Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

New photos

I finally got another batch of my film developed and some of the scanned pics are up on Flickr. Cows, pigs, & elephants are featured prominently! Hopefully I’ll finish rotatating the crooked ones soon… I don’t want anyone getting neck cramps.

March 29, 2007 Posted by | Laos, Photography, SE Asia, Thailand, Travel | Leave a comment

Worlds prettiest & nicest Cow

Holy cow. If you didn’t think that cows could be pretty, then take a look at this future beauty contest winner if cows ever have a beauty contest. I discovered her hanging out in the shade in the small Thailand village where she grew up. I’m sending her headshot to Elle & Vogue.

Check out the long purty eyelashes, the soft muzzle-poof, the moist “just so” schnozzle, the cowbell necklace… (can you tell that i read too much cuteoverload…)

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And such a friendly girl! She sniffed me, let me pet her, and was very curious about the camera.

“Baroo?”

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Thank you Ms. Prettycow!  I can die happy now that I have seen the purtiest cow in da world.

March 29, 2007 Posted by | Pets, SE Asia, Thailand, Travel | 1 Comment

Phone conversation in Internet cafe…

overheard by Greg & I this morning:

No dad, i’m not in vietnam anymore. i’m in laos.

No, don’t send the money to Vietnam. i’m in laos now.

Laos, L-A-O-S. its its own country. its next to vietnam and thailand. its in the middle.

no dad, i’m not IN vietnam.

no, don’t send the money to thailand. i’m in laos, its a DIFFERENT COUNTRY. it is NEXT TO Thailand….

and the hilarity continued. The girl finally left, presumably to go to the western union ūüôā

From Greg: To add to the effect–imagine the conversation in a ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ Australian accent.

March 29, 2007 Posted by | Laos, SE Asia, Travel | 1 Comment

Vientiane–that’s the capital of Laos to you!

We have now been in the capital of Laos for several days while we wait for our Myanmar visas to be processed.  I like Laos a lot except for the 100 degree heat (although it hits 108 in Myanmar next week). 

Francie and I rented bikes today and pedaled around looking at sights this morning before we were forced to return to the cool sanctuary of our hotel room.   Did I mention it had AC?  It is verrrry nice!

This is the Patuxai–which is some kind of tribute to France’s Arc de Triomphe.¬†

You would think you were in Paris

This is the legendary Pha That Luang site–possibly the most famous in all of Laos.

Shout out to Sonic Boom

This reclining buddha is very sleepy in the shade of the hot day.  The flowers and balls of sticky rice are very popular offerings at all the Wats.

 sleepy buddha in the shade

Buddhism, coming to a nation near you.

 lao wat

We have a few more days left before we go further south to the Bolaven Plateau and the hotbead of Lao coffee beans!

March 27, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Log Ride at Six Flags

The boat we took to Meung Ngoi reminded me of the log ride at six flags.¬† You know–cheap wooden boat, really hot, and splashes of water.¬† Here is a video we shot going down the river.¬† Don’t worry-everything turns out ok in the end.

Click here for video.

March 27, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Adventures in Meung Ngoi

Francie and I¬†took a 4 hour bus ride to get to¬†Nong Khiaw¬†and, then,¬†had an¬†hour long¬†boat ride to get to Meung Ngoi.¬† One of the things that appealed to us about¬†Meung Ngoi¬†was how isolated it is–there are no cars, motorbikes or SUVs.¬†

It was nice and cool on the river and a couple days of brief rainshowers really cleared away the haze from the slash and burning that has been going on.

Here is a picture from the small boat we took (we will post a cool video later).

my view from the boat

After spending a day of sitting around and watching the river from our guesthouse we decided to do a little hike to a couple of small, neighboring villages.  This was a great hike because it passed by some caves and we had some great companions as Francie described in the last post.

International hiking crew

This hut and rice field were along the path to the villages.

hike to ban na

These rice fields are not being used right now.¬† 85% of all rice is harvested in the wet season (March is¬†the dry season)–it is actually amazing to see all the irrigation techniques in practice.¬† These fields are terraced very carefully so¬†villagers can use water from the river as needed.

fallow fields

One of the villages we walked to was Ban Na.¬† About 50 people live here and there is absolutely nothing to do here–this is BFE.¬† Of course, the villagers will argue that they have plenty to do!

sign

the other village

Unfortunately, we found a nice little ‘present’ here from the U.S. government.¬† Laos is one of the areas where the United Nations and other independent groups are trying to remove unexploded ordinance.¬† The day we arrived a team exploded a bomb that was upriver.¬† It has been a long time since the Vietnam war–and this isn’t even Vietnam.¬† This shell casing is being used to hold up some bamboo.

bombshell

I like to call this one “Winning the Hearts and Minds”.¬† Look closely at the text–looks like it was made in California:

made in the usa

On a more fun note–our little hiking group went to these caves (which Francie talked about in the previous post) and I was¬†checking to see¬†if this entrance went back into the hill–so I walk down around the corner and a dragon comes charging out at me!¬†

Ok, it wasn’t a dragon it was this black water buffalo and he didn’t charge out at me but kind of stomped and snorted at me as if saying “this is my¬†nice and cool¬†cave–go away”!

enter the dragon

We are now hanging out here in the Lao capital having some great food and waiting for our Myanmar visas.¬† Let’s hope they come through!

Extra anecdote by Francie:¬† It’s been interesting to go from these small villages directly to the Lao capitol.¬† In lots of the cafes and restaurants in Vientiane Greg and I feel like we might as well be in Seattle.¬†¬†Yet the rest of Lao is still sparse villages surviving on subsistence agriculture & hunting or livestock raising.¬† The locals from these villages don’t travel around much since roads are bad and travel is expensive.¬† It’ll be interesting to see how the country changes over the next 20 years as transport gets easier.

