Months ago we planned out a rough intinery for our 6 week trip through Thailand and Laos to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Then I looked at our dates and realised that we would be riding round the Laos countryside during Songkran. The Laos (and Thai) New Year festival is celebrated by pouring water over friends and family, to symbolically wash away the strife of the last year. Somewhere along the way, this has turned into soaking anybody you see with as much water is possible. Including those riding past you on motorcycles. We knew we’d be a big target for those with buckets, hoses and super soakers…was this a good idea? We decided to go for it, the attraction of Konglor Cave was too much to resist, and so we rented a couple of bikes and headed out into the country.
Starting on the sunny shores of Koh Phi Phi and ending up at the ancient ruins of Angkor; we spent 5 and a half weeks making our way through Thailand, Laos and Cambodia with Matt's sister Lauren and her boyfriend, Tom.
When we leave each place we always ask each other 'best and worst?' so we thought we'd share our highs and lows with you...
We were in Chiang Rai and we wanted to get to the UNESCO Hertitage Site of Luang Prabang. We could take a long and windy bus journey, race there on a dangerous speedboat or spend two days drifting down the Mekong on the ‘slow boat’.
In all honestly, we probably didn’t make the most of Luang Prabang. One of our group was really sick and morale suffered. An action packed stay was out of the question. However, if it had to happen anywhere in Laos, Luang Prabang was probably the best place for it; it’s certainly a very attractive spot. The mixture of Buddhist temples and colonial architecture sandwiched in between two rivers make the streets an ideal place to stroll with a fresh fruit shake. There are plenty of markets, shops and cafes to keep you occupied as well.
On our third day in Chiang Rai we hired some twist-and-go scooters and headed for the hills.
We’d asked our friendly guesthouse where would be a good place to drive and they’d recommended heading for Doi Maesalong. Doi is the Thai word for Mountain, and our host told us it was a nice road, with scenic views of the Northern hills which dominate the border regions between Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.
It’s a really liberating feeling riding out to somewhere new with no specific destination in mind. As soon as we got off the main Highway, the road became more rural and certainly more windy!
We saw some signs for Choui Fong Tea Plantation and decided we’d check it out. The small road which wound through the forest was very quiet and peaceful and it soon opened up into rolling hills covered in neat lines of tea plants. We followed the little winding road to the Plantation HQ and had a little wonder among the bushes. It was very quiet and very beautiful.
March seemed like a marathon month. Time, of course moves slowly and quickly at the same time but the last four weeks right now at least have felt particularly long. This puts paid to the old saying ‘times flies when you’re having fun’ because we’ve been having loads of it!
Of course, that’s if examining, interviewing and reporting on small children qualifies as fun, which in our book it does. The month kicked off with final exams for our students at Anuban Nakhon Sawan. The kids we teach are quite young, so the whole thing just went over their heads as they got excited about the impending holidays but for the older students at school it was a time of real stress.
It was also quite stressful for us as we anxiously marked the test papers and hoped the kids had shown some improvement. We also had to go through the process of writing reports for all of our students, which in Ruth’s case involves documenting some curious information; whether the kids can run and stop, walk in a straight line, draw a circle, put rubbish in the bin, throw and catch a ball, etc.