That Time I Ate Singapore

So just to make things confusing, I actually went to Singapore twice. The first was to see my Mum and her friend Nerys on their way back from The UK, which was before the antics on Koh Phangnan. The second was after Cambodia to catch up with my good friend Georgina, before she set off for the adventure of a lifetime in Western Europe (the lucky duck).

I am sorry in advance for the lack of quality photos in this post! I really only took photos of food so prepare to see a lot of that!

Singapore is a wonderful mix of diverse cultures that are reflected in the architecture, food and even the language of this huge, vibrant city. Given the contrasts between Little India, Chinatown and the luxuriously high end shopping district of Orchard Rd, stepping out of a subway station can feel like stepping into another world. However what sets Singapore miles apart from the rest of South East Asia is its cutting edge technology, world class infrastructure and highly developed economy.

10351066_10152561693508376_8200045476157612709_n

My time with Mum and Nerys revolved mostly around shopping and drinking. We stayed in a hotel very close to shopping heaven, Orchard Rd, so it was impossible to get to the subway station without one of us seeing something along the way that we wanted to buy. 

A massive highlight of my time with them was going to Altitude Bar, supposedly the tallest alfresco bar in the world. Situated on the 62nd floor rooftop of One Raffles Place, it boasts a stunning 360′ view of Singapore’s skyline. It doesn’t come cheap though. With a $30 cover charge that includes one cocktail, its about double the price of an entire night out in most backpacker hubs in South East Asia, so thanks Mum!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Had to go for a Singapore Sling, of course!
Had to go for a Singapore Sling, of course!

10382837_10152622623286834_7550295294724987424_n

Mum and Nerys were frothing to go to the iconic Raffles Hotel, a luxurious, colonial style hotel originally built in 1899. Its also the birthplace of the classic Singapore Sling. The Raffles magic was a bit lost on me but certainly not on Mum and Nerys. I’ve never seen two women more excited to see a building!

Singapore Slings at Raffles. I mean it when I say you can't taste any alcohol at all.
Singapore Slings at Raffles. I mean it when I say you can’t taste any alcohol at all… suits me fine.

Georgina and I stayed in a hostel in Little India. I would argue that Little India is the most culturally rich area of Singapore. It’s obvious that the vast majority (if not all) of the people living in and frequenting this area are actually Indian, and so there is an abundance of delicious and truly authentic Indian food to be found, along with traditional Indian clothes, bangles, bindis, random nick-nacks, flower garlands and religious ornaments. There’s also a massive fresh produce market that sells all different kinds of meat other than beef, rare fruit and vegetables for Indian specialty dishes and a whole lotta spices. 

I can’t ignore the fact that when walking through Little India, there’s one thing I didn’t like. Yes, the beautiful smells and colours are a welcome assault to the senses but what’s not welcome, is the constant staring from the vast majority of men. You know I wouldn’t write about this if it weren’t true, so I feel obligated to mention that if you’re a white female walking through Little India then prepare to be looked at. This happened to all of us time and time again, both with Mum and Nerys and with Georgina. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with what we wore, as I got stared at whilst wearing baggy hippy pants and a T-shirt just as much as I got stared at whilst wearing a short spaghetti-strap dress. I’m not saying that every man we saw in Little India stared us down, but believe me there were a lot. I won’t deny that I felt extremely uncomfortable, although I will stress that I never felt unsafe.

Mum and I in Little India.
Mum and I in Little India.
Beautiul rainbow of Indian dresses.
Beautiul rainbow of Indian dresses.

Georgina and I share a true love of food, so we basically made it our mission in Singapore to eat all the delicious things that were available and within our price range. Our first port of call was Sakunthala’s, an Indian restaurant that was recommended to us by our hostel.

When we sat down at the restaurant, they put us on a shared table with a big group of Indian men all chatting away in their native language. There was this one guy on the end who looked kinda in the group but kinda not. Suddenly he turns to us and says (in the most bogan Australian accent I have ever heard) “Aye are youse guys from Astraya?” Oh My God it was so unexpected and so funny. It was definitely a “had to be there moment” but holy shit it was hilarious. Georgina and I were both so surprised and we laughed about it for ages afterwards. We ended up getting chatting to him, he was a really nice guy from Perth and he helped us pick out some stuff from the menu which we’d never heard of before. This was legit Indian, no butter chicken here. We both ended up getting vegetarian set meals with bread and rice and a small serve of a few different veggie curries, and we also shared some chicken as well. It was so delicious, and really good value! I think we only spent about $12 SGD each, probably one of the cheapest meals we had in Singapore!

