First Day in Bangkok: Grand Palace, Tuk Tuks, & Go Gos

First Day in Bangkok: Grand Palace, Tuk Tuks, & Go Gos

Guest Post by Austin Rose at PeaceJoyAustin travel blog.

 

I Made It

After 20 hours of travel from Denver through San Francisco & Beijing, I landed at Thailand’s Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport late on a Saturday evening, converted 20 USD into Thai baht (the airport exchange rate isn’t the best so I didn’t convert much yet), and took a $6 cab ride to my Couchsurfing host’s apartment 30 minutes away. My host was out partying, but another guest who was staying there let me in and showed me the bed in which I was to sleep. I woke up in the next morning with a stranger (my host I hadn’t met yet) in my bed.

Water Taxi, Khao San Road, & Mysterious Lines

In the morning, I went out to explore with two fellow guests, a couple from Israel who had just finished their military service and were on a celebratory trip through South and Southeast Asia. We hopped on the SkyTrain (Bangkok’s light rail) and took it to the Saphan Taksin stationon the Chao Phraya River. From there, we hopped on the cheapest river taxi option (orange flag, 14 baht) and took a ride North to the Tha Chang stop by the Grand Palace. The boat ride was beautiful – there were lots of pretty hotels and office buildings on each side of the river and tons of interesting barges – some of which interestingly had large tires all over their edges.

We stopped for lunch at one of the many restaurants along Na Phra Lan Road and I had a delicious pork dish. After that, we separated so I could go exchange money. I wandered into a hotel I passed and pretended to be waiting for a friend as I sat in the lobby, used their wifi, and charged my phone  Then I walked over to Khao San Road, a long and colorful block of hostels, restaurants, and bars. I found a great exchange rate at a green Kasikorn Bank currency exchange booth – this brand is known as having one of the best rates (after Superrich which are harder to find) but each booth can vary significantly.

Next, I began to walk through the Royal Field to get to the Grand Palace when I found myself stuck between incredibly long lines of people wearing all black. I found my way out of the crowd after several minutes and eventually found a way to exit the field, ultimately feeling completely clueless about what was happening. I later found out that these were Thai people waiting in line to go to a special area in the Grand Palace to mourn the king who had passed away that year. Thai people mourn the death of their kings for a period of one year and this king was especially beloved so throughout my time in the country I passed many people robed in black or wearing black ribbons in honor of him.

Bangkok

Streets of Bangkok.

 

Grand Palace & Wat Pho

 

I finally made it to the Grand Palace, where I paid my 500 baht (14 USD) admission, the single most expensive thing I bought on my entire trip. Worth it? Absolutely! The palace is easily the most beautiful human-made place I have ever visited. Wandering among dozens of ornate buildings, statues, and temples was a very magical time. While the main Grand Palace building is seemingly reserved for VIPs, Thai people, special events, etc., you are allowed to walk by and take a peek at this huge building as you exit the palace grounds. Note: this is the most touristy place in Thailand, which is arguably the most touristy country in Asia. SO MANY TOURISTS. So thankful the rest of my trip wasn’t like this.

I walked a few blocks south to Wat Pho, one of Bangkok’s other famous temples – passing a few monks along the way (not an uncommon sight in Thailand). A reasonable 100 baht entry fee got me entrance to this large complex of temples, gardens, and the famous Reclining Buddha who is gigantic, super chill, and totally my spirit Buddha. After some wonderful wandering, I exited and negotiated a tuk tuk driver down from 400 baht to 150 baht. Then ensued a thrilling ride through rush hour traffic – there was lots of weaving around stalled regular-size cars and maybe even a few squeals escaping my mouth. This 20 minute ride was one of the most fun things I experienced in Thailand and you can’t leave Thailand without taking one of your own! A tuk tuk is probably going to set you back more than a taxi, but as I did you should negotiate the price before getting in. My driver ended up giving himself a non-negotiable 50 baht tip for his (admittably impressive) driving skills which apparently can happen.

Wat Pho

Wat Pho.

