Sunday, 1 September 2013

Vang Vieng today

If Vang Vieng was a person I could only imagine the huge ego that they would carry.

You drop the name in conversation, run a quick Google search and there’s plenty to be said about the place.

It is our last real stop in Laos (as we don’t really count Vientiane as it’s more of a ‘city.’ Sorry Vientiane.) and I guess it’s the best place to go out with a bang. Even if everyone speculates that the party is over and the ‘First time backpackers’ are trying to find somewhere else to let loose, far away from home so their Mothers can still worry....

Arriving after another long eventful bus journey from Luang Prabang we were beyond stoked to stretch the legs and find our guesthouse. Packed like sardines in the VIP air-conditioned mini van, during the journey I did start to wonder if the public bus was actually the faster alternative. It felt we were stopping at every opportunity.  Starting with an hour-long lunch only 30 minutes into the journey for the driver who spotted his mate already feasting in a makeshift roadside restaurant.

Than hitting the brakes to pick up some dried fish from the stretch of road that is crowded with stalls selling every type of dried fish alternative. I have to say I've never experienced better fishy smells than here. It was special.

I do need to mention one other particular stop the driver made to collect I'm guessing the evening dinner. Holding up large rats from the tail we all gasped from the bus in horror as he turned to wave them with a grin at all of us backpackers. I can't say how relieved I was when a sale wasn't made. Especially seeing both Tim and I were front seat passengers and I was sitting in the middle next to the driver unsure if the dead rats would also be joining us in the already squeezed front seat. 

People refer to tubing in Vang Vieng as the 'thing you gotta do in South East Asia.' You'll experience 'the most fun you can with your clothes on.' I was very speculative about how true this would still be after the local authorities have finally put into place a few rules and regulations that actually make it safe..

You’re probably already aware that on record and paper there have been 22 deaths noted and an endless list of injuries that are tubing related and needed hospital attention. Vang Vieng isn’t just famous for tubing but for the relaxed attitude local authorities have held up until recently.

Today you don’t see 16 bars perched over the river. The slide of death and rope swings. The river is still deadly shallow in low season so I just cant imagine how anyone actually did survive the slide of death. You can’t tube beyond 6pm when it starts to get dark and backpackers seem to look out for one another more even if everyone is slightly tipsy.  There are a few signs erected in town asking tourists to respect how they dress for tubing and not prance around in thongs and speedos.

But what you can still expect is the enthusiasm from the locals that they still want you to have a great day out. From the music to the free shots and mud wrestling and dancing, there were about 5 bars operating when we ventured down the river so for Returners and First Timers you can still have what some would refer to as the ‘most fun you can have with your clothes on.’

The area is so reliant on the tourists for income and development. The burst of activity when tubing first became commercialised several years ago resulted in some rapid development for accommodation and restaurants that would cater for the influx of tourists in the area. After the significant deaths and cautionary tales about tubing numbers have dwindled into the area and during the low season it can feel like abit of a ghost town. Not many people are sitting in the picture menu restaurants watching Friends on the big screen for the day. The shops selling rack after rack of ‘I went tubing’ singlets now have ‘For Sale’ signs outside. The place seems to be suffering and I don’t think it’s just because it’s low season.

With the exception of the main drag the surrounding area is stunning in its landscape boasting huge limestone cliff faces, dense jungle and endless rice paddies. You can easily escape the westernised main drag and find that you are back in Laos when you cross the river and step into the surrounding villages.

What else is on offer in the area is often overlooked. Like Luang Prabang there is so much on offer for the adventure adrenalin junkies. We were limited for time so spent our next day after tubing and hangover resting with a visit to the Blue Lagoon. There wasn’t too many people around. Perhaps everyone else was regretting the extra shots of Lao Lao they were encouraged to drink the day before..

The Poukham Caves here are epic. Initially walking into the main shaft we spotted a large Buddha statue comfortably lieing across a large flat boulder. Dropping down so we were standing next to the statue we spotted a scrawl on a rock with the words 'cave' and an arrow pointing towards our right. Following the direction of the arrow, climbing above rocks and boulders we soon found ourselves beginning to head into the depth of the cave and complete darkness. We did grab a head torch between the 3 of us and it certainly was needed as we turned it off for a second and couldn't even see each others faces. Half an hour later we realised we should probably turn around. The jokes about what we would do if the torch ran out of batteries was getting to much for me. Coming back out into the sunshine, covered in sweat the Blue Lagoon is the best way to quickly cool off. Climbing up to the top of the tree and launching yourself into the turquoise waters after a countdown from everyone watching was an epic way to finish our little caving adventure and get rid of any more sore heads from the Vang Vieng party.