Evidently pleased.
Evidently pleased.

The next day, Eat Fest 2014 continued! We went for a bit of a shopathon (kidding I’m broke) down at Orchard Road and stopped for lunch at Marchè, a Swedish market-style restaurant that is famous for its potato rosti. We didn’t try the rosti because the queue was stupidly long but we did get a delicious chicken and seafood paella and calamari with aioli. We washed it down with some old-school fresh squeezed lemonade. 

IMG_3875 IMG_3856 IMG_3871

Baked sweets cabinet at Marchè - WOW.
Baked sweets cabinet at Marchè – WOW.

That day we walked all the way from Little India to Orchard Road to the Singapore Botanical Gardens in the 34′ heat and 1000% humidity. We got a bit lost and ended up walking about 10kms, so that was fun (~~~sarcasm~~~). We also went to the Gardens by the Bay which is where those great big light up trees are near Marina Bay Sands. Both gardens are really nice! I apologise for not having photos of this! Lazy past me deserves a slap on the wrist.

Next on Eat Fest is breakfast at a very cute, very busy little cafe called Drury Lane! I went for the pancakes with poached pears, blueberry compote and maple syrup – just thinking about it makes me drool. G had the eggs benedict which everyone else in the whole cafe seemed to be eating. Also delicious!

IMG_3921 IMG_3914

Honestly I’m not even sure what we did that day. The only thing I remember is eating that delicious $6 wonton noodle soup in ChinaTown. Wow is all I can say. No photo this time!

On our final night in Singapore we decided to watch the laser light show over the bay opposite Marina Bay Sands and then head out for dinner at Clarke Quay. We were wondering how Singapore could afford to put on what we assumed would be a mind-blowingly spectacular laser light show every night. Turns out its not spectacular at all, so that’s how they afford it. Tbh, bit of a waste of time. Marina Bay is still pretty though.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

So we headed off to Clarke Quay in search of deliciousness and were overwhelmed with choice. There was nowhere that really stood out to us both, so we settled on what smelled the best, which was Señor Taco’s Mexican. I have been craving Mexican food for so long and damn girl this is exactly what I needed. Totally overpriced but really yummy.

Super fresh guac and toasty warm corn chippies.
Super fresh guac and toasty warm corn chippies.
Chicken (?) tacos! We got pork as well but forgot to take a photo. Really great meal!
Chicken (?) tacos! We got pork as well but forgot to take a photo. Really great meal!

I don’t remember what we did the following day but I do remember SPRINTING through the torrential rain to get from the subway station back to our hostel. We (well, I) was running late to get to the airport. We both got drenched within two minutes, with my white T-shirt going completely see-through. We then waited outside the hostel with our bags trying to hail a taxi. I kid you not we waited for an hour, and every taxi that drove past shook their heads at us. The hostel even tried multiple times to call one for us but there were apparently none available! Eventually the hostel guy tells us that there is another subway station that is conveniently on the airport line only a ten minute walk away. Well thanks for letting us know mate. We literally ran to this train station. Poor Georgina had to carry her super heavy suitcase while I waddled along with a backpack on each side. We must have looked RIDICULOUS. We joked that somebody probably took a video of us that was instantly going viral. I felt like a contestant on The Amazing Race. Finally, we make it on the train, soaked, out of breath and now stressed that the train wasn’t going to get us there in time. I am one of those people who likes to get to the airport unnecessarily early, like before check in has even opened. Georgina was trying to convince me that we were definitely going to make it with an hour before close of check-in. But in my head I was thinking this is it. After 8 months overseas, this is the day I miss a flight.

All the panic was for nothing, of course. I arrived with plenty of time to spare, checked-in and got my tax refund. Georgina and I said our sad goodbyes as well (insert crying emoji). The next time I see her will be in March, which feels like a long time to wait, but when I think about how quickly this year has gone I remember that its really nothing at all.

After zooming through passport control and inhaling some McDonald’s, I sailed smoothly through customs and was on my way to Ho Chi Minh City. Good evening Vietnam!

Advertisements

Ruins, Beaches and a Horrifying History: One Week in Cambodia

After recovering from my dengue-like illness in Bangkok, I rolled out of bed at an ungodly hour for the 5:55am train to Aranyaprathet, the border town to Cambodia. When I hit Khao San road at sunrise, there was still people sitting in the gutter being sick all over themselves. Ah, youth.