 

Emquartier Mall & Benjasiri Park

From there, I hopped on the SkyTrain and went back to the On Nut station where I had

began my day to meet a Couchsurfing acquaintance. We took the SkyTrain to the new Emquartier mall where we went directly to the food court. (Side note: malls are very exquisite and popular in Thailand and they are known to have pretty decent food.) This food court requires you to put money on a card which you then use to purchase from the various vendors. If you end up with excess money on the card, you can get it refunded after your meal. I had hainan chicken and mango & sticky rice, a popular dessert consisting of slices of mango paired with a very sweet rice.

Bangkok

Thai Food.

After strolling through the mall’s beautiful rooftop garden and taking in the view, we walked South to Benjasiri Park, which was bustling with locals running, doing fencing, getting in some pull-ups, or simply sitting on benches people-watching. The park surrounds a large lake and there’s great views of skyscrapers in every direction.

I met up with another local friend and we took motorbike taxis (basically getting on the back of someone’s motorcycle and holding on) to the rail station to which we needed to go. It was my second time ever riding a motorcycle so a bit scary at fast but quite fun. We headed to the Silom area, a hot-spot of sinful and fun activity and home to Bangkok’s largest gay scene. We walked into a back alley gay red light district known as Duangthawee Plaza off Surawongse Road and found ourselves surrounded by men inviting us to come inside their businesses for massages, shows, and who knows what else. Research where you’d like to go ahead of time as I’ve heard some of the less-known places will misrepresent their prices and not allow you to leave until you pay an exorbitant fee.

 

Silom – Go-Go Show & Karaoke

 

We went to Classic Boys Club to see a go-go boy show – 300 baht admission got us into a wild and unforgettable 40 minute performance which included ladyboys expertly performing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” an underwater show (a man doing somersaults in a giant water tank), an obligatory ode to Ginuwine’s “Pony,” and dancing men in trench coats who finished wearing a lot less than when they started.

We walked a block over to the main gay strip (Silom 4) and went to Telephone Bar, one of the most popular gay bars in the city. We went to the upper level to do some karaoke– for a one-drink minimum, you get free, unlimited karaoke shared with the other tables on the level. Basically you request the songs you’d like, the karaoke coordinator (what a job!) takes turns granting each table’s request, and when your song comes up you take the mics and perform for the small room (either standing or sitting at your table – it’s casual). Since I think alcohol is poison and only drink on the most special of special occasions, I had a banana shake. Yum!

Bangkok

Night clubs of Bangkok.

From there, my friend and I took local buses to his place and called it a night. I was fascinated by his small bathroom which he described as being an old-fashioned Southeast Asian style – there was no separate stall for the shower. When you shower, the bathroom floor, toilet, sink, etc. get soaking wet! So definitely not my fave but it was a cool cultural difference to experience.

Click here to go on to = Bangkok Day 2 Blog as I head to the historic city of Ayutthaya and the tallest rooftop bar in the world.

Click here for a travel guide to Bangkok outlining cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to see, eat, and drink.

 

*This article comes courtesy of Austin Rose at PeaceJoyAustin travel Blog.

About Your fair Dinkum Traveller

Anthony Jury

Anthony Jury

Your Aussie - Asia Adventure
G'day mate, it's your Fair Dinkum traveller who ventures into Asia and around Australia. Stay tuned for epic destinations, great tips and awesome travel stories.Read more...

Khao Lak Diaries – 2nd Edition – Getting active in Thailand

Khao Lak Diaries – 2nd Edition – Getting active in Thailand

 

The weather started to clear up and whatever holed me up in a bed during the first edition of Khao Lak Diaries was somewhat easing (even I was a little weak). That meant my body finally had some of the capabilities to get active and embrace the surrounds of Khao Lak and see how beautiful the area truly is.

Although taking in the surrounds of Khao Lak, with its vibrant town centre and beautiful beaches wasn’t the only thing that will captivate my memory bank from the time I leave the tourist area. Heading out to Phang Nga Bay and its gorgeous islands, along with its stunning mangroves was an experience to saviour.

Getting active in Thailand was the theme of the second and last edition of my adventures in Khao Lak, and that meant getting out and about more often, swimming a lot more in the Mai Khao Lak resort swimming pools and exploring the region with the limited time left in Thailand.  

