A Travellerspoint blog

March 2009

Vientiane, 30 March - 2 April 2009

Its over 9 hours to do the 400 km journey from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. The "VIP bus" was better than we had expected, but the road is very windy through the mountains through the first half of the trip. No worries - sick plastic bags handed out to everyone! Some superb scenery but very hazy due to burning off large amounts of the countryside.

Vientiane is pleasant enough without having a great deal of interest. Its just like a small provincial town - difficult to think its a capital city. There's a few wats to see, quiet streets to stroll around, and the Mekong - but the river is not too pretty at the moment as its very low and there is an enormous digger carving out much of the riverbank just now.

A relaxing few days ...

Heading to the deep south (of Laos) next where there may be problems with internet access ... ...

Luang Prabang to Vientiane by VIP bus!

Luang Prabang to Vientiane by VIP bus!


Luang Prabang to Vientiane by VIP bus 2

Luang Prabang to Vientiane by VIP bus 2


Luang Prabang to Vientiane by VIP bus 3

Luang Prabang to Vientiane by VIP bus 3


Luang Prabang to Vientiane by VIP bus 4

Luang Prabang to Vientiane by VIP bus 4


Vientiane Street   our hotel (right)

Vientiane Street + our hotel (right)


Vientiane - Champs Elyses?!

Vientiane - Champs Elyses?!


That Luang

That Luang


Wat somewhere

Wat somewhere


Wat Sisaket

Wat Sisaket


Wat Sisaket 2

Wat Sisaket 2


Wat Sisaket 3

Wat Sisaket 3


Wat Sisaket 4

Wat Sisaket 4


Wat somewhere else

Wat somewhere else


Wat somewhere else again

Wat somewhere else again


Wat Pra Kheo

Wat Pra Kheo

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Luang Prabang, 26 - 30 March 2009

We flew from Bangkok to Luang Prabang in Laos on Bangkok Airways - "Asia's boutique airline" (!) - in a propellor job. It was Lindsey's birthday and ... they served wine with the meal and were generous with refills !!! Our first wine since the plane to India on 13/2/09!

After the hussle and bussle of India and Bangkok (in their different ways), Luang Prabang was an absolute delight. Beautiful setting next to the Mekong, relaxed and friendly people, tranquil wats, great night (handicrafts) market, excellent food at restaurants on the banks of the Mekong, two great trips: out to the Kwang Si waterfalls (wonderful swimming in the pools below the falls), and on a relaxing boat trip up river to some really characterful caves with hundreds of Buddhas.

Lovely.

Bangkok Airways - Asia's Boutique Airline !

Bangkok Airways - Asia's Boutique Airline !


