Saturday, 28 July 2007

pictures from up North

Crossing the border by tiny boat: you can see Laos in a distance!

The rice fields during our trip up North

Maaike and Guusje on the 2nd day of the trekking, we arrived in the Hmong village. We just got out of our trekking pants and we, as women, had to wear a sarong...

Don't we look appealing...

The road stopped suddenly during our mointain biking trip: we had to put the bike on our back to cross the strong current river!

Laos: an adventure!

After an absolutely luxurious train trip to ChiangMai (North Thailand), we took the bus straight away to Chiang Khong, a village at the Thai border. The next morning we crossed the Mekong River and we arrived in Laos!

Most people took the slow boat heading south, however, we decided to head North by bus. After a beautiful bus ride which supposed to be the worst road in Laos (which was not the case, because the Chinese just fixed it!) we got to Luang Nam Tha (grab an atlas). Gorgeous place: not many tourists and it looks like Papua New Guinea from what I know from pictures of my brother...I know, that does not help many people to visualise, just my mum and Sjoerd...

Anyway, from there we decided to do a three day trekking in the jungle. Three days of hiking in the jungle, crossing rice fields, walking through bamboo forests, mud, loads of mud and sleeping in the homes of the local Hmong people. The walks were amazing, but staying at the villages was truly excellent. Sleeping on the ground, no toilets (just an hole in the ground), no running water, no electricity, all the curious kids dropping by. The villages were really poor: just wooden houses, pigs, chickens etc running around. Kids not wearing any clothes, or just really dirty ones. The villages could only be reached by foot (after hours of walking).

Our group was quite interesting as well. Of course we are two very direct Dutch girls, so we were accompanied by a socially incapable Finnish guy who could not stop talking about diving (wrong country my friend...), an 1.50 tall Canadian gay guy who felt he was going to die after the first day ( I quote: I feel like a punctured ball), a guy from the UK who always wanted to overtake us somehow and while doing that he fell an awful lot of times and finally a posh UK expat who was hiking in one of his work shirts...Needless to say we had an excellent time with them: it was hilarious! We even drank homemade Lao Whiskey with the village chief!

After the three days we did some mountain biking as well (beautiful!) and a couple of days ago we took a bus to Luang Prabang: World Heritage City because of its beautiful temples. Here we are kicking back (its really hot here, and as most of you know: I cannot take the heat that well...), do some kayaking, sightseeing etc.

But to keep a long story short, some Lao peculiarities:
- Loas has a curfew, so everything is silent after 23.30...
- we have seen butterflies as large as small birds...
- the Hmong villages are very very poor, but they did have cellphones...
- during the trekking we encountered loads of leeches (bloedzuigers): everyone had them, but apparently they do not like me...great!
- Guusje cannot count and using Bath (Thailand), Kip (Laos) and dollars is too confusing for her... - when taking a bus, all your luggage has to be taken with you of course. So if you want to transport your scooter to a different city, you just put the scooter in the aisle of the bus. And if your friend wants to take his as well, you put that one in the aisle as well...
- if the bus stops along the way and you need to pee: just go out of the bus, drop your pants and do your thing...
- needles to say that Guusje and I adapt perfectly to the above Lao manner...
- Lao money notes show the president. He looks like a combination of Boris Jeltsin and Mao Zedong. Seriously, I am NOT joking: weird psychology tricks perhaps?
- Guusje sang to the Hmong children and they sang Lao songs. Very touching...
- The reason why I did not sing with her was because I truly did not know ANY of the songs she sang. I am shocked: I have no knowledge of any songs, just Kortjakje perhaps. I blame my parents...
- Guusje taught me some Dutch lullabies and THEN I sang with her...

Next stop: Vientiane, the capital of Laos!

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Finland and Bangkok

What do you do if you have 9 hours in Finland? Exactly, you meet up with your best Finnish friends from Turku, Finland, who you haven't seen in 4 years (since Ireland). Seeing them again at the airport was loads of fun and we gave each other big Finnish-Dutch hugs. After that we went to Helsinki where we all were tourists, so Laura put on her ' tour guide hat' and she showed us around. We chatted about the last 4 years, but also about the good things in life. To make it unforgettable we ate an awful looking grey ice cream: salmiakki ice cream...! Yummie!

After a tearful goodbye we took off to Thailand. Guusje and I are good travelling partners: I could not stay awake in the plane, Guusje fell asleep in the taxi from the airport to the city. Either way: there was always a clear mind awake! But seriously: travelling with Guusje is easypeasy.

