After heading back to Phnom Penh, Cambodia we said goodbye to Bre as she headed to the airport and back home to Seattle. Our own journey would be continuing a bit longer. We took a flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand, for a much needed full month in one spot, no packing up and moving, no planning where we were going to be or stay or eat. We were finally able to relax and really get to know one place very well, and get caught up on this blog as well!
After tackling the New Years crowds and the heat to see the ruins of Angkor Wat, we left Siem Reap behind and headed further west to our next destination in Cambodia, Battambang. The city of Battambang at first glance appears to be a scruffy city, dirty, crowded, and woefully uninteresting, but we soon discovered beneath the surface, many hidden jewels. We would get to experience more village life, take another great cooking class, see a million bats and ride some old train rails at breakneck speeds while sitting a piece of bamboo, and I got Krista and Bre to eat a rat!
After Phnom Penh we boarded a bus to Siem Reap, Cambodia, the home of Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is one the most recognizable archeological sites in the world, and we would be there for the Cambodian New Years Celebration. Cambodian New Year is a three day celebration, taking place mid April, and seems to be the biggest celebration of the year. Siem Reap, and Angkor Wat are a popular travel destination during the celebration, and we decided to fight the crowds in order to join in the party.
After Laos it was time to head into our last new country in Southeast Asia, Cambodia. We have friends from Cambodia and have heard a lot about the country and were quite looking forward to visiting and seeing all the sites we had heard so much about. Also for the first time on our trip around the world a friend from back home was flying out to meet us! So we jumped on a bus for what would turn out to be one of our craziest bus rides from southern Laos to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.
For our final destination in Laos we headed south to the large Mekong river delta along the Cambodian border. Called the 4000 Islands region, the Mekong river widens and forms thousands of small islands. Some of them are large enough to have entire villages on them along with guest houses, great food and a relaxing slow paced life along the river.
Setting off from the capital we next headed south to the town of Tha Khek, for an overnight jungle trek and village home stay. A five hour bus ride south of the capital, Tha Khek sits along the border of Laos and Thailand. The city itself is a bit rough, but the surrounding countryside is beautiful, a forest covered hillside filled with dozens of large caves. We went on a single overnight trek, but one could easily spend much longer exploring the countryside and the surrounding villages.
After a week spent relaxing in Luang Prabang, Laos, it was finally time to move on, and make our way further south. Our next destination would be the country's capital, Vientiane, roughly halfway down the length of the country, along the Mekong River and Thai border. So we boarded a hot dusty bus for the long ride through the Lao countryside.
After experiencing the slower paced life of Laos' small northern villages we headed back to Luang Prabang for a week of colonial civilization. One of Laos' largest cities, at only 50,000 inhabitants Luang Prabang has a small colonial town feel with heavy French influence. Many of the buildings in the old town have a markedly European feel with high end shops, cafes and restaurants lining the streets between Buddhist temples. This classic modern city made for a great change from the simple life in the small villages, and a great place to hang out for a week.