Thursday, 10 February 2011

What do water swings, buckets of vodka red bull, bamboo pubs, camp fires and music equal? The best 3 day party I have ever been to!!!

Sabai di from Laos my friends. Sorry it has taken me so long to post my latest adventures (one very dear person to me actually text to see if I was still alive it has been that long) but I have been partying very very hard. Last night was my first night without a party in about 3.5 wks - I feel very strange today!

So I was in Chiang Mai, north Thailand, during my last post and I ended up spending a total of 8 days there in all. That was never my plan but I met a really good bunch of people, so decided to move into their hostel and hang around with them.
The night of my last post was just a standard one - meeting the guys for a p*ss up. We started the night at the Roof Top Bar, a really chilled out place where everyone sits on the floor on cushions looking out over the city and just chatting random rubbish. I only mention this place because whilst I was there on my own waiting for the others to arrive I sat watching 2 dogs humping in the middle of the bar. I agree that there is nothing strange about 2 dogs getting it on, but when the female dog is wearing a tutu the whole scene seems more suggestive somehow. I am not sure why a dog in clothes is any different but it is.
Anyway, it was bloody funny, and the bitch (meant in the dog sense) was so up for it, she kept hassling the male and in the end he gave in on 3 seperate occasions - my little doggy hero!

The next day was spent sitting by the river reading my book and preparing my body for the rigours of my impending 3 day trek.
In the evening I got an invite to join the guys out as 2 of them were leaving the next day. So I did what every sensible trekker does when they need to be up at 8:30am the next morning, I went out until 5am.
I can't say that I was feeling 100% the next morning when I emerged ready for my trek, but after a 7Eleven breakfast and a few bottles of water I sobered up by about midday.

Our trekking group consisted of me, Rachael, Pete and Al from the group I was hanging around with, Lieve, a Dutch girl who would become part of the group that I would be with for the next 2 weeks, Frank, a Canadian guy with some interesting dinner table stories (to be shared later), Ken and his mate (can't remember now) from Oz, really nice guys but real IT geeks, Anthony and Andrea, devout christians from the US of A who are living and teaching in China and do not drink, smoke, swear and were virgins at marriage - I felt compelled to ask them if they were virgins, I don't know why, I just did.
Our guide was Kai (which in Thai means chicken!), a top guy who loves English footy and loves to sing Bob Marley songs.

Thr first part of the trek was an elephant ride. To be honest, it was boring, there was nothing to see apart from every single elephant using our hour slot as toilet time. Also, it turned out that my elephant was pregnant which made me feel quite guilty.
After the ride we had lunch and then set off on our trek. I say trek, it was more a gentle amble through the forest and a climb up some steep hills, although climbing over the rocks and boulders along the river was good fun. All in all we walked for about 3/4 hours and it wasn't difficult but I was sweating out a serious amount of alcohol in the afternoon sun.
We reached our home for the night at about 5pm, a village up in the hills not too far from the Burmese border - it seems I am destined to visit the place after my late night walk a few nights before.
The location was beautiful and the sunset was probably one of my best yet. The sky looked as if it was on fire over the high hills.
The whole group was to spend the night in the same room, a bamboo hut.
Our evening consisted of a great meal, followed by beers (for some of us) and Kai producing a guitar and belting out a few classics around the campfire underneath a sky full of stars.
When I say belting out a few classics, I mean he would start the song, sing the first few lyrics, maybe a chorus and then finish as he didn't know anymore words. It seemed that it was infectious because when we tried to help out we too ended after the first chorus!
At about midnight we settled for the night. I was next to Lieve, my beautiful Dutch friend, but when I awoke the next morning she was nowhere to be seen. I sat up and saw her at the far end of the hut. I didn't need to wonder why she had moved, with dread in stomach I knew - I had been snoring!!!
I got up quite sheepishly and headed for breakfast thinking it best not to say anything. As we were eating our breakfast, my now good friend Pete, a Kiwi living in Oz who I will be hanging around with when I am there, piped up and said that he had had a great sleep as he was so drunk and it was good that we had no snorers in the group.
Well, you can imagine how I felt. My head went down as a number of eyes turned my way as people protested in response to Pete's comment. It was the first time that I have been compared to a bear, but that is what Lieve thought had gotten into the hut that night.
I just apologised and explained that when I am lacking sleep (as I got smashed the night before) my snoring is bad. What else could I say? Sorry would have to do.
What I wanted to say was that every good traveller takes ear plugs away with them; but I didn't.