 

family James Bond Island.

Great family memories at Bond, James Bond.

 

Highlights of Khao Lak Diaries – 2nd Edition – Getting active in Thailand

A Longboat into Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay is as beautiful as it gets. Even on an overcast day, it didn’t take away the phenomenon as we set sail on the old longboat with the wind flowing through, bringing much relief to everyone from the humid conditions. The scenery was simply breathtaking as we by passed each island scattered in the bay with its hidden beaches, it had me thinking, if only I had my own boat to do as I please.

It was an active day out and about in Phang Nga Bay and it started with a canoe in the mangroves and through the Limestone Caves, with guides doing most of the work with the paddles, although I chimed in a little. James Bond Island (featured below) and the floating markets of Panyee Island, which is owned by the Thai Muslims were the other highlights during the busy day in the bay.

Active in thailand

Canoeing the Mangroves in Phang Nga Bay.

Active in thailand

Entering the caves.

 

James Bond Island

A part of the scene to the 1974 James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun” and don’t Thailand like to utilise it for their day tours. With Good reason too, a spectacular setting with its lonesome rock and hidden beach and its overpriced markets that is run by the locals.

Time on the James Bond Island was unfortunately limited for our crew, but there was enough time to take selfies with the famous Island in the background, take a dip in the bay amongst the crowded with people keen to take a picture and to quickly rest up in the shade and admire everything around us. It was simply stunning.

James Bond Island

Entering into James Bond IslandJames Bond Island

James Bond Island.

 

Khao Lak Night Markets

Another Southeast Asian country and another night market, but you can’t visit any part of Thailand without taking in the experience of the local towns major market’s where a bargain is sure to be found as you sharpen the bartering skills.

The Bang Niang Markets is the attraction of the Khao Lak town centre, with plenty of stalls of clothes, souvenirs, fruit and veg, bars and restaurants that will occupy your time for hours. Don’t forget to grab a cheap fresh fruit smoothie, they are great, refreshing and appreciated in the Thai heat.

Bang Nieng Khoa Lak

Khao Lak Night markets, Bang Niang.

Khao Lak Markets

Dinner time!!!

 

 

Sky Bar – Khao Lak’s only Rooftop Bar

The setting of Khao Lak’s only rooftop bar happens at the gorgeous Mai Khao Lak Beach resort. The Sky Bar, on my one and only visit was quiet and there are a few reasons surrounding this, as it is a fair stretch out of town and the drinks are overpriced as you would expect at a resort bar.

However, if you wander in to the neat bar and restaurant around 5;30 pm, you will witness the best sunset in Khao Lak and it won’t hurt you to grab a cocktail or two as you witness the stunning views of the resort and out towards the Andaman Sea.

Heading to Khao Lak? Check out TripAdvisor for great hotel deals.

Mai Khao Lak

Khao Lak’s only rooftop bar, The Sky Bar.

Sky Bar Khao Lak

Great views from the Sky Bar.

Check out the previous edition of travel diaries, Khao Lak Diaries – First Edition – Wild Thailand.

 

Khao Lak

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Anthony Jury

Anthony Jury

Your Aussie - Asia Adventure
G'day mate, it's your Fair Dinkum traveller who ventures into Asia and around Australia. Stay tuned for epic destinations, great tips and awesome travel stories.Read more...

Khao Lak Diaries – First Edition – A Wild Thailand Welcome

Khao Lak Diaries – First Edition – A Wild Thailand Welcome

Another trip and a return to Thailand, wild Thailand to be exact, because on this occasion we weren’t exactly treated to sunshine and blue skies that you can expect with the popular tourist Country. This time from the moment our AirAsia flight landed at the Phuket International Airport it was nothing but grey skies and heavy rain.

If the wild Thailand weather wasn’t enough to deter matters, when things finally turned pleasant, I was struck with sickness and bed-ridden for over a day. Tortured luck I say. Then again, I just remind myself that worse things could happen in this world and getting sick is only a pain in the butt.

With the first few days affected by weather and another sick in bed, I was not about to let the situation get the best of me and the first trip to Khao Lak was not going to be ruined, so I soldiered on and made sure I got the most out of the unfortunate circumstances.

