Awesomes

We are a family of 4 females, the Awesome Foursome. On a not good day, we might be Not So Awesome, and on a bad day, really UnAwesome. In all our travels, or most valuable lesson is to keep smiling. From deep within our beings, to keep smiling.
Living in: Perth, Australia
  • Day10

    Pullman resort Luang Prabang

    April 27 in Laos ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Sadly, it is our last day at this fabulous resort and holiday in Laos.
    Buffet breakfast everyday, an hour of complimentary Thai massage, 5 course Lao dinner all included in the stay, together with airport drop off and late check-out.
    I haven't had to think about food, cooking, laundry, house upkeep or work for the last 10 days. It has been truly relaxing. The accomadation is luxurious, the staff are so attentive and informative, and so nice.
    Luang Prabang is a lovely UNESCO heritage place and a lovely rustic charm. Holidaying here was just amazing.
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  • Day7

    Tamarind cooking school

    April 24 in Laos ⋅ 🌙 26 °C

    We met at Tamarind restaurant and taken to a local market to check out the fresh ingredients that we would use at the cooking school..
    Then we drove to a place where there was an open air kitchen in a village like camp kitchen setting.
    We learnt to make 5 Lao dishes, starting with sticky rice, a dipping sauce called jeow, steamed fish called mok pa, stuffed lemongrass with chicken mince, buffalo salad called laap, and dessert of sticky rice in coconut milk and fruits. We learnt to wrap the fish in banana leaf, and create a lemongrass basket to stuff the chicken mince in.
    The lesson was very well structured and delivered and the best part was we had a beautiful lunch after the lesson.
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  • Day6

    Pak Ou cave

    April 23 in Laos ⋅ ⛅ 35 °C

    A quick, but not small, breakfast before the public boat ride up the Mekong River to Pak Ou Cave, or the cave with 1000 Buddhas. It is called a ferry, but actually is a long narrow boat with single seats along each side of the boat and no life jackets to be seen. All the passengers congregate above the boat ramp from 8am, and the boats leave whenever boss lady deems it time to leave. Boss lady also calls the ticket number and distributes the passengers amongst the boats. Being off peak season, each of the 4 boats were less than half full with only 6 passengers. We were fortunate to score a quiet boat. 2 single travellers, and a young French couple. It was a lovely peaceful 2 hour journey up the beautiful river. The lady from Hong Kong declared the cruise more beautiful than the cruise of Halong, Vietnam.

    Pak Ou Caves had a lovely energy and we were fortunate enough to be at the caves when a group of monks were also visiting. The monks did a beautiful chant and the cave provided amazing acoustics. The cave houses Buddha statues very much like Gnomesville, Lao people take Buddha statues and place them in the caves when they visit.

    After the boat ride, Ruby found a yummy coffee place called Saffron cafe that served expressos. A definite revisit tomorrow.

    We then had Laotian food, which consisted of lots of wraps. You get all sorts of vegetables like mint, coriander, lettuce and water cress (grass), that you wrap the food in. For lunch we wrapped pork larb, fried spring rolls and noodles.
    For dinner we had black sticky rice, that does not stick to your fingers with 3 sorts of salad papaya, mango and cucmber and Mekong fish curry.

    After our usual siesta-in-airconditioning, we attended the evening chanting that occurs in every temple at 6pm. We had been listening to the chants from outside the temple the last few evenings. but being unsure of the protocol, if females or unordained were allowed to attend, we did not go into the temple. We asked a Laotian lady who was praying at a shrine of the temple, and she confirmed that we could attend the chanting. There was a little novice monk who looked no older than 8 years who chanted enthusiastically and his young, clear melodic voice was distinct above the rhythmic chanting. Truly enchanting.

