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Category: Thailand

Slow boat down the Mekong

Slow boat down the Mekong

Mitch and I were unsure if we could survive 2 consecutive days of 8 hour boat journeys with Freda, either she would go bonkers and topple overboard or we would go mad and throw her overboard! Pleased to report though that neither happened and the scenery was breathtaking, it was relaxing (unbelievable I know as Freda was on board) and has been one of our favourite things so far!

In order to get to the Mekong we left Chiang Rai with a small hangover (too many beers by the banks of the Kok!) and jumped on a small sweaty local bus. Mitch was lucky enough to get two seats to himself, while Freda and me shared, she took up one and a half and my bum cheek got the other half, for 2 hours! These buses were not built for massive Western bums me thinks!

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We were heading to Chiang Khong, a charmless border town where we had to spend the night. We booked ourselves on a 2 day slow boat to Luang Prabang in Laos, so we were picked up early doors and then made our way across the border to Laos and to our Boat. There’s a public boat that takes the same time, but is just a floating bus with over 150 people crammed on or the other option is a speed boat that only takes 6 hours for the whole journey, but you need to wear a crash helmet because, well they crash……..but we were informed that only 2 tourists have died recently!!

We decided to pay a little more and go with Mekong Smile Cruise and we were definitely smiling when we found out that we had a whole boat to share with just 4 others and the crew.

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We had a great guide, nice spacious boat, great food and all in all were all very happy. Only downside was when we stopped on the first day to look around an indigenous village…….not only was it blistering hot, you really got the feeling these people didn’t want you gawping at them which was fair enough. It was a bit like taking a tour group around a deprived area in South London so everyone can take pictures of poor people. Luckily after this awkward experience, we left the tribes-people to eat the crickets their 5 year olds had found on the riverbank and came back to our boat for a rather lovely lunch with the cool breeze blowing in our hair. (The whole thing felt a bit wrong).

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Then we pushed on through to the over night stop in Pakbeng…….nothing much to report here apart from we had an amazing view over the Mekong from our hotel room and Freda saw the biggest spider she has ever seen and hasn’t stopped talking about it since!

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Day 2

Much of the same, admiring amazing scenery from the peaceful pace of our boat. We were a bit disheartened though when our Guide said we were going to stop at another village en-route. But luckily this time it was a different experience, the tribe that lived here were Hmong and seemed much welcoming to us Farangs. Instead of just looking at poverty and hardship, we felt privileged to have an opportunity to view the community and traditions. Freda’s was a big hit, especially with the older women, the oldest lady of the town was desperate for Freda to hold her hand. Freda was having none of it though until I bribed her with a packet of gummy bears and she leapt at the opportunity to make an old lady’s day! Anything for a shameless photo opp!

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Back on the boat we slowly meandered on to Luang Prabang. Freda was amazing, with the help of the iPad, there wasn’t one moan on our very long slow boat journey down the Mekong. Although now in Loas she has been driving us completely mad!

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Chiang Mai and around

Chiang Mai and around

 We’ve jumped on a flight from Bangkok, couldn’t face the 10 hour train journey, as we’re still flash-packing! Lovely flight, brand new plane, big screen, all the mod-cons (who’d have thought it in Asia!)……..I was sad to land, which is very unusual for me as I hate flying. BIG up to Thai Airways!

Well, what hasn’t been said about Chiang Mai? Centre of tourism for the whole of Northern Thailand. There’s nothing you can’t do here, so we picked a few activities……..mainly ones that would suit Freda, so avioded Bungee jumping and white water rafting, we’ll save them for New Zeland, when she’s a bit older (and the bungees are higher). So we visited temples (where I was made to wear a dressing down, cos I’m such a hussy) and did other sedate activities.

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Starting with Freda’s favourite, food, we did a Thai cooking course, which was brilliant! We went  to Sammys organic cooking class. We both wanted to learn how to cook Thai food that tasted like real Thai food, as it’s always a let down when cook at home. I discovered that this may be because I don’t have, lemongrass, galangal, Thai lime etc. growing in my garden like the teacher Sammy did! His farm was lovely, where we did the cooking class and everything apart from the noodles seemed be be grown in his garden somewhere. Can’t really speak for Freda, but I reckon Mitch and I can now cook a mean Thai meal.

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Next up we went to the Elephant Nature Park. It has led the movement to abandon rides and shows and put elephant welfare at the top of the agenda, In place of circus routines, visits are focused on interaction – the day is spent wandering with Mahouts and their charges, helping feed and wash elephants. The elephants here have been rescued from logging camps and tourist shows, and instead of being subjected to hooks and chains, they are allowed to form their own family groups and follow as closely as possible the natural behaviour of a wild herd. It was a great day and really opened our eyes to how badly these amazing animals can be treated.

