Friday, 4 February 2011


Thursday 3rd February 2011

MP3 track of the day: Song of Life - Leftfield

Weather: Very, very hot. I can't remember it being this hot when I was further south in Thailand. In one way I'm looking forward to leaving Laos and entering Cambodia as I can't wait to see Angkor Wat. However, one the other hand, if the weather is even hotter there than it is here it's going to be very hard work.

I would have slept better, if it wasn't for the acts of a persistent mosquito biting me six times during the night! I tried everything, Deet, killing the little git (when it was pitch black … never going to work) and eventually turning on the fan on the wall facing me. Mosquito's don't like fans and it seemed to do the trick, however I was a little worried about waking the others within the dorm (actually, if I'm honest, after the sixth bite I didn't really care).

I woke up just before my alarm was due to ring. I had a lovely hot shower and was ready for the mini-van ride. I hadn't seen Joe or Rachael this morning and so I politely knocked on their door to hear Rachael say that they were 'almost ready'. A tuk-tuk came to pick us up, from the hostel, bang on time. Within town we transferred to a mini-van and we were off.

The journey was quick, only an hour or so, and so we soon found ourselves abandoned at a ferry port. Well, when I say ferry port, I mean a 'Laos ferry port' which is where the water meets the sand, at a shallow point, where people can cross. Our boat was interesting to say the least; it was two wooden canoes tied together with a few planks of wood across and one bench. Eight of us were sat on this raft awaiting the driver; looking around I couldn't actually see an engine, which was a little alarming though it wasn't too far to the other coast to use a paddle. Eventually the captain came with said engine in his hands; he erected it onto the raft and we were off.

Once again we were crossing the 'Mekong River' and once again the view was stunning. Apart from Phonsavan every stop I've made within Laos I've been following the 'Mekong' and so I've seen it change from a fast flowing dirty brown colour to a slow moving blue colour. As we approached Champasak I could see huge mountains with jungle vegetation, palm trees and white sandy beaches … it all looked lovely. We weren't on the boat for long; we got off and headed up the road in-land. Champasak isn't a big place - it's really just one long road – and so we decided to walk into town and find a guesthouse ourselves, avoiding the cries from the tuk-tuk drivers to go with them.

The sun was coming into full force, the road was longer than any of us thought and so when we saw a tuk-tuk offering a free ride to a guesthouse we decided to go for it … I mean if it's a rubbish guesthouse it doesn't really matter as we would only be staying there one night.

It took us a good ten minutes to arrive at the guesthouse our tuk-tuk driver had chosen. The prices weren't too bad, 30,000 kip (£2.30) for my own double room, though it only had a cold shower (though it's so hot here it really doesn't matter). Joe and Rachael opted for a hot shower double room for 50,000 kip (though being two people it works out cheap than my room). The only problem with the guesthouse is a problem that haunts most of Laos; there are loads of stay dogs here and, to make things even more 'peachy', Joe and Rachael informed me that the one dragging it's bottom along the floor had worms … lovely! We then had breakfast where I gingerly eat a plain bread roll with some water.

I felt okay, a few stomach pains but I didn't know whether it was due to me feeling hungry or ill. After breakfast we booked our mini-van to the '4,000 islands', for tomorrow, and we got the guesthouse owners son to drive us to 'Wat Phou' for 80,000 kip (£5.30 between three of us). The journey was ten kilometers (six miles in a proper measurement) following the main, and probably only, road within Champasak. Looking out of the window there wasn't really anything exciting to see within the town. There was a hell of a lot of normal 'wats' (with quite a good looking 'wat' just outside our hostel) but nothing else. We went down a road consisting of 40% tarmac, 30% dirt and 30% pot holes, however the drive wasn't that uncomfortable.

Before entering 'Wat Phou' we had to stop off and purchase our entry tickets for 30,000 kip each. Afterwards our driver drove us as far as he could to the temple site. The driver asked to look at my watch and requested that could we be back in ninety minutes. No problem was our reply as we were already sweating just standing there. Before heading down the walking track to the temple I got out my camera – which I put around my neck -, erected my umbrella and held my bottle of water. It didn't take me very long to realized that I didn't have enough hands for all the stuff I needed however, if it was going to stop me from getting sun burnt so be it.