Toodle pip x

Vang Vieng scenery.

Epic kids sign for the Poukham Cave entrance

Buddha statue.

Buddha Statue in the cave.

Straight to the point signage at the Blue Lagoon.

Rope swings at the Blue Lagoon.

Blue Lagoon.

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Luang Prabang Tourists (on scooters)

We’ve formed a relaxed agreement between ourselves that whenever we feel lost our saving grace is to spot a Westerner. For us, if you see another Tourist within sight (who doesn’t also look lost), we know that we can’t be all that far from ‘civilization’.

You may think that this is starting to read like we don’t really ever know where we are going or how to get there. Sometimes that’s (actually) true but most of the time when you hire a scooter no amount of maps or information from the locals can help you get there without getting slightly lost first. And that is what we are starting to learn after a few days in Laos.

Ignoring all the offers from tour operators to join their day package to the Kuang Si waterfalls and/or the Pak Ou caves, followed by more hungry-for-business propositions from Tuk Tuk drivers, we decided to hire a scooter, go on a mission and find these two places ourselves.

In Luang Prabang there is so much on offer to keep you entertained. Among the adventure packs it's renowned as a little hot spot for white water kayaking adventures (rafting is still very primitive around here), hiking, cycling and for the more culturally inclined there is the Royal Palace and checking out the Wat Xieng Thong temple at either sunrise or sunset to name just one of the many temples in the area.

Every evening the offshoots from the main street where the night market is held are littered with stalls selling all kinds of food. Most of the time you'll spot the backpacker crowd lining up for the 10,000 kip dirt cheap (but tasty) buffet offering about 10 different local dishes. We sat right next to them to instead 'dine' on huge bowls of Laksa with enough fresh chili, mint and lemon grass trimmings to keep even the most die hard accompaniments connoisseur  happy. Fortunately for us the soup was tasty enough that we didn't need to reach over to the huge jars of MSG and add some granules into our bowls. I think there was probably enough MSG already in our food by the pace our beers were getting drunk. I forgot how thirsty you get after too much MSG..

I have to include some self-promotion for some of the epic places we’ve experienced during our time here.

Utopia. You’re first.
You with your large deck spaces overlooking the Mekong. Inviting customers to have an afternoon sleep on cushions and couches. The kick-arse coffee and banana shake. You tick the box of so many travellers long list of needs without caring if we say, please.

Bar Tamanak, your menu feels like a novel with a soon, ‘to be continued’ but I still think you offer some great local food and the fact that your owned and operated by locals gives you a thumbs up.

Jomo’s CafĂ©. Although you’re a South East Asian chain and I shouldn’t admit I did come here when I need to experience local food, I’ll admit I’m a coffee snob and you do serve up a cup of the good stuff.

I’ve forgotten the name (yes, I’ll admit even a Google search won’t save me), of the spot on the riverfront on Khem Kong Road. It served up the most amazing chili and lime cocktail and the locals working here were more than keen to have a chat with us about the area. We ate the most amazing Fish Larb that I’ve ever tasted. Infused with fresh mint, lemon grass and chili. The right level of spice mixed in with fresh fish = true deliciousness. 

But back to scooters and missions. I think the ultimate one we’ve experienced in our two days here was our moving morning from one guesthouse to the next. Picture a single scooter, two tall people, two backpacks and two day packs. Then try and imagine all of this on the one scooter. Of course you can’t, and that’s where our helper Sam stepped in. Poor guy was just about as tall as the backpack but he helped us manage to move everything over to our new guesthouse in a single trip. Nice work Sam. 

Toodle pip x

MSG my dear?

Luang Prabang night markets. 
Scooter 'joy riding.'

Mysterious jumping..

Kuang Si waterfall. 

Staircase to the top of the waterfall. 

Our helpful moving man Sam.

Packs built for height.

Mekong River.

Pak Oui cave with over 5,000 Buddha statues.

Pak Oui cave.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Our introduction to Luang Prabang

Expectations are always hard to be met when you’ve already heard so many great things about a place before you’ve even had a chance to walk the streets and sniff it out for yourself.

Luckily for us, we quickly learnt that Luang Prabang would never sell itself short and allow anyone to leave feeling disappointed.

