The Adventures of the Barefoot Trekkers… At Kuang Si Waterfalls

Luang Prabang, Laos

The beauty of being a solo traveler staying in a hostel is that it is so, so easy to find people who wish to do the same activity as you.

“I want to visit Kuang Si Falls today,” I said to the girl I sat down next to in the common dining area at Khounsavan Guest House in Luang Prabang, as we awaited our breakfast.

“Oh, me too,” she exclaimed. “And I met another girl in this hostel last night who also wants to go to the falls today. She says she knows several other people who want to go, too.”

And just like that, my problem of how I was going to get to Kuang Si Falls was solved.

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Steph’s Top Things to See and Do in Laos

Feeling improbable, imperfect, a little out of that focused frame.

“In honor” of me being super behind on writing about my travels, and lest I forget things, I am going to first write this summary post about what I enjoyed most during my time in Laos, and then elaborate more on these places at a later date.

A small word on my feelings on Laos. Laos was the second country I went through on this solo backpacking journey. It came on the heels of savoring one glorious month in Cambodia, a country I’d been drawn to for years before I had the chance to visit. Cambodia was all I expected and more, so Laos had a lot to live up to.

Was traveling through Laos similar to traveling through Cambodia? Not really. Cambodia felt like it offered more options in terms of what to see and how to see them, whereas Laos’, er, longitudinally inclined geography meant that all tourists were pretty much traveling the same north-to-south or south-to-north path–between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, with the option to stop in Vang Vieng. So Laos is still desperately poor, but with these well-established pockets of mature tourism that felt less like I was exploring and was also more of a drain on my wallet. Continue reading

January 2015 Travel Summary

Here is something that only makes sense to people who’ve traveled: traveling is work. Yes, you’re lying on a beach or taking pictures of your surroundings from an incredible viewpoint, but that’s only about 5-10% of your day. The rest of your time is filled with planning your next step, researching your next destination and how to get there, evaluating your choices of accommodation, and talking with fellow travelers and others you meet on the road. The shorter your allotted travel time in a particular country, the less time you spend relaxing, and the more you spend on planning the logistics of moving around in your short time there.

All this is my apology for not having posted in the past three weeks month. Oh, I have wanted to, for sure, but I’m still planning out blog posts for Cambodia, and in the meantime I’ve traveled through Laos for a month and the Philippines for three weeks. I may have to skip a couple posts and get back to them in the future, so that I don’t fall too far behind, and am not writing about December 2014 when it’s–holy cow–February 2015.

Statistics time! Summary and reflection on January 2015 after.

Countries visited: 2 – Laos, Philippines

Cities/towns visited: 11 – (5 in Laos) Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, Nong Khiaw (x2), Muang Ngoi Neua); (6 in the Philippines) Manila, Banaue, Batad, Sagada, El Nido, Port Barton

Types of transportation taken: 15 – (6 in Laos), bus, inner tube, tuk-tuk, mountain bike, minivan, local boat; (9 in the Philippines) plane, taxi, light rail, tricycle, jeepney, bus, van, bangka, kayak

Best experience: The cave connection in Sagada, Philippines. About 3 hours of traversing the boulders, ropes, and abysses in between two fantastic caves, helped along by our local guide.

Not the cave that I went caving in, but among the handful of wondrous caves around Sagada.

Not the cave that I went caving in, but among the handful of wondrous caves around Sagada.

Worst experience: Experiencing a lack of compassion and being treated like a walking wallet on the road between Banaue and Batad in the Philippines. A landslide blocked the road, so we had to get out of our first vehicle, cross the mud, and arrange another mode of transportation on the other side. A number of jeepneys that could’ve given us a lift (and we were going to pay, duh!) refused to stop and let us on.

The giant, muddy landslide that blocked the road wasn't even the worst part of the experience of traveling between Banaue and Batad.

The giant, muddy landslide that blocked the road wasn’t even the worst part of the experience of traveling between Banaue and Batad.

Favorite place: The river village of Muang Ngoi Neua in northern Laos. It’s accessible only by boat, and once you’re there, you’re smack dab in the middle of scenic village life. Even better, on the first sunny day I was there, there was a huge wedding celebration in the village, which was amazing to see.

IMG_2221-2

Favorite food: Not a local specialty, but I about died and went to heaven when I had this tomato-eggplant-basil-parmesan pasta dish at Yoghurt Heaven in Sagada, Philippines. I hadn’t eaten a proper meal in over 24 hours at that point, but it was still an exquisitely wrought dish.

!!!!!

!!!!!

Expenses breakdown:

Transportation (flights) $341.76 28%
Transportation (exc. flights) $166.75 14%
Accommodation $210.61 18%
Food $324.77 27%
Other $154.93 13%

Total spendings for January 2015: $926.11*

Average per day (including flights): $29.87

Average per day (excluding flights): $18.85

(* Numbers may not add up exactly due to currency conversion rates and rounding.)

I don’t quite understand how I managed to stay under my $30-a-day budget for January. Including flights!! I guess it helps that I’m not a foodie and so don’t feel the need to treat myself to choice dishes.

Theme of the month: Socializing

In January, it really hit me how travel makes social beasts out of all of us. I mean that in the best way. I met a few fellow travelers who mean a lot to me. Our connection lasted beyond just the few days we spent together, and with them, I can believe that no matter how long it takes, I will see them again, someday, somewhere else. Seriously, travelers are the best people. More on this another time.

Great group of people I got to hang out with in Luang Prabang, Laos. This particular group's story will be told in a future blog post at some point...

Great group of people I got to hang out with in Luang Prabang, Laos. This particular group’s story will be told in a future blog post at some point…

Looking Forward

(Well, since it’s already mid-February, this isn’t really a “looking forward”….) I wrapped up my time in the Philippines, then flew back to Thailand to meet up with my best friend from our time in South Korea for a month’s worth of sun, motorbikes, mountains, and elephants!