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Matthew Coe's Posts
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Laos Visit: 2008-5
2009-01-19 - Vang ViengThe town where you leave remembering nothing. This place is just one big drunken haze. You get a tractor inner tube and float down a river and stop off at bars on route and get free shots of lao lao whiskey and then drink buckets of more lao lao whiskey and coke until 6pm then when you think you have enough you go over to an island which is just bars (smile is the best) until middnight when the curfew kicks in. Love this place :DTry the rope swings at each of the bars. The first bar has the biggest whatever other bars may claim.Luang PrabangVery beautiful town and is very quiet compared with Vang Vieng. The night market seems to run on forever with lots of goodies. Also if you go here you have to go bowling one evening after 11pm - you will see what I mean.


Thailand Visit: 2008-7
2009-01-19 - Bangkok is a buzzing city criss crossed with canals & rivers. The sky line is one of high rises, shopping malls & international hotel chains but at the canal banks and side streets of the city the traditional side of Thai life is clearly visible. The business hub of the city is easily navigated using the skyrail & underground but the more touristy areas around the Koh San road are less well supplied & Tuk Tuks are the main mode of transport. Negotiate hard with your tuk tuk driver - a taxi will always be cheaper & has the advantage of air conditioning however be sure to agree that you're charged according to the metre as opposed to agreeing a fixed price. Taxis will only take you at an agreed price after 3pm as from this point on your in to rush hour and they are highly likely to spend hours with you stuck in traffic! About 3 hours out of Bangkok towards the Burman (now Myanmar) border, in the province of the same name, is the town of Kanchanaburi where you can walk over the famous but tragic bridge of the River Kwai. There are some interesting museums here where you can learn more about the history of this place of wartime tragedy & cinematic fame. There are also many opportunities for elephant riding in the surrounding area. A 20 min drive out of the town will take you to the Tiger Temple - a real highlight of any trip to this province. This functioning buddhist temple is also home to about a dozen tigers of varying ages (& sizes!). The temple first took on this unexpected side line in 1999 when a tiger cub was found in a near by village, it had lost its mother to poachers and needed round the clock care to survive. The villagers took the orphaned cub to the temple where the monks agreed to offer it sanctuary. Word spread in the surrounding area and over the years more and more orphaned cubs were bought to the temple - word also spread amongst the tourist population and in the present day a mutually beneficial relationship exists between the tourist dollar and the conservation of the tigers. A few dollars gains you entry in the afternoons when the tigers are napping in their canyon, photos can be taken from afar for free and if cubs are around there are opportunities for photos here also. For a few extra dollars you can have a picture taken with a fully grown tigers head in your lap - not an experience easily found any where else in the world! Don't listen to chinese whispers that the tigers are drugged - they aren't and are in fact very well looked after thanks to the dilligence of the monks and the many (often western) volunteers. Of course queing up with lots of other sightseers to get your picture taken with a tiger isn't exactly the 'genuine' experience a backpacker is after however getting that close to fully grown tigers remains awe inspiring and your money is going to a good cause so if you can stomach the crowds get yourself down there. If you want a more personal encounter then there are two other options open to you - firstly you can volunteer, you must remain at the temple for an agreed minimum stay (think it's 1 month) and assist as required, meals and basic accomodation is covered. Secondly if you're lucky (this is not an every day offering) and if you can afford it (c. $50 when we visited) then you can spend the morning with the tigers - only 5 people maximum allowed for this so you will get the one on one experience. A morning with the tigers involves arrival at 7am for breakfast with the monks where you will get to bottle feed & play with the tiger cubs (including being locked in a cage with them & some squeaky toys for an hour of play time!). Next you will get to walk the 'teenage' tigers down to the canyon for their morning exercise - incredible to watch them pouncing on each other in the water (check out the photos in the photo section of this website). Following exercise time you will walk the tigers back up to their cages and give them a quick bath - just like their domestic cousins they aren't great fans of this so handle with care!Koh TaoA backpacker Island where everyone comes to dive and mainly to learn how to dive. There are some great beaches here and also a good nightlife.Koh Pan ganThis is the party island of Thailand and where the famous Full Moon party is held each month. This if you have not heard is one big crazy party on a beach which attracts at least 10,000 people each month to get as fucked up as possible. Get here a few days early during the peak months if you want to get accommodation though.Koh Samui & PhuketThese islands are crammed full of package holiday tourists on their yearly holiday for 2 weeks in the sun. I would strongly suggest avoiding these two islands.Koh Phi PhiThis island did get severely damaged by the Tsunami and having seen the before and after myself it truly is remarkable how quickly is has got back onto its feet. There is one main area/town where everybody stays but it’s still big enough not for everyone to be on top of each other. The Beach is like a postcard or you can get a boat to the lagoon where the Leo Dicapro film ‘The Beach’ was filmed and chill there for the day.
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