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Bo 'n' Louise

A blog about one of our trips

The unprepared round-the-world tour starting 29th of June 2009.
First phase was from USA to South America on motorcycles. We made it, and the bikes are sold.
Second phase was the South Pacific... from island to island in old fashion backpacker style.
Third phase was around and around in Southeast Asia.
In fourth phase Louise went back to Denmark (August 2010) for work, while Bo continued in East Asia.
In fifth phase we were both on work, Louise in South America and Bo in Southeast Asia.
In the sixth phase Louise was in Denmark while Bo was making his way home through Russia.
By November 2010 both Louise and Bo were back in Denmark and an amazing journey has ended - but then there is always the next trip :-)

More yummy bits

Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia Posted on Wed, October 27, 2010 06:18:56

Not a deep-fried stick insect, but duck tongue with sesame seeds.

Hard to see, but it is pig uterus… yum yum.

More duck, this time a duck egg with embryo… still taste like egg, but the idea is a bit off.

Dried squid goes well to cold beer (the squids hang on the wooden rack).

Bo at work

Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia Posted on Wed, October 27, 2010 05:59:46

Just a proof that I actually do work while travelling – a three weeks trip through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

And here comes some random stuff from the trip.

The white long-nose is blocking the view for the sight, but it is Angkor Wat.

As a tour leader it is very important to be in matching colors as the flight – a flower in hair would have given me extra points.

Elevator weight warning… max 12 persons or 800 kilos (Cambodia, not China).

2nd sign; you can not stand on the toilet… Western people don’t get the squatting concept and Asian people don’t get the sitting concept.

Just a beer advisement from Laos… grrrr, teach me tiger.

Just one of our porters, who chose to eat lunch in a tree. (Vietnam)

Cambodia in a flash

Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia Posted on Fri, May 14, 2010 08:07:43

We have boiled down our time in Cambodia to this photo portfolio:

We had finally hit the beaten track on our way to Cambodia from Laos.

This was actual the Cambodian border post. The officers were of the greedy kind by overcharging on everything…. most of the other backpackers didn’t seem to mind though. We did!

As in Laos, squirrels are very popular. Even sun dried and crucified.

We still have the “biker blood” in us. This dirt bike was a part of a trek, where we first have to get to the jungle… trough dirt tracks and small villages.

Cambodian potholes has a taste for tourists.

As always, very fashionable (the bags are our jungle hammocks… made in USA!).

And finally some trekking through the semi-jungle.

Leeckes… boy, did they love me. Had to check my groin all the time, for you don’t want them there.

A bit of jungle cooking.

The famous jungle hammocks. When it started to rain during the night, Louise had to wakeup the guide and remind him that they were waterproof.

A bomb crater from the civil war with Khmer Rough.

Tribes are living in the area and they bury their dead in wonderful decorated tombs. A wooden carved figure of the deceased stand guard at the front… some with sunglasses, a cap or just very explicit genitals.

It was also dusty on the way back.

Just the usual family trip.

At Angkor we decided to see Beng Mealea, a less known temple.

And we were impressed. Bigger and covered in more jungle than any of the temples at Angkor Wat.

It was great… we loved it.

Most of central Cambodia is flat, dusty and hot… very hot!

No worries if you want the bike with the bus.

We made to the other end of the country and exited into modern Thailand, where roads are sealed and transport have air condition.

Laos – on two wheels

Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia Posted on Thu, May 13, 2010 03:28:33

Sabai-dii!! The children are yelling as we pass. They are waving vividly and start laughing hysterically when we wave back at them. We have gone on a 5 day motorcycle trip to the Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos.

We pass a number of stalls selling braided bamboo for roofing. Then numerous stalls selling durian, pineapple and jack fruit.
They don’t smell too good – but they love them here
Jack fruit in all sizes and shapes
And bananas..

