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The Indo China Adventure (incl Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia)

a travel blog by ourindochina

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Counting down and Planning...

The Hague, Netherlands

There are only a few days left before the two of us meet up in London, from where the we will set off with nothing more than our Packs into the backpack haven of Thailand. The official departure date is Thursday 6 December, arriving in Bangkok at 06:10 on the 7th. Now all that is left is to say our goodbyes, enjoy the luxuries of first world comforts, plan, budget, start malaria courses and gain as much travel know how as possible.

A bit of Background...

The two of us went to High school together back in Natal in South Africa. Since then, as that is quite some time ago, we have seen each other on the rare occasion. Both of us are done with our studies, both highly intellectual business minded men, and are keen for some serious adventure. How this duo was formed was over a reuniting beer in the worldly London suburb of Wimbledon after expressing our desire for something awesome, something that should be done before we were to serious about a career. This in conjunction with looking at some photos of a Cape to Cairo trip, an epic adventure.

So this year, the career minded Iaki has been slaving away at the London commercial sector after changing his mind on the Greek army. So after having written his SIMA examinations just a few days ago cannot wait to let loose and to trek the chartered lands of South East Asia and at the same time hope to catch a record size Mekong Catfish and become a pro photographer.

I have been somewhat of a free spirit this year, working enough to do what I really wanted to do, being travelling. This work has been the opposite of career minded work and has been in the catering/event industry.
After I finished my degree in Cape Town, two friends and I set out to conquer the mother continent on an epic adventure from Cape Town to Cairo. After this we trekked through Eastern Europe, before I somewhat settled (in very loose terms of the word) in Holland, from where I have made countless trips around Europe.

This trip is what I have always wanted to do, and I am really glad that I am now doing it with an excellent travel compadre.

Keep checking back at this site, as it is going to be nothing short of entertaining!

permalink written by  ourindochina on November 29, 2007 from The Hague, Netherlands
from the travel blog: The Indo China Adventure (incl Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia)
tagged Departure, Thailand, Iaki, Pieter and Iakovos

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Leaving on a Jet plane

Wimbledon, United Kingdom

Packed my bags and ready to go... Finally.

Well we are off tomorrow, it is a 24 hour trip from our house throgh to Bankok customs incl time difference and then our day is only begining as it is going to be 6 in the morning there with our hostel check in only at 12.
Pieter is already sick or getting there from this terrible english weather. However hopefully a bit of sun from the otherside will cure his weakness...
Just joking Judith,( I promise to look after your little boy and carry him when he is down and out). Not much to say cause london is useless as always... But 2 days.

aiii....I love you mommy

permalink written by  ourindochina on December 5, 2007 from Wimbledon, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: The Indo China Adventure (incl Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia)
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The Adventure begins!

Bangkok, Thailand

Monday 10 December 2007
Kao San Road - Bangkok

We left the cold and grim London behind on thursday to start our 3 and a half months adventure, and now after being here for only a few days, we both agree that this was one wise decision! We both love this place! Then again, i must admit that it is pretty difficult not to.

The flight here was excellent, with the authentic Thai airways. Starting the trip off on the right note, everything was excellent, until the pilot showed of his landing skills, or rather his lack there of! Both of us felt as if our ears would bleed, and resulted in us being half deaf for the few days that followed. From the airport, we caught a local bus to the center of town, from where together with two aussies, jet lagged and all we had a leisurely walk to kao san road. Which is better known here as the gateway between europe and asia. Which i cannot argue on as I have never seen so many tourists and shops in one place. The strangest thing is that if you wonder just a block or two away from here, the chances of you bumping into a western tourist are slim to none! I really dont understand it.

