Tag Archives: gap year

The slow boat to Luang Prabang

For the next section of our trip we’d decided to take a slow boat down the Mekong river from Hauy Xai to Luang Prabang. It was to take two days, with a stop over night in Pak Bang.

We’d been recommend by Luke to pay a bit extra to take a luxury boat. The cheap local boats can get very overcrowded. We looked into the luxury boats but none were running due to it being low season. So, local boat it is then! We ended up having a really great time! Our boat was a good mix of backpackers and locals, and we were with David, Daria and Anita from the Gibbon Experience. We got chatting with lots of people, drank beers until the bar was dry and enjoyed the scenery. I’ll let the photos do the talking.

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Eight hours on a slow boat is a really great way to travel! No motion sickness, you can walk around a bit, plus it was such a stunning journey. Also, it cost 20 quid each, for sixteen hours of travel! We arrived at the half way point, Pak Bang, and were shoved in the back of a truck and taken to a hostel by some locals. It was half the price of what we usually pay (tenner a night) but I must say….. It was absolutely grim. I took one look at the bathroom and said “no thank you!” And walked back out. We were then taken to somewhere really nice, so we had a good night! We enjoyed good food, more beer then conked out.

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The following day on the boat was much of the same. We arrived in Luang Prabang at around 6pm and went to find our guest house.
That evening we met our gibbon/slow boat buddies at a bar called Utopia, which is all outdoors and on the banks of the Mekong. It had loads of mats on the floor so you can be horizontal whilst you drink – definitely my kind of place.

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We spent five nights in Luang Prabang because we loved it so much! It was similar to Ubud in Bali… Really chilled and hippie! What I love about travelling is when you find somewhere you really like so you just stay. Here’s a few good memories:

– silly nights spent in Utopia. Being kicked out at 11.30pm and then being bundled into tuk tuks and taken off to the bowling alley with people riding on the roofs and hanging on the back (I was safely inside mum) … Due to the communist government there’s a 12pm curfew in Laos, but the local policeman runs the bowling alley which stays open and is full with drunk backpackers until 2.30pm. I’m crap at bowling but doing it pissed makes it much more enjoyable.

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– the best icecream I’ve ever had. Coconut icecream from heaven.

– discovering we had really posh tv channels so avoided the midday heat by lying in the air conditioning and watching The Walking Dead. (Ive reached the point where this doesn’t make me feel guilty at all.)

– a really cool book shop filled with art, where I bought a beautiful tile painted with Buddhas face, made by a local artist. Upstairs they had a cinema room where we spent two evenings watching films.

– the best waterfalls I have EVER seen. Blue water. Stunning.

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(Swimming in an infinity pool is on my bucket list. I found the natural version – swimming on the edge of a waterfall. Tick!)

– walking the streets of Luang Prabang and bumping into people you know from the boat. It gave me a sense of familiarity that made me feel like I was back home in Kendal.

– helping a local shake mangoes from a tree with a big stick.

– meeting a survivor of the 2006 Thai Boxing Day tsunami. Out of 120 people in his village, he was one of four survivors. I couldn’t stop thinking about him for days and days and days.

– walking up a lot of steps to visit the temple and watch the sunset. Got fleeced by a “monk” and couldn’t see the sunset for the people. HA

– wandering around hungover and seeing Anita and Patrick and then joining them on a very slow food crawl from cafe to cafe with more friends joining as they bumped into us.

– hot and killer walks to and from the Vietnamese Embassy to get our visas sorted.

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We left Laos with heavy hearts. Although we didn’t get to see all of the country, what we did see was beautiful, and we made some wonderful new friends. Until next time!

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“Another day, another dollar.”

Well hello there,

You find us entering our eighth and final week of fruit thinning. There’s a lot of people muttering “another day, another dollar” around here. Catchy.  I’m just amazed that we’ve A) come this far and I haven’t yet fallen off the ladder and died (there’s still time…) B) I haven’t lost my temper and been sacked.

Nothing new to report over here. On a sunny day last week, our Kiwi friend Rochelle took us to the river, and we took some “flagoons” (takeaway beer) with us, so that was a nice change of scenery. We discussed how the supervisors are always yelling “check your tree before you leave!!” And how this might be, in fact some kind of philosophical life motto. Check your tree before you leave. Check your tree before you leave… Mind blowing!

We cycled to the supermarket and discovered that Whitakers chocolate was on offer!

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I also found this banana that was so big that I couldn’t leave it there.

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(I’ve added my passport for scale.) We later discovered that it was a plantain, not a banana. A bit disappointed, but eating plantain was one of my new tasks to try before my birthday, so it’s good to tick one off!!

I’m so delighted that next time I post on here we won’t be in Hastings!!!!!!!!!! Yes!!! It’s been a long week. So long, that Tom invented the “biscuit salad” in order to get us through.

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We’ve bought a laptop, so we should be able to start posting some decent photos for your to see soon. It also means that tom has been able to do some sound stuff, and he’s made a post of all the music we heard in Central Park! Takes me right back. Www.samplingtheglobe.wordpress.com

The majority of our evenings this weekhave been taken up with a Star Wars marathon. I have not watched a single of the six films all the way through without falling asleep. So tired. But very excited for the new film, which we plan to see in Wellington next week!