After a long and eventful ride through primitive villages, past rice paddies, up and over mountainous terrain all guided by a driver who seemed too afraid of using the brake and a (female) passenger next to us who seemed to not care about using deodorant, 8 hours or something later we arrived at a dusty bus depot.

From there it was a 10-minute drive into the main centre of Luang Prabang.  It was about 4pm when we stepped off the Tuk Tuk and found ourselves standing in one of the busiest streets of this little city. The daily night markets were getting set up around us. Tourists lingered, ready to pounce for bargains and the locals followed their well-rehearsed routine of laying out what was for sale.

Standing there looking like two lost children, we attempted to gather some form of directions to our guesthouse from our Tuk Tuk driver. He seemed like he was perhaps in a rush to get somewhere else, or just talk to someone more exciting than ourselves as he absently responded to our questions with a wave of his arm into the direction that would take us right into the mouth of market mayhem.

I wouldn't recommend trying to walk through a surging crowd of tourists and tents that aren't constructed for tall below to walk through. We had little success in finding our guesthouse initially and failed to impress anyone who tried to pass two tall people with very wide loads on their backs. 

It felt like an hour later and we found our new home for the next few days. An old French Colonial guesthouse that overlooked the muddy waters of the Mekong River, the interior a dark glossy tweak wood and a very friendly young Laos guy smiling (or perhaps laughing) at us two sweaty tourists looking forward to getting their backpacks off. 

Toodle pip x 

The 'A' Team. Or is that those local Laos Tourist Celebrities?

Mekong River, Luang Prabang.

Rice Paddies.

Village out of Luang Prabang.

Who needs a car with a boot? All you need is ingenuity. 

At one of the stops on our bus journey Bear Paws where for sale. Hmm..

This wasn't our bus. Luckily. 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

And that’s what friends are for….

Crossing the Friendship Bridge from Udon Thani, Thailand into Vientiane, Laos is always going to be one of those long travel days….

We’d already had an early start that morning after our 06:15 rise and shine to experience the Morning Alms ceremony in Udon Thani.

My stomach wasn’t feeling too good and the shakes had started to kick in when the alarm started bleating itself into a craze. I couldn’t work out if it was a reaction to eating Western food for the first time in several months or simply eating too much Western food all at once. In all likelihood it was probably the latter of the two.

I decided we had better delay our hopeful immediate departure from Udon Thani for the border to take advantage of a catnap that I would hopefully awake from feeling cured and brand new.

A couple of hours later I awoke with a sprint to the nearest toilet. Damn it. Today was going to be a travel day from hell.

To get from downtown Udon Thani to Nong Khai, the last town before the border it’s a relatively pain free bus ride.

The next transfer is a Tuk Tuk ride from Nong Khai to the actual Friendship Bridge where you’ll hand over your passport in the hope it will return with a Laos visa in it.

Make sure you have a fixed price in your head that you’ve verbally agreed on with the driver before you jump on to the plastic seats and get settled.

They (the drivers) wait at the final bus stop like vultures ready to leap on the unsuspecting tourist with a priced fixed in their head on what you should pay for the 25-minute journey to the border.

We’d been warned by people that there is a few scammers out there, as you’d expect trying to make a quick buck out of tourists heading for the border. The tactic was that at each bus stop a few locals would step onboard and make their voices heard that, ‘this is the bus stop you need to get off in order to get to the border.’ The outcome of this was that it isn’t. The unsuspecting tourist gets off the bus, realizes that they are still 10km from the border. There isn’t another bus coming back past for another 30 minutes. The local who had boarded the bus, just so happens to have a friend who drives a Tuk Tuk, and they just so happen to be parked right here, are free and can take you to the border. Price is fixed at anywhere from 200 – 500 baht. The poor tourist realizing (well, hopefully seeing the leaves in the trees by now) understands the predicament that they have put themselves in and has to take up on the very expensive offer.

Initially I just thought this was all talk from one fellow traveler to another (but not over a camp fire instead in some backpacker bar), as we travelers are great at telling overly exaggerated stories sometimes*.

But as we sat on the bus and I grimaced over my dodgy stomach we did witness a few locals testing out this scam.

Unfortunately the bait wasn’t winning, we knew to get off at the last bus stop and not listen to their very convincing speeches that this was the bus stop to get off at if we wanted to get to the Friendship Bridge aka the border.

