A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about rivers

Chilling out in Laos

sunny 35 °C
View Around The World on manolo84's travel map.

I know I haven't given news for a while and my trip now approaches to an end so prepare yourself for a bunch of articles in the next days! :)

After the hectic months I had just spent in New Zealand, Korea and Hong Kong, I really felt like I needed to take a break and to slow down the pace of my journey. Indeed people back home keep telling me that "you are on holiday, how can you be exhausted?" but the truth is that when you pack and unpack your bag every few days to go to another destination, visit another museum or another "amazing" waterfall, you start feeling a bit less impressed and more and more tired. When at the beginning I was finding myself craving for new adventures, I now enjoy a lot spending days relaxing and not doing much.

So in that perspective, Laos was quite a breather for me. After an overnight stay in Bangkok airport because of the cheap flight I had booked from Hong Kong, I arrived in a really hot day in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The temperature change after a freezing Korea and a sometimes chilly Hong Kong, was quite a shock. But in a way I adapted myself quickly to that environment by incorporating the local motto "hum... it's really too hot to do anything today, let's chill out..." ! :)

And here are how my days in Laos were mostly spent...

  • Vientiane

The capital of Laos is actually quite small compared to the ones of the countries around. But it has still a definite atmosphere of South East Asia, with tuktuks, markets and street food stalls all around. I was also surprised to see a lot of signs (like for the official buildings) written both in Lao and French, but as Laos was a former French colony (used to be part of the Indochina with Vietnam and Cambodia) it all made sense. However nowadays French is only being spoken by older people, the younger generation learning English, which is more useful for tourism purposes.
One of the only sites I visited in Vientiane was Buddha Park, a statues park where 60 years ago, a monk who integrated Buddhism and Hinduism, tried to gather and build statues to revere the Buddha. Here are a few pics:

Buddha Park

Buddha Park


Patuxay, the War monument in Vientiane

Patuxay, the War monument in Vientiane


large_Patuxay__Vientiane__13_.jpg

  • Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng has been known for a long time has a party place, where the main attraction was to go down the river in a tube, and to stop every 100 metres or so at the several bars along it. No need to say that everyone was ending up really drunk and of course with time accidents happened (even deaths). So the whole thing has now been downsized a lot and out of the 50 bars or so, only 4 remains. And where maybe in the beginning it was really about tubing and going down the river, now the first and last bars are only at a mere 500 metres from each other so most of the people stop at the last bar and get a ride back in a tuktuk instead of carrying on for 2 to 3 hours on a perfectly still river (that was just before the rainy season so the river was at its driest level). Anyway the whole experience was quite fun, we met nice and funny people, but I could definitely see how it could go wrong if you keep drinking and don't pay attention to the time (it gets dark right after 6pm). Being drunk and on the river in the dark for a few hours was probably not a good idea... :)

Anyway Vang Vieng is not just about tubing but also has stunning landscapes to offer with limestones mountains covered by vegetation, caves to explore, lagoons to jump in, etc...

large_Vang_Vieng__9_.jpg
large_Vang_Vieng__12_.jpg
large_Vang_Vieng__14_.jpg
The Blue lagoon

The Blue lagoon


Renting a motorbike is a lot of fun but can be a bit risky...

Renting a motorbike is a lot of fun but can be a bit risky...

  • Luang Prabang

The journey continued in Luang Prabang, a small city classified as an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995 and located between the Nam Khan and Mekong River. Here tons of tuktuk drivers will approach you in the main street, asking you if you want to go to the waterfalls, elephant villages or some temples... then later in the evening the same people will change their offers for the bowling alley (the only place opened late at night) or to sell you all type of drugs or again to take you to the "ladies boom boom"... Hum.....
Anyway I had a good time there, and we even managed to find a place completely randomly where to play pétanque (french balls game) while enjoying some cold beers with the locals, great fun!

One of the main temples in Luang Prabang

One of the main temples in Luang Prabang


Every morning around 6am, monks go down the main street for the Alms giving ceremony, where locals give them food for the day

Every morning around 6am, monks go down the main street for the Alms giving ceremony, where locals give them food for the day


large_Luang_Prabang__21_.jpg
large_Luang_Prabang__22_.jpg
Jonathan with new friends <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Jonathan with new friends :)


Pétanque time!