I got a tuk-tuk to the train station and bought my ticket with plenty of time to spare. It cost me only $1 for the seven hour journey through the beautiful Thai countryside. Getting another tuk-tuk to the immigration and going through passport control and into Cambodia was easy as pie. The four hour bus to Siem Reap cost $9 and I was told that it included drop off at my accommodation. This was a total lie, as I had to pay another $5 to get from the bus station to the first hostel I could find. It was pissing down rain (as usual) and I was exhausted. I headed straight out for some food glorious food, wandered around the night market and then went to bed. 

The next day was another early start. My new German friend Roxanne and I were up before dawn to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat. “Angkor what?” I hear you ask? Don’t worry, I’d never heard of it either to be real. The Temples of Angkor are located just outside Siem Reap and span over 400 square kilometres. The archeological site contains the ruins of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th century. It is the largest religious monument as well as the largest preindustrial city in the world. Angkor Wat is actually the name of one particular structure, but the name has come to be used to refer to the entire site. 

Sunrise over Angkor Wat is supposed to be mind-blowingly beautiful, but due to the unfortunate weather, the sunrise that we saw was rather an anti-climax. 

Expectations:

(Image by Michael and Faye Johnson, 2011. http://www.travelblog.org/Photos/6573717)
(Image by Michael and Faye Johnson, 2011. http://www.travelblog.org/Photos/6573717)

Reality:

IMG_3211Both Roxanne and I found the actual Angkor Wat ruins a little bit disappointing, but we did really enjoy the Bayon Temple, which has hundreds of detailed faces intricately carved into its stone structure. I’m so annoyed at myself because the combination of the horrible overcast weather and me not knowing how to use my camera like a pro meant that all my photos of the ruins were terrible!

Image by Next Trip Tourism, 2012. http://nexttriptourism.com/bayon-temple-tourism-in-cambodia/
Image by Next Trip Tourism, 2012. http://nexttriptourism.com/bayon-temple-tourism-in-cambodia/

IMG_3775Siem Reap has  very seedy bar scene which I decided not to investigate. Instead, Roxanne and I took an overnight bus to Sihanoukville, the backpacker beach town on the South Coast of Cambodia. Our overnight bus was ridiculous. Roxanne and I basically had to share a single bed. We were told that we would arrive in Sihanoukville at 7am. Nope, we arrived in Phnom Penh at 7am and had to get on another bus that got us to Sihanoukville at 2pm. As is tradition, it was pouring with rain when we arrived. Also, I lost a shoe! Somewhere between Siem Reap and changing buses in Phnom Penh, one of my beautiful Nikes became detached from my backpack that was being held in the storage compartment underneath the bus. Gutted! 

I’m sure Sihanoukville, or “Snooky” as I heard somebody call it, is beautiful in the dry season when the sun is shining but, of course, it was either raining or cloudy the whole time I was there. Classic. The rather unimpressive beach is packed with ladies selling mani-pedis and massages, and seven year olds selling bracelets. My two new friends made up for all of that though, James and Ash from Sydney! We got along really well. It was so nice to meet some fellow Aussies with my same sense of humour! We ended up travelling to Phnom Penh together where I visited the Killing Fields and S21 Prison Museum to learn about the absolute horror of the Khmer Rouge. 

Ash, myself and James
Ash, myself and James

Between 1975 and 1978, the Khmer Rouge senselessly tortured and murdered up to an estimated 3 million people, including women and children. Under the reign of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge invaded the entire country, capturing anyone who was skilled or educated. These people were seen as a threat to Pol Pot’s horrifying regime. I won’t go into details about exactly what happened back then because it is honestly too disturbing to discuss.

What shocks me most, is that I didn’t learn about any of this in school. I’d vaguely heard of the Khmer Rouge, but I had no idea of the extent of the atrocity that went on. How the hell did I not know about this? This was surely one of the most evil crimes ever committed against humanity and it happened less than forty years ago. In fact, just two days ago the two most senior surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge were finally convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison (Fuller & Wallace, 2014). It absolutely stuns me that this is such modern history. In a time when TVs and radios were very much a reality, absolute terror was taking place in a country not too far from my own, and nothing was done to stop it. That being said, there are apparently 41 wars being fought around the world right now, and here I am, writing a blog.

If you’d like to know more about the Khmer Rouge, educate yo’self here.

