Week 13… Luang Prabang and Koh Phangan

Alex's 30th birthday contd…
On the morning of the big day, we woke up at 5.15am in order to see the morning ritual of the monks collecting alms throughout the town. We had ordered 2 large pots of sticky rice and handed out handfuls to each of the monks as they passed. We heard conflicting reports on how many meals the monks eat a day but they either have just breakfast (of the rice and food collected on these alms walks) or breakfast and donated lunches (all before noon). It was one of the most memorable things we've done on this trip, I think, as it felt we were really part of a tradition, rather than tourists observing a tradition from afar.

After our own breakfast, we were picked up to go on a day's tour to the Pak Ou caves (Frankie and Rob's birthday present to Alex) which turned to be a great day! We hopped on the boat with the other two guests and were driven to a local village where they showed us how they make paper and silk: of course we made a few purchases! Totally suckered into it, but we are happy with our new bits and bobs! Then there was a short boat drive to the whiskey village where we were shown how they distil the local whiskey, and we were given samples of the different stages of fermentation. The final, finished stage was so strong I only had to sniff it to find myself coughing! So, the birthday boy drank my shot as well as his own! If you can't have 2 shots of turbo-charged, homemade liquor before midday on your 30th birthday, when can you?! Sadly they also had whiskey jars with animals pickled inside, for pseudo-medicinal purposes. Alex and I both voiced our disapproval when we were shown a jar containing a number of bear paws.

After the market we were dropped back at the hotel for breakfast (and, in our case, another snooze!) before being picked up again and driven to the sister hotel for our lesson. This hotel was stunning! It was adapted from the old prison and, frankly, I would love to be imprisoned there! Our lesson was in a sunken, open kitchen which was spotless and the staff that assisted us were friendly and helpful. We made 4 courses and probably enough food to feed a small army…we made lemongrass stuffed with fragrant chicken, fresh spring rolls, chicken curry and steamed herbal chicken which was wrapped in banana leaves. We even gave the translator a little English lesson as we cooked (he now knows “mix”, “squash” and “pestle and mortar”). After a few hours of cooking, we then got to sample all of our goods and even had a massive goody bag of leftovers to take back with us! I was really happy that the manager of the hotel made a point of coming to the kitchen to wish Alex a happy birthday and to tell us she hoped we enjoyed our lesson!

And that was Alex's birthday! Phew! ๐Ÿ™‚

The following day, we got up at 5am (a pattern is appearing here!) to catch our flight to Bangkok. We were sad to be leaving Luang Prabang so soon but, due to arrangements we had to move on. We just hadn't realised how lovely the town would be and how easy to stay on indefinitely it would feel! However, our travels to Thailand would provide paradise in another guise!

After a long time travelling (overnight train from Bangkok to Suratthani, 2 hour bus ride to the coast, 2 hour ferry ride to Koh Phangan) we arrived at Bottle Beach. As some of you will know, Alex and I got together at Bottle Beach in January of last year, so we were really excited to be back. We even requested the same bungalow we'd stayed in last time! ๐Ÿ™‚ We've sat on the beach at night spotting shooting stars in the immensely clear sky, we've visited the spot where we had our first kiss, we've finally been revoltingly lovey-dovey! Tonight we are hopefully going to go swimming in the sea to see the nocturnal glow-in-the-dark plankton!! Super excited about that! Alex has taken some amazing night time photos, where you can see how little light pollution there is here!

On the way here, on our little boat around the peninsular, we saw a couple struggling down the mountainside with a large inflatable ring/boat. They waved at us and we asked (through arm movements) if they needed help: they did. We couldn't get close enough to the cliff face because of the rocks under the water so, after circling around a few times, Alex and I yelled over to the couple to see if they could swim out to us and they, very bravely, launched themselves into the sea (thank goodness they had a waterproof bag for their valuables) and swam over to our boat. It turns out they had got lost on a hike around the cove and had been wandering for nearly 2 hours in the midday heat. So, needless to say, Alex and I felt pretty smug about “rescuing” some people! Haha!

If ever you come to the Thai Islands, make sure you visit Bottle Beach: it is paradise….but not too expensive! There are no roads here, you have to get a small boat around the peninsular to reach the beach, on which there are 3 small resorts and usually next to no other tourists. It is so relaxed and idyllic, even though there are daily tours of people who stop by for an hour or so to enjoy the scenery. There's nothing to do here except chill out, enjoy the view, read your book and I love it! We are staying for a week before heading over to Koh Samui so Alex can catch his flight back to the UK to start his next shift at work (boo!).

So there we go: you're up to date!

Milly x



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