So feeling like the social lepor we set off on trek day number 2. This day consisted of little walking but 2 swimming sessions at waterfalls that we passed along the way.
The scenery was lovely but again it was just too easy really, I was keen to to some real exercise. I guess after Nepal, any trek may seem easy?
We got to our next village at a similar time and the first thing was to choose our beds (all in the same room!). I shared a double mattress with Pete because I knew he would pass out but I did hear a groan of despair from Anthony when he realised he would be on my other side. By this time I didn't care, I really liked the Yanks, but they are Yanks after all so a little bit of snoring is my punishment to them.

Our evening meal was Frank's time to shine. Frank is my age and from Canada. There is one major difference between us - Frank and his dad can afford to pay Paris Hilton $200,000 to make an appearance at their nightclub in Vancouver, and I don't have a job!
So he told us all about the club and his life and then his hobbies - this is where it got interesting.
One hobby is that it takes part in illegal road races in the dead of night. He is a motorbike fanatic but this race also involves Ferrari's Lamborghini's etc. They race over a distance that takes the average person 3 hours to complete, Frank's top time was 45 mins with his suped up bike. He has won the race a number of times which is quite nice as everyone has to pay $1,000 to enter - winner takes all.
It was good to listen to this story but it was his other hobby which has the whole table sitting there with open mouths.
He is a World War 2 fanatic. He has a collection of numerous Nazi memorbilia, including uniforms and guns. He also has a crate of grenades which he is not sure if they still work or not.
Then he told us about he prized possession. An actual Jewish POW uniform from Aushwitz, and to quote him "it actually still smells of death". WTF!

I asked him where he keeps all of this stuff, hoping it would be in the attic or a museum, but no, he has basement where he goes to enjoy it all!
Don't get me wrong, Frank was a legend, his chat about birds around the campfire later when it was just the boys drinking and then giving us all a lesson in self defence under the stars was both hillarious and quite an homo-erotic scene, but if I make it to Canada and go the visit him I am staying well clear of the basement. With my 1/4 Jewish heritage I could find myself encased in a glass cabinet wearing that uniform for authenticity reasons.

So that was the trek. Our final morning was spent white water rafting and then taking it easy on a bamboo raft down the river. There was not a lot of white water, but considering it was my first time and I was at the front it was probably for the best. However, I definitely want to give it another go, what little action there was, was very exciting.

After that, it was lunch and back to Chiang Mai and out again with the crew.
There was a food festival on that night so we all ventured there with the new people that had arrived at the hostel and proceeded to try different foods and get drunk.
It was really good fun, especially when myself, Pete, Lieve and Rachael found the trampolines and bouncy castle. After much begging they agreed to let 4 drunken westerners join the Thai kids to make fools of ourselves. I actaully still have burns on my elbows now from tackling the bouncy castle slides too enthusiastically.
A nice 6am finish followed which wrecked my next day. There is nothing worse than getting back to a hostel room to find a Dutch guy you only met the night before in your bed. Fortunately Rachael got up early and she let me have her bed.

After wasting a day and going out again the next night it was time to leave for Laos.
Although I must just tell you about one incident from my last night out in Chiang Mai. We all met in the Rooftop Bar again and there was a new face in the group. He ended up sitting next to Rachael as he was a fellow Yank and wanted to bore her about some thing or another. After about 30 mins or so he turned to me and said:
"A rock has no world, a bird has no world, a human has a world. Discuss".
I am not usually rude to people but I just stared at him perplexed and then stared at Rachael who raised her eyebrowns at me. I told him I was not going to respond to that statement and started talking to someone else. What a complete tool.
Anyway, in my opinion the simple answer is a human has self-awareness therefore has a perspective of its 'own world', the rock and the bird has no sense of 'self' so are not self aware. So take that Yank.