getting to thailand was a first, as was the jetlag that came with it. Which has resulted in our days being warped completely. The first day here we didnt quite want to get straight to bed, so we hit the streets and wandered aroudn a bit. that lasted till about 15:00, when we decided to have a power nap. From this moment we slept like logs, only to be wide awake again at 04:00. This is when we decided to go and hit some tourist sites... Well, at least walk around a bit. The day was excellent and we had our first too good to be true Tuk Tuk deal. How these work is that they drive you around for a ridiculous cheap price with the condition that they take you to some shops too... (where they get their commision from), so on day one we ordered tailored suits! They are awesome though, but we were suckered into it! Conned if you will, but no harm done, Then once we got to the open market, shich was the initial idea, the only way to get back cheaply was to once again make some shopping stops... This time at the famous jewelers. No more purchases though. The rest of the day was spent meeting fellow travellers and a nighjt out on the town. partying is something that you can do here without boundries! This place is surreal, awesome!

That night we had a bit of a quarrel, and sorted out the unspoken irritations and misunderstandings we had towards each other. Which resulted in a night of serious talk without sleep. However, once we had gotten everything of our chests and and had our "peace pipe" (the cuban cigar we bought at heathrow) we decided that our night shouldnt change our plans for the day. So we bought 2 red bulls each, packed our cameras and set out to the famous floating market at Damnoen Saduak. What we didnt know was to get there we had to bus for 3 hours. But it was well worth it. It turned out to be an excellent day outing, and once back in bangkok, after having tried some local fruits boght on the water, we had a well deserved power nap. That brings us to a chilled evening and a once again chilled out day today. Today is a public holiday, so all embassies etc are closed. We had to alter our itinerary slightly to cater for the vietnamese visa. So the plan now is to do that admin tue and wed, and then head up to sukhothai on thursday. Which is when the real adventure starts.

This place is surreal, the food is awesome (We tried some crickets... they are actualy pretty good, especially with a beer. Next in line are cockroaches, locusts, maggots and well you get the pic) and the amount of lady-boy encounters is scary! Always have to keep your witts about you around here! Bangkok, transforms at nigt with people offering "Ping Pongs shows" and "boom boom" on every corner! Its everything you imagine. The best converstation I have heard so far while wandering down the raod has been between 2 british guys: "I cant believe you told that lady boy that I like her man, thats not cool!! thats not what friends do to each other man. not cool!"

Anyway, that is all for now. Some pics will follow shortly.

permalink written by  ourindochina on December 9, 2007 from Bangkok, Thailand
from the travel blog: The Indo China Adventure (incl Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia)
tagged Bangkok

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On to the North!

Sukhothai, Thailand

13 December 2007
Sukhothai - Thailand

Finally the trip has officially started! The transit time in the ever popular and surreal khao san road and surrounding bangkok is behind us, our passport has some vietnamese credibility and we are now officially travelling. We were somewhat sad to leave our little sweatbox as Iaki called our khao san room, but on the other hand also overjoyed with the move on!

So yesterday morning we took a rush hour bus up to the Northern bus station aka Moh Chit, and bought our ticket out of Bangkok! Awesome, the bus was awesome, aircon a welcome snack, a free lunch, coffe, refreshments and everythiong else that yur wouldnt expect for a 5 pound 6 hour bus ride. Glorious times, mattie and Jared will know the feeling... like Sudan! The ride flew by and on the way here we met a fellow passenger, a kinda half american half japenese girl, Waki. So upon arrival the three of us went in search of a chilled out place to stay. 5 minutes later we had our bags down and went for a luttle walk about the small town. The first encounter with a bit of a language barrier, so a definite sighn of good times to follow! After a scrumptuous meal at a road side vendor and my first thai rice desert (kinda a layered sweet rice dhow served in banana leaf - interesting) we stocked up on some Leo beer and made our way to the hostel.

Up at six, my idea, but well received and we cought a local taxi to the old sukhothai. The initial capital of the former Khmer regime, a collection of temple ruins dating back as far as 1276. We were there with first light and were basically the first visitors of the day. A truly awesome start to the trip. We did tings properly, so hired some bikes and rode around in style (bicycles that is). The place is truly amazing, and we spent the day exploring and checking out ancient temples, buddas, eating, drinking fresh fruit juice and relaxing. Oh and offcourse working my camera overtime, seeing as though, well I could!