Luang Prabang - Mekong

Luang Prabang - Mekong


Luang Prabang - Night Marketand main street

Luang Prabang - Night Marketand main street


Luang Prabang - Night Market

Luang Prabang - Night Market


Luang Prabang - Night Market 2

Luang Prabang - Night Market 2


Luang Prabang - Main street

Luang Prabang - Main street


Luang Prabang Side Street

Luang Prabang Side Street


Mount Phousi

Mount Phousi


Sun setting from Mount Phousi

Sun setting from Mount Phousi


Luang Prabang - Mekong 2

Luang Prabang - Mekong 2


Kwang Si Waterfalls

Kwang Si Waterfalls


Kwang Si Waterfalls 2

Kwang Si Waterfalls 2


Kwang Si Waterfalls   Lindsey

Kwang Si Waterfalls + Lindsey


Kwang Si Waterfalls 2

Kwang Si Waterfalls 2


Kwang Si Waterfalls 3

Kwang Si Waterfalls 3


Luang Prabang - Mekong 3

Luang Prabang - Mekong 3


Luang Prabang - Wat 1

Luang Prabang - Wat 1


Luang Prabang - Wat - Monks at prayer

Luang Prabang - Wat - Monks at prayer


Luang Prabang - Wat 2

Luang Prabang - Wat 2


Luang Prabang - Wat 3

Luang Prabang - Wat 3


Boat Trip up Mekong to Pak Ou Caves

Boat Trip up Mekong to Pak Ou Caves


Boat Trip up Mekong to Pak Ou Caves 2

Boat Trip up Mekong to Pak Ou Caves 2


Boat Trip up Mekong to Pak Ou Cave 3

Boat Trip up Mekong to Pak Ou Cave 3


Boat Trip up Mekong to Pak Ou Caves 4

Boat Trip up Mekong to Pak Ou Caves 4


Pak Ou Caves site

Pak Ou Caves site


Pak Ou Caves site 2

Pak Ou Caves site 2


Pak Ou Caves boat landing

Pak Ou Caves boat landing


Inside Pak Ou Caves

Inside Pak Ou Caves


Inside Pak Ou Caves 2

Inside Pak Ou Caves 2


Inside Pak Ou Caves 3

Inside Pak Ou Caves 3


Mekong Fisherman

Mekong Fisherman


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e1


Sunset beer by the Mekong

Sunset beer by the Mekong


Sunset by the Mekong

Sunset by the Mekong


Evening dining by the Mekong

Evening dining by the Mekong

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Bangkok, 22 - 26 March 2009

Such a contrast between the trip out to Calcutta airport, and its small fairly primitive airport, and the large sparkling modern airport and the highways and flyovers etc on the way into town at Bangkok ... and between India and SE Asia!

A real plus in Bangkok was the place we stayed ... SUK11 Backpackers Hostel in a 'soy' off the Sokhumvit Road. A four storey concrete block converted into a place of character and originality. Accommodation for everyone - from dormitory to comfortable a/c double with bathroom. Friendly, very well organised and run, very clean, excellent breakfast included, ... ... We were not thinking of staying in this part of Bangkok but a lady who we bumped into in Jaipur ... then Agra ... then Varanasi, recommended it strongly (having stayed there 13 times!).

The area is pretty lively and handily connected to other parts of town by: the skyway rapid transport, metro, fast canal boat and, if all else failed, the very cheap Bangkok taxis. You tend to see quite a lot of western men of all ages, shapes and sizes with Thai girls! In fact more mixed couples than western ones sitting down to eat at the food markets ...

We limited ourselves to three full days in Bangkok, having been there a few times before (over 20 years ago!). One day was spent getting Cambodian and Vietnamese visas organised. The other two days we did some sight seeinng: - the fabulous Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace complex - a riot of colours, shapes, and beautifully maintained. - Wat Po (enormous reclining Buddha), Chinatown, and the 3 metre high solid gold Buddha at Wat Tramit - only found in the 1950's (when it was covered in plaster (to hide the gold) and got dropped, when being moved by crane, to reveal the gold beneath!!).

Enjoyed rather Bangkok more then expected - and looking forward to a couple more days there after our Laos/Cambodia/Vietnam excursions.

Bangkok Airport Arrivals

Bangkok Airport Arrivals


Wat Arun from River Express

Wat Arun from River Express


Golden Buddha - 3 metres high - solid gold!

Golden Buddha - 3 metres high - solid gold!


suk11 backpackers hostel 1

suk11 backpackers hostel 1


suk11 backpackers hostel 2

suk11 backpackers hostel 2


suk11 backpackers hostel 3

suk11 backpackers hostel 3


Typical traffic on Sukhumvit Road

Typical traffic on Sukhumvit Road


Faster by boat!

Faster by boat!


Central Bangkok by boat

Central Bangkok by boat


Central Bangkok by boat 2

Central Bangkok by boat 2


Downtown from River Express

Downtown from River Express


Wat Po

Wat Po


Wat Po - Reclining Buddha

Wat Po - Reclining Buddha


Wat Po - Reclining Buddha 2

Wat Po - Reclining Buddha 2


Wat Po - Reclining Buddha 3

Wat Po - Reclining Buddha 3


Wat Po - Reclining Buddha - Feet first

Wat Po - Reclining Buddha - Feet first


Food hall

Food hall


Food selection

Food selection


Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 1

Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 1


Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 2

Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 2


Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 3

Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 3


Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 4

Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 4


Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 5

Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 5


Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 6

Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 6


Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 7

Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 7


Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 8

Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 8


Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 9

Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 9


Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 10

Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 10


Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 11

Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 11


Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 12

Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 12


Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 13

Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 13


Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 14

Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 14


Wat Phra Keo - Emerald Buddha 1

Wat Phra Keo - Emerald Buddha 1


Wat Phra Keo - Emerald Buddha 2

Wat Phra Keo - Emerald Buddha 2


Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 15

Wat Phra Keo and Grand Palace 15


Grand Palace 1

Grand Palace 1


Grand Palace 2

Grand Palace 2

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Calcutta, 19 - 21 March 2009

The last of the overnight train journeys- a long but comfortable one - brought us in to a chaotic Hourah station early in the morning. Hundreds of those dear Ambbassador taxis outside but the getting the prepaid taxi to the guest house in the Sudder Street travellers enclave was painless. We were not too sure about accommodation in Calcutta, so had emailed a few and chosen one in advance, and this turned out to be quite OK and, if uninspiring.

