Tag Archives: River

Island Vibes

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Welcome to Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands), Mekong archipelago, Laos, land of the Lotus Eaters.

A place to mellow your days away, blissing out in hammocks, supping on fresh fish, straying no father than heat dictates. For amusement: a spot of ‘tubing’; an attempt at fishing; a leisurely bike ride.

The only thing you need tax your mind about is which side of the island to stay on – sunrise or sunset?

exodus, joining the hordes for the boat ride to Don Det

exodus, joining the hordes for the boat ride to Don Det

find a bamboo shack (or tepee) and settle in

find a bamboo shack (or tepee) and settle in

location, location, location (howz the serenity?)

location, location, location (howz the serenity?)

a delicious meal of 'laap', the nation dish of Laos

a delicious meal of ‘laap’, the national dish

Richie goes local

Richie goes local

remarkable mango tree, awaiting the rain to bud some fruit

remarkable mango tree, awaiting the rain to bud some fruit

cold noodle breakfast

cold noodle breakfast (Paul got the runs shortly after this one… me and Rich fared better)

bamboo fishing rigs designed  to ensnare a rainy season catch

bamboo fishing rig designed to ensnare a rainy season catch

cooling down with a watermelon shake. Easy on the sweetened condensed milk!

cooling down with a watermelon shake. Easy on the sweetened condensed milk!

Don Khon wat

Don Khon wat

Mekong rapids, Li Phi falls, Don Khon

Mekong rapids, Li Phi falls, Don Khon

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Jungle Fever

Warning: this blog contains gratuitous references to diarrhoea.

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Bumping through rapids in rubber kayaks is a sport that’s dear to me. It’s how Richie and I met 6 years ago, and coincidentally, how we chose to celebrate one year of life on the road together, in Laos. This time, it was brown water and not white water I feared. River kayaking is a dangerous activity at the best of times, but kayaking with diarrhoea is a sport that only the hardiest attempt!

There comes a time, whilst travelling in South East Asia, when the only thing to do is ‘man up’ and carry on with whatever activity you’ve planned for the day, in spite of cramps, nausea and the persistent need to relieve yourself.

In the lean hours of the morning, moments before sun-up on the first day of our 3-day trekking/kayaking adventure, I considered it might be prurient to give the experience a miss. Richie would be disappointed, and there was also the risk of losing our deposit to consider, but all in all, staying in and waiting for the deluge to pass seemed a wholly more attractive and sensible option. Continue reading

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Georgia on my mind…

In the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi, you can still find homes arrayed around large central courtyards set-back from the road. As many as six or seven families share these communal courtyards: coming and going at all hours of day or night… washing hanging, children playing, and the scent of cooking wafting through windows. Everyone’s business is everyone else’s business because everything here is open and transparent. A lot of yelling goes on, and a lot of retaliation.

Three generations of women reside in the house where we’re staying. One of them speaks English. There’s a dog too. His name is Pushkin. We’ve become used to nosing through the womens’ quarters on our way to and from the bathroom. We’ve grottied the courtyard table more than once with watermelon juice. It’s nice to know that when we tire of the cramped conditions inside the house we can step outside for a breather, airing our stained towels on the outside line and waiting under the poplar tree for our Russian and Kazahk visas to mature. We wish Sam would put his shoes out once in awhile!

A Tbilisi courtyard – homestay.

Tbilisi is a pleasant place to be waylaid. It’s the bottle-neck through which we hope to pass into the wilds of Russia, Kazahkstan and, eventually, China.  It’s not a simple or a speedy process but as our Syrian roommate pointed out to us, we’re extremely lucky that if we follow procedure by filling out the relevant forms and providing the stipulated amount of money, we can travel more or less unimpeded through any territory on the planet. The apple forests of the Tien Shan Mountains still feel a long way off, but the breeze is blowing from that direction.  Continue reading

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Killed with Kindness

I’ve heard about the legendary hospitality of villagers in countries such as Greece, Iran, Pakistan and China, but never having experienced it myself, believed it was the stuff of myth. Turns out it’s true… ‘xenia‘, the tradition of stranger hospitality is alive and well in eastern Morocco in the Valley of the Roses.

Richie and I arrived in the the village of Bouthagar in the Valley of the Roses off the back of 3 hectic nights in Marrakech. We hoped to find a quiet spot where we could be alone in nature and observe rural life, unmolested by the type of banter that made Djema El Fna (the central square in Marrakech) a tiresome place to be.

As well as checking out the local traditions of agriculture we hoped to undertake a trek or two in the nearby villages and gorges. Our friend, Mark, had been there a few months before and told us that the scenery was impressive and fairly unspoilt.

In Bouthagrar we were thrilled to chance upon a gorgeous guest house with a terrace overlooking a valley: rosy adobe dwellings, abrupt cliffs, clear river, pebbly shores and verdant terraced gardens lined with the ghostly silhouettes of silver birches, figs and olives cold be seen from every window.

When we asked at our guest house about the possibility of taking part in a day of natural building to observe the traditional technique of rammed earth construction (‘tabout’), our host Youssef wasted no time connecting us with a local builder. His name was Brahim and he had learned the tools of the trade in a 16 year apprenticeship to his father.

By 7am on day two of our stay we were accompanied to a construction site in the nearby village of Znug. On our way there we took a shining to our long-legged companion, Mohammed – the only one in the team of 5 builders who spoke French. We spoke considerably less French than him,  and not a word of Arabic or the local Berber dialect. It was going to be an interesting week of learning…

Continue reading

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