Finally arriving at the Friendship Bridge we were glad to see a fast moving queue of foreigners all desperate like us to get that Laos visa.

The elective mix of people was the usual sort. Hopeful looking middle aged Western men with the token South East Asian woman. The ruffled backpacker crowd with no distinctive nationalities, a husband and wife team who looked like they were about to strangle each other and than us, the sister and brother team.

I sat about looking grim as Tim helped collect the necessary papers. Following a quick chat with the officer, handing over our passports with the 1000 baht note slotted in like a bookmark we sat and waited.

Luckily no ‘eye spy’ games were necessary as about 5 minutes later two New Zealand passports were spotted waving out the window ready for collection.

Done. Laos visa.

Vientiane is about 22km east of the Friendship Bridge. It’s a fairly big city that
Is famously used by tourists as a bunkering down spot whilst they await Laos visa extensions.

We were to instead – very unglamorously use it as a stop over for the night to bunker down and rid myself of a dodgy stomach.

I’ll stop here as I can really share any worldly insightful stories about my time in Vientiane. Except that it rained that light like cats and dogs on steroids but the plumbing was still working.

Toodle pip x 

*Please note: this has no reference to what I am writing right here, as this is all true.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Experiencing the Morning Alms in Udon Thani

It's not every day that you find yourself about to be part of the spectacle of the 'Morning Alms' in Udon Thani, Thailand.

For the locals and monks it's a daily ritual, practised for years and a chance 'to give' without expecting anything in return.

Also known as Tak Bat, most of us would have experienced this up in Luang Prabang, Laos, however we had the opportunity to attend one 'not as frequented by tourists' after our homestay hosts insisted on it.

After receiving a quick overview on the history of this ceremony and a few 'dos' and 'don'ts' from our host Chris, we soon found ourselves standing there, slightly awkwardly, behind fold out tables, locals on either side of us, waiting in anticipation for something to happen.

That 'something' we weren't quite sure about. 

Was there going to be a beating of drums to announce the monks?

Would music summon everyone to welcome the monks?

It was nice finally being a part of something that you couldn't predict what was about to happen. 

We stood there surrounded by food. Strange coloured liquids in plastic bags, very Western looking kids juice cartons, fresh watermelon, curries and bag after bag of sticky rice, I couldn't believe the generosity of the locals as there was enough food to feed an army with leftovers. 

The mass of food was like a Buddhist Last Supper all about to happen before 7 am.

A hush amongst the crowd was the only announcement that the ceremony was beginning as everyone checked their food supplies. Like diligent students we did the same taking a moment to check that our green plastic basket containing bags of white coloured liquid hadn't mysteriously disappeared from in front of us.

The simply act of giving without receiving anything back was soon felt.

No greetings or small talk was exchanged between ourselves and each passing monk. Everyone kept solemn faces, bowing their heads as an offering was placed into a monks hands. 

One minute our basket was full, the next empty, leaving us to stand there and watch the rest of the procession.

I hadn't noticed earlier the several Utes parked up alongside the procession. It was only when I spotted the helpers unloading the contents of the now very full copper pots into the back of the Ute before handing it back to each monk to refill. The entire procession was so well orchestrated and documented as an amateur camera crew followed behind the monks.

For me, at that moment I'll admit it kind of tarnish the essence of the ceremony especially when I spotted the mobile ATMs all parked up at the end of the street to enable any quick cash donations. Everyone will have their own opinion of this ceremony but I did feel that mine was slightly tainted by seeing this side.

As the last monk received the final offering we were invited to head in the direction of the temple for breakfast with everyone. 

Again, we weren't sure what to expect so followed the crowd to find out. Most people had left after the ceremony but a few stayed around to hear the morning prayer and eat with the monks. 

Trays of food were offered to us but we politely declined not knowing if our delicate Western bellies would be able to take it. 

It was nice to sit back and feel like a fly on the wall observing what was happening around us. I think most of the local kids were doing the same but focusing most of their attention on us, checking that we were in order and acting like good tourists. 

Toodle pip x

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Hop, skip and a jump; you've landed in Phuket.

Arriving into Phuket our thoughts were initially, will we find some surf at Kata Beach and of course, when should we go and visit Patong?

Heading in the direction of Phuket from Koh Lanta we decided to make a quick detour and spent the day in Koh Phi Phi. It was a nice change to be arriving somewhere by ferry. Staring straight towards Ton Sai Bay from the distance the island did hold an aurora of beauty and calmness. 

