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During our last weeks in Indonesia we had planned ahead a big trip: flying back to family and friends in the Netherlands for 1 week! But in between this trip home bound and Papua we had 3 ‘spare’ weeks.
When we looked into the options in the area we decided to explore Laos and Cambodia. This would be perfect for the 3 weeks we had and both countries are new ones to visit for the both of us! From Papua we flew, via Jakarta, to Chiang Rai in North Thailand. After 2 full days of travelling it was nice to settle in this nice and relaxed little city with lots of temples and nature around. We enjoyed some sightseeing and a full day hike in the hills. And of course the best food in the world: Thai food!
But the main reason to visit Chiang Rai is because it is close to the Laos border and therefore our gateway into this new country.
After an easy day of border crossings we checked in for one of our highlights, the Gibbon Experience! We were so excited!! 2 days of zip-lining through the jungle, up to 550 meters long and 300 meters above the ground... Pure adrenalin! We slept in a beautiful treehouse in the jungle where we enjoyed the sunset and the good company of our group. Our child’s dream came true.
We even had an outdoor shower in our treehouse with the beautiful jungle view. It couldn’t get any better! Although... it was a bit uncomfortable being called ‘grandma & grandpa’ by our much younger tour companions, ha ha!
After the fast zip-lining experience we swapped the jungle for the river. We spent 2 days on the Mekong River on a slow boat to Luang Prabang.
Here it was much colder than we expected. Good coffee and many good restaurants made the cold days more comfortable. Luang Prabang is famous for the impressive Buddhists Alms Giving Ceremony by the monks. Over 200 Buddhist monks collect gifts from locals every morning at sunrise. This daily ceremony is both peaceful and spiritual and gave us a wonderful opportunity to experience an ancient Lao tradition.
We also went to the stunning Kuang Si waterfall an hours drive from Luang Prabang. We both have seen so many waterfalls during our travels, but this waterfall was supposed to be unique and worth the trip. We didn’t regret visiting this place as we were amazed by its beauty and the colours. The waterfall is an absolute must see here.
In Siem Reap, Cambodia, it luckily was much warmer again. The main draw of this lively city is the temple complex of Angkor Wat which is big enough to spend weeks! We decided to explore the area for 3 days, not enough but still great to get an idea of the size and the beauty! Getting there as early as possible in the morning, following the opposite route and visiting the lesser known places was the solution to avoid the crowds as much as possible. We really enjoyed our time at this beautiful place.
We also celebrated Christmas and Hylke’s birthday in Siem Reap. Not the worst place, as the city has many very good restaurants, very good wine (finally!) and a cool escape room in Agkor Style! We nailed it twice :)
The Cambodian history in the seventies is very ugly. During the brutal Khmer Rouge regime almost half of the population was killed. The Khmer Rouge wanted to establish the most advanced and purist form of communism in the world between 1975 and 1979. Not really the right place for birthday vibes but this important part of Cambodian history is displayed in the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing fields. On Hylke’s birthday we visited both sides and were shocked to discover what really happened during this genocide. Crazy to see what people can do to each other.
To finish our travels in the year of 2017 in style, we stayed at a beautiful Island in Cambodia. This island consisted of unreal blue water and white (very very white!) sand! Eat, beach, drink, sleep, repeat for a couple of days. Also during New Year's Eve... Not a bad place to celebrate! We couldn’t have wished for a better start of 2018... Cheers!
The main reason to fly back to Holland is the opening of Hylke’s fathers own exhibition in a museum. And of course it is nice to see family and some friends after such a long time. We’ll be back on track soon after this break!