IMG_3312

"Magic Tree.. The tree was used as a tool to hang a loudspeaker which make sound louder to avoid the moan of victims while they were being executed."
“Magic Tree.. The tree was used as a tool to hang a loudspeaker which make sound louder to avoid the moan of victims while they were being executed.”

IMG_3315 IMG_3303 IMG_3319 IMG_3309 IMG_3307

Obviously this was a very sobering experience but one of Cambodia’s absolute must-sees. There is no other way to even begin to understand the horrendous past of this still-recovering country. 

I spent one final night in Phnom Penh with James and Ash. We ate some pizza to boost my happiness levels after that day’s confronting activities and drank a cocktail at one of Phnom Penh’s swankiest rooftop bars (although, it wasn’t very swanky at all to be honest).

The following day I flew out to Singapore to see my girl, Georgina (YAY!) and to eat literally every delicious thing we could get our hands on!

Rainy Beaches, Crashed Motorbike, Full Moon Party and Dengue Fever: South Thailand Round-Up.

After volunteering at SaeLao, I made my way back to Bangkok to be reunited with Murphy, my best friend from home! (YAY!) Murph and I spent two weeks together in South Thailand, spending a few days in Bangkok, followed by Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangnan.

Basically all we did in Bangkok was shop and drink like desperate housewives. It was great.

We took a 14 hour overnight train to Surat Thani followed by a 1 hour bus, 30 minute ferry and 30 minute taxi ride to get us to our hotel in Koh Samui. SO WORTH IT. I decided it was time for some luxe livin’ so Murph and I treated ourselves to a stay at Mantra Boutique Resort, a five-star paradise up in the hills of Koh Samui, overlooking Bo Phut beach.  It was stunning, and we had the best time catching up and enjoying the good life for the two nights we were there. The weather was absolutely amazing on the day we arrived, but turned stormy the next day. That didn’t stop us from sipping cocktails by the pool though.

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 11.31.06 am

Poolside drankin'
Poolside drankin’
Crazy storm!
Crazy storm!

The ferry ride from Koh Samui to Koh Tao was beyond a joke. The weather was horrible, and so the sea was super choppy. When we were about 20 minutes away from Koh Tao, we pulled up next to another boat and were told that we had to get on that one instead. So our whole boat full of about 150 people, had to jump from one boat to another. As the boat rocked up and down, we had to time our step on to the new boat perfectly, or else we would lose our footing and fall into the water. I had 30kg strapped to my body and Murph was carrying a rather large suitcase so needless to say this exercise was both extremely difficult and also terrifying.

We spent three nights in Koh Tao and it didn’t stop raining the entire time. Except, of course, the day we left! So disappointing! So no diving, no snorkelling, no beach time, nothing! Since we couldn’t have any fun in the sun we thought we’d at least have a wild night at the Koh Tao Pub Crawl. We got to the meeting place right on time at 7 o’clock but they were sold out! Nobody told us to go early! Argh so annoying! Poo you Koh Tao.

Beautiful weather the day we left!
Beautiful weather the day we left!

Next stop, Koh Phangnan. With more cheap alcohol and MDMA than you can poke a chopstick at, this party paradise is a favourite of lads on tour and home of the famous Full Moon Party. Upon arriving at our hostel in Koh Phangnan I was reunited with Amelia, Chloe and Alice from The UK (YAY!). We immediately got into the Koh Phangnan spirit with a game of Kings Cup before heading out to a pool party at Coral Bungalows, one of the resorts on the island. This pool party was nothing short of insane. There was at least 1000 other people there, a massive bar with incredibly cheap buckets of alcohol and a huge (probably disease-ridden) pool that was literally full of people. I have never seen anything like it. It was some Project X level shit.

Not a great photo but you get the idea! CRAZY!
Not a great photo but you get the idea! CRAZY!

10487547_10152234138460108_7726619092916595951_n

Getting home was tough for little Amelia.
Getting home was tough for our little Meems.

The next day, Murph and I decided to do what all stupid backpackers do, hire a motorbike. Now, I’ve ridden a motorbike before. I was confidently zooming around Chiang Mai and Pai on one for a week, but I’d never ridden with someone on the back.

You guessed it, we crashed.