    After a big dinner, and with the cooler evening, we decided to take the longer route back to the hotel. We chanced upon a festive celebration at the Wat Xieng Tong Temple, one of the main temples of Luang Prabang. A young man kindly explained that it was part of the Lao New Year celebration, where the special Rain Buddha was brought out under a huge marquee, and venerated by devotees climbing a platform on either side of the Buddha to pour water down a channel that rained on the Buddha. The water then drained out the back channel and then collected as holy water. The whole contraption was richly decorated in red and gold and resembled a dragon. The atmosphere was festive, with food vendors and games like throwing darts at balloons. Inside the main temple, 2 monks were busy tying strings around wrists of people old and young, whilst chanting blessings. We were astonished at the number of young and youths who piously venerated, prayed, and took lots of selfies. It was a very local celebration and we felt so privileged to have witnessed it.
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  • Day4

    Back in Luang Prabang

    April 21 in Laos ⋅ 🌫 30 °C

    We had to head back to Luang Prabang this morning because the electricity and water outage was going to be for a week.
    So we booked through the accomadation for a tuk tuk to the bus terminus and minivan from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang for 70000 kip each. We got to the terminus at 845am and was told to get into a rickety old 12 seater minivan. We were later told by another traveler that we could have all got a private air-conditioned minivan for that price.
    There were already 12 persons but the driver was still not going at 930am. Finally at 945am we set off only to stop at the side of the road to bicker with a lady who had obviously booked for her and 2 kids and was insistent to board the minivan. Finally after 20 long minutes, with the discussion getting super heated, the passenger in front with child left the minivan cursing in Lao and lady and 2 kids with fresh fish not in ice sat Infront with the driver. Then at 10am, we stopped again to have a lady, a man with baby wanting to get on the van. Subsequently her husband too emerges from the house and now 3 adults and a child are trying to squeeze into the van. With less than 10cm between me and the German lady, the driver wanted to squeeze one of the man there. There was great protest inside the van until finally the lady sat Infront with the driver making the total of 3 adults and 4 kids in the front seat, 1 man squeezed into the back seat and the last man on a tiny fold out seat meant for a child. The 12 seater carried 18 people.
    The minivan groaned up hill but surprisingly made it in good time. We were all so happy to arrive in Luang Prabang safely.
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  • Day3

    Adventure day with visit to Muang Ngoi

    April 20 in Laos ⋅ ☀️ 38 °C

    We woke up shortly after 5 to a beautiful setting Moon. The village was awake and the roosters were crowing. We walked out in search of breakfast and found nothing open. We walked right into Q Bar Cafe as the cafes here have this rickety open half wall and no doors. Grace did her usual "Hello, Hello, HELLO!" as she walked towards the kitchen, taking great liberties because we booked today's tour with them.

    We were joined on the tour by the same young French couple who climbed into the minivan yesterday. Our tour started by boat to an authentic rural village where Hmong and Lao people lived called Hoay Hoay. Houses are distinguished by Lao homes built with bricks on double level and Hmong built with bamboo on a single level.
    Next stop by boat was to another village Sopkeng which was the start of the trek to the nice waterfall (Tad Mook). We trekked through rice fields, and saw pigs living under the houses, cows and buffalos, and of course, poultry. Chickens, roosters, chicks and ducks were abundant.
    The trek to the waterfall was gruelling because it was so hot but it was a wonderful rewarding end when we were able to swim in the pool by the falls. We swam fully clothed and by the end of the trek out of the falls, clothes were nearly dry.
    Finally the boat took us to Muang Ngoi where we had to climb up a vertical ascent of 350m hill to see the Phanoy caves where the soldiers use to hide in in the Viet Cong war. The cave was so dark and so humid, I had a river of sweat pouring out of me like never before. The Cave was beautiful with limestone pillars and limestone formations. After the cave Ruby made it all the way to the top of that hill to the viewpoint. I stayed by the mouth of the cave feeling a little weary.
    We were so disappointed when we arrived back at Nong Khaiw Riverside at 5pm to find that there was no electricity or running water due to an outage. Exhausted, smelly and as I wasn't feeling too well, this was the last thing I needed. There wasa back up generator at the restaurant so we stayed there by the fan with pineapple shake, Coke and wifi.
    Power did come back on at 6pm.
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  • Day2

    Nong Khiaw

    April 19 in Laos ⋅ ☀️ 40 °C

    We started our morning at the crack of dawn with the monks doing their alms round. We then jumped on the bikes to the morning markets. It seemed like there was all sorts of weird animals on sale for food. From snakes, to rodents to feathered things. Needless to say we bought nothing.
    After a hearty breakfast, we were picked up by tuk tuk to the northern bus terminus. We piled into a minivan with 9 other passengers. The aircon came on even though the can want moving, when disaster struck. 3 more passenger were waiting to board but the van door wouldn't open. Passengers had to climb in from the front seat. About an hour into the drive the aircon was turned off as the van did not have enough umph to get up the steep hills. We had a rodeo bouncing ride in a mini van from Luang prabang to Nong Khiaw for 3 and the half hours. Then as the van door was still stuck, to get out of the mini van we had to clamber over the back seat into the boot to get out the back door.
    The rest of the day was uneventful.
    Nong Khaiw is a beautiful village in the valley between 2 ranges by the river Nam Ou.
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  • Day1