Pétanque time!


large_Luang_Prabang__114_.jpg
The Kuang Si Waterfall

The Kuang Si Waterfall


large_Kuang_Si_Waterfalls__3_.jpg
Too hot is not good for the mind... <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

Too hot is not good for the mind... ;)

  • Phonsavan

Another painful bus journey in a packed bus through the dusty roads of Laos and my friend Jonathan and I found ourselves in Phonsavan, in the middle of northern Laos. This region faced a tragic history some decades ago during the second Indochina war with American fighter planes dropping tons of bombs in the area, either when on their way to Vietnam or at their return, to avoid bringing them back to their base. As a result Phonsavan and its region Xieng Khouang were devastated by mass bombing (it is the most heavily bombarded area in the world with at least 262 millions cluster bombs dropped on Laos between 64 and 73, more than during the entire World War II!) but the sad story is that around 30% of those bombs didn't explode right away, leaving inhabitants at risk of stepping on them by mistake and dying horribly. The children especially are concerned because they don't always recognise it is a bomb before it is too late. And it took the U.S a long time to recognise all their mischief here, as this was meant to be a Secret War, meaning that even the U.S Congress didn't know what was going on at that time. Nowadays the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) work with the locals to try to find out as many bombs as they can and to neutralise them before anyone can get hurt. But the task is huge and still around 10-20 people die each year as a result of those left over bombs...

But the main reason to visit Phonsavan is to get a glimpse of the famous Plain of Jars. The Plain of Jars is dated to the Iron Age (500 BC to AD 500) but very little is known about the jars signification. There are about 50 different sites filled in with megalithic jars, where in some burials human remains were found but no one knows exactly if this was the main purpose of these jars or if there was another meaning...
Another problem also when visiting those sites, is the presence of unexploded bombs as I mentioned above. As a result, visiting can only be done on the clearly marked paths and this also slow down the restoration process of the jars and new discoveries.

large_Plains_of_Jars__5_.jpg
large_Plains_of_Jars__7_.jpg
large_Plains_of_Jars__26_.jpg
large_Plains_of_Jars__30_.jpg

  • The 4000 Islands (Si Phan Don)

Finally, my last stop in Laos was at its most southern point, in an area called the 4000 islands, an archipelago located in the Mekong river. As its name suggests, there are several islands here, most of them being submerged by the Mekong during the monsoon season. There is not much to do there except chilling out and relaxing, going on a kayak or tubing tour, visiting huge waterfalls nearby or trying to spot the rare Irrawaddy dolphins (an endangered specie due to the Mekong river's pollution).

large_4000_Islands__9_.jpg
On a kayak tour

On a kayak tour


Waiting for the dolphins to appear

Waiting for the dolphins to appear


large_4000_Islands__31_.jpg
Massive waterfalls on the Mekong

Massive waterfalls on the Mekong


large_4000_Islands__42_.jpg
large_4000_Islands__43_.jpg
Nice sunset..

Nice sunset..

Posted by manolo84 22:43 Archived in Laos Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises temples rivers kayaking monks english Comments (0)

Tramping in the Huxley Valley

Last post about New-Zealand....

sunny 20 °C
View Around The World on manolo84's travel map.

Here we are, my last post about New-Zealand, which covers the last big trek I did with my friends. I think I pretty much went through all the major activities and events which occurred during these amazing 7 weeks spent in Kiwiland, and I could have stayed easily longer, if it wasn't for my bank account which was definitely crying by the time I left... New Zealand is amazing but definitely expensive when you are on a budget! :)

So that last week, I actually caught up with Thomi and his girlfriend Deborah, who I used to work with in London, but who had moved back to their home country a few years ago, in Dunedin. My other mate Seumas who was also back in NZ for some holidays joined us a day later after flying from London and Auckland, and soon enough we had our backpacks in Thomi's 4WD and were heading to the Huxley Valley to spend a few days tramping in that remote area. Having a local with you (and a car) is actually the best way to go off the beaten track, as we would see no tourists during the 3 days we spent hiking... Definitely like it should be!

