Tag - massage

Vientiane, Laos

Vientiane, Laos
Vientiane, Laos
Vientiane, Laos
Vientiane, Laos

Vientiane feels more like a large village than a capital city. Pigs and cattle ramble aimlessly beside the slowly flowing river, watched over by women chatting and washing clothes. Pavements are a futuristic concept as are cinemas, shopping malls, fast food and most other types of entertainment.

Yet for many travellers this is the perfect Asian city; there is plenty to see and do here and yet the city has an approachable, unassuming feel.

Pha That Luang is the symbol of Laos and this huge, unusually shaped gold stupa is definitely worth a visit. In the Laotian language, Pha That Luang means Great Scared Stupa. The most prominent part of the temple is a 45 meter tall central tower, surrounded by 30 smaller stupas. The stupas are covered with gold leaf and shimmer brilliantly in the sunlight.

Nearby the temple is the Sok Pa Luang Forest Temple. Here you will find a sauna and massage room in a traditional wooden two-story house, where robed monks relieve your my weary muscles as you relax and listen to the gentle sounds of wind chimes, birds, cicada beetles and breath in the scent of jasmine and lemongrass.

On the way to Pha That Luang you will probably pass the Patuxai, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Climb to the top of this 7th century gateway for a great view of the city. 

Not to be missed is the very unusual Buddha Park or Xieng Khuan, which is situated on the outskirts of the city. Here you will find a large garden full of weird and wonderful Hindu and Buddhist sculptures which need to be seen to be believed.

Vientiane has a huge collection of interesting buildings and temples in a range of styles and a great way to explore is simply by walking. Take a stroll along the river and you will view a interesting collection of buildings from across the road, then simply follow the shining golden roves to find the elaborately decorated temples.

This is a great place to satisfy your craving for Western food as there are a large number of excellent restaurants offering a range of international food, especially in the area near the river. You will even find restaurants serving gourmet French food, and this is the perfect time to indulge. For those looking for cheap traditional food, a number of small carts set up trade on the bank of the river in the evening.

Hsipaw, Burma

Hsipaw, Burma
Hsipaw, Burma
Hsipaw, Burma

Also known as Thibaw, this tranquil town in the Northern Shan State is a great place to relax and unwind for awhile. Surrounded by natural beauty, many people travel to Hsipaw for trekking, and there are a number of well trodden trails leading through Shan villages to picturesque spots such as hot springs, water caves, waterfalls and forests.

There are a number of interesting places to visit in and around Hsipaw. Top of the list should be the Shan Palace, which is located to the north of town and was the former residence of the Sawbwas of Hsipaw, who lived here for many generations until the last one was forced to flee during the military coup of 1962.

Another interesting place to visit is the Bawgyo Paya, a large Shan Pagoda about 5 miles out of town. Here you will find not only Buddha statues but also Hindu statues outside the temple and the journey to and from the town is very scenic.

Just before sunset climb to the top of Sunset watching at Five Buddha Hill or Nine Buddha Hill, both of which are located just over a mile outside Hsipaw. Hire a bicycle and reach the top of the hill for spectacular views over the town and surrounding countryside.

A massage is a great way to soothe aching muscles after a day of hiking and there are a number of massage parlours and basic spas scattered around Hsipaw. The city is located near the banks of the Dokhtawaddi River, and it is possible to take a short boat trip here to see the countryside.

The morning riverside market is a great place to get a bite to eat and sample some of the region’s delicious fruit and handmade sweets. A large percentage of the population here are Chinese and there are a good variety of Chinese dishes to try. You can also shop for souvenirs here and exchange friendly banter with the stall holders.

The Bawgyo Paya Pwe festival is held in Hsipaw in late February or early March and the somewhat sleepy town really comes alive during this time, celebrating with traditional songs, dancing and storytelling.

Pattaya, Thailand

Pattaya, Thailand
Pattaya, Thailand
Pattaya, Thailand
Pattaya, Thailand

Located about 170 kilometres southeast of Bangkok, Pattaya makes a good destination for a weekend break, although with so many entertainment options to choose from, many people tend to stay in the small seaside city for several days. Pattaya means the ‘south-west monsoon wind’ in the Thai language and ranks as one of the most successful beach resorts in the world, with more than 5 million visitors each year.

Pattaya is probably best known for its night life. For the curious, this is a good place to see a “Tiffany Show”, where stunningly attractive transsexuals dress in incredibly elaborate costumes and perform gracefully choreographed song and dance numbers on stage. There are also a wide range of go-go bars and discotheques to explore on Walking Street, which is the center of Pattaya’s nightlife.

By day, Pattaya offers a large number of intriguing diversions that are hard to find in most other parts of Thailand. A great entertainment option is the Million Years Stone Park and Pattaya Crocodile Farm, whilst visitors can ride the mighty beasts at the Elephant Village. The world class aquarium at Underwater World Pattaya has beautiful displays of local sea life and you can see scale replicas of Thailand’s key attractions in Mini Siam. Also popular with visitors to Pattaya is Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, and the sign for this can clearly be seen for the beach front.

Pattaya is a great place to let off some steam, and the go cart course and shooting range and good places to do just that, whilst the many spas and massage parlours offer a different way to unwind.