 

family Khao Lak

Family shot at the falls in Khao lak.

 

 

Highlights of Khao Lak Diaries – First Edition – Wild Thailand

 

Where I Stayed

A family trip to Thailand requires a fine family resort, and Mai Khao Lak Beach Resort delivered in spades. Large stylish rooms, hundreds of metres of swimming pools, kids club for the children, an adult only Rooftop Bar and seven dining options of Thai and Western Cuisines.

The resort had a little of everything for everyone, where the kids were spoilt with an array of activities and adults could enjoy luxury with a pampering of the highest of standards. All with a suitable location by the beach with plenty of entertainment happening nearby. Oh, and a two-bedroom hotel room made sure there was a little separation from the kids for cuddle time at night.

Heading to Khao Lak? Check out TripAdvisor for hotels.

 

Mai Khao Lak Resort

Mai Khao Lak Resort.

Mai Khao Lak Resort

The water slides of Mai Khao Lak.

 

 

A little about Khao Lak

Khao Lak is around 90-minutes north of the Island of Phuket, and a lot quieter than its popular neighbour. Khao Lak is known for its wonderful beaches, gorgeous sunsets, a vibrant town centre, relaxed locals and luxury beachside resorts.

If you want a little quiet time in paradise, that is easily assessible, yet still offers everything that makes Thailand great, then give Khao Lak every consideration, because paradise really awaits you, especially if visit during the right time of the year, which is between November and May.

 

Khao lak beach

Looking good on a Khao Lak beach.

 

Discovering Beach Towns

Heading out to the beach from the resort, either left or right, it was a surprise to stumble upon a couple of beautifully crafted beach towns, at least that’s what I call them. Anyway, they were simply a delight.

Assessable by foot, these towns are right on the beaches edge, with the Andaman Sea only metres away. The beach towns contains all that you would expect from a small tourist village, restaurants, massage centres, tour agencies, markets stalls and even a currency exchange bank with decent rates. The best bit is the price of food and drinks, you pay about half than at the resort.

 

Khao Lak Beach town

Khao Lak Beach town.

Khao Lak

A dodgy bridge inbetween a Khao Lak beach town.

 

 

White Water Rafting

 

A fantastic family adventure in the village of Song Prack,  just outside of Khao Lak. This white-water rafting experience is as safe as it gets when it comes to navigating the river with kids (no one in my raft fell out, so that was a positive straight up). A single raft sits four with two guides at either end doing all work, that means you can experience the thrills of the low-grade raft without paddling an oar.

Amongst an adventure with turns, collisions and thrills, sit back and enjoy the ride amongst pleasant scenery and even enjoy a dip in fresh river. After the white-water adventure, there was even a decent Thai buffet lunch, which is included in the package.

Check out some white-water rafting activities in Khao Lak.

Wild thailand

Enjoying the scenery of Wild Thailand.

Wild Thailand

White-water rafting

 

 

 

Sa Nang Waterfall in Phang Nga

It wasn’t what you call a stunning waterfall that reaches any great heights, but a waterfall amongst a Thai jungle is still a refreshing way to spend an afternoon away from the heat.

The Sa Nang waterfall has a refreshing jungle walk amongst the flowing stream of water that is a pleasant sound to the ears, and if you can bare the cold water, it is also a pleasant swim.

Sa Nang Water fall

Sa Nang Waterfall.

Wild thailand

Time for a splash.

 

 

 

Some links in this article may contain affiliate links, therefore if you click on it and make a purchase, I could receive a little income. Don’t worry though, it will not come at further expense for the customer. Happy travels. 
Khao Lak

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Anthony Jury

Anthony Jury

Your Aussie - Asia Adventure
G'day mate, it's your Fair Dinkum traveller who ventures into Asia and around Australia. Stay tuned for epic destinations, great tips and awesome travel stories.Read more...