So the plan for Laos would be to take a bus to the border, spend the night there, cross over to the Laos the next morning and then take the slow boat down the Mekong River for 2 days to Luang Probang.
From the hostel myself, Pete, Kaitlin, Lieve, Willem (the Dutch guy from my bed) and Rachael embarked on this journey and on the bus I would meet Nolh (from London) and at the border Clemens (from Germany) who would also become really good friends over the next week or so.
There isn't much to say about our stay at the border town except that over the river we could see Laos, our destination, and we got drunk that night by playing drinking games.

The next morning we were up bright and early. Getting into Laos was a bit of a hassle. Nobody had visas so it was a case of crossing over the Mekong river getting to immigration and then waiting whilst about 200 people get their visas processed. All in all it was 5 hours from breakfast until we got onto the slow boat and got going.
However, during that time I became a very rich man in Laos terms. I exchanged what Thai Baht I had into Laos Kip. I was very surprised to be handed over 2 million kip and I am not lying when I say that I couldn't close my wallet. I had so many notes that I had a vision of getting to my hotel room later that night, chucking it all on the bed and sleeping in it, naked, or diving into it like I was in Duck Tales.

When it was finally time to board the boat myself, Nolh, Willem and Clemens has one thing in mind - we had 2 days on a boat to drink and have fun, therefore, we need to sit next to some girls. So that is what we did.
We sat next to 4 girls from Oz, all of them seriously attractive, and spent the next 2 days on the boat drinking, playing cards and just hanging out with them. They were only 20 / 21 yrs old so must've wondered what they were doing with these old men (just bad luck I am afraid), but we all got on very well and would spend time together over the next 5 days in 3 different places.
After the first day on the boat we stayed over at a village called Pakbeng. The good thing about being on a boat with about 200 people for 2 days is that you get to know faces, so when you are in a little village like this you can talk to anyone. Us boys and the Oz girls went out for dinner and then had a few drinks down by the river before retiring for the night.
The next day on the boat followed much the same pattern. The scenery got more interesting though as the boat floated down the river through the jungle and past the mountains. It really did make me question which country I found more breathtaking out of Laos and Nepal, that's how spectacular it was.

One other thing to mention about the boat is that on the second day there were some people around in a really bad way. You can buy virtually anything in terms of drugs in Laos and there were a lot of people partaking in a big way.
I met a few people that lost a number of days in opium dens - happy to say that I was not one of them.

After 9 hours on the slow boat in day number 2 we finally arrived in Luang Probang. 2 of the Oz girls had been here the year before and knew their way around so myself, Nolh and Clemens decided to go with them to their hotel. As for all of my other mates, Luang Probang was a small place so it didn't matter where you went you saw everyone.
Actually I have found Laos to be like that in general. you get to meet a lot of people on the slow boats and everyone is follwoing the same route - the only thing I can compare it to is like walking around campus when you are at uni. It's great.

As we were walking to the hotel we had to take a route through the night market - not an easy task with your backpack as a few browsers found out to their detriment. Myself and Anna (one of the Aussie's) were at the back of the group and were chatting away when we realised we could no longer see anyone else. The long and short of it was 3 hours later after sending out emergency messages on facebook and trying in vain to contact mobile phones we found them and got checked into our hotel.
That night we ventured out to check out the town and found a couple of really nice bars. The only problem with Luang Probang is that everywhere closes at 11:30pm, so it was back to the hotel with my new roomies, Nolh and Clemens.
Our room consisted of 1 single bed and one double. I found myself sharing with a 6ft German man, which didn't bother me but seemed to concern Clemens.
As I was lying in bed, with my arms behind my head Clemens probably delivered the funniest line I have heard so far on my travels. He stood in front of the bed, looked at me and in his German accent declared that; "zis is kind of weird"; looked at me again for a few seconds, shook his head and climbed into bed.
Myself and Nolh laughed for about 10 mins.

The next morning I had complaint number 2 about my snoring! Today I was compared to a motorcycle.