This place is a truly chilled out village and now the plan is to get up to chiang mai by night bus. The three of us will catch that at around 0130, so tommorow will start exploring chiang mai - another highly rated town.

I also wanna congratulate Soph on your graduation! Sad that I couldnt be there, but so proud of you! I want some photos sent to me! Have a good drive home.

Thats all for now, so happy that the trip is finally underway!

permalink written by  ourindochina on December 13, 2007 from Sukhothai, Thailand
from the travel blog: The Indo China Adventure (incl Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia)
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Chiang Mai by night = Dumb ass idea.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Well, 11:00 on Thurdays night we made our way to the bus station in Sukhothai so that we could have a nice 7 hour relaxing ride to Chiang Mai and wake up refreshed and get out and explore a bit with out waisting a day on the bus. This was not the case, the bus was due to arrive at 1:30 in the morning, it finally arrived at 3:00 and it was so packed we had to stand with another 10 people till about 4:30 before we finally got a seat and tried to get a few hours sleep.

9:30 in the morning and Pieper, Waki(Our new girlfriend from Japan who will travel with us for 3 days and maybe join us 2 months down the line) and myself step of the bus into Chiang mai. Chiang mai is a quite little city much bigger than the sleepy town of Sukhothai and not half as bold and in your face as Bangkok.

Last night was fight night, were we once again were conned but for a small amount which is fine, and it did turn out to be an entertaining evening. We bought tickets for a Mu thai fight which promised to be an intense night of kick boxing with fight line up finishing with a Thai middle weight fighter taking on one of Britains best. The Thai guy 'apparently' pulled out and a canadian stepped in who weight 15kgs more than the brit, so the main fight was more like a one round sparring session with the brit forfiting 'unexpectedly'.

The fight itself was not at all what I expcexted as when the 1st competitors stepped in to the ring I realised that they were 9 years old, so it made you feel a bit dirty watching children beating each other up for your entertainment. However the next fight was 2 12 year olds and though these guys were kids I think I would proberbly last a minute in the ring with one of them.

Pieper and Waki decided the brutal sport was quite a romantic evening so the 2 of them were wispering sweet nothings to eachover while I was sitting with our new acquintances betting and cheering on one little kid after another.

This morning Waki headed on her own to do some Trekking and Pieper and myself went to 'Thailand best cooking course' and we were even promised a Certificate which is great cause I can put that on my C.V. Cooking was pretty damn simple with an easy to use recipe book so the 1 day course is enough to be able to cook, Thai style. Pieper and I were the only 2 in in the class so we got a lot of individual attention from the Thai shef which was good as I think Pieper must have been struggling cause he insistead on us sharing most of our meals.
We ate like king and had a 7 course meal all for 10 pounds so it has been a pretty 2 evenful days.

Tommorow morning we head of into the Jungle for our elephant riding,trecking and rafting. Please can you guys send Pieper your support as I think he is very nervous of the elephants.


permalink written by  ourindochina on December 15, 2007 from Chiang Mai, Thailand
from the travel blog: The Indo China Adventure (incl Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia)
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Jungle Treking and Pai

Pai, Thailand

20 December 2007
Pai - North West Thailand

The visit to the North of Thailand wouldn't have been complete without a decent jungle trek, so after we had fully recovered from the sleepless nights on the bus and the wild party that surrounded the Mauy Thai fight, we decided to visit some of the T.A.T offices and find a bargain. This sounds really easy, but it requires you to have your wits about you, as you have to deal with serious professionals. How it happens is that you get inside and they lure you into a false sense of security by sitting you down and perhaps offering you something to drink. Then before you can do anything they push a photo album into you lap and show you awesome photos and go on to tell you that their trip is better than any other. Making empty promises of private and exclusive tours, yet using exactly the same flyer as their neighbour. Anyway, even though it took us a while, I can proudly say that Iaki and I have become street wise. We saw straight through their scamming minds and got ourselves a bargain!