An Epic Journey of a Volunteer in Laos

An Epic Journey of a Volunteer in Laos

 The kids look up to you with intrigue in their eye, sitting on the dusty concrete floor, eating their lunches slowly, curiosity floats through their mind as to what these strange foreigners are doing in their school. They have seen foreigners before, it is not new to them, but to wander in the school grounds with fellow volunteers is an experience to always saviour. They stare at you with curious eyes, some smile, some frown and some kids even run up to you as if you are a Rock star here to perform a hit concert, but we are far from Rock stars, not even close. Still you wave and smile and hand out a few high fives, then it hits you instantly at what you are doing here and you have sudden pride in the decision to Volunteer in Laos.

It is an experience like no other, travelling to an unfamiliar country, one that is underdeveloped, with little infrastructure and dodgy roads. Where the smell in the air is different to what you are used to back home and their way of living comes a little different to the standards of western civilisation. Yet, you don’t let it deter you, it is why you choose to volunteer, to help where you can and to support those who need it. Of course, you can’t change the world, but for a fleeting moment you can change the experience of someone’s life, bring joy and even a smile, then by doing so, you create a lasting memory that will last a life time.

Volunteer in Laos

A group shot with monks and volunteers in Laos.

 

What triggered the decision to Volunteer in Laos?

I have travelled to some fabulous destinations throughout Asia, stayed in some luxury resorts, drinking booze by the pool and have been on some incredible adventures through some stunning scenery. I felt the need to do something different this time, to give back to a community abroad that needed a helping hand. Therefore, I made the decision to volunteer, the only decision to make next, was which organisation to volunteer with? And which country to visit?

I searched a few organisations on the internet, studied the countries available, the prices and the programs on offer. Some organisations were quite hefty in price, so I went with the more affordable International Volunteers Headquarters (IVHQ). At the end of the day the IVHQ organisations were professional and thorough, the only thing to do was to pay the fees and choose which country to volunteer in. Amongst a number of destinations, I narrowed it down to Nepal and Laos, and for no particular reason, I chose to volunteer in Laos.

Vientiane, Laos

A view of Vientiane, Laos

 

The Green Lion Volunteer Organisations

Once your dealings with IVHQ are done, you are more or less handed over to the organisation running things in Laos, The Green Lion. Not that contact with IVHQ are ever lost. The Green Lion are run by two great guys in Laos, brothers in fact, Micky and Ticky. They pick you from the airport, help make plans for a weekend away, help with any translations that is required with the locals and of course, provide the schools or monasteries where you will teach English.

The accommodation is a little away from the Laos Capital, Vientiane. There is not a great deal to do at the placement, except to visit a few local markets and play sport with other locals and Volunteers. The rooms are dorm style, with three bunk beds and thankfully it is not fully occupied but you are still not alone in the dorms. In the placement area, there is a kitchen and dining area, a social common area with occasional WIFI and a sports field, which was made entirely of gravel.

The Green Lion

Volunteer in Laos at The Green Lion.

Volunteer in Laos

Playing sport is a popular past time during volunteering.

 

A Splash of Culture

Entering the Green Lion organisation was not just about getting into the nitty and gritty of volunteering, with the program beginning with a step through some Laos Culture. It started with making flowers for the monks and delivering it to their very own temple where they lived at the Vat Pana Khoun Temple, a little away from the Vientiane city. Not only did we offer the volunteers the flowers but we received a spiritual and deep meditation lesson from the mons themselves.

The culture continued through a day trip into the city, where we learnt about the tragic tale of the cluster bombs, that destroyed many innocent lives long after they were ejected from a U.S war plane. We wandered the streets of Vientiane, making our way into markets, shopping malls and the Patuxai War Monument. The best bit, however, was entering the Golden Palace, a stunning Buddhist temple that is decorated with proud symbolic statues found regularly throughout the South East Asian countries.

COPE museum

A display of cluster bombs at COPE museum in Vientiane, Laos.

We ventured deep into a local village, a real highlight as we walked down the dusty gravel road and witnessed how the locals lived during a normal day. Houses were made of wood, no windows, the kids smiled and played down the straight without a care in the world, and the bulls roamed free on the roads in the village.

A hike through some wonderful Laos bushlands in humid conditions capped off culture week, finishing on top of a rock with a great view of the country side in Laos, it was the perfect spot for a picnic lunch with the fellow volunteers, although there was no respite from the heat.