The road from Baan Tai Beach (where we stayed) to Haad Rin beach (where all the shops and restaurants are) is made up of unbelievably steep inclines and declines. The roads are very narrow, and overrun with speeding, horn-honking taxis. While riding up one particularly steep hill, our bike decided to give up on us. It started to slow down. I panicked. I slammed on the brakes and Murph and I jumped off the bike. Taxis were speeding past, literally inches away from us. People on motorbikes were honking their horns and zooming around us.

In my panicked state, I accidentally revved the accelerator as I tried to wheel the bike to the side of the road. The bike flew out of my grip and straight into a ditch.

Fuck.

I stood stock-still staring at the scratched-up bike with my hand over my mouth. I was in complete shock. The front and sides were covered in scuff marks and scratched. One of the side mirrors had cracked. The seat was broken and no longer clicked into place. I thought I was going to vomit. The bike was too heavy for us to lift out of the ditch so we stood shaking on the side of the road until some good samaritans stopped to help us.

We waited there for at least half an hour wondering what the hell to do. Did I mention it had started POURING rain? There was no way either of us were getting back on the bike, so how were we going to get ourselves back to the hostel? And how were we going to get the bike back to the hostel?! And how much money are we going to have to pay to repair this now messed up motorbike???!!!?!

You can imagine the state I was in at this point.

Eventually some guys turned up, and we begged them to drive our motorbike back to our hostel for us while we took a taxi. These guys could have just taken off on our bike never to be seen again. THANK GOD they didn’t. What absolute HEROES. I honestly have no idea what we would have done without them.

In the end, we paid $100 for the damages on our bike. It could have been a lot worse. We are incredibly lucky to have come out of it completely unhurt, albeit extremely shaken up and scarred for life.

Murph and I when we were NOT distressed over motorbike incident. Ah, a happier time.
Murph and I when we were NOT distressed over the motorbike incident. Ah, a happier time.

As that day progressed, I was not feeling good. I had no appetite, a fever, chills, felt extremely weak, fatigued and had muscle aches. I spent pretty much the entire afternoon sleeping. That night was the Jungle Experience Party, which some people say is even better than the Full Moon Party. Given my condition, I decided to skip it. I thought maybe my body was having some sort of weird stress reaction the the motorbike incident, but when I went to bed at 8pm and didn’t wake up the next day until lunch-time, I knew something was definitely wrong with me. That’s when Alice decided to drop the bomb that there had been a lot of dengue fever going around. Sure enough, after a quick Google, I discovered my symptoms were an exact match for dengue. Nothing like a life-threatening mosquito-borne tropical disease to kill the vibe on the day of the Full Moon Party.

Despite feeling absolutely horrible, I couldn’t possibly miss out on the promised night of all nights, so I donned my ridiculous fluorescent singlet and some face paint and tried to psych myself up for what was supposed to be the best night of my life (okay, no). In an effort to prolong my lifespan, I decided not to drink at all because it would only thin my blood and let the dengue kill me faster. So as probably the only sober person out of the 20 000 that attended the July Full Moon Party, you can imagine the amount of fun I was having. HINT: NONE AT ALL. I felt like I was on death’s door, and at 2am (8 hours earlier than when the average person leaves) I just couldn’t take it anymore, so I got a taxi back to the hostel.

YAY ALICE
YAY ALICE
Trying to stay awake before heading down to the beach.
Trying to stay awake before heading down to the beach. Evidently not doing a very good job, given that my eyes are closed.

THIS SUCKS. I cannot believe I missed out on the biggest party in South East Asia because I was ill. Of all the times I could have gotten sick over the last 8 months, it had to be now.

We spent the next night on the 14 hour train back to Bangkok. By this point I had developed a rash all over my body. Death by dengue was imminent. We went to the hospital the following morning only for the doctor to tell me I had a viral infection, and it was far enough along now that there was no point in even giving me any antibiotics. GREAT. I laid cooped up in my hotel room in Bangkok for the next three days, too sick to even see Murph off at the airport. It was so horrible, but hey, I didn’t die. So all’s well that ends well.

Volunteering at SAELAO Project, Nathong Village, Laos

After my share of tubing, I decided to spend three weeks volunteering with SAELAO, an environmental sustainability and educational project just outside of Vang Vieng in the sleepy Nathong Village.

Sae Lao’s mission is to provide of model of sustainable development within the local and wider communities by focusing on environmental sustainability, education and employment. They achieve this with their organic farm, farm-to-table restaurant and free English classes. As the project grows, so too do the employment opportunities for the local community.