It didn't take long to reach the outskirts of the temple complex; directly in front of us was a path, with another to our right, with a pond in between them. Both paths went in the same direction and so we took the closest, making sure that we took the other one on the way back. When I walk I normally look down at the floor, and today that was a good thing. I suddenly stopped in my tracks to see a snake just lying on the floor in front of me. On closer inspection it was very small, and it also appeared dead, and maybe not poisonous … though I ain't Steve Erwin so how would I really know. We all took a photo of it and then moved on quickly.

Standing at the foot of the two main temples it didn't take a genius to work out that these temples weren't like the ones that I had seen throughout Laos. Many people call the 'Wat Phou' site a mini-Angkor Wat and if so, bring it on. The temples were made of stone and were in a very ruined state, which added to the overall affect of the area. The temples were set close to the mountains; with these lush green giants striking up into a lovely light-blue sky the whole scene was pretty beautiful. I was glad to have made the effort to come here. We continued past the temples and up a very old stoned path that ascended slowly. Towards the back of the path there were beautiful white trees, like the one in 'The Lord of the Rings – Return of the King', that just made the perfect photo … if only the tourist in the red jumper would move! We waited quite a while for tourists to go up and down the path until we could get as clearer shot as possible, though still this woman with a red jumper was sitting there … photoshop her out when I get home!

We continued our walk up this path until we met a load of steeper stone steps. Each step was a different depth and, due to the heat and humidity, it was pretty tough going. Once at the top we had a short break to catch our breaths and look at the view from on top of this hill … it was stunning. Looking back towards the mountains there was another smaller temple, the same ruined look as below, that seemed to still be in use. I went in, fully expecting Angelia Jolie around every corner with her tight shorts and two huge … guns.

Other tourists wanted to take photos of the temple and so we headed to the back of it to find the fountain (only disappointing thing about the whole area … it was just a long stoned pipe with a trickle of water running along it) and some shade. Looking at my watch we didn't have long left before we had to make our way back to the van, which was a shame. Sure it was hot up here however the view was stunning and it would have been nice to have brought some bottles of water up here, and a good book, and find some shade … never mind.

We made our way back down the dodgy stone steps and back past the two main temples, taking a final look before heading to the car park. Our driver was there to meet us and off we headed back to the guesthouse. The driver had the passenger window open which was a great relief after the hot, sticky, temple site. It wasn't long before we were back; Joe and Rachael sat down to chill whereas I took a few photos of the main road, and the 'Wat' on the opposite side of the road, before joining them for the rest of the day. Apart from 'Wat Phou' there isn't anything to see here.

I sat down and went through my photos from the temple whilst eating another bread roll for lunch. I didn't manage to finish said bread roll; I think it was because half of me felt full and the other half couldn't face anymore bread. With nothing to do, and the weather being so hot, Rachael, Joe and I sat down at a table, within the guesthouses restaurant area, over looking the 'Mekong River' playing a computer game until around 7pm. It was dark by then and as we looked around we could see hundreds of mosquito's, moths, geckos and a single frog swarming around the lights. As this was a open restaurant (i.e. no glass in the windows) there were thousands of mosquito's and moths with the geckos and frog ready to pounce. We had something to eat (I had a plain pancake as I couldn't face anymore bread) before retiring to Rachael and Joe's room for some TV. I left their room at around 9pm (making sure their rooms light was off before opening the door as not to attract unwanted visitors) and headed to my own place for an early night.

So tomorrow I'm off to the '4,000 islands' and I've managed to keep all my food down today (plus I feel fine). I'm not really that bothered about the islands however every backpacker I've met has raved about the area. I have been told that power is only available between 4pm and 10pm so internet might be limited too. Therefore you may not hear from me until I arrive in Siem Reap ... to visit Angkor Wat!

Toodle Pip!

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