Walking along the pier towards the rustic shop fronts and crowd of tourists I had to have a laugh to myself. Even in the low season everyone is coming to Phi Phi in search of their own utopia. Struggling to distance ourselves from the hordes of cameras clicking we dumped our packs in their temporary home and headed in an eastern direction.

We did feel like a ‘ship in and than ship out’ tourist as we only had 4 hours before the next and final ferry of the day departed for Phuket. Because of this one-minute we were drinking back a coffee and chatting to a woman in the cafe about the power shortage that day next minute we were sitting up tall and proud on our own longboat heading out of the madness of the main island.

Koh Phi Le starts to build up the image of the film The Beach, before you’ve even swam towards the rocks, climbed the swing ropes, stumbled up the stairs, paid your 200 baht (for the National Park) and than wandered through the stench of human waste (coming from the ‘toilets’) finally arriving at Maya Bay, that epic scene where Leo reaches breaking point in paradise, only to smell reality that your surrounded by fuel stinking speed boats lining the beach and people everywhere. It’s a shame to see that your 200 baht isn’t used well here. Perhaps instead of charging people to come here as a  part of the National Park fee they should instead fine those who keep leaving their plastic water bottles behind. I don’t remember seeing Leo's character picking up plastic water bottles when I last watched, The Beach. 

We had a couple of hours left to enjoy our 'longboat royalty' but chose to spend it wisely overboard snorkeling and rescuing a trapped anchor in a bed of coral. 

No longer open to the public we did have a brief stop at the famous 'Viking Cave.' A few locals looked like they are still camping out there and keeping to tradition to collect the birds nests eggs for turning into a popular soup for the Chinese. 

Our time in Phi Phi was very short lived but I did feel that the 4 hours spent there gave a taste of an island that isn't quite my cup of tea after enjoying pure escapism in Koh Lanta. Later that day we spoke to a young English guy on our mini ride van towards Kata Beach in Phuket. He joked that although he's still a serial Full Moon Party goer, every time he stops in Phi Phi he feels like the arrival of new people to the island is like a scene from the film, The Island. Everyone is heading there for something that they believe may be paradise but maybe not completely realising that everyone else has this same intention. 

The West Coast of Phuket doesn’t feel like it’s a real part of Thailand, which holds truth to some degree as it is only connected to the mainland by the Thao Thepkasattri Bridge. To appease the masses of tourists it feels like it’s lost the Thai identity and you can quickly loose face that your actually in a foreign country.  Although we did manage to explore most of this part of Phuket on our scooter named Bob, our time here was mainly spent in Kata, Kamala and Surin Beach so I could be speaking with a small minded attitude. 

Finding Western comforts in this part of Thailand was all too easy and depending on what you were after something could be said for a night in Patong. 

Speaking with many locals about Patong the reaction we received was a face screwed up in disgust and few words of praise. We all hear how much of an institute this area is in Phuket, driving into the dust, dirt and smell of anticipation that runs through Bangla Road I was ready to be just another tourist who witnesses what goes on here every night. 

A carnival of fake taunt flesh, flashing lights, lady boys dancing on podiums and way too many dog eared, laminated ping pong menu signs getting thrown in your face - everything and anything is possible and available but everyone demands a price. The word 'free' is used very loosely and 'happiness' has a very ambiguous definition here. 

Those stereotypes of who are the regulars are all what you'd expect. Waiting at the bar. Perched on a stool. Often alone. Nursing a drink. Ready for someone to approach for a chat (unless it's happened already and there's a crowd of 'new friends'). They definitely stand out from us tourists. We are the ones that are like spectators at a tennis match heads turning from left to right and back again trying to take everything in at once. 

On the surface walking down Bangla Road it felt like a spectacle of curiosity and lust for some. Something that everyone comes here for a innocent laugh. 

But nearing the end of the street you see the women couched in a squat or sitting on makeshift stool selling fresh flowers. Single stems, elaborate made to order bouquets, there are roses of every colour and red ribbons to match. 

Some of those come to Patong for a one night wonder others are here to find their own happiness. 

I was just there to get a few pictures. 

Toodle pip x

Koh Phi Phi. 

Viking Cave.
Elephant shrine at the Lighthouse, Phuket.

Casual road traffic.

View towards Kata beach.

Patong traffic.

The dancing never ends in Patong.

A day care centre that comes with full time dedicated staff.