The project aims to be as environmentally sustainable and self-sufficient as possible. Total self-sufficiency will take a long time to achieve, but their current system is still impressive. In my time there, the project was self-sufficient in rice, a number of vegetables and soon to be eggs as well. The majority of buildings on site are made entirely of sustainable materials, such as mud-bricks and bamboo. Their most inspiring feature is the Biogas system, which uses human and animal waste to create energy, which is then used to power the kitchen stove. Think about this – the food grows in the garden, it is cooked using the Biogas, we eat it, we turn it into waste (I’m talking about poo here) and then it is fed back into the Biogas system for the cycle to repeat itself. And, the physical after product of the Biogas system eventually decays to compost, which goes back into the garden to grow more veggies.

Aside from being a model of environmental sustainability, the project also offers free English classes to the local community, which is a big step up in improving the education standards in the area. These classes are taught by the volunteers, and the classes I taught were a highlight of my time at Sae Lao.

View over the Sae Lao site.
View over the Sae Lao site.

A typical day at Sae Lao began at 6:50am, as my fellow volunteers and I rolled out of bed and dragged ourselves toward the breakfast table. If you made it there early enough, you had time to have a coffee and a banana, but if not, its straight to work. The morning tasks were things like cleaning the dorm and bathrooms, cleaning the pig pens, feeding the chickens, watering the plants and maintaining the Biogas system. While all that was going on, three or four people had the huge task of cooking breakfast for the entire group. We usually left this to the French volunteers, who whipped up crepes, goat cheese tarts and French toast.

IMG_4102

Karlee and I with LongTail, our favourite cat.
Karlee and I with LongTail, our favourite cat.

 

After breakfast we broke off to do some more tasks. These varied from day to day but usually included digging things and moving things and chopping things with machetes. Then came lunch, a couple of hours break, more work and another break, when we would usually walk down the road to the Blue Lagoon, a gorgeous blue water hole that was perfect for cooling off.

Playing with machetes is all fun and games until someone loses a toe.
Playing with machetes is all fun and games until someone loses a toe.
Taking a dip at the Blue Lagoon.
Taking a dip at the Blue Lagoon.

Then it was time for English classes. These ran over two hours, with one session at 5pm and the next at 6pm. For the first week, I didn’t teach, but in the second week I taught two classes. My 5 o’clock class had five students, ranging in age from 10 to 14. I taught them about time, like, how to look at a clock and be able to say it’s a quarter past three in English. There was this one student, Maisouk, who learnt everything so quickly it was honestly amazing. I would explain something to him once and he’d have it locked in his memory instantly. He picked up the whole time thing within one lesson, which left me struggling to find ways to challenge him while the other students caught up. A sad reality in these small Lao villages is that education just isn’t a number one priority. Not that people don’t recognise it’s importance, but because working on the farm or at the family business comes first. Because of this, Maisouk isn’t able to come to classes all the time. It is so heartbreaking to see such a bright kid with such incredible potential not being able to excel, but unfortunately that is the way things are.

My 6 o’clock class were a group of eight boys in their late teens, who already spoke English quite well and often said some very entertaining typical teenage boy things. They had a habit of staying later and asking questions, sometimes for an extra 45 minutes. Whilst this occasionally got a bit annoying, it was inspiring to see how eager they were to learn, and how excited they were to practice and challenge themselves.

I also got to teach a group of monks. They were learning really basic phrases like greetings, and I taught them vegetables. They were SO funny. I’m pretty sure half the time they had no idea what was going on but they were just so happy to be learning that it made us all happy.

Community centre/ dorm room/ class room.
Community centre/ dorm room/ class room.

We followed that working schedule for six days a week, with one day off to go into town and be reunited with civilisation, junk-food, sit-down toilets and wifi.

We also went out one night in VV, things got weird and one of us got arrested. (Wasn't me, promise)
We also went out one night in V.V., things got weird and one of us got arrested, but more on that another time.
This guy bet Karlee he could pick her up. He literally picked her up.
This guy bet Karlee he could pick her up. He literally picked her up.
This photo sums up my entire time in Laos pretty well actually.
This photo sums up my entire time in Laos pretty well actually.

About half way through the second week we were told that it was time to start work on the rice fields. In short, this was hell. Standing out in the drizzling rain all day, digging small holes, planting rice, picking seedlings, filling big holes, chopping down weeds, shovelling grass off the field banks and the rest of the never ending work load. It was pretty horrible to be honest, and I have newfound respect for rice farmers who do this day after day, year after year.