Why 15 stalls all selling the exact same thing have to lie side by side along the road I will never be able to understand. Then we hear the sound of iron on iron – they are selling knifes – fresh of the bolt.
We stopped by an open air museum and met these lovely ladies

As evening approached we find ourselves a nice balcony overlooking a waterfall and the river where the activities are just picking up. The men are fishing, the kids are playing and bathing while the women are washing both themselves and the laundry before the sun settles behind the trees. A couple of pigs walks past on the brink and received a lot of yelling for taking en interest in the kids clothes.
Bo and Beerlao
It is not as easy as it looks – and you don’t catch a whole lot of fish either
Bathing Lao women

The rainy season is not far of and we have already had some fierce tropical showers in the city but out here in the countryside it is crispy dry. The houses are empty. They are only used for sowing and harvesting and I get the feeling that this is what it must feel like riding through the area around Tjernobyl. Not a soul or any sign of life at all. Just these lovely houses on stilts and brown dry fields. No one is waving here and it is easy to suddenly feel very lonely…

Typical house on stilts – except the emptiness
Sometimes they look like this..;-)

We rode past the local hardware store

Things to see and things you end up doing…
The sights along the way included a number of waterfalls, all beautiful on their own. There was also some war material from the Vietnam war on the list. It was a bit of the beaten track, and since we were there it was easy to choose to go a little bit further.. The two small Hondas hit the dirt roads. When all the signs started to be in Vietnamese and people stopped smiling it was time to turn around.

Complete with Russian and Vietnamese writing

The elusive plateau
On day 3 we were still riding in the same oven-temperatured lowlands and had even lost sight of the wall of the plateau and were starting to wonder if we would get to ride on it at all.

Hmm which way? – on the map there is only one straight road..

Asking for directions – we’re on the right track!

The following day we headed up a potholed dirt road after a filling of dried meat – potentially of barking dear – while watching the last drops of blood dribble from the cute little noses of a bunch of squirrels hanging, newly gutted, upside down in the next stall. It seems that one of the main reasons that there is so little wildlife in Laos is because it tastes so good..

The jungle that had once been surrounding the road had been chopped down and turned into charcoal, making what should have been a shady ride through the wilderness a slightly hot and depressing trip from one black patch to the next.

It is a hot dusty ride

Only the studs left along with the occasional blackened trunk was left.

Two dusty travellers with helmet hair and a beautiful waterfall

There might not be a whole lot of water – but it is huge – that tiny dot is Bo
Beautiful.. waterfall into a giant pit of green..
She really wanted a picture with the funny strangers.. We are SO smelly and dirty but maybe that just added a little spice to it all
A few waterfalls dropping out of more intact looking crispy green forest lightened up the day and in the late afternoon the terrain changed, the temperature dropped and a thundercloud lulled ominously at the horizon.
Water power station – Laos style

With so many other things going on we had barely noticed that the road had climbed and we had made it finally to the Bolaven plateu .

Here they grow coffee

Laos – land of smiles

Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia Posted on Wed, May 12, 2010 14:07:28

Lets begin with some more border scams.. Arriving at the Lao border we were asked to pay 2 USD more then the posted price. Being experienced travellers we would not be scamed again (we had just had to pay on the way out of Vietnam). It also said on the poster that on holidays and weekends they would charge 2 USD more.. and we had landed in the midst of the Lao New Year – so it all made sense..
Completely soaked on the bus from the border

What Lao New Year was as about we soon discovered – a whole nation in one giant water-throwing-battle!! Old and young, monks and teenagers.. everybody are throwing water and some throw coloured water and flour. Small groups of people in – by now – multicolored t-shirts have dragged giant speakers into the street and are dancing around at spontaneously looking parties drinking Beerlao – the national – and rather good – beer

Water fights everywhere – and we got a bit of colour too 🙂

The New Years celebrations had cast their spell on the different sightseeing spots as well. Supposedly normally tranquil places like caves and waterfalls had turned into festival scenes with hundreds of people with picnic baskets, kids and beerlao. And thrifty salesmen had come to sell chiken feet on sticks and other tit-bits. Oh yes – and more loud music from high-pitch-challenged giant speakers. Much enjoyed by the lao-lao (Lao rice-wine)soaked ”dancers”.