Huxley_Valley_Track.png
Map_Huxley_Valley.png

After leaving Dunedin early in the morning, we finally reached Monument Hut, our starting point by mid-afternoon, saving some time by driving with the 4WD as much as we could through some rough paths. From there, it took us at least 3 more hours walking along the valley to reach Huxley Forks Hut where we spent our first night. We were lucky to be the only ones in that hut as it could only accommodate 6 people max, so with another party we would have definitely packed.

In the early morning, during our breakfast time, we actually saw a helicopter flying low in the valley and coming right for our hut. The whole scene was a bit surreal and it felt like in a movie with the FBI agents going down and starting to run away from the helicopter. Fortunately the reality didn't really match my imagination and instead of FBI agents, it was simply some people who had been contracted by the Department of Conservation to clear the paths ahead of us. Still it was still an impressive scene for 8am!

That second day, we took off early morning, leaving our big bags in the hut as we were planning to come back later to spend a second night, and started to head off towards another hut, Brodrick Hut. It was a very steady climb, and unfortunately for us some landslides and floods had washed away the path, meaning that the quickest way was to follow the bed of the river, jumping from rocks to other rocks. Not that difficult but very unpleasant after a few hours as you need to remain concentrated to avoid twisting an ankle or just falling down. After having lunch at the hut and admiring the view of the surrounding mountains, we went back the same way, and spent our second night in Huxley Forks Hut. The weather was perfect and we would have loved spending the rest of the afternoon chilling out near the river or near the hut, if it weren't for all the sandflies which were definitely considering us like their dinner. I love New-Zealand but come on guys, do something about these bloody sandflies! They are definitely worse than mosquitoes in my opinion.

Finally the third day we started going back to where we had left the car, following the river and even crossing it quite a few times. Fun and refreshing experience! A few hours and a fish and chips later, we would find ourselves back in Dunedin, enjoying a well-deserved sleep. It was definitely the perfect way to end up my Kiwi experience, thanks a lot Thomi and Deborah for hosting and showing us around!

The next day would see me flying back to Auckland with Seumas and spending a few days at his parent's, enjoying the Auckland sunshine, before flying out to the final destination of my trip: Asia. Thanks a lot New Zealand, I really had an awesome time! And as would say my dear friend Arnold, "I'll be back" ! ;)

Thomi driving us to new adventures!

Thomi driving us to new adventures!


More waterfalls, can't get enough!

More waterfalls, can't get enough!


Amazing scenery...

Amazing scenery...


Seumas showing off on the swing bridge <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

Seumas showing off on the swing bridge ;)


large_Tramping_i..Valley__13_.jpg
large_Tramping_i.._Valley_10_.jpg
That's what happens when you spend too much time in London, Seumas is so happy to be back in NZ that he's now making love to the trees... <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

That's what happens when you spend too much time in London, Seumas is so happy to be back in NZ that he's now making love to the trees... ;)


Thomi wondering why he bothered taking his riffle :p

Thomi wondering why he bothered taking his riffle :p


The view from the hut, where we came from. Not bad hey!?

The view from the hut, where we came from. Not bad hey!?


large_Tramping_i..Valley__24_.jpg
Couldn't do a trek without taking at least one shot from the stars!

Couldn't do a trek without taking at least one shot from the stars!


Stream crossing

Stream crossing


large_Tramping_i..Valley__42_.jpg
large_Tramping_i.._Valley_36_.jpg
The view from Brodrick hut

The view from Brodrick hut


Our amazing group

Our amazing group


Our hiking path that day...

Our hiking path that day...


And we're back to Huxley Forks hut

And we're back to Huxley Forks hut


Deborah enjoying some sunshine (and sandflies) near the river...

Deborah enjoying some sunshine (and sandflies) near the river...


A trekking trip wouldn't be complete without a bonfire

A trekking trip wouldn't be complete without a bonfire


On our way back the last day. I found myself trying to take a "shortcut"...

On our way back the last day. I found myself trying to take a "shortcut"...


New-Zealand rocks!

