3 countries in 3 weeks…
After having moved away from home at 18 to live in Bristol for 3 and a half years, jetting off to the other side of the world for ten months and traveling Thailand with my beloved girl scouts, I was about to embark on a very different journey.
I haven’t lived with or spent more than a few days alone with my mum in 5 years and we were about to spend 3 weeks traveling SE Asia together. We can be quite similar in personality for example; we’re both very creative, enjoy nature, love to shop, we share an interest in culture and heritage over sitting in a towns token Irish pub (likely to be called O’briens) and at the end of the day (often also at the beginning of the day) I can sit down with my mum and enjoy unlimited beverages. So it’s safe to say I wasn’t worried at all about backpacking through Asia with my old gal. I say old, however people thought we were sisters on multiple occasions!
Cece met me in Bangkok where upon her arrival I burst into tears as she was two hours late. With my very wild imagination I was picturing the Thai mafia taking her hostage. We started the adventure off with dinner and drinks on the famous Khao San road, where a furry creature ran across my mum’s feet, a rat the size of a cat. The following day my friends from uni joined us. As we were accidentally staying in one of Bangkok’s famous red light districts, Silom, we spent the second night strolling the streets of Patpong. However, we did find a very civilised bar where we all caught up over tequila and classic ‘traveling Thailand bev’ Changs. My mum even got a free eyebrow treatment by one of the local ladyboys. We had a very interesting walk home as we tried to find our hotel, whilst trying to get every piece of our drunk food into our mouths and avoid Bangkoks scattering city dwellers. After three days of temples, the floating market and everyday Khao San road, we got on the sleeper train to the lazy city, Laos.
Laos; Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang…
After a blissful nights sleep for moi and a not so great sleep for my mum, we were awoken by the train crew. They aggressively and forcefully banged on the our cell doors as they shouted at us to wake the fuck up.
Okay I may be dramatising the scene a bit, but the majority is true.
As we piled off the train in Non Kai, we were summoned to a tiny van with only 7 passenger seats and 10 passengers piling there bags into the back. The driver insisted there was enough room to squeeze us all in, so we practically sat on strangers laps for the rest of the journey to Vientiane. Reviews describe Vientiane as having a very French esk feel to it. My mum and I thought of it as a ghost town, we visited temples and strolled down the Mekong river seeing hardly anyone en route. The atmosphere picked up in the evening, with a night market and live bands playing to the silent flow of the Mekong, beautiful hey? We thought it was only right to indulge in a turmeric facial to end the night.
I think my mum was born to be a backpacker…
Thankfully a very spacious bus came to pick us up and I even got upgraded to front seat. Which turns out not so great when the driver plays dodgems with every vehicle on the road.
If you’ve traveled with me you’ll know that conversations on a long journey are a no no. I had Biebs blaring within the first few minutes of the drive.
My mum on the other hand spent the whole, and I mean every minute of the journey (because I could hear them through my tunes) chatting to a lady we’d met in the lobby. As we got off the bus in Vang Vieng my mum was exchanging numbers and organising our evening of dinner and drinks.
Two of the very many friends we made on the adventure. We in fact did meet them for dinner and drinks and had a fantastic night, which ended in a bar where you receive free shots with every drink and can order ICE and ketamine from the menu!?
We stayed at an eco lodge which was right on the river, way out of town, local people and cows were our only company. This was by far was my favourite accommodation and upon arrival there was a party by the river as the locals had come for their Sunday sesh. We strolled through the back paths and stumbled upon very basic local houses with no furniture, sat next to mansions with multiple cars in the driveway. Ladies would come and wash their clothes in the river as their children would wash their bodies. Now I’m writing it, I love it even more, it was far from the rush of BKK and didn’t have the silence like the daytime in Vientiane. Children would be laughing, parents taking their babies for their first swim in the river and the local musician was singing a ballard for his friends and family. In fact I wish we stayed longer cause it was so gorgeous!