We used this day to explore the sights of Luang Probang, which I have to say is a very beautiful town if a little quiet. The town is situated on a strip of land that is surrounded by 2 rivers, palm trees everywhere and lovely french-indochinese architecture (I stole that last bit from the Lonely Planet). Walking around you never would've thought you were in Laos.
The first thing we did was to cross a rickety bamboo bridge to walk over to a point where the Mekon and Nam Kham rivers meet. There was a bar ideally placed at this point so we had a beer and sat on the rocks taking in the view - 2 rivers colliding, local fisherman going about their business, under a blue sky with a backdrop of green mountains.
I am really happy that I am still not taking anything for granted on my travels and can still appreciate how fortunate I am to be in these amazing locations.

After the beer we visited a local village (quite boring), crossed back over the bamboo bridge and went to visit the supposedly best temple in the whole of Laos. It was a nice temple but as you know I have seen dozens of temples now so it was no more special than many of the others.
After lunch we crossed another bamboo bridge and ventured down to a riverside beach. As expected, there were plenty of people down there who we knew.

Later on that afternoon I walked past a dog in an army vest. I am not sure why all dogs wear clothes in SE Asia but I thought he looked pretty hard until I realised that he had hiccups and then he just looked a complete fool. Stupid hiccuping dog thinking he is in the army! It was a nice vest though.

In evening it was the same routine of drinking and meeting up with the Oz girls. However before going out we did climb up the Phou Si, a temple atop a hill, to take in the sunset over the Mekon river and the mountains. It would've been breathtaking if you didn't have to share the view with about 300 other people.

The second full day brought my final snoring complaint. Today I was promoted to a Triceritops (quite impressive me feels).
We had a waster day today. Firstly we booked our bus to take us to the party town of Vang Viang and then we took a walk to a bar that has a swimming pool and hung out there for the day.
That night one of Nolh's mates arrived on the slow boat and Dave would become part of the group for the next few days - a proper top lad.

So that was our stay in Luang Probang - a quiet place by my standards but really lovely all the same. I didn't know what to expect from Laos, I maybe thought it would be quite remote surrounded by jungle (which it sort of is), but this town was civilised, sophisicated, clean to the point of being immaculate and just a pleasure to hang around in for 3 days.
Now we set off for Vang Viang and the real party - and what a party it was.
We got onto the bus to head there and of course all of our friends happended to be in the same vehicle. There was not one person on there that we didn't know - travelling is a little too incestuous.
The drive was as expected - a good laugh whilst passing through great scenery.

When we arrived at our destination we knew it would be good. It was only 6pm but there were lots of people falling about and in a seriously annebriated state - oh yes, this was my sort of place.
We checked into our hotel and discovered that Nolh has messed up the booking. We now had a room each and a total of 12 beds between 4 of us. Still, no more snoring complaints!!!
The view from my balcony was of a river, a riverside bar with little bamboo huts to chill in, and of course the mountains - the only thing that I think truly gives me peace. I can just stare at them for hours an hours.

Enough of the gayness.

We went out that night to check out the town before we would head tubing the next day. The town itself was a hive of drunkeness and debauchery - in other words, heaven.
In these places for the measly sum of 4 quid you can get a bucket of booze. My favourite is vodka, red bull and sprite. The red bull is here actually illegal in Europe because of all of the stuff in it, but it does the job so I am a fan.
In the aptly named 'Bucket Bar' I was standing around minding my own business when an Aussie lad walked up to me and pointed and said "India!". It took me a moment to recognise him but he was a lad that I spent a drunken Diwali with in Mumbia exactly 3 mths to the day earlier. What made it even more random is that he had actually been back to Oz to earn more money to continue travelling, so to see him in a bar 3 countires and 3 mths later was crazy.
We had a good catch up before he was carried out because he had passed out drunk. It didn't matter as I would see him tubing over the next couple of days.
The next day was tubing day. The reason people come to Vang Viang is to hire a tractor innertube, jump into the river and float down it stopping at the various bars along the way.
The best tip I received was not to bother with the tube because no-one really makes it past bar number 5 and it is all within 5 mins walk of each other.
We jumped into a tuk tuk and headed for the river. As we arrived free shots of whisky were handed out and the party began.
I don't think I can do it all justice by trying to explain it here. Essentially it is like this:
bamboo bars by the water, loud music of all genres, water swings (people falling off and getting badly injured because we are all p*ssheads and some are major druggies), water slides, 1000's of people enjoying themselves, you just walk around in a pair of shorts all day and night because you don't want to lose anything, people playing drunken football, walking into every bar and seeing people you know because you met them in Thailand, on the slow baot to Laos or in the previous days tubing (I went 3 days in a row). 
And then once the sun goes down it all changes. The party seems to increase as people dance around fires to tunes like Insomnia by Faithless, under the moon and the stars whilst continuing to consume buckets of whatever they like, it is all quite carnal and I just loved it.
3 days of tubing was more than enough but I had such a great time and met so many brilliant people even if some of them were completely mental.
We met 2 Aregentinian girls on the first day and they became part of our extended group. They were great fun, Toia spoke fluent English (embarrassed again) and Mery had broken English but knew enough to declare myself and her the 'King and Queen of the River' because we tackled all of the water swings together.
As for the water swings - the second one along the river was bloody high. As you fly through the air like a trapeze artist you suddenly realise what you are doing. Once you let go you just have the pray that you make a decent entrance or else the crowds watching (and throwing ice cubes at you) will take great pleasure in mocking you. Once you get out you are alive with adrenalin and all of a sudden the weariness of the booze disappears and you know it's time for another bucket. Whhhooooooo-hooooooooo.

