Laos, Songkran & Condensed Milk.

15 Apr

I am very grateful to welcome a new laptop into my life – which means I can finally see what my blog actually looks like, type normally, check my spelling and see other peoples pages without squinting on my cell phone screen! :) :)

Trip to Laos

So we survived our first border run to Laos! The whole thing was quite an experience and we are both so grateful that we decided to pay extra and complete the journey with a company, rather than by ourselves! The trip involved leaving Bangkok at 7:40pm, traveling straight through the night and arriving at the border post at 4:30am. We sat at the border (no, actually we stood) waiting for the border to open, the process to be completed and Laos visas to be issued before heading to the Thai Embassy and then to our hotel. Needless to say, we were shattered. Unfortunately, energy levels did not permit much exploring to take place but we did spend Tuesday evening having dinner along the river bank which acts as the border, separating Thailand and Laos.

The people and culture in Laos are very similar to that of Thailand. The food on the menu, language and basic mannerisms generally exceed very little noticeable difference to what you find in Thailand. The national currency in Laos is the Kip – which has very little value once leaving its home borders. It can, in some ways, be compared to the Zimbabwean Dollar as all prices are expressed in the thousands and inflation is rife. Luckily, it is not necessary to exchange money before hand as both the Thai Baht and American Dollar are accepted in Laos – however, ensure to bring small denominations if you are staying for a short period of time as change is returned in Kip. We did find Laos very expensive, when compared to Bangkok… I think it is because locals could tell we had never traveled to Laos before and were generally new to the currency and how things worked. Ultimately, we were charged triple at a mini mart for buying exactly the same brands that we would in Bangkok… There is no set exchange rate and the teller kinda just taps away at her calculator to determine the price which you owe. So, just be careful of being ripped off if you are traveling to Laos and using Baht/Dollar.

Wednesday morning arrived, we were welcomed to the dining hall with the smell of breakfast… Eggs deep fried in oil, limp vegetables, a few shavings of meat and rice pudding – all of which we politely avoided. Once breakfast was done, we headed off to the Thai Embassy to receive our passports and head back to Bangkok. We only left Laos at close to 4pm so we knew were in for another long drive and sleepless night. The first stretch of the trip had me hysterical as we watched The Hangover: Part Two. The whole movie is based in Thailand (particularly Bangkok) and I can clearly remember watching it a few years ago when it was first released thinking – never will I ever spend a considerable time in Bangkok!! Which, clearly did not suffice as we are now living here!

We are now back in Bangkok, boasting a great little piece of paper stuck in our passports which permits us a double, 60 day entry into Thailand. This means that at the end of the first 60 days, we will have to go to the embassy to activate the next 60 days without having to complete this whole mission to Laos for a while.

Sugar and all things sweet.

I am missing home meals more than ever and not having an equipped kitchen to cook your own meals in is proving to be quite frustrating. It is a concept that seems bizarre to family and friends back home, but in Thailand, people do not need to cook. The street food vendors and restaurants are available in abundance so there is no need to cook at home. Also, the 7/11 and Family Marts have microwaves and boiling water facilities readily available, so two minute noodles, hot dogs, coffee, toasted sandwiches and any other basic meals can be bought and prepared instantly! Although we do have a fridge, we do not have a stove or microwave but I think in time we will buy one of those George-Foreman-type-grillers just so we can cook at home when we want to to.

One thing I just cannot get used to is the amount of sugar used in preparing food and drinks. Everything (and I mean, everything) you buy from street food vendors or restaurants contains sugar. Yes, those iced coffees and frappes are delicious but lately, we have been watching them being made. The amount of condensed milk poured into the blender is crazyyyy! But it doesn’t stop there – condensed milk is also poured freely into the wok which is frying your rice. I am not saying it does not taste good – it tastes amazing! But when your waste line starts to increase and you cannot figure out why – now you know! :) The weird thing is, you very seldom see a Thai person who is even slightly overweight… I have reached the conclusion that obesity may not be an issue, but diabetes might just be.