New-Zealand rocks!


large_Tramping_i..Valley__65_.jpg
We decided to cross the rivers to save time

We decided to cross the rivers to save time


What a beard! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

What a beard! ;)


Another swing bridge

Another swing bridge


Freedom! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Freedom! :)


A young couple crossing the river, hand in hand, how lovely! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

A young couple crossing the river, hand in hand, how lovely! ;)


Weird shaped cloud

Weird shaped cloud


The team enjoying a well-deserved beer!

The team enjoying a well-deserved beer!


Back to Dunedin

Back to Dunedin

Posted by manolo84 09:04 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains rivers nature english treks Comments (3)

Whanganui River Trip


View Around The World on manolo84's travel map.

In New Zealand, the DOC (Department of Conservation) which takes care of all the hiking trails, forests, huts, etc... have chosen 9 hiking trails and called them the 9 Great Walks of New Zealand. Most of these hikes take a few days to complete but however, one of them is not a hiking trail but a river trip, in the North island. Basically you pack in some waterproof bags whatever you need for 3 to 5 days, rent camping gear like tent and cooking tools, rent a canoe and you go down this amazing river called Whanganui, going through small rapids and very quiet sections.

Whanganui_river.png

So when preparing my trip in New Zealand, I saw this "great walk" and decided that "yes, this sounds pretty awesome"!

Therefore just before New Years' Eve, my friend Daniela and myself took out on the river, with all our equipment in waterproof bags and barrels, on an indian canoe. The weather wasn't perfect as during the first two days we got washed out by the rain a few times but soon enough the sun came back to dry us out.

Instead of the 5 days circuit, we had opted for the 3 days option (you start lower down on the river) because of the timing and availabilities of the camping sites along the river, but still, this was an amazing and relaxing experience. We had really the feeling of becoming one with the nature...

The river is surrounded by some kind of cliffs, giving you the feeling of being in a small canyon. And the colours were so green... Simply surreal!

The river is surrounded by some kind of cliffs, giving you the feeling of being in a small canyon. And the colours were so green... Simply surreal!


large_Whanganui_River_trip__8_.jpg
large_Whanganui_River_trip__12_.jpg
large_Daniela_s_pictures__24_.jpg
One of the several waterfalls we saw along the river

One of the several waterfalls we saw along the river


Stretching my legs...

Stretching my legs...


The Bridge To Nowhere

The Bridge To Nowhere


The last campsite, Tieke Kainga

The last campsite, Tieke Kainga


Our campsite the last day

Our campsite the last day


Preparing food

Preparing food


A possum (considered as a pest here in NZ) trying to steal our food...

A possum (considered as a pest here in NZ) trying to steal our food...


large_Whanganui_River_trip__48_.jpg
large_Whanganui_River_trip__62_.jpg

Finally, here is a short video I took while on the river:

Posted by manolo84 23:50 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rivers english canoes Comments (0)

Semuc Champey


View Around The World on manolo84's travel map.

Next on the list of the places to visit in Guatemala was Antigua (I had no particular interest in visiting Guatemala city) but in Flores everybody was talking about a place called Semuc Champey which apparently was wonderful. As this stop was on my way to Antigua, I told myself "why not?" and hopped on a bus (8 hours journey) to Lanquin, a small Maya town where Semuc Champey is.

Semuc_Champey__1_.jpg
The river and the ferry our bus had to taken to cross over

Semuc Champey actually consists of a natural 300m limestone bridge, under which passes the Cahabón River. Atop the bridge is a series of stepped, turquoise pools, a popular swimming attraction according to the different reviews I got.

And indeed, there is definitely an "air de paradis" there:

Semuc_Champey__60_.jpg

Semuc_Champey__80_.jpg

Semuc_Champey__89_.jpg

Semuc_Champey__93_.jpg

Semuc_Champey__105_.jpg

The view from the window of my hostel...

The view from the window of my hostel...

Lanquin__13__small.jpg

Semuc_Champey__7_.jpg
A good way to clean your tuktuk...

Semuc_Champey__26_.jpg
Me jumping of a swing directly in the river. A very academic jump... :)

Semuc_Champey__102_.jpg
A bit squeezed no?

Semuc_Champey__98_.jpg

Posted by manolo84 23:11 Archived in Guatemala Tagged rivers nature Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 4 of 4) Page [1]