The trip started with a 9:00 pickup from our hotel, we were the first one in the car, and were jetted around the city slowly picking up the other 11 people. By the time the 10th got in, it was getting mighty cosy and everyone was getting to know each other.

We dumped our bags at a locker room and then started the drive up north. The first stop was a market which seemed to only sell deep fried chicken (including heads and feet) and fruit, so everyone had a little snack, only to be awarded lunch once we got to the start of the trek. The group that we were to spend the next few days with was awesome. The breakdown was 2 americans, 2 belgians, 2 aussies, 2 brits (or jerseys) a scot and 2 israelis! So good times were bound to be ahead.

After lunch we were on our way, up what seemed a never ending crisscrossing foot path, making many unnecessary river crossings. The crossings did however make things interesting! The hours flew by, and the scenery got better and better.

Once we eventually got up to the "rustic" village, we were shown to our awesome bamboo cabin. It was a dorm, with a balcony complete with fire place, yep they had a fireplace on a bamboo hut. Below is a picture of a typical hut, jock pointed out by Iaki =

The rest of the day was spent chilling at the cabin and having an awesome meal


The day started early due to the roosters wanting to emphasise their presence, must to the dismay to most of the camp! Getting us up and ready for another day of trekking. The second day was through the propper jungle and we got swim around with some waterfalls! very well received as it was once again a scorther of a day. The evening was eventful as the guides, (namely Jack Sparrow and JJ, got a little carried away with their bamboo bong and started piromaniac antics by blowing methane onto the fire... very entertaining, at least nothing bad happened haha), The last day was the day jampacked with activities.

The day started with the elephant rides, something that iaki had been rather sleepless about. It was an awesome experience, with iaki and the elepahnt getting rather close at one stage. I think iaki was sending mixed signals when he was lovingly caressing the elephants neck.

Everyone seemed to be having an awesome time, and th eride lasted for about an hour

From there they gave us our bright orange life vests and matching helmets and put us onto the rafts. The rafting was somewhat of a let down (fear factor wise), but due to some healthy competition we made the most of it, (got to give it to Aiden and Iaki, you guys beat us to the finish) with our guides getting over excited and wrestling each other from boat to boat.

The crowd was awesome!

Once the PVC rafting was over we were placed onto the traditional bamboo rafts, which was way more exciting. They work as a kind of gondola, and have a low balancing ability. So it ended in a lot of spashing and sabotage of each others rafts, an excellent end to the days activity. After lunch we made our way back to Chiang Mai, and all met up again for dinner and a party out on the town.

Now in Pai, together with the Israelis and the Aussies. It was an interesting bus ride, for 4 hours going up winding little roads with the bus giving it all it had... and making speeds of 20-35 kilometers an hour. The bus was probably 50 years old and def not a fan of hills. Once in the small quaint village of Pai we hired a manly Hogg and rode the afternoon away in the surrounding country side. As some may know, I am not a fan, so Iaki agreed to ride the red devil. It turned out to be an excellent day out, and the plan is to carry on with that today.

We have booked a bus to get to Chiang Khong tomorrow morning, so we should be in Laos by Saturday.

permalink written by  ourindochina on December 19, 2007 from Pai, Thailand
from the travel blog: The Indo China Adventure (incl Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia)
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Passing into IndoChina

Chiang Khong, Thailand

26 December 2007
Luang Prabang, world heritage city, Laos
(For some reason not marked on the google map (thet goes for the whole of laos), so the border will have to do)

