My apologies for this being late but I made the mistake of updating to iOS7 which then totally went pants so I lost everything I had written before! So bear with me while I try to remember the pearls of wisdom I had composed before! 😉
So, I ended the last post saying how excited I was that Alex would arrive within a couple of days…and I was! However, fate had other ideas and, due to a catalogue of errors including helicopter availability, work schedules being changed at the last minute, cancelled flights and misspelled email addresses, he didn't manage to arrive until Monday evening, and in Vientiane rather than Chiang Mai! I was there at arrivals, waiting for him, of course! I can't really explain how lovely it is to have him back: even though I have enjoyed these last few weeks, it's so much nicer to have Alex here to share the experiences with!
I had made my way from Chiang Mai (Thailand) to Vientiane (Laos) on the overnight bus and I am pretty proud of myself as it's the first overland border crossing I've done solo! Besides holding up my bus, because I had to queue up in the “overstay” queue to pay the 1500baht fine for missing the end of my visa by 3 days, it all went pretty smoothly and I have proved to myself it's nothing to be worried about!
Alex and I spent 5 days in Vientiane and, despite people saying it's a “transition” city, we really quite liked it! It's the capital of Laos but feels more like a sleepy small town…you can easily walk from one end to the other in an hour! The food there is great (I had a fabulous fish Laap salad before going to the airport to pick Alex up: fresh fish from the Mekong river, mint, chili, spring onions and some sort of yummy sauce!) and we indulged in amazing sushi one night!
Really happily, my friends Sanne and Elma (from Pai) came into Vientiane for a few days too so we all had dinner and drinks together on our 2nd night; we went to a bar that overlooked the Mekong river and we got to see a spectacular sunset which was followed by a stunning lightning storm! It was really lovely for me to have Alex meet the girls and we all got on like a house on fire!
The following day, the four of us went to Buddha Park which is about 30km outside of the city. We hopped onto a local bus for about half an hour and then got a tuk tuk for a further half an hour over a road in appalling condition! Not a smart day to have decided to go sans bra, I can tell you!
The park was an interesting mix of Hindu and Buddhist statues, including a giant pineapple that you could climb up inside and to the top, although I wasn't brave enough to scale the roof the girls managed it just fine!
Yesterday, we went bowling! It was awesome! I got a strike on my first ball! Winner!! Let's just ignore the fact that Alex, overall, did a lot better than me and my strikes were generally flukes. Sssssshhhh…!
Today, we flew to Luang Prabang for the first of three days dedicated to Alex's 30th! I have been plotting for months to try and make sure he has a good time and it is a memorable milestone. The first surprise I had up my sleeve was that we were met at the airport by a Classic Mercedes Benz which drove us to our hotel that is also booked as a surprise (we are in the deluxe room here and, I have to admit, it's gorgeous!)! We spent the afternoon at a waterfall which, although freezing cold and swarming with tiny fish who nibble at your feet, was a milky blue (rather than murky grey/green of previous waterfalls) and came straight from the mountains. We had lots of fun watching people jump from the higher levels and from the trees overhanging the water….and Alex was very brave and jumped off the tree too, as I stood by with my heart in my mouth! So, the final surprise of today (day one of birthday shenanigans) was that mum had very kindly sent out a packet of Alex's favourite brownie mix and I asked the hotel to bake it for him…it was delivered to our room about half an hour after we got back from the waterfalls….and was devoured within 15 mins!
So, we are about to head to bed now as we have to be up at 5am for a jam packed day of activities for his actual birthday! I'll fill you in on everything else next week!