Sudder Street is handily located between the business district and te colonial district and just off the main Chowringhee thoroughfare - with the usual infrastructure for travellers. There is also the Fairlawn Hotel there, which still runs a bit like it must have done in the days of the Raj - lots of old bric a brac from the colonial days, set meal times etc, (maybe we should have stayed there but for reasons best known to ourselves, we didn't) ... anyway they have a really nice leafy garden area out front which is ideal for a sundowner beer or two ... ... and, joy of joys, beer in Calcutta was the cheapest we had found in India!

After the horror stories one gets about Cacutta, we were pleasantly surprised by the place - it seems to have a more southern feel and the people seemed pretty friendly and relaxed (by India standards!). I suppose the business district and the colonial downtown are not the places to find the worst of the deprivation in Calcutta! One day, we did head away to the river and jumped on a ferry ... which took us up and across the River Hoogly to Hourah railway staion, then walked back across the Hourah bridge (which is apparently the world's busiest for pedestrians (!) - around 100000 cross during the rush hour). We took a couple of photos there and then three policemen came up and pointed to the "Photogrraphy Strictly Forbidden" sign! Over the other side of the bridge it got pretty busy and hectic, so we did get to see another side of Calcutta - albeit not the real slum areas.

Bye bye India!

Sudder Street 1

Sudder Street 1


Sudder Street 2

Sudder Street 2


Sudder Street 3

Sudder Street 3


Sudder Street 4

Sudder Street 4


Fairlawn Hotel - Sip a beer and think of the Raj!

Fairlawn Hotel - Sip a beer and think of the Raj!


Sudder Street 5

Sudder Street 5


Calcutta Transport - Human drawn rickshaw

Calcutta Transport - Human drawn rickshaw


Calcutta Transport - Tram in Colonial District

Calcutta Transport - Tram in Colonial District


Calcutta Transport - Hindustan Ambassador Taxis

Calcutta Transport - Hindustan Ambassador Taxis


Calcutta Transport - Calcutta City Bus

Calcutta Transport - Calcutta City Bus


Calcutta Transport  - Various

Calcutta Transport - Various


Sign on road - Calcutta welcomes careful drivers!!

Sign on road - Calcutta welcomes careful drivers!!


Colonial District - Writers Building

Colonial District - Writers Building


Colonial District - High Court Building

Colonial District - High Court Building


Outside High CourtTypewriters still going strong!

Outside High CourtTypewriters still going strong!


Colonial District - Stopping for a coke!

Colonial District - Stopping for a coke!


Colonial District - Street foodstalls

Colonial District - Street foodstalls


Hoogly River at Babughat

Hoogly River at Babughat


Ferry to Hourah (  Lindsey)

Ferry to Hourah (+ Lindsey)


Hourah Bridge

Hourah Bridge


Ferry   Hourah Bridge

Ferry + Hourah Bridge


Hourah Ferry Landing

Hourah Ferry Landing


Hourah Railway Station Forecourt

Hourah Railway Station Forecourt


Hourah Bridge - Photography Strictly Prohibited!

Hourah Bridge - Photography Strictly Prohibited!


Hourah Bridge - 2

Hourah Bridge - 2


Market area near Hourah Bridge 1

Market area near Hourah Bridge 1


Market area near Hourah Bridge 2

Market area near Hourah Bridge 2


Market area near Hourah Bridge 3

Market area near Hourah Bridge 3


A Calcutta Street

A Calcutta Street


A Calcutta Street - Would you stay at Mini Hotel?!

A Calcutta Street - Would you stay at Mini Hotel?!


Checkout the electric wiring!!

Checkout the electric wiring!!


Busy back street!

Busy back street!

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Varanasi, 15 - 18 March 2009

The road/rail journey from Khajuraho to Varanasi is particularly gruelling so we opted for a 40 minute flight instead! Cheap and painless with Jet Airways.