Before anything else we would like to wish everyone a very merry christmas! Our christmas has been somewhat... different. There are some father christmas statues around, and there is plenty on offer. But being here in Laos, doesnt quite meet the normal christmas feel. However, it has been one to remember and with the newly aquired gang (Daniel, Nora, Katelyn and Kerry from the Chiang Mai trek, and Eva from Rotterdam) we were far from lonely. We decided to have a christmas dionner of our own, so picked ourselves a little quaint restaurant... the food however, lets just say, didnt land well for the majority. The main reason was the excessive quantities of chilles. The local red wine was also a little different, but on the whole it was a christmas to remember. On christmas day, we went to the renowned waterfalls, which was a visit well worth it! The pools were so blue that they seemed somewhat surreal, and the overall feel of the place was awesopme. The afternoon was ended off with a lazy ly down on the grass in the sun.

But that is christmas, I hope that everyone had an excellent time! Now let me tell you about how we got here. So the last logged account was when we had gotten to the small, somewhat hippie town of Pai. From there we made our way to the North Eastern Border, the border taking us to Laos! The adventure started, for some reason the passing through of borders gets me really excited! All the excitement though allowed me to let my guard down, which resulted in me not doing my pre tasting of food duty properly... so Iaki almost died from little evil shrimps! But luckily before any serious damage was done I realised, provided an allergex, and ate the evil meal. Sorry Iaki, it wont happen again! Iaki survived, but did get a nausea attack, the same possible food poisoning that the israelis had, appartently due to Pai Pork. So finally the general antibiotic came in useful, and iaki's medi kit is being well utilised. Now back in full health!

So back to the crossing, we crossed the border at Chinag Khong, into Huay Xai, the border from where we caught the two day slow boat down the Mekong. How this works is that Touts will try and scare you by telling you there is only one boat to sell you overpriced tickets. However, we are proud to say that we are now streetwise, and bought our ticlets at the same office as the touts, for the actual price. This whole endevour saved us some cash, a merry christmas meal if you will. So now I guess the score is one to us and one to Thai Tuk Tuk drivers. At this rate we will get our street wise cred back in no time.

The crossing of the border was excellent, it was misty, there were loads of little boats and the visa process was smooth. The only negative thing was that Iaki was sick, and feeling horrid. But Im proud of him, he pulled through and pushed on. Once we got our seats on the back of the slow boat, together with the other 90 or so travellers, and boat two was being loaded up, we realised how slow they were.

Not because the boat moves slowly, but because there is absolutely no, none what so ever rush to leave. But after some reversing and some fresh diesel fumes we were on our way, on our way to Luang Prabang. I was loving it. The boat is comfortable, well as comfortable as a plastic\wooden seat can be for 7 hours, but it was cozy. There were Beer lao quarts on sale, which added to the cozyness, and the scenery topped it all off. The whole boat is covered so its cool all day round.

The evening was started with arrival in the spend the night guest house conglomerate known as Pak Beng. All 90 of us got off and strated the trek up the steep dune, at the same time a mob of about 40 touts made their way down intercepting us with laminated guest house adverts like some epic battle. We made it through alive though and after just a 4 minute walk we climbed into a room and dumped the bags. A bargain at EUR1 each. The most classic sales pitch was...

Me: Is there a fan?
Tout: Yes
Me: 2 beds?
Tout: Yes
Me: Hot shower
Tout: Sure, sure whatever you want
Me: and you say 100 Baht total?
Tout: Yes
So we took it,

Iaki was pretty dissapointed when he had to endure the icy shower so unexpectedly. But it turned out the whole town only had electricity until 22:30 and except for the $75 per night hotel, not one guest house had hot water.

So after a fresh start to the day, we got back to the trusty slog by 8:00, to find that today all 120 of us would be on one boat. That was just the way it was, to the dismay of many passengers. The reason was that a swiss couple didnt quite enjoy themselves the day before in the cramped conditions. So they had put down 600 US dollars to buy out the whole boat, a private charter if you will. Pretty awesome for them, but it made our ride a whole lot slower and off course even more cozy. Good times

We arrived at the Luang Prabang docks and started the hostel hunt together with all 120 others. Daniel and I were succesful within 30 minutes, finding ourselves keeper places. So, christmas has been good, and the travelling even better. I would not want to be anywhere else but here right now, Im loving life!

