Hello China...and Canada!

It feels weird to be writing this when we’ve been home for nearly two weeks, but the memories MUST be documented. So alas, here I go.

Coming home turned out to be a bit of a complicated affair, thanks to cheaptickets.com. I highly do not recommend buying anything from them after what happened to us!

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Last Days of the Adventure

After Pai, Chiang Mai felt like a gigantic frantic city. Having not dropped the strange shopping disorder Scott and I have developed, we spent the evening at the Night Bazaar shopping. We were also hoping to do one last cooking class – we’ve had such amazing Indian food on this trip that we figured it would be ideal – but after calling and getting a busy signal for days we thought we’d pop in on them. When we arrived, we found a locked gate and a dark place and it was only 8 p.m. – I think maybe they’ve closed down. That was a terrible disappointment, because there was nothing else we were really interested in doing there. The temple on the hill (the ONLY temple we wanted to see) was under construction; there was a tiger sanctuary where you can get your picture taken with a “sleeping” tiger (probably drug-induced), which sounded cool, but we didn’t want to support drugging those beautiful beasts; besides that, the only thing to do in Chiang Mai is elephant riding and hill tribe tours, and we’d already dismissed doing any of those.

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Life of Pai

So there we found ourselves – stuck on a boat in the Pacific ocean with a tiger. With nothing but turtles to eat and sea water to distil into drinkable water. We would lie on the edge of the boat, trying not to disturb that majestical beast. Whoops, that’s Life of Pi…not Life of Pai – sorry, wrong story!

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Back to the Land of the Thais

After our “adventure” with the Gibbons experience, there was only one thing we wanted to do – chill out. But, the small town which was the jumping-off spot for the Gibbons Experience, Huay Xi, was just a little too chilled out for us (i.e., extremely boring and nowhere and nothing to do to relax), and we really didn’t feel like wasting another day there. So, despite the turmoil in Thailand, we opted to cross the Mekong and head into Thailand.

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54 Hours in the Jungle: Surviving the Gibbon's Experience

Heading into the jungle with the Gibbon’s Experience was one of our most anticipated events on this trip – we had heard oodles of positive things about it and many people ranked it as their number one Southeast Asia experience. For us, it was definitely an experience – although whether positive or not, I’ll let you be the judge. I’m going to break it down into the events that transpired over our 54 hours of living in the jungle.

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Straight out of National Geographic: Visiting the hill tribes of Northern Laos

Scott and I weren’t really sure what to expect from the two-day tour we had signed up for in Laos; the itinerary was a two-day adventure beginning with a trek to a remote village north of Luang Prabang where we would spend the night, followed by some kayaking and a ride on an elephant. With open minds, we embarked on our next chapter in the Excellent Adventure saga.

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Lovely Little Landlocked Laos

Laos has been a really nice change of pace – compared to Vietnam and Thailand, this place is the most chilled out country ever. In fact, the local joke here is that the official name of Lao PDR (People’s Democratic Republic) really stands for Lao – Please Don’t Rush. But really, what do you expect from a country that only has a population of roughly seven million? In Vietnam, people selling you stuff were all over you and would bargain to the death; in Laos, you’ll be lucky if someone will even pay attention to you long enough for you to try to buy something, and bargaining is basically a two-step process: you ask the price, and make a counter offer – if your counter offer is accepted, great, if not, they may or may not be energetic enough to make another counter offer. But whereas in Vietnam or Thailand you’ll get three or four rounds of price changes, there’s pretty much a maximum of two in Laos. At first the lack of haggling and a constant chorus of “Tuk Tuk Sir!” was disconcerting, but after getting used to calmness again, it really is pleasant. As odd as it sounds, we’ve grown accustomed to being constantly bombarded with offers and learned to not only be comfortable with it, but to use it to our advantage; now that we actually have to go ask for stuff, we feel a little weird. Coming home is going to blow our minds!  You mean I have to actually pay the full $2.35 for a coffee?

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Last Days in Vietnam

Our last few days in Vietnam involved pure luxury. We flew for the first time since Singapore (yes, that is correct, we traveled by bus all the way from Singapore to Hoi An!). Normally we wouldn’t indulge in such a treat, but the flight was actually not much more expensive than the train, and we really did need a break from the bus, so it just made sense.

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Hoi An, You Took All My Money.

I have a problem. I’m pretty sure my wallet is suffering from depression. She has stopped exercising, she’s lost a lot of weight, and she doesn’t take joy in the same activities as she used to. Hoi An, I blame you, and the 23 kilos of materialistic consumption I indulged in while visiting you. Let me start at the beginning.

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La Cookaracha! La Cookaracha! Nanananana 'Nam....

Did you know that much of the Vietnamese language has a French influence, and that modern Vietnamese writing uses the Roman alphabet? This has been a bit of a relief for us, because now we can kind of tell what is going on around us, as opposed to the cryptic Thai and Khmer symbols we were used to seeing everywhere. But it also has it’s downsides too – sometimes we learn things that we don’t want to know.

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