SONGKRAN!

This weekend welcomed in  Songkran – the celebration of the Thai New Year. On Saturday afternoon, we went down into the street in front of our apartment and witnessed some of the fun that was being had by the locals. Everyone is drenched in water, armed with water pistols, buckets and whipped cream bottles. People stand along the pavements throwing water at passer buyers, taxis, buses and motorbikes. People are literally, drenched. The amount of water used over these few days must be enormous, but the symbolism behind the tradition of washing away the old to make way for the new year is great!

Songkran festivities in Khao San Road

Yesterday, we decided to go and involve ourselves in the thick of the action and head down to Khao San Road. Well, were we in the thick of it! We arrived, not really knowing what to expect, with no cell phone or camera as we were warned that water damage is more than likely. We had a quick breakfast and then took our first stroll down Khao San. We decided to walk down memory lane and go to the hostel we first stayed at when we arrived in Bangkok 2 months ago. Already soaked to the bone, we enjoyed a few Chang Beers and watched the thousands of people walking past – just as soaked as we were! Then, the fun started! We met a Thai girl and some Australian travelers, and before we knew it we were in the middle of the water-throwing-mayhem. I am a bit skeptical of the cleanliness of the water in Thailand but even I was picking fights with people who had much larger guns than me, getting more and more drenched as time passed! The whole day was just an unbelievable experience… Firstly, all ages (from 2 year old to 95 year olds) get involved in the festivities. I teamed up with the cutest little kid (who couldn’t have been older than 3) and we were taking the  crowds on!! If anyone heard a few of Kyle and my conversations, they would have gathered that we were not used to such peaceful, diverse gatherings. We are mind boggled at how peaceful the crowds were! I can almost guarantee that numerous fights would have broken out in other parts of the world if an older man was enjoying a beer – relatively dry, only to have a BUCKET of ice water thrown over his head from behind… The Thai people embraced and welcomed the swarming groups of tourists – everyone smiling, laughing and having a genuinely great time! One of the highlights of the day for me, was when Gangnam Style came blaring over the speakers. The scene was similar to that of a flash mob… Every single person around us – no matter where in the world they originated – seized fire and started breaking it down! Water pistols were being bobbed in the air, beers clanged together and moves (like I have never seen) busted out!

My only bit of advice… If you are planning a trip to Thailand, do not book your flights to arrive in Bangkok during Songkran! I felt SO sorry for the many tourist we saw walking the streets, laden with back packs and hand luggage bags, trying their utmost to find a hostel to check into amongst the swarming crowds. I can clearly remember driving around in circles, unable to find our hostels when we first arrived – so I cannot imagine what those poor travelers were going through! Initially, I was a bit unsure of what to expect of the whole Songkran ordeal, going into town not knowing anyone but Kyle, with nothing but the clothes I was wearing – but I am so glad that we did! :) :)

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7 Responses to “Laos, Songkran & Condensed Milk.”

  1. confessions-of-a-nomad April 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    Great post. I’d love to be back in Bangkok for Songkran again! Aw poor tourists arriving now knowing what was about to hit them!

    • katekingsley89 April 20, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      Thank you! :) Songkran is definitely something that is hard to explain to those who havent experienced it… :)

  2. restlessjo April 23, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    Love the name of your blog and the beautiful peacock feathers, Kate. More photos would be great. :)

  3. Rahburt April 25, 2013 at 1:28 am #

    that’s awesome. looks like a blast!

  4. zjbell92 May 1, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    Sounds like you’re having an amazing time :) When I was in Siberia they were also massive fans of condensed milk! They didn’t use it in cooking so much but instead as a topping for pancakes or as icing on a cake. I think when I went back to England for 2 weeks I got withdrawal symptoms!

    • Kate Lighton May 1, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

      Ive tried to ask for ‘no sugar’…. But I miss the taste too much! Definitely withdrawal symptoms! :) Thank you for looking at my blog! :)

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