 

Laos Village

Hard work in Laos Village.

Lying Buddha at Golden Palace, Laos

Lying Buddha at the Golden Palace.

 

 

Teaching English to the Monks

From an outside perspective, I have always viewed the monks as very special people and they are exactly that. To approach one, to communicate or to even shake one’s hand from my own perspective always seemed to be a tad on the forbidden side. Not that I had a great deal to with monks beforehand, I had to volunteer in Laos to change that perspective. And how wrong I had been.

It was a privilege to be in the presence of the monks, to talk with them, to teach them and to even laugh with these great men. In life no matter the person or their position in the world, everyone is a human being first. It is no exception with a monk, they have a great sense of humour, they full of wit, character and at times a little cheeky. If that is not enough, the monks in Laos even do Facebook and if you befriend a couple, you will see they are quite active on the social media platform.

Besides their great character, sense of humour and their obsession with Facebook, the monk’s willingness to learn English was astounding and they were a pleasure to teach. Communicating and understanding at times was quite difficult, but they never shied away from the challenge of learning and their development over time gradually improved.

Volunteer in Laos

Teaching Monks, a great way to Volunteer in Laos.

Teaching English to the monks

Teaching English to the monks.

 

The challenge of Teaching English to the kids

I always knew this journey would be a challenge, I mean not one of the volunteers are teachers by profession, we just know how to speak English. So, the challenge of keeping the kids occupied for a couple of hours each day was indeed a mental battle. As I said at the beginning of the piece, the kids idolised the volunteers from the moment we walked into the school grounds, but to maintain the focus of a child as young as seven, who couldn’t speak our language, was another story completely.

They had the basic fundamentals of English, in terms of counting, shapes and the alphabet, but to go further than the basics was when the road blocks began. All over again I had to learn kid songs and basic kid games, any way to the best or ability to entertain the kids when boredom started to sink in. It was these kinds of challenges that made me sign up for the program in the first place. then came the unbridled joy when everything clicked in the classrooms and students would burst out in full voice and laughter, it was indeed hard work but high reward.

teaching English

School kids look on in the classroom.

teaching English

Teaching the primary kids is a lot of fun.

 

 

Getting along with fellow volunteers

An unknown when volunteering is who will be joining you on this adventure, or who you will be joining up with. Upon entering the program, you anticipate a lot of things, you expect volunteers to be of different nationalities and of different age groups. So, you can imagine my surprise when I rocked up at the Green Lion, and a majority of the volunteers were university students, and at the tender age of 35, I was the oldest at the program by some considerable margin.

During my time at the placement, there were seven French people, two Danish girls, two Malaysian women, a Dutch woman, an Englishmen and a Canadian. I was the lone Aussie. All the volunteers were of a youthful age, at least to me, but they were all great young people, with good intentions and we were all there for a common cause, to volunteer and to lend a helping hand anyway we could. It was a pleasure to meet such fine people and forever there will be great memories of time spent together, especially during those tense volleyball matches against the French.

Settling into Volunteering

Settling into Volunteering/

 

The experience that I will never forget

To volunteer in Laos, an experience that I’ll never forget and a journey I am glad I participated in. Memories were created, friendships were made and I can only hope that I reached out to people who needed a lending hand. It is an incredible adventure and there are challenges when venturing into an underdeveloped country, but if ever given a chance and the finances permit, take the journey into volunteering because it is a rewarding experience that you will never forget.

Mediatation time

Meditation time.

Vang Vieng, Laos

Volunteer in Laos

volunteer in Laos

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About Your fair Dinkum Traveller

Anthony Jury

Anthony Jury

Your Aussie - Asia Adventure
G'day mate, it's your Fair Dinkum traveller who ventures into Asia and around Australia. Stay tuned for epic destinations, great tips and awesome travel stories.Read more...

Laos Diaries: Days 15-17 – Goodbye Laos

Laos Diaries: Days 15-17 – Goodbye Laos

 It is time to say, “Goodbye Laos”. Sad to leave, but happy I came and took the opportunity to see this fascinating country. But before I do jet off and head back home to Australia, I had the chance to have one more decent look at the country’s capital, Vientiane. A city like no other but one worth exploring and getting to know. Here is my last entry into Laos Diaries

Ho Phra Keo Temple

The Ho Phra Keo Temple in Vientiane.