March 25, 2007 Posted by | Laos, Photography, SE Asia, Travel | 3 Comments

River Village Retreat

Greg and I just got back from Meung Ngoi, a small river village in northern Laos. This place is only accessible by boat and therefore has no motor vehicles! What a nice respite from fumes and traffic noise. Although the roosters more than made up for the lack of noise. Did you city peoples know that roosters don’t cock-a-doodle-do just at dawn? They also do it at 11pm, 12am, 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am, 5am, and then finally again at 6, when the sun rises! At night lying in our bungalow we could here the sweet sweet lady who’s guest house we stayed at walking around saying “ssshhhh!” to them. i don’t know that it helped but it was a kind gesture for sure ūüôā

Some photo highlights!

Couples that spelunk together stay together:
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Apparently, he was REALLY tired:
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This is a photo of a big water buffalo (hint: the one the right) P1030472

Trying to get treats out of my pocket for the puppies:
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Greg and I have to go hop on the nightbus now to Vientiane (Lao capitol).¬† We’ll post more pics soon.

Shout out to our hiking and spelunking partnerns, Matt, Anika, & Ulf.    Happy Travels.

Goodnight,

Francie

March 24, 2007 Posted by | Laos, Pets, Photography, SE Asia, Travel | Leave a comment

Travel Status

We are leaving Luang Prabang tomorrow morning on the way to Muang Ngoi Neua which is only accessible by boat (North East up the Nam Ou river).¬† No cars or motorized vehicles in the town–we will see if there is electricity (it will probably be a few days before you see another post–so enjoy the tiger below)!¬† After Muang Ngoi Neua we will shoot down to the Lao capital Vientiane before moving down to some exciting places in the south.

In other news:  It rained today.  This is only the 2nd day it has rained in the 75 or so days we have been here.  It reminded me of Seattle.

March 20, 2007 Posted by | Misc | 1 Comment

Waterfalls, Tigers and Bears-Oh My!

Yesterday we went to Tat Kuang Si-one of the fantastic waterfalls outside of Luang Prabang. It was really beautiful and one of the great, unexpected things was that there is a small wildlife preserve at the same location.

We met Phet the Indochinese Tiger. Phet’s mother was killed by a poacher and she was recovered and relocated to this small sanctuary. I have tigers on the mind lately because I just finished Life of Pi (great book) which includes a Bengal Tiger as a character. He was very beautiful.

i will not bite you

We also met several (8 total) Asiatic Black Bears that were orphaned. They were pretty cute.  Three of them were pups. They have quite the jungle gym to play on.

i am a very funny black bear with white stripes

Overall, the waterfalls were very impressive.  There were several levels with bright turquoise pools.  Many Lao families were hanging out there as well.

waterfall

Here is one more picture of Francie and Tom at the falls. He left for Phuket yesterday. I was glad to finally meet him and can’t wait to crash at his place in New York city, hint hint.

waterfall francietom

March 20, 2007 Posted by | Laos, SE Asia, Travel, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Animals in Lao Part II: Working Elephants

Before coming to Luang Prabang, Greg and I spent 4 days in a small Lao village called Hongsa, which is known for its many elephants, most of which are still doing logging work in the forests. We arranged a trip to the forest to actually see them working:

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The idea of a big elephant using its strong trunk to help the men move logs sounds kind of neat, but we learned that the reality is very different – it is a back breaking, dangerous, and frightening job. The elephants are chained to very heavy logs which they pull through the jungle. When they go down hills the logs start sliding and the elephants have to outrun them. Because they’re pulling these logs down narrow trails, they get caught on trees sometimes and the elephant, which is attached to them by the chains, gets yanked to a halt. The elephants roar when this happens. Click here to see a video of this. (Warning: some of these vids may be disturbing to young animal loving viewers)

The elephant keepers control the elephants through commands and their ears. They can pull on an elephants ear and get a lot of leverage. Other tools they use include a metal pick and a machete. When the elephant REALLY doesn’t want to do something, the machete is placed behind their ear (probably because it is a sensitive spot) and they put pressure on it, to get the animal to move forward. The metal picks are used in a similar manner, but on any part of the body. Click here for a video of the keepers manipulating an elephant.

We watched 2 elephants taking logs down from the forest; one was 25 years old and the other was 35. They’ve been doing this their whole lives.

This logging also affects the environment. The jungles around Hongsa are slowly getting deforested. The process of getting the logs from the forest to the road wreaks havoc on the vegetation that’s left over after the trees are chopped down. Ironically, the type of trees they’re logging (Paduak) bleed a bright red sap when cut:
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It’s a tough situation because the guys doing the logging are just trying to make a living for themselves. When Thailand put a halt to logging in National forests and protected areas there was a huge problem with all the unemployed elephants and their keepers, but luckily along came Elephant eco-tourism. I hope someday this will happen for these working elephants in Laos.

More Videos:
Pulling the logs
Rolling logs downhill

What you can do if you don’t like what you see:

  1. Don’t buy exotic woods such as Paduak or Teak!!!
  2. Whenever you purchase wood, find out where it comes from first.
  3. If you visit SE Asia, go for an elephant ride. This accomplishes 2 things; 1) if its in an area with working elephants, one or more will get a day off from hard labor, 2) you will be supporting an alternative source of income for elephant keepers.
  4. Donate money to elephant or wildlife conservation groups such as WWF.

After this experience, Greg and I are lifetime participants in all of the above!

P.S. I promise our next post will be more uplifting ūüôā

March 18, 2007 Posted by | Laos, Pets, SE Asia, Travel, Wildlife | 7 Comments