To end the day off, and hopefully just the day the infamous deadly looking man's drink... Lao lao whiskey!

permalink written by  ourindochina on December 26, 2007 from Chiang Khong, Thailand
from the travel blog: The Indo China Adventure (incl Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia)
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The North and New Years

Nong Khai, Thailand

You know those things we love to see happen to someone but hate it when it happens to you... That is just how I felt on our bus trip to Muang Ngoi Keaw. About 20 of us on the back of an 8 seater truck like tuk tuk driving at 80 km an hour, when I see this black back fly of our roof and smashing along the road behind us when I suddenly notice how familiar it looks. We only managed to get the asshole driver to stop like 100 meters further and I got out and ran to my bag due to the cars behind stopping and showing some keen interest to this gift lying in the middle of the road. Other then getting highly upset with the driver and slightly irritable with Pieper who was trying to get an action shot with his camera of me checking what had been broken in my backpack , all was ok. Sorry Signe when I asked to borrow it I didn't think I would be testing it like this and yes dad I now know why you tell me to always check myself that everything is tied securely to the car and I will be doing that for the rest of the trip.

After a six hour trip on the truck we eventually got to Nong Khiaw and we then caught a boat for an hour and a half to Muang Ngoi Keaw. Small, peaceful fishing village that no roads lead to, so was great to get away from the constant scooter abuse. We had a quite time there with a bit of swimming in the river with Water buffalo, trecking through the jungle and rice fields and exploring caves, all without the help of a guide. The food was pretty good for a small fishing village but the fruit shakes, were quite a shock and no one ordered another after we realised a banana fruit shake was a banana and water...

After that we headed back to Luang prabang and then off to Vang Vieng for a bit of a New Years party. Vang Vieng was once upon a time a peaceful village along the banks of a river. It is now a tourist haven with backpacker on every corner and restaurants playing non-stop reruns of friends.It took us a good few hours to get there and we were going to have a relaxing evening to prepare for our new years party the next day, but things don't always work out as planned. So even though we were all a bit tired we were up and about at 11 and ready to go for our tubing experience. For those of you who don't know Vang Veng is famous for its tube cruise. Which basically means they give you a tractor tube and drive you five kilometers upstream and you then float down stream and stop at bars along the river bank, you can either have a beer there or take it with and carry on floating downstream. One of the best Nerw years ever which kicked of with a Mohitto in a plastic packet, not very practicle but really good. The tubing I thought was going to be relaxing day in the sun but we did spend a decent amount of time fighting off asshole barmen who kept hooking your tube with long bamboo poles and pulling you into there bars to sell you drinks. Some of the bars were pretty plain while other had sound systems of note, volleyball courts, tabletennis and awesome swings that throw you into the river. After a good few hours of volley ball we decided to start heading down stream, by the time we made it back to the start it was six oclock and freezing so we had a bit of a cleanup and we went off to that dodgy bar to have a whisky bucket and celebrate a memorable New Years.

One of my best ones to date...

permalink written by  ourindochina on January 1, 2008 from Nong Khai, Thailand
from the travel blog: The Indo China Adventure (incl Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia)
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My 23rd Birthday

Hanoi, Vietnam

5 January 2008
Hanoi - Vietnam

So after our glorious start to the year in Vang Vieng, which Iaki will aptly inform you about, we left the country of Laos behind us and moved onto the next one. Vietnam is probably the country I was looking forward to most, and thus far I am far from disappointed. To get here we had to prove ourselves though, well we went through a serious character test if you will. Since we are men, and want to travel like men, we bought our bus ticket to Hanoi from a friendly vang vieng travel agent. Sounds good, and to be honest it really wasn't bad at all, the thing that got to, especially iaki was the continual and suttle lies embedded in the sales talk. What they promised was a comfortable "VIP" bus... what we got was a haphazard 31 hour haphazard stop go ride in a well weathered rustic Asian Hyundai monster. It could have been way worse, and as always way better. To be fair though, the bus was pretty empty and we all got some sleep.