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So, with my animal welfare rant over, we then headed up in to the hills out of Chiang Mai to the Mae Sa valley. With elephants on the brain we couldn’t resist popping into the Elephant Poo Paper Park, literally makes paper from poo, it was very cool. Freda enjoyed making various items out of poo and getting her hands dirty!

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Then headed up to our last posh hotel for a while, the Panviman, to be greated with a smelly, dark, very tired old room………but, don’t worry in true Sharpison style after a little gentle complaining, we got upgraded to a suite with an out door jacuzzi bath, possibly the best view from a bath possible, much more to Freda’s tastes.

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While at the hotel we did a few trips down the valley to an insect park, an interesting array of insects, we all had our own particular favourites and our own special phobias, Freda took a lot of persuasion to hold any!

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Next the Mae Sa waterfall, where we were gob-smacked, not by the scenery but Fredas ability to trek right up to the top without once moaning. The second she steps out of the hotel at the moment, she complains that her legs are too tired to walk. On our way back to the hotel, as Mitch was was too tight to pay for the hotel taxi, we had to try find a local bus to get us back. This failed so we hitch hiked, luckily most Thai people are so lovely!

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Even with its extortionate taxi prices, and that’s saying something as we live in London, the Panviman managed to redeem itself with great food, great views and a lovely pool. Although after too many days in swimming pools Freda’s hair has started to go green! Wooops! Don’t worry I’ve chopped the green ends out!

After our last slice of luxury for a while we headed back to Chiang Mai to a small AirBnB just out of town. We did very little apart from hung by the pool, enjoyed the most western shopping centre I’ve ever been to in Aisa (although maybe not the Pokemon show that I dragged Freda too)! It’s very funny traveling with children because the things you would ordinarily avoid like the plague, you love! Well almost, for a short while!

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We’ve tried to be responsible parents, but keep getting laughed at when we insist on transport with a seatbelt, so we’ve had no choice but to reset to local standards, use Tuk Tuks and the local bus Songthaews. Although not complying  to EU standards, Freda loves them and that’s the main thing, Better to die happy in a pink bus!!

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Last thing we did in Chiang Mai was the amazing, but random, 3D art Gallery, once again only when travelling with children! The pictures speak for themselves.

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So we’ve now left Chiang Mai and are heading up north to do a 2 day boat trip down the mighty Mekong to Luang Prabang. We are currently in Chiang Rai slurping Chang beer on the banks of the enormous but placid river Kok.

Chiang Mai for all it crazy in your face tourism, was a delight to experience…….great food, fantasitic night markets, beautiful temples and unforgettable memories!

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Don’t forget t check out Freda’s new VLOG.

 

 

 

 

 

Bangkok

Bangkok

3 days have flown by in Bangkok. After touching down, we embarked a treacherous journey from the airport, kamikaze taxi driver and Freda saying mummy mummy mummy over and over. Was close to throwing up when we arrived at our lovely hotel the Oriental Residence Bangkok. Have to say to anyone travelling with a small child in Asia, the Trunki car seat has been great, although we’ve had to scrabble around in sticky muck behind the car seats of cabs to pull out the seat belt female bit, which has been nice. Can’t understand why these are hidden, but taxi drivers are most perturbed when you want to find one!!

First day was awful, Freda talked none stop till she flopped just after 10pm, I think Mitch and I were both regretting our decision to come/bring her!! But, all was well the next day when we woke late. I opened my birthday presents…….some good, some a bit heavy to carry for a year, thanks Mitch.

We’ve definitey stuck to the more sedate side of Bangkok, chilling out in Lumpini park, image

Where we had birthday cake in the rain on a swan pedalo! The boat lady thought we were crazy as the monsoon rain had started before we even got pedalling. Best birthday cake ever!

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We’ve eaten some great food, Vertigo restaurant Bangkok being the highlight! Although it was slightly embarrassing when Mitch realised we’d forgot to put pants on Freda, and anyone who knows our child will know her inability to sit still. So the waiters got more than an eyeful when waiting on our table as legs kept flying into the air!

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Today we managed to do the one tourist things we could face and went to Grand Palace, very grand and very palatial…….although Freda was unimpressed and had a grander desire for Yo Yo Bears!!  At least her entrance fee was free!!

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Had a lovely lunch by the river (overlooking Wat Arun) and then came back to the pool for cocktails and thunderstorms.

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So all’s good with us, might have to start getting in to this travelling malarkey soon and stop living it up.

Next stop Chiang Mai.

Oh and check out Freda’s VLOG on top menu.