    Luang Prabang

    April 18 in Laos ⋅ ⛅ 34 °C

    Luang Prabang is a very quaint place that is beautiful, rustic and looks like she is surrounded by mountains. Despite the dusty roads, the place is clean and the shop displays are inviting.

    There were bicycles at the hotel Lotus Villa that we could use and whilst cycling found a very helpful shop owner from Lala Laos(that ruby has read about), who gave us tourist information and had a lovely story. The story goes like this.
    When he was in the village near nong khiaw, some foreigners randomly singled him out and paid for his education so now he runs this shop of the shirts designed by him and only Laos made products and the profits go into helping 4 girls get an education as girls are only educated up to primary school level. This is his way of paying forward for what he had been blessed with.

    We also witnessed by chance a washing Buddha ceremony for the Laotian new year as we were perusing through the night market. An elaborate contraption designed like a dragon, allows the devotees to pour water from the head and tail of the drain that them trickled down to wash a Buddha statue and the run offs collected by the locals at the back of the temple as holy water.

    Laotians bbq everything including the bishop's noses of chickens on a satay stick. We had a lovely meal at a restaurant called Tamarind that showcased Laotian local food without the belly a ache. After dinner we got back to the hotel and crashed exhausted but delighted.
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  • Day82

    Madrid

    February 2, 2018 in Laos

    Madrid

    This is our second visit to Madrid. We came in Nov 2015, as the first stop of our first ever Europe experience, Spain and Portugal. This time, it will be the last stop of our second Europe experience, Italy and Spain. Both visits included 5 nights in Madrid.

    We loved Madrid the first time round, and the love deepened this second visit. Our favourite churros and chocolate cafe, Chocolat in Calle Santa Maria is still as good, with additional "heart attack in a cup" combinations on their menu. Kai and I swoon over Bora Bora, a mocha made with their dreamily thick fudgy hot chocolate, strong coffee, condensed milk and whipped cream. Talk about swooning, Alfonso the owner was eye candy swoon worthy 2 years ago, and he is every bit so 2 years on. He does not speak any English, so we communicate through his staff who translates for us. I have watched Alfonso interact with his staff and customers and have concluded that he is just the nicest, sweetest man ever. When he found out that it was Kai's birthday, he played "Happy Birthday" over the music system as he presented her with an enormous slice of his yummy chocolate cake with a candle. Kai was horrified that happy birthday played in every conceivable language, and was left playing all the time she was in the café. Most hilarious.

    We also revisited our other foodie haunt, Mas El Sur, for dinner. Again just as delicious as we remembered, and the staff are lovely, although they are all different from 2015. Whilst having dinner there on our second last night, we met John, a gay guy from Philippines who now lives in Munich. He and his friend sat at the table next to us, and as the tables are quite close together, we got chatting. Within half an hour, we got the life story of him and his entire family. It was most entertaining, and he was delightful dinner company. "Darlings, I've been to Perth, but what is there to do in Perth for a gay guy? So I had to, Had to, visit my friends in Melbourne and Sydney. Perth. It's so quiet, I can hear the birds!"

    We also paid our respects to our other Madrid acquaintances (the artworks) in the Museo Reina Sofia, Museo Sorolla, and Museo del Prado, all art galleries. Some familiar faces were there, and it was lovely to meet new ones. They were all still as captivating in their beauty and composition. The big change that we noticed that was that photography was not allowed anymore in the Prado. All the attendants said that it was only allowed in the main gallery, but no one seems to agree on where the main gallery was. Some said that it was in the basement, whilst others said that it was on the first level. So, we did not take any photos. Grace thought that we did progress through the gallery much faster not taking any photos. We were all there from 10am till 6pm, with about an hour for lunch. Grace and I retired after to a food court on the 9th floor of El Cortes Inglese to watch the last sun set on our wonderful 82 day holiday, and to await the girls who still had stamina to shop.
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