So we got to Hanoi! In rush hour. Hanoi is a city of about 4 million people and of those about 2.5 million have a scooter. The city is also pretty small, so this made for one massive mess. There seem to be no rules, and so many scooters that you wouldn't be able to walk across a road if the scooters were waiting for a light change. There is just people on scooters everywhere, but we haven't seen one accident yet! We were discussing that it would probably make one hell of a movie if you unleashed all these into London central...

But, and this will make no sense at all, even though there is utter and complete chaos on the roads, I felt really peaceful in the city. It is relaxing somehow. A place that I look forward to seeing again!

hanoi is also the place where i turned 23! To celebrate I wanted to do what I have never done before or even thought about before. I wanted to eat a snake. It just so happened that Le Mat, a place just out of the city is famous for this "delicacy"! So at around 7 after I had a good chat with Sophs, mam and Aims we got ourselves a Taxi. Really excited we were taken to the little suburb, and started to shop around. Every place has a wide array of them ranging from constrictors to cobra's. The place that we eventually settled on was one that had not only snakes but also a badger, porcupine, cat and who knows what else. We were actually gonna do it! Now getting somewhat nervous realizing what i was about to do we watched as the handler selected a decent seized snake from its cage. What he had settled on, and was fine by me was a medium sized constrictor.

It started with a bit of teasing, and then followed by his assistant holding the head and tail. The snake now stretched in full length above a tin bowl an incision was made alongside the heart. The heart was pulled out and detached. There was now a small beating heart in a ceramic bowl, also the reason why I had the nervous feeling in me. The snake now motionless was once again cut, but now to get the bile out, this was placed alongside the heart. Then after the handler had drained enough blood for 2 decent sized shots we were shown to our table followed by the tray carrying the "snake"

Time to celebrate. Our waiter filled the glass with some rice whiskey, cut open the bile and shared it between iaki and my glass and then took the still throbbing heart and dropped it into my glass. The moment of truth had come. I had a glass of rice whiskey, snake bile and a beating heart in front of me... after a brief toast it was time. It slipped down easily. A rush! Now, thinking it was over, the waiter poored another glass, this time dividing the blood he so cunningly sqeezed from the snake and divided it between Iaki, Nora's and my glass. Another toast and boom! Something I am really glad I did, but wouldn't do again that quickly. Within minutes I was light headed, there is no denying that.

So the drinking part was over... now the feast could begin! We ate like kings, 11 courses!

I have a photo of each meal, but the PC here is pretty slow so that will come shortly, I also have a video of iaki and I taking the blood shot... Ill try YOUtube it, a classic video!

1. Fried snake fillet
2. Snake Rolls (spring Rolls)
3. snake filled deep fried in basil leaves
4. Spicy mince with rice bead
5. omelet wrapped liver
6. Deep fried snake skin
7. Fried snake fat rice
8. boiled snake meat
9. kidney dumplings
10. soup
11. Green tea and clementines

What a meal, a birthday meal that I will never forget. One of the best things was that Daniel didn't want to eat snake, so he ordered chicken. sounds good right? Well minutes after he ordered they came back up with a hacked up chicken, seemingly uncooked, piled onto a plate garnished with two big black scaly chicken feet. Refusing to eat it he brought it back to be cooked... They returned with a Kernel browned meal, but this time garnished with a deep fried chicken head with a gaping mouth. The chicken, im told was very tasty though! A definitely memorable food day!

Thank you to Iaki, Nora and Daniel for an excellent birthday! It was excellent! Unforgettable!