Parking guard
On the other side of the cave things are a bit more calm

Laos smiles
Laos is the land of smiles – literally. No matter where you go people smile at you. It like it is a ”default setting” – the first choice of action when you have eye contact with another person. Here in Asia smiles work differently than back home. Here you smile at everything, when you are happy, when you are confused, when you’re mad.. All right, the smiles may differ a tad. Sometimes they are even accompanied by laughs, the more hysterical, the less happy generally or in some cases just coming from a group of teenage girls. But even with the many origins of the smiles they still make you feel happy. No matter what time of the day and even when you yourself might look tired and miserable you are greeted with a smile – and it works wonders – you have to smile back at them and you become a little bit more happy yourself. I am beginning to understand how these ”laughing clubs” work 😀

Two very common things in Laos; geckos and Beerlao (billbord comercial)

We managed a little culture as well – here in the “Angkor” of Laos (Wat Phu)
Some people might think we are crazy – it is 38 degrees celcius and up the stairs
The view from the backseat of the motorcycle
“Pedestrians” – nothing to do but to slow down
Bo unloads from the “ferry”

Last stop in Laos would make anyone happy. A couple of days by the Mekong river – nothing to do.. lovely…

Frangipani – Laos’ national flower

Vietnamese slash-and-burn business mind

Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia Posted on Sat, May 08, 2010 08:44:20

The Ho Chi Minh mausoleum… they turned on the water without notice.

Our plan was to travel a bit south in Vietnam and then cross over into Laos. Though I have been working in Vietnam for many years and travelled the north extensively on scooter, it has been a long time since I have truly backpacked through the country. I remember from my first time in ’96 all the hassle it was to travel around.

Normal traffic chaos in Hanoi.

It is also jammed on the cemetery.

The Vietnamese are eager to make a buck, and business ethics and logic don’t apply. Stuff I know all about, but had luckily forgot how deep it sinks into society. Simple things like negotiating transportation often turns into annoyance and bitter arguments. Even if you have agreed to a price, they find nothing wrong with changing it during the trip… like demanding ten times the original amount. Furthermore, as I have also experienced through my work, the Vietnamese don’t think very far ahead. They would rather try to extract an exorbitant amount of money from you, even though you have showed that you know the right price, and risk loosing you as a customer altogether, since you get so tired and frustrated with their bullocks that you seek other solutions.

Bo and his old collegue from Hanoi, Quan, at a pigeon street restaurant.

So our journey started in Hanoi with a trip to the train station. We had been to the station before to buy the tickets in advance and had an idea of how much the taxi ride should cost. But our metered taxi decided to take us on a little sightseeing around Hanoi. So the meter ended at about double the price. Hmmm… then we prepared ourselves for an argument. By being cool, standing firm and demanding to talk to taxi company, we managed to pay about the right price. Fun the first time, annoying the next five hundred times.

Finally in the train heading for Vinh.

Next scenario was the next morning on our way to the Lao border. The route is apparently notorious for overcharging and the usual crap. We found the bus and the driver wanted 5 USD each. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but the right price should be closer to 50 cents. So we negotiated a bit, he came down to 2.5 USD and I still said no. At the end he just waved us into the bus. Naive as we were, we thought the deal was good. Half way through the trip, the ticket lady in the bus demanded 5 USD each. We stood our grounds with a very upset ticket lady as a result. A young guy who spoke a bit of English got involved and shyly smiled when I asked him how much other passengers had paid. A passenger said in Vietnamese how much he had paid, not knowing that the microscopic Vietnamese I do speak includes the numbers. So now we should think that by presenting this new information to the ticket lady (that we know how much the tickets cost) should change her demand… but no. So in the end we ended up paying the 2.5 USD, half of what she demanded but the same as the driver first asked for. Oh boy.

Breakfast at another street kitchen.

The last step of our journey of leaving Vietnam involved a short trip from the last town before the border to the actually border post. Again a van driver came with a random demand of 5 USD. We declined, since we would rather take the trip on motocycle taxi, which theoretically also should be cheaper. Funny enough they also wanted 5 USD, the double of what it should be. So when the van driver finally had bargained himself down to the universal foreign price of 2.5 USD, we agreed. So the motorcycle guys didn’t get any rides that day.

Cramped in a minibus heading to the border.

So finally we arrived at the rather anonymous border, where trucks with hard wood were lined up on the other side. We went in, asked for stamps, got pointed in random directions and ended up at a desk with two teenage boys in uniform and two bored looking men. “One dolla” barked one of the boys…. Hmmm, “for what?” we asked. “One dolla” was repeated, this time with a bit of giggle. The men took my passport, typed a bit on the computer and handed me the passport. I looked at the pages and didn’t find any exit stamp. “One dolla” said the man. A local guy came by and handed them his passport with 50 cent inside. So after a bit of waiting, so did we… and after a bit of protests we finally got our exit stamps and could exit Vietnam.

Louise in no-mans land between Vietnam and Laos.