We had a dear old Hindustan Ambassador (looks like a relic from the 50's) taxi from the airport into town, but then had to walk the last kilometer or so as the street near the Ganges was too hectic for a car and then the last part was down winding alleyways to the guest house - superbly located by the Ganges and right next to the busiest ghat. The billing it gives itself of "A palace on river" is perhaps a bit 'inflated' but it was comfortable and friendly, with a good restarant on the roof - a lovely spot to sit and watch the scene over breakfast, a cold beer, dinner ...

Varanasi is an extraordinary place. The area we stayed in was a congested maze of alleys behind and leading down to the waterfront ghats. Its a very holy place and draws large numbers of pilgrims who come to bathe in the Ganges from the ghats. Others use the Ganges as an integral part of their lives, to wash themselves in, swim in, to do the washing in, ... ... and to wash their dead in before burning them and scattering their ashes into the river. Indeed, large numbers are cremated in the open every day at the principal cremation ghat - the scene, with large piles of wood for burning, raised platforms at different levels (dependent upon caste) for the fires, the fires burning, the funeral entourages, and the rest ... really looks medieval. As well as walking along the ghats, and the teeming alleys and streets. trying to take in the scene, we enjoyed a couple of trips out onto the Ganges, at dawn and in the late afternoon - being rowed up and down past the principal ghats. Its relaxing and you get great views ... just the two of us and the same guy rowing us both times. Of couse, getting up at 06h00 is a bit of a shock to the system but we were woken up by everyone else doing the same thing at that time, and if that was not enough, the bell ringing and chanting from the small temple in the alley

Varanasi - certainly not always pretty to look at but unmissable!

Ganges from Guest House Rooftop Early Morning 1

Ganges from Guest House Rooftop Early Morning 1


Ganges from Guest House Rooftop Early Morning 2

Ganges from Guest House Rooftop Early Morning 2


Ganges from Guest House Rooftop Early Morning 3

Ganges from Guest House Rooftop Early Morning 3


Ghats from Guest House Rooftop

Ghats from Guest House Rooftop


Along the Ghats 1

Along the Ghats 1


Along the Ghats 2

Along the Ghats 2


Along the Ghats 3

Along the Ghats 3


Along the Ghats 4

Along the Ghats 4


Along the Ghats 5

Along the Ghats 5


and you think your job's shitty!  Cowdung patties

and you think your job's shitty! Cowdung patties


Along the Ghats 6

Along the Ghats 6


Along the Ghats 7

Along the Ghats 7


Along the Ghats 8

Along the Ghats 8


Old town 1

Old town 1


Old town 2

Old town 2


Old town 3

Old town 3


Old town 4

Old town 4


along the alleys 1

along the alleys 1


along the alleys 2

along the alleys 2


along the alleys 3

along the alleys 3


Ghats Boat trip Evening 1

Ghats Boat trip Evening 1


Ghats Boat trip Evening 2

Ghats Boat trip Evening 2


Ghats Boat trip Evening 3

Ghats Boat trip Evening 3


Ghats Boat trip Evening 4

Ghats Boat trip Evening 4


Ghats Boat trip Evening 5

Ghats Boat trip Evening 5


Ghats Boat trip Evening 6

Ghats Boat trip Evening 6


Ghats Boat trip Dawn

Ghats Boat trip Dawn


Ghats Boat trip Dawn 2

Ghats Boat trip Dawn 2


Ghats Boat trip Dawn 3

Ghats Boat trip Dawn 3


Ghats Boat trip Dawn 4

Ghats Boat trip Dawn 4


Ghats Boat trip Dawn 5

Ghats Boat trip Dawn 5


Ghats Boat trip Dawn 6

Ghats Boat trip Dawn 6


Ghats Boat trip Dawn 7

Ghats Boat trip Dawn 7


Ghats Boat trip Dawn 8

Ghats Boat trip Dawn 8


Ghats Boat trip Dawn 9

Ghats Boat trip Dawn 9


Ghats Boat trip Dawn 10

Ghats Boat trip Dawn 10


Ghats Boat trip Dawn 11

Ghats Boat trip Dawn 11


Ghats Boat trip Dawn 12

Ghats Boat trip Dawn 12


Ghats Boat trip Dawn 13

Ghats Boat trip Dawn 13


Ghats Boat trip Dawn 14

Ghats Boat trip Dawn 14

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)