I couldn't find the drinks menu?

Entrance to what some refer to a 'great night out' in Phuket.

She didn't ask him to dance.

Flowers always win a heart?
Afternoon skies on Surin Beach.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Koh Lanta & Kwan a match made in heaven

We wanted some ‘island time’ but didn’t want to spent it with every Tom, Dick and Harry all searching for the same thing as us. Paradise.

After doing some brief research in our Krabi Hotel (that happened after we had again paid a visit to the infamous bar to see the Kraoke in full swing), we decided Koh Lanta would be the next destination to check out.

Far bigger than Koh Phi Phi but large enough that you can explore most of the nooks and crannies in 2 days. Most of the souvenir shops were closed, picture menus put away and neon signs turned off during the low season meaning that we felt like we had the island to ourselves. 

Typical for this time of year the westerly winds pick up. Thailand's Southern Coastlines dramatically change as onshore swell makes its presence known on the beaches. Expectations run high that this may result with some surf. To be able to surf in Thailand for me, feels pretty special as its not something you'd expect from a destination renowned for its calm, clear waters. 

Our home in Koh Lanta was a basic bungalow overlooking Long Beach. With low season we only shared the entire complex with 10 other people. I could almost spot the invisible tumble weed rolling through the resort like what you see in a typical Western Cowboy film. 

Coming to Thailand at this time of year, you do feel like you get to see more of an  untarnished version of this country. All of the beaches we visited in Koh Lanta were strewn not with sunbathers but plastic. It did break my heart to go for a morning run along the beach and instead of dodging clumps of shells or coral I was instead avoiding plastic. I could only pick up so much before I realised that a rubbish truck would be far more helpful. Bottles, bags, containers, straws from the last Full Moon Party Bucket littered the beach. It doesn't feel right to point the finger at anyone in particular unless your looking directly at the government. I don't yet understand why when tourism is such a huge money earner for this country it doesn't feel like any funding is put aside for setting up recycling plants and education to raise awareness around the protecting the environment. I'd like to think I'm wrong and already this is in development, its just Rome wasn't built in a day. I do hope that's the case. 

I have a little makeshift business card/ book mark that has a face of a smiling lady in a caricature style. It's emblazoned with the message, 'Kwan's Cookery' followed by the sub line, 'Restaurant and Cooking School.' After being given it by Kwan herself, I was given solemn instructions that I have to cut this business card/book mark up up and hand out the contact details to everyone I meet. We accidentally met Kwan on a mission to find some tasty Thai. Walking into her open air restaurant overlooking the main street, she marched right over to us with open arms and a big smile. The menu had everything I had come to Thailand to taste. Laab, Papaya salad, sticky rice with mango, Panang curry, I don't Kawn realised how much I was in food heaven before I had even tasted her food. We didn't know at the time but this Kwan's Cooking School and Restaurant is one of the most popular places to eat on the island, yet she's only been open for a couple of months. 

Her big heart and chat was soon shared and we had one of those memorable evenings that you'll attempt to recount to others but it won't quite live up to actually being there. 

I don't think I've ever eaten so much Thai food at once. But it kept coming out as Kwan suggested we have noodles instead of rice with the Panang curry. Oh and how about we try the homemade Issan Sausage from today that goes great with some lime juice and fresh ginger....

It didn't take long for us to join the crew in the kitchen. She heard that Tim was hungry and soon had him making his own vegetable spring rolls. Instructing him with a sharp firmness on when to turn over the rolls, quickly announcing that they were ready and we needed to return to our seats to eat them. 

Its not every day that after a meal you have an impromptu photo shoot with the owner of a restaurant and the kitchen staff. But anything can happen during an evening with Kwan. I just hope her 'swimming' improves over time.

I think by the end of the evening and after drinking the infamous 'no name' drink that I decided to call the 'sleepy' drink we felt like Kwan was an old friend we had to say goodbye to with a heavy heart. She set a benchmark for how good Thai food can be and how you can not just taste the fresh ingredients in each dish but the passion and hard work she and her team put into everything they serve.

Toodle pip x

The real way to fill up a tank.

An attractive self portrait. 

Thai Titanic.

Koh Lanta living.

I couldn't find the key for the chain.

Flash rain.

Fruit market heaven.

The crew from Kwan's restaurant getting 'crazy' in the kitchen.


Kwan and Tim going for a casual swim.

Striking a pose from the kitchen.

Saladan Town in Koh Lanta.