10447837_458428007633877_5635218764502817888_n 10487269_458427867633891_3530117085943353995_n

This was on day one when i didn't want to poke my own eyes out.
This was on day one when I didn’t want to poke my own eyes out.

Probably the most hilarious thing to happen at those rice fields was when my fellow volunteer and good friend, Karlee, took a shit in them. Walking back to the Sae Lao site would have taken her fifteen minutes and she knew she wouldn’t make it, so she simply dropped her dacks, dug a hole and did it in the field. Without a doubt one of the funniest moments Karlee and I ever shared and for the rest of her life I will never let her live it down.

Karlee and I that time we got covered in mud.
Karlee and I that time we got covered in mud.

My three weeks at Sae Lao were a tough but rewarding experience and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to volunteer there. I feel like I gained a true cultural exchange while making lasting friendships with the other volunteers from around the world. Sorry if this post was long and boring, but I believe in this cause and I think it deserves to be shared. If you’d like to learn more about Sae Lao, you can do so here.

We also got drunk a few times. I believe this was taken during a rendition of "Pump It" by the Black Eyed Peas.
We also got drunk a few times. I believe this was taken during a rendition of “Pump It” by the Black Eyed Peas.

IMG_4176

IMG_3331

The Infamous Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos!

Laos is a binge drinker’s dream. Responsible service of alcohol simply doesn’t exist, so much so that there will almost always be more alcohol than mixer in any given drink. Since the price of local alcohol is lower than the price of soft drink/juice/red-bull/what have you, it makes perfect economical sense. This is the case pretty much all over Laos, and most of Cambodia as well, but no such place is as famous for its drunken debauchery than the picturesque riverside town of Vang Vieng, where the infamous “tubing” takes place.

Basically, “tubing” is floating down the Nam Song River in an inflatable tube, taking in the beautiful scenery, making new friends, and getting absolutely shit-faced. Yep, there are bars lining the river. Bars that welcome you in with a chorus of “TUUUUUBERS” whilst forcing free shots of Tiger Whiskey into your hands and singing praises of $2 Vodka Redbulls. Oh, and by “bars” I don’t mean a swanky outdoor terrace, I mean a person pouring drinks in a bamboo hut, surrounded by beer pong tables, a giant game of drinking Jenga and in one case, a beach volleyball court.

Tubing was at it’s peak in popularity around 2010, when there were dozens of bars along the river,  along with rope swings, zip-lines and water slides. With absolutely zero safety precautions in place, these are dangerous activities at the best of times, but add drunken backpackers and it gets out of control. Sadly, as tubing grew in popularity, so did the death toll and so measures were taken and the bars were closed. The rope swings and zip-lines were taken down and the slides were dismantled.

These days, things are up and running again, but there are only four bars along the river and there are no rope swings, zip-lines or slides to be seen. But that doesn’t mean that Vang Vieng isn’t still one of the best (if not the best) party towns in South East Asia. 

I went tubing three times and given the opportunity, I would go a hundred more. I freaking loved it. It is so so so much fun and one of the top highlights of my entire trip.

The party doesn’t end with tubing though, Vang Vieng town is full of bars that kick on well into the night. Whether you’re into playing beer pong at Kangaroo Sunset, chugging Guinness at Gary’s or getting happy at Jaidees, this place literally has something for everyone. And no night in Vang Vieng would be complete without a chicken baguette eaten on the side of the road at 4am. Oh man I miss those baguettes…

Pre-tube with my favourite British babes.
Pre-tube with my favourite British babes.
The moment Samar and Caitlin became beer pong queens at Bar 1.
The moment Samar and Caitlin became beer pong queens at Bar 1.
Bar 1. Dignity not yet lost.
Bar 1. Dignity not yet lost.
Aw this gal.
Aw this gal.
Around about the time when things got weird.
Around about the time when things got weird.
Liam and random Lao family ?!?!??! Um, wot?
Fabulous Liam and a random Lao family ?!?!??! Um, wot?
Me taking over a sandwich lady's stall. And I have no idea who's glasses they are.
Me taking over a sandwich lady’s stall. And I have no idea who’s glasses I’m wearing nor do I give any shits about how utterly ridiculous I look in this photo.
Lol evidently loving life right here.
Lol evidently loving life right here.
Vang Vieng, how could I not love you?
Vang Vieng, how could I not love you?

Stay tuned for my post about volunteering at educational and environmental sustainability project, SAELAO !