Thank you to all of you who sent me messages! Good to hear from all of you! And to the rest of you! I knew you were thinking of me haha!

I hope that everyone has an excellent year!

We are now in Ha Long bay, a brilliant place with thousands of islands. Paradise if you will. Once we get back you will get a full report back.

permalink written by  ourindochina on January 5, 2008 from Hanoi, Vietnam
from the travel blog: The Indo China Adventure (incl Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia)
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halong bay

Cat Ba, Vietnam

So on a lighter note from the hefty birthday meal we left early in the morning to go on a trip to what lonely planet makes out to be paradise, Halong Bay. We were picked up by the bus right in front of our hotel door, and once the bus was done fighting its way through the scooter filled streets we were on our 4 hour way to the notorious islands. The group in the bus was diverse ranging from young to old and from one day trips to our 3 day 2 night cruise. It turned out that halong bay, as we kinda guessed is far from an exclusive get away, but it was beautiful. Wer realised the lack of exclusivity when we initially arrived at the harbour and there were literally thousands of tourists coming out of a mess of tour busses and coaches. We were assigned a spot and kindly requested to wait while our enfglish speaking guide went and got the tickets and whatever else he needed. So the group started to mingle a bit.

Moments later we were regrouped and headed for the boat. Sadly the sky was grey, solid grey. The trip started with a lunch and then the engines roared up and got us on our way out of the portg and towards the "majestic" cave.

Well.... the cave.... It was big, but when they light a cave up like a casino, place plaster walkways that are meant to look natural and authentic and put fountains in strategic places, I get somewhat skeptical. This and the fact that we had to walk in a continual line of a few hundred people. It was like being in disney world. We all had an excellent laugh though, especially when we realised most people took the fountains as natural springs! We were sure that within two years you will be welcomed into the cave with the roaring start of eye of the tiger and there will smoke machines and lazers lighting the vast spaces overhead. Thankfully that was the lowest point of the trip and it got progressively better.

From the cave we headed to cat ba island to drop of the 2 day one night folk and the day trippers and we were left with the awesome group that spent the night on the boat.

The evening was grande and was filled with some good food the remainder of the bottle of birthday Jameson and star filled skies. At the crack of dawn the kayaks were made ready and it was off to an excellent start! having some difficulty lifting the crew out of bed I decided to watch the sunset solo and go out on the kayak. An amazing morning. The others got up soon afterwards and as you can see have excellent team synnergy. Nora and Iaki are unstoppable!

After the scrumptious breakfast of bread, jam and egg we headed for the main island in the archipelago, Cat ba island. Upon arrival we were coaxed into a minivan and scooter to the town. But before we could get to lunch or anything else for that matter, the van stopped and we were to start the hike. The walk was cool, and took us up to one of the high peaks overlooking the whole island. A definite good view point. Below is the victorious shot of the peak...

Then down and after another drive in the minivan we were shown to the Cat Ba harbour Inn hotel, give n our keys and shown to our onsuite 3rd level rooms! Great times. A 2 star lunch and then the afternoon off to enjoy the town. I cought up on some writing, Iaki on a scooter ride, Nora on a bike ride and Daniel had his first scooter lesson. An overall good afternoon!

The sunset was spectacular, and since most people live on their boats and require water taxis the harbour is a non stop hub of activity. A really cool town.

After a grande sleep, it was time once again to cram into the taxi and head back to the boat.

This time with a new posse we headed for the small fishing village and were shown some caves... once again for a small forced "contribution" but hey, all is fair. This is where i saw my first concrete boat, yes concrete with a brick house on it. Bizarre is the word that came to mind! After a chilled cruise back to halong harbour we were treated to a great lunch and then it was back on the bus to the overpopulated but strangely realxing city of Hanoi where I am now.

permalink written by  ourindochina on January 7, 2008 from Cat Ba, Vietnam
from the travel blog: The Indo China Adventure (incl Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia)
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