 

The highlights of days 15-17

Leaving Volunteering

Quite simply, volunteering and teaching English was one of the greatest experiences in my life. Meeting the smiling school kids, the monks with a crazy sense of humour and the fellow volunteers who I had built a great friendship with during my stay at the Green Lion volunteer house. It was a special two weeks that will always be remembered as one of my favourite travel memories and it was sad to leave the house.

Settling into Volunteering

Great memories with other volunteers.

 

Intercity Hotel

From the volunteer house, I still had two nights left in Vientiane, before a final Goodbye Laos. I stayed at the Intercity Hotel, located right near the Mekong River, with Thailand in full sight. It was quite pretty picture.

The hotel looked crap on the outside but surprisingly the interior inside was quite decorated and of quality. The rooms were spacious, with A/C, large bed, good shower, television and a balcony in some rooms, with the Mekong and power lines in full view. As far as $50 a night rooms ago, the Intercity Hotel was certainly top value for the dollar.

 

Intercity Hotel

Intercity Hotel, Vientiane, Laos.

 

Bor Pen Yang Rooftop Bar

One of the best bars in Laos which I stumbled into by chance. Stylish, laidback, good music, cheap food and beer on the tap. It has everything you need of a bar with good views around you and the bubbly night markets below. The atmosphere never gets too wild and there is no heavy music where conversation is impossible.

The Bor Pen Yang bar was so good that I went back twice. Of course, I could have explored Vientiane for another great diking hole, but then again it is hard to find a bar with a relaxing atmosphere. Check it out when in Vientiane, you will find it close to the Mekong River and at the doorstep to the Night Markets. In fact, just look for the large Carlsberg advertisement. 

Bor Pen Yang Bar

Mingling at the roof top bar.

Bor Pen Yang Bar

At the top is the Bor Pen Yang Bar.

 

Strolling Vientiane Again

The first time in Vientiane was short lived, this time it was good to be able to spend a good amount of time, by foot, exploring the capital city a little more thoroughly. It is an interesting city, if it can be called that, there are no high-rises, although China is making their way into the city with a few modern features built and on its way.

Let’s recap a few places of interest, I visited in Vientiane, Laos on this occasion.

          Ho Phra Keo Museum: A stunning temple design with a lovely garden display on the outside. Wandering the boutique but very beautiful temple grounds, will leave you refreshed and mesmerised being in a temple that was built in 1565 for the Emerald Buddha.

Ho Phra Keo Museum

Ho Phra Keo Museum.

 

          Sisaket Museum: Only across the road from the Ho Phra Keo, Sisaket is another proud temple that was built in 1818. Sisaket comes with an amazing architecture design, that is unique from other temples in Vientiane. The main temple, stands tall amongst the surrounding terraces and any lover of temples will be delighted to get their camera out for a photo or two. Both temples have an entrance fee of about a dollar.

Sisaket Museum

Sisaket Museum

 

          Vientiane Centre: Built by the Chinese, The Vientiane Centre is a modern shopping centre, with great shops, café’s, food court and a major cinema complex. Great to escape the Laos heat for a few hours.

Vientiane Centre.

Vientiane Centre, Laos.

 

          King Anouvong Statue: Situated at the Chao Anouvong Park by the Mekong, this statue represents the king who led the rebellion as the last Monarch of the Kingdom of Lao. Good to see for a photo opportunity.

King Anouvong statue

King Anouvong statue, Vientiane.

          Night Markets: Also situated at the Chao Anouvong Park, the night markets are full of life, and comes with a lot of decent affordable merchandise. It is great stroll through the outdoor night markets, with the luxury of not being hounded by the stall owners to buy stuff. A rare luxury in Southeast Asia.

Night Markets

Night Markets from above on a wet Laos Day.

 Goodbye Laos

Always sad to say goodbye to a country, especially one you grow very fond of. As much as I loved my stay in Laos, I missed my family back home very much and it is great to be getting back to them. Laos is a very different country to what I have visited in Southeast Asia and I do recommend if given the chance to visit, to take that chance. I will be back to Laos someday and I am sure it will change a heck of a lot in the years to come as it develops and modernises. But for now, it is goodbye Laos.

