rooms were small but lovely and well equipped, including a comfy 4 poster bed and day bed, and were unexpectedly quiet given they led directly off the lobby.
The staff went out of their way and nothing was too much trouble, and they certainly came to the rescue when our transport was a no show and within and hour had someone else ready to take us on the 5 hour road trip to Siem Reap.
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Links:
Blue Lime Hotel: https://maads.asia/bluelime#
Car/Driver: http://www.taxidcpphnompenh.com/html/index.php

Posted by advb4dementia 04:47 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia Comments (2)

Middle aged backpacking

Well not quite back packing but we are covering 3 countries in 30 days, and some of our adventuring will require us to live out of backpacks for a short time so travelling light is a must.

We travel through Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, with opportunity to visit 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Angkor, Complex of Hue Monuments, Hoi An Ancient Town, My Son Sanctuary, Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay.

Our adventures will take us trekking into the jungle of Laos to a tree-house which can only be reached by zip-line, staying with a local family at a home-stay in Ta Van (Sa Pa region): home to the Red Dao, Hmong and Giay tribes people and sailing remote areas of Ha Long Bay on a private Junk.

Packing is proving to be the biggest challenge (for some of us): To pack the hiking boots or wear them to provide extra space? Do we really need so many changes of clothes? How to stay cool but avoid leaches and mossies whilst trekking? How to pack light but account for the different climates of Vietnam??????

Vaccinations complete, tickets and visa’s arranged, and so we are now just counting down the days........ and packing and repacking 
We look forward to sharing our journey.

Posted by advb4dementia 02:29 Tagged travel_planning Comments (1)

Life was meant for good friends and great adventures

There are some people in life that make you laugh a little louder, smile a little bigger and live just a little bit better.

Justine, Johnny, Klara and Gus are more than friends, we are like a really small gang.

From different backgrounds but with so much in common: we aim to live a healthy and active lifestyle, enjoy camping and the outdoors and love to socialise and have fun.

And with our children now grown we have more opportunity for adventure
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Posted by advb4dementia 02:25 Tagged friends Comments (0)

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