Tag Archives: mekong

The Magic of Travel

27 Mar

Z on back of sawngthaew, Four Thousand Islands, Laos

The big adventure!

One of the great things about travelling with Z is the pleasure he takes in the different means of going from A to B. From the night train to Bangkok to trekking through the Cambodian jungle to swan boats in Hue, Vietnam.

But for me, this snap of him riding tailgate on a sawngthaew (South-East Asian pickup-taxi-bus), ahead of our big adventure down the Mekong in Four Thousand Islands, Laos, sums up his excitement.

So I’ve submitted it to Photo Fridays at Delicious Baby.

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Unexpected Pleasures

24 Mar

sign to weaving village, luang prabang, laos

A sign of good things to come

Travelling with children, the best days sometimes come out of absolutely nowhere, and from the lowest expectations. And on our first day in Luang Prabang, Laos, my expectations were pretty much rock bottom.

Yet we ended up swimming in the most fantastic set of rapids, having masterclasses in weaving and petanque, meeting an utterly delightful baby, eating our best Lao food so far, watching an A-grade Mekong sunset, chatting for hours, and being given a pile of movies that one or the other of us has been wanting to watch for ages.

This journey, and the unmitigated blessing of ample time with my son, has converted me to mooching. But, of its nature, it’s not something you can set out to do. Continue reading

The Mysteries of Maths…

21 Mar

Z in riverside bar, Vang Vieng, Laos

No, Please, Not Maths Again.

“Home” schooling this week has been, I think, quite successful. Z has produced a gorgeous picture of a Mekong sunset, and a piece of descriptive writing about the Mekong which is not only highly effective but, even better, entirely U-rated.

Having sat through at least four years of parents’ evenings, listening to a selection of teachers express their bewilderment at how an articulate child who could read before he turned three will not complete a piece of writing at any length longer than a paragraph, this is a real coup.

Then, of course, there is the maths. Continue reading

Swimming Lessons

17 Mar

Field of young rice

Almost as beautiful as under the Mekong

When it comes to swimming, the Mekong (at least in the dry season), is the don. And the swimming off Don Det, in Si Phan Don, Laos, really vaut le voyage.

There’s a tiny – I think artificially enhanced – sand beach off one corner of the island, with islets at the most beautiful range of distances.

The depth shelves off so fast you can dive from a catamaran moored on the shore, yet, unlike the ocean, there’s no turbulence or drag to go with the drop off, and the decline is smooth, not shelved. Continue reading

Messing About in Boats — Part 3

17 Mar

We’d clearly got lucky with our choice of stopping places the day before, because my firm belief that hardly any village in Laos will be too small to have someone selling small-ticket items like Lao-style crisps and various liquids from out of their house is comprehensively proved wrong.

By lunchtime, we are out of pop. We are low on drinking water, and what we have is finest boiled Mekong, with a slightly kippered flavour and the odd brown and lurking strand. Plus I gave our last pack of Lao-style crisps to one of Eli’s grandkids. Continue reading

Messing About in Boats – Part 2

17 Mar

It is pretty much a given, in rural South-East Asia, that falang (and, I guess, locals too) in need of a bed for the night will eventually find someone prepared to put them up.

So, as the sunset pink fades from the Mekong, the night fishermen come out and we moor our increasingly sodden skiff on a promising-looking stretch of bank on another substantial island which does not appear on our map, there is no hint of the Straw Dogs about the encroaching dark. It’s just an adventure. Continue reading

In Praise of Crap Towns

9 Mar

Here we are, in Savannakhet, Laos, the third-largest city in the People’s Republic, as all 120,000 inhabitants would, I’m sure, be pleased to tell you, if they gave a shit, and loving every minute of it (although I am slightly mystified by my son’s ineffable instinct to seek out the single most expensive restaurant in any one-horse dorp he hits).

The bus was a bit crap, as buses should be, and late, c’est-la-vie, but full of local people, also present and correct. When we got off, there was ONE (count him!) tuk-tuk driver.

“You want tuk-tuk?” he says, after a decent pause. Continue reading

Dolphins on the Mekong

22 Feb

Kratie, Cambodia: Sunset over the Mekong

Kratie, Cambodia: Sunset over the Mekong

I was eighteen when I read about the pink freshwater dolphins on the Amazon. I’ve dreamed of seeing them ever since, and Z and I will do this later on this journey.

In the meantime, though, we stopped in Kratie on our way back from Ban Lung, Ratanakiri, to see the Irrawaddy dolphins on the Mekong, and avoid a repetition of our experience on the way up.

The Kratie pod cluster around 15km upriver from the town itself. We took a sampan out to see them from the riverside there, the driver paddling the boat so quietly that the huffs and snorts and squeaks of the dolphins echoed across the water.

The freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin is an endangered species, but this pod was full of life. They surfaced, puffed and played in groups of two or three, one pair arcing so close to the boat that we could see the expressions on their faces. Continue reading