Check out Laos Diaries: Days 10-14 – Teaching English

Heading to Vientiane, Laos? Check out TripAdvisor for hotels.

Laos Diaries: Days 10-14 – Teaching English

Laos Diaries: Days 10-14 – Teaching English

 Getting back from a couple of nights in vang Vieng, it was time to get into the nitty and gritty of what I was doing in Laos. Teaching English. To be honest I expected to get into the Volunteering a lot earlier than expected, not to say that culture week in week one was not an educating and an enjoyable experience, it was.  I just expected to be teaching English to the locals a tad earlier into the program.

The days from Monday through to Friday, were pretty much similar, the old Groundhog Day you could say. Wake up, have breakfast, teach the monks for a couple of hours, a three-hour lunch, teaching kids in the afternoon, followed by a little volleyball, dinner and downtime in the evening.

Not that the days were not rewarding, it was and much more. The whole program was an experience that I will never forget and forever cherish. It was the life of a Green Lion volunteer and teaching English was the sole reason I came to visit Laos, so let’s get into it.

teaching English

Volunteering the primary kids.

 

 The Monks by the morning

In the morning, we taught the Monks. We would visit the Vat Pana Khoun temple, where the monks from as young as fourteen to an elderly age, meditate, eat, sleep and live. The exact same place where we do our best to teach them English. I say do our best because teaching anyone who barely understands the English alphabet was a challenge. A rewarding challenge I must admit.

The monks desire to learn is strong, even if it is a struggle for both student and teacher. We are helped through our classes with a translator, but still it doesn’t always help erase the confused looks on the students faces. But the monks have a great sense of humour, they are witty and beyond their deep beliefs, they show how human they really are.

The monks made my week, and no disrespect the kids I taught in the afternoon, they were my favourite part of the volunteering experience. To be in their presence was an honour and it was a privilege to teach. And now I have about twenty more Facebook friends. Yes, the monks have Facebook and use it a lot.

Teaching English to the monks

Teaching English to the monks.

Vat Pana Khoun Temple

Monks and teachers at the Vat Pana Khoun Temple.

 

 

The kids in the afternoon

Walking into the primary school in the afternoons makes us feel like rock stars. The kids run up to you, smile at you, wave to you, or in other instances looking at you with odd “you are strange to me” look. Naturally, they are looking upto you, we are about 3-feet taller, but in this case, you are almost idolised.

Each day we are sent to a different class, which makes it hard to fully teach the students or get any proper rhythm going. But the school’s principals are doing their best to share the volunteers around while they have us and of course we understand that, because volunteers are not always available.

Teaching English to the kids is a little bit more challenging. It is hard to keep their attention, they lose focus as any kids do while in school and time in class is spent teaching, singing songs that I have long forgotten and playing games to the best of our ability, where student and teacher try their best to understand each other.

teaching English

kids look on in the classroom.

Laos kids

Teaching the Laos kids a few games

 

Chilling and downtime

The Green Lion household in Laos, is quite far away from anything really, so getting out and about is quite difficult. Around the facilities, there are a few restaurants, markets and shops but besides that any entertainment value is difficult to find.

Most afternoons are made up with a few of the volunteers grabbing a chocolate shake from the market, playing cards, talking about random stuff and a real intense game of volleyball, which is usually against the French volunteers. Besides that, downtime is a given in the house and boredom can sink in.

Nonetheless, the experience was worthwhile and one that will never be forgotten. While it was the hardest thing to be without my family for two weeks, I am glad I came to Laos for what truly was a worthwhile cause. I can only recommend to anyone that is interested in volunteering, whether it is construction, animal care or teaching English, to do it. Memories are made and so are friendships.

Laos Sunset

Beautiful sunset near the Green Lion Volunteer centre.

 

other volunteers

Last night volunteering with a bit of karaoke.

Heading to Vientiane? Check out TripAdvisor for hotels.

Take a look at Laos Diaries – Days 7-9 Vang Vieng.