But Pattaya isn’t all neon lights and lipstick, there are also some very beautiful nature spots waiting to be discovered. Pattaya Beach is situated alongside the city centre and is a popular spot for jet-skis and speed boats. Just south of the city is the pretty stretch of sand known as Jomtien Beach, which is much quieter than Pattaya Beach and a good place to chill out for a few hours.

Another great day trip is the large and interesting Sri Racha Tiger Zoo, which features several hundred tigers and thousands of alligators. The tiger zoo offers the opportunity to view and interact with animals in exciting new ways, such as cuddling tiger cubs and helping hatch baby crocodiles from their eggs.

If you need a break from the beach, pay a visit to the Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden, which is located 15 kilometers east of Pattaya and has lively cultural shows.

It is absolutely impossible to be bored in Pattaya, and no matter what you are looking for you are sure to find it here.

Isaan by Motorbike – Day 5

motorbike_travels_1DAY 5
This was to be the last day of riding. I got out of town by 9.30 am so that I would have enough time to relax in Nong Khai. I thought there would only be 1 temple stop today, nice and easy. The stop was at Wat Ar Hong Silawas. A small temple, that was simple in design, on the Thailand bank of the Mae Khong.

The temple is in grounds that are scattered with huge boulders. The house of the Buddha images was constructed with a boulder as one of the walls. A wall is really a poor description; the boulder occupies the space where the wall should be.

Back on the road for the final stretch of the journey. Onto Nong Khai. Only about 130 km, completed in less than 3 hours all good. My first stop was the massage. A very good massage too, away from any tourist places; wish I could remember the name of the street.

Next on the to do list for the day was to book the tickets for the train, booking early to make sure I have a ticket and there is space for the bike. I found the train station a few kilometres out of town. It is in a direct line with the friendship bridge between Laos and Thailand.

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandNext on the ‘to do’ list for the day was to book the tickets for the train, booking early to make sure I have a ticket and there is space for the bike. I found the train station a few kilometres out of town. It is in a direct line with the friendship bridge between Laos and Thailand.

I booked the ticket for me but had to wait until an hour before the train left to be able to book the bike on board. Cool as, but the bike cost around 400 baht more than me to ride in the freight car, glad I didn’t ride in the freight car.

Then back in to town for a spot of lunch. Whilst having a lazy look for a guest house I spotted a small vegetarian restaurant on the road. I stopped for some chick pea madras, awesome flavour. I sat for a while and looked at the travel book to find some possible locations to stay then finished up the coke and got on my way.

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandI was looking for a guesthouse when I happened upon a guy driving the same model bike as me. He showed me a nice place to stay. On the waterfront with a restaurant that overlooked the river. Into the room I watched a bit of “Snakes on the Plane” before I went out for a drink and to take some photos of the area and to wait for the sunset on the penultimate day of my travels.

This was probably the first time I had actually taken time out to sit and do nothing in the evening sun. Not the first time I had to reflect, riding the bike is good for that, but the first time to reflect without having to think about what is coming next.

Travelling with the loosest of plans is definitely for me. Not having to be fixed by the times of public transport has been amazing. Just thinking moments before then doing it has been the tops.

I have been waiting to see a sunset since the day I left, a different sunset from the ones in Bangkok. In Bangkok the sunset is clouded by the pollution that engulfs the metropolis. Here the sun is free to shine through the atmosphere right onto my already tanned skin and into my wide open eyes.

Here the position of the river, the sun, the hills and the trees seems to be perfect. As if it had all been waiting for me to be in the right place at the right time. I don’t know what the reason for waiting was, don’t understand why I didn’t do it before. Waiting for it to come along my way instead of always chasing it. The dreams will come to those who invest. Invest your time, invest yourself and the dreams will land at your feet. I don’t see a point in chasing and chasing and getting to the same point as the investor of time that puts into the system then waits. No need to be rushed to be first through the gate. The best things come to those who wait.

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandThe river walkway at Nong Khai seems to be an exercise haven. In the early evening a lot of people appear to start their exercise regimes. Big/small, all are here. Some seem quite serious; some have a more relaxed approach.

OK, time for dinner and some writing time. I find a bar called Brendan and Noi. I had some food and settled down to write up my journal. It was nice to just sit and think about the things I had done this week. So much roasting hot sun, a lot of friendly people, solitude and maybe the best thing of all – fresh air!!!!

I had a few welcome beers whilst I was writing. I opted to eat ferringue food again, chicken breast chips and gravy. VERY filling. The bar filled up a little bit, I finished my writing around 9pm then went back to my room to get rid of my writing book and pens.

Being early and the last night of my vacation I went out for a drink. Well I wanted to go out for a drink. By 9.30pm most of the bars had closed. I ended up back in the same bar as earlier in the evening. I had not noticed before that the bar owner was a not as inviting as he could be. I walked back in and said hello to him, he blanked me completely. Ok no worries, I stood aside and slowly drank my beer.

Shortly after a couple of German guys came into the bar. One guy asked for a beer and was heckled by the owner, who then asked the visitors name. “Hans” “And what’s your friend’s name?” “He’s called Hans too” “Two hands are better than one, eh lads, gfaw gfaw. Funny that eh? I good aint I?”

I took this as my opportunity to leave, go back to my room and get an early night.

Final day of exploration coming up.

Note: Story author is Steven Noake.