However, “We hoped off a plane at LAX with the dream and…” had to be done, it was in my head. Less glamorous, we hoped on a 3 hour late night bus too Luang Prabang…
5 hours later we arrived in Luang Prabang at 5am, just in time to see the monks receive their offerings at 6am. We couldn’t check in until the afternoon so we dumped our bags and waited for the monks. Now I have mixed feelings about this as there were NO LOCAL PEOPLE, just tourists. The only locals were the ones selling ‘offerings’, which were bags of cooked rice and cereal bars. As the monks arrived many tourists surrounded them with their large cameras. Myself, my mum and two new friends my mum had made (of course), respectively just spectated. We did buy offerings, but it didn’t feel right…
1. There wasn’t enough to go around.
2. It wasn’t proper food.
3. We were forced into purchasing.
I’m glad we experienced it and it did intrigue me and encouraged me to learn more about Buddhism. However I think it has become a tourist attraction, an opportunity for people to make money out of something that is meant to be sacred.
Following this it was only 7am so we set off to explore what Luang Prabang had to offer. Stumbling across colourful food markets with the dusky background of the early morning dew. We discovered very European streets, temples, a theatre and a bar overlooking the river. Go to Utopia bar, restaurant and take a yoga class in the very chilled outdoor surroundings.
The following day we set off early for our morning cycle ride to the waterfall Tad sei. My mum insisted on having a pretty bike instead of a more practical mountain bike. Twenty minutes into this decision I strongly believe she regretted it as she dragged her bike up the rocky roads. After passing through a small village, a pineapple plantation, a weaving factory and a small forest trek, we finally arrived at the waterfall. It was smaller than expected but still aesthetically pleasing, we had a swim in the very cold waters before we set off again. As we strolled back to base my mum spotted her first elephant playing in the water and splashing the passerbys (in this case, US!). The return journey was more blissful as the wind was blowing and we barely had to cycle as we simply glided downhill. Sore and sweaty we washed up and headed to the market for a bloody delicious buffet. You have to go to this buffet, it’s a very long alley with many stalls all pretty much serving the same thing, so much variety and so damn cheap! The next morning we said farewell to Laos and got on a plane to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
We rocked up to our hotel early afternoon and upon arrival was told the toilet was broken and we will be upgraded to the bigger, better hotel. Don’t mind if you do sir. 🙂
They drove us to our new pad and we went straight for some poolside cocktails, because what else can you do after flight. We spent the evening strolling the streets and markets of course, as you can never see too many night markets. We found ourselves on pub street where we just embraced the atmosphere whilst picking ourselves up a few bits and bobs from the stalls.
The following morning we were up early for our amazing buffet breakfast, which by far was the best of all the hotels we’d stayed in. We then jumped in our Tuk Tuk for our temple tour of; Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. I found Angkor Wat impressive, however Angkor Thom (the Angela jolie, as the locals call it) was more up my street. The trees and potential of getting lost in the forestry is what I loved most. We were well and truly templed out by the time we were done and I wanted to get out of tourist central as the staring was sending me into a very dark place! I found that if your not Asian you will get stared at, people will take photos without asking, they’ll point and some will even laugh at you for being different to them. A little bit on this matter as in Cambodia, myself and my mum found it a massive problem and very uncomfortable. I’ve been to countries before were being brown skinned isn’t the norm, for example in Turkey on multiple occasions myself and my sister’s were asked for photos and told how amazing our skin is. However in Cambodia I felt intimated, the difference in colour wasn’t intriguing but they found it funny and alien. This behaviour kind of tainted my view on Cambodia as every time I stepped out of the hotel I was the object of laughter. However this didn’t stop us from exploring Phnom Pehn!
We only managed to spend one full day here as the main stop was to see the killing fields. The afternoon we arrived we as usual strolled around checking out what was on offer, we visited the palace and surroundings. We had a yucky dinner in a random restaurant opposite the river so treated ourselves to some ciders to make up for it.
The next day we went to the killing fields, our tuk tuck driver however stopped off at all the monuments along the way informing us of their history which was a nice added extra. The killing fields was an experience I won’t forget, I was eager to go as I knew nothing of the history and wanted to learn about it. I highly recommend this. You are given headphones and follow the numbers, including breaks where you can sit and listen to real life stories. As we strolled around we were faced with strewn clothes, friendship bracelets and stories buried into the trees. This experience struck up an interesting discussion between myself and my mum as we learnt of the children’s brains being smashed against the trees, by selfish savages or by people who were protecting their families?