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So yes, as I said, not much to report, so I’ve decided to compile a list of things I’ve learnt over eight weeks of fruit thinning:

1) I can’t eat apples anymore.

2) The apples we are thinning are exported around the world, and sold in the UK in…. Wait for it…. HARRODS. Harrods daaaaarling! Only the best apples for us, oh yeah!

3) I HATE LADDERS.

4) If there is a god, he/she is responsible for creating audiobooks, the Women’s Hour and Serial podcast, Buffs (for holding your speaker and phone to your neck whilst you work, like a poor man’s hands free device) The Beatles, Newton Faulkner, and rubber palmed gloves. Speaking of audiobooks, I have never felt more British than when a weird sex scene happens on the book I’m listening to, and I have to cough loudly and shuffle around on my ladder so my colleagues won’t hear! Ha!

5) The cure for insomnia is a stress-free, physically tiring job.

6) Yoga is the answer to sore backs.

7) Wear Sunscreen. (Thanks Baz Lurmann.)

8) You will develop a comedy tan involving white hands and feet, which is really useful if you want to be some kind of weird mime artist in a bikini.

9) Pesticides are revolting, and make you sneeze constantly. And if you’re pregnant, you can’t work in the orchards – so it must be pretty harmful…. Which makes me even more glad to be leaving soon!

10) I can complain and whinge as much as I want, but in the end, I’m a lucky lucky person to be able to travel, and leave the job when I want. There’s plenty of people working here who have a family to support.

11) Shit jobs give you a drinking/chocolate consumption problem.

As a final note, here is a selfie that I accidentally took on my phone. I think it’s hilarious!!!!! HA

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When people discover that we’ve been working here for seven weeks, they are really surprised that we’ve survived this long. I like to respond with “yeah I used to look like Kate Moss before we started working here.”

Now I’m like this version of Mossy:

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And then there were two.

Hello there from sunny Hastings.

It is actually sunny. Unbearably sunny on some days. We’ve only just discovered that Hawkes Bay is the hottest area in the entire of New Zealand, so well done us! At least we’re finally working through the kilos of suncream we brought with us, so our bags will be lighter. We’re both getting browner despite larding up with factor 50 every break time at work.

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The observant amongst you may be questioning the name of this post. Well, let me explain. Our lovely friends, Philine and Kerry, and Max and Mathilda were sacked from work, and have had to leave our house. So it’s a little quiet over here. We’re abandoned, miles from the supermarket,  with a distinct lack of chicken parties.

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We’ve arranged to meet them in the South Island in January for a dolphin party, so that’s good.

Work has started at 7am each day this week, leaving us all with thousand yard stares at break times. My tiredness results in me repetitively closing the ladder on my head and also thinking I’m on the bottom step when I’m not and having a mini heart attack when I step off into the air… I’m not spacially aware at the best of times.

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(Above is my bastard of a ladder. He has sharp bits on the reverse of the bottom rung that cut the back of my leg every time it swings shut on it. I’ve got a delightful pair of very bruised and cut up calves now! )

Another highlight of the last week was the meeting on Friday, where the health and safety officer came and shouted at us all for standing on the very top step of the ladder and blaming our idiocy for the three people that fell off the ladders. I had to put my head between my legs and do some yoga breathing to prevent myself from commiting GBH… The supervisors had screamed at us when we were terrified and told us we’d be fired if we didn’t stand on top of the ladders!!!!! ARGHHHHH!!!!

Okay! A few happy things to lighten the mood:

1) Only fifteen working days left until we are free again.

2) We’ve booked flights for March: from Australia to Bali, Bali to Malaysia, and Malaysia to Hong Kong. We now only need to book Hong Kong to Tokyo, Tokyo to Bangkok and then our flight home from whichever South East Asian country we find ourselves in! I’m so excited to be on the move again. I’ll be so happy to leave Hastings.

3) Yesterday I saw a possum in the garden. I was really excited by it, and was telling my backpacking friends at work, when I realised some of the Maori guys had overheard and were absolutely pissing themselves at my excitement. They’re a pest here in NZ…. HA

4) The birds nests. Sometimes they have eggs, or little birds with open mouths waiting for the return of mummy bird. I like to shout “Do I look like your mother!?” at them.

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5) Another funny story… At work we have to remove the russet apples that have orange powder on them because they can’t be sold. Margot, a fellow backpacker from France, was dancing away to her reggae music whilst working, when the supervisor came over and said “there’s lots of russet over here Margot!” (implying that she wasn’t doing a very good job) to which Margot replied, “Yeah, I know, do you like it?!” the supervisor said “no!” and stormed off, leaving Margot puzzled. It turns out, Margot misheard and thought she was talking about “rasta” not “russet.” HA

6) Made friends with Maria, the lovely supervisor from Fiji. She’s working to save money to continue her studies. She’s learning to be pilot and flies here every Sunday. So cool to hear about it!

7)  Starting at 7am this week is leaving me completely exhausted and in bed by 9pm (tiny violin please) but it means I get to see the ducks sleeping on the lawn in the morning.

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8) I’ve just found out that The Corrs have got back together!

9) Chocolate is on offer at the supermarket.

And, my farewell gift to you: please enjoy this very hairy apple I found at work last week:

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