As usual with me, one of my swings did not pass without incident. Once you enter river the current can be quite strong, so workers at the bars throw in plastic bottles attached to a rope for you to grab onto and they pull you in.
So the worker throws the bottle to me and it hit my right on the nose and split it. All I could see was claret.
What was worse was the geezer who throw the bottle then indicated that I must've hit it on a rock when falling into the water! Cheeky git.
Once I was out, Mery Queen of the River came to my aid and helped to stem the flow of blood. It wasn't a bad cut but when you are wet it just doesn't stop bleeding.
About 20mtrs away, Nolh saw my predicament from atop a bamboo platform and thought it would be funny to throw an ice cube at me. I am not joking when I say that I watched it sail towards me in slow motion and it hit me exactly on the cut and split it open again. There was nothing I could do except to go up to him and congratulate him on such a great shot and to try to stop the flow of blood.

So that was tubing. You really need to be in it to realise what it is truly like but it made me feel like an excited kid again on my first ventures to Ibiza at 18yrs with the lads - mind you it could be all of the 'goods' in the red bull that made me feel that way.
I had a great time with my friends, Nolh, Dave, Clemens, Peter, Lieve and the rest of team Holland, Toia and Mery, queen and princess of the river, Tom, Tom Tom (amazingly funny bloke from England and as camp as you like), the 4 Oz girls, Elander and Laura, let alone all of the other 'faces' including a guy who pooed himself and another guy who had 2 mushroom shakes and then took 64 valium to counteract the effect - that is one mental dude.

After 4 days in Vang Viang I said my goodbyes to everyone and headed to the capital Vientiane which is where I am now. I had to leave because I go back to Bangkok tomorrow to meet a very good friend from Norway who is here for 2 wks. We will travel around the south islands together and I dare say that I will fall in love with those as well. The problem with the islands is that the parties are even more crazy, so who knows what state I will be in after those 2 wks with Unni. Oh well, someone has to do it.

I don't have much to say about the capital, it is a bit boring, but I did have a good night out last night with Peter, Lieve, Elander, Laura and Dave who had just turned up.
We ventured various hooker bars and I got touched up by a man - I wouldn't mind but he hadn't even made the effort to be a lady boy.

I was also told by Lieve last night, who is 18yrs old, Dutch and beautiful that she loves me but I am far too old for her! Ha ha, how nice is that? It's all good though, I have hung around with her for about 3 wks now and it is amazing in that space of time how close you become to people, so I see her as a really good mate, even like a little sister (don't worry Beck, you are still number one).
Still, we have agreed to marry in 7 yrs when she is 25 and I will still be a young 38!!! That is scary.

So that is that. Back to Thailand tomorrow.
I can't believe that I have been travelling for just over 4 mths now. It has flown by and in 1 months time I will be landing in Oz to be greeted by my 4 favourite Oz girls at the airport to then embark on a girls weekend out in Sydney.
How time flys when you truly are having fun!