After an emotional day we headed back and had a delicious salmon dinner, with red wine, ready to embark on the final part of the adventure, time to relax…Koh Chang…
We made it to Koh Chang after 10 hours worth of driving, queuing, boats and two tuk tuks. Considering my mum grew up in Nigeria and loves nature walks, I’ve never seen a woman so scared of a rather large lizard in the bathroom. We left Mr lizard in our room while we went on a food hunt.
Fortunately we met an old couple on the way and they took us to a very local restaurant with a bubbly old thai lady. We ate and they then offered to show us their hotel. I personally thought this was dodgy from the minute they offered, especially as when we arrived the hotel was not as perfect as they portrayed! The husband offered us a glass of wine, my mum of course never turns down a glass of red. However, I dunno who I learnt from but I politely declined the beverage from the STRANGER. He poured me a glass anyway which I again politely refused and then made up a story of how red wine disagrees with me. Of course I was being dramatic and they weren’t trying to invite us for a gang bang but better be safe than sorry!
The next morning we asked our friendly ladyboy friend Mae if we could swap rooms and she placed us in paradise, we had a gorgeous balcony with the perfect view of the pool and comfortable lounging mats. We headed off to white sands beach for the day where we indulged in cocktails and beer, sun worshipping and sea volleyball with large German men. I personally wouldn’t say white sands beach is horrible but it wasn’t the best beach on the island.
We had a very relaxing day on day two, lounging by the pool all morning, sipping wine on our balcony before going for a stroll to coconut beach. I think this beach was more for the elderly as all I was seeing was … elderly. It was quite calm and had a nice scenic view however not much atmosphere.
We took a long trip to heaven on our final day. Lonely beach was a fantastic recommendation as it was both mine and my mum’s favourite beach on the island. It took a while to get there, but it was a bloody good drive, and when we arrived it was worth it. We had to climb a very make shift bridge to actually get on the beach but it led to a secluded little reggae bar. We found our spot and spent the next few hours immersed in reggae, our books, a chang, the sun and the sea. We eventually got up and walked the rest of the beach which had just enough people, and just enough music to create the perfect atmosphere. Please go here.
The night got a bit crazy when we turnt up a Chang’s to get inked. My mum designed my tattoo and Chang brought it to life. He kept telling me how much it’ll hurt and I insisted it’ll hurt no more than my other rib tattoo, man was I wrong. I was in a lot of pain, mainly as he proceeded drag the needles through the flabbier bits of skin. But I was more than happy with the final product and went for a romantic celebratory sea view ( quite literally, as the table was on the sand and the sea was just inches away) dinner and cocktails.
* Cocktails, one of the things I loved about traveling SE asia is that we can afford to drink cocktails everynight, because they are so damn cheap.
Bye bye mummy in Bangkok…
We spent our last day together in Bangkok’s MBK shopping centre
“I’m in heaven, I’m in heaven with youuu”.
It was SO nice to be back in a city, with a very large shopping centre. As our feet started to hurt and the the time ticked away, we went to get ready for the final feast.
I wish more than anything that I could remember the name of this place, but I can’t. We went to a massive and extravagant resort near the main airport in BKK, it was the most over the top place I have ever seen. I mean they went all out, a live band, the tables in the restaurant spread across into the man made lake, clocks and horse statues everywhere! And you’ll never guess what they’d imported to the lake… fucking swans. Whilst I was trying to enjoy my salmon Caesar salad and my signature side of fries I was distracted by the romance in the air and the fucking SWANS. Thank goodness it started to rain and we were moved inside, moved to a table for about ten people for the two of us! We reminisced over our journey and laughed at our surroundings before heading back.
4am and she was off 😦
Thank you Cece for being the best travel buddy, photographer, tattoo drawer, wing woman and Mum ever!
See you next year babes.