Bangkok has not changed one bit since I was here 6 years ago (except the airport: mayor shock!). Same crowdedness, loads of backpackers with their Loney Planet and same touristy stuff for sale. We are trying to see the tiny bits of Thailand without the LP...experienced as we are...Not to worry, we have an LP from Laos and Cambodia!
Guusje and I took our time to see the city: we saw some temples, the Grand Palace, boat ride through the city etc. Since we are very good at sleeping: that's what we did the last couple of days to get rid off the jetlag. We ate delicious food on the streets, we drank some Thai beer and cheered that we (but especially me...) will not get sick. Last time in China, I was sick within 2 days...

Anyhow, just a quick note to let you know all is very well. Travelling feels good! Tonight we are off to Chiangmai by train and then tomorrow we take a bus to Laos. We will cross the border there and we are still thinking about what is next. Either go up north to do some hiking and visit tribes or take the 2 day boat to Luang Prabang and do stuff there.
We will probably be in Vientiane (Capital of Laos) in 2 weeks, and hopefully meet up with an old colleague of mine who is working for Unicef right now. Should be really interesting!

No pictures this time, haven't got the right cable here...

Thai greetings,
Maaike (and Guusje of course who just had her birthday

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Get ready, set, and she is off...

I came across the happiest woman on earth today. She was glooming and frolicing at the same time. You could see she set her mind on something, something good and exciting. So, I stopped her and asked her what she was up to. It turned out to be me in the mirror!!

I had an excellent 2 weeks, seeing everyone, chatting and drinking coffee. But now I am off! Totally excited and anxious to go.

So chronological:

Finland (yes, for 9 hours!)




Papua New Guinea


New Zealand





and last but not least Surinam!

I am a lucky bastard, I know....

Bye for now!

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

my favorite travelpartners

Needless to say that I did excellent at losing my job. Well, to be honest it took some effort to loose it in time... And moving out of my house the next day was peanuts. It was the 8th time in 10 years, so I am quite an expert on packing and moving and thanks to my helpers it was 'inladen en wegwezen'...

So now plenty of time to arrange the final things like visas, insurance, vaccinations, catch up with my parents while drinking a Leffe Dubbel. Good stuff...

But back to business; I want to try to put some pictures on this weblog, so here it goes. Let me introduce you to my favorite travel partners: some are new, some are ancient...

To your left [to bad you only see the picture and not my 10 efforts to put it here...] My true best friend 'miss Paspoort'; she has been with me since 2004. She has never travelled for an extensive time with me (no Australia 2001 nor Ireland 2002-2003), but she enjoyed China (2005) so she is dying to go!

On your right hand side we have 'Mr Wallet'. He has been in my pocket since 1998 so he is an experienced traveller. He enjoys different currencies. Euros have been in his possession way too long, so he is looking forward to the change. He is very introvert and unsociable; he likes to be very close to me and he doesn't trust other people easily. I respect him for that of course.

On my left we have 'Lady Red'. My Tatanka backpack, 50 litres and specially made for 'tiny' people so she fits perfectly on my 'tiny' back. She enjoys the company of my friends 'Tent' and 'Sleeping bag', but for this trip only 'Sleeping bag' is coming along. You can see him crawling close to her already. 'Tent' is looking for asylum; my friend Guusje might take her. Illegally of course because our old minister Verdonk always says 'full=full' so I will sneak her on board the train tomorrow.

Here are the youngest of my good friends. They are in my possession since the summer of 2005 [my old shoes got sick during China and eventually 'died' during a conference meeting in Norway]. The Hanwag twins proofed their skills during two terrible wet trips in the Ardenne, Belgium, [Ascension Day 2006] and Wales last summer. Very comfy, extremely dry and they NEVER complain. 'respect' is in order here for such youngsters!

To the left we have a new friend. Probably going to be a good friend, but I am not really familiar with her yet. She is called 'the world'. But not for real of course, it's just her nickname. Two of my good human friends, Catherine & Floor, gave her to me and they wrote a welcome message on the first page. 'The world' likes stories, good and bad, dialogues, discussions, love quarrels and all the emotions I will encounter. She is much like, only less advanced. She likes to be tickled with a pen and ink, Catherine told me. Floor said that 'the world' loves secrets and gossip, a thing the weblog sometimes likes as well, but not every day. I will make sure I'll feed 'the world' in time. Just like the weblog, but different. There are no 'pottenkijkers' [or is it 'pottekijkers', Floor, Cath, anyone??]
Anyhow, these are my friends. My dad can sleep well now, knowing that I have such trust full friends. They will look after me, just as I look after them. It's a win-win situation!