Thailand, Laos, Cambodia

Thailand, Laos, Cambodia

In our recent trip i was debating whether i should take my full blown camera gear with me. Im no fan of carrying excessive weight when travelling for pleasure. My dissatisfaction is more amplified when the added weight is costly making me worrisome that it may get lost, destroyed or stolen. Add to this the fact that a big part of the trip involves a lot of walking around and almost a full day of trekking and the  decision to “gear up”  becomes much more difficult. However, armed with good health and decent strength, a new smaller carry bag and a hundred euros one-time specialised travel insurance the gear became less of a burden. More importantly however, the deciding factor was the prospect of taking amazing photos at one of the most amazing regions on earth. Armed with excitement and curiosity we set wings for Thailand, Laos, Cambodia 

Thailand is a beautiful and diverse country. It combines modern with traditional, rich with poor, peace with violence. A commonality however is happiness and politeness. People were always smiley and tried their best to help you; whether you asked for instructions or a ride from our camp to Bangkok. We did indeed live at a Muay Thai training camp. Part of the whole Thailand experience was to train Muay Thai in Thailand. The trip was after all organised by our Muay Thai Kru (teacher) here in Cyprus. Considering how kind and polite people are in Thailand, its kind of hard to associate them with a violent sport like Muay Thai. Being a traditional martial art however, we learned that Muay Thai was more than a sport. Its a way of living since its a good way to earn some cash to support one’s self and family. So it was only natural to go see Muay Thai fights at the most legendary fighting arena; the Lumpinee stadium.

The Wai Kru is a ritual in which Muay Thai students pay respect and gratitude to their teachers

The Wai Kru is a ritual in which Muay Thai students pay respect and gratitude to their teachers

Fighters performing the Wai Kru ceremony just before the fight

Fighters performing the Wai Kru ceremony just before the fight

 

Ayutthaya is an old city in Thailand. It was funded in 1350 before being destroyed in 1700 by the Burmese army. Today, the ruins are recognised internationally as a UNESCO World heritage site.

Old ruins at Ayutthaya

Old ruins at Ayutthaya

Old ruins at Ayutthaya

Old ruins at Ayutthaya

Old ruins at Ayutthaya

Old ruins at Ayutthaya

Buda head protruding from tree roots at old ruins in Ayutthaya

Buda head protruding from tree roots at old ruins in Ayutthaya

During the days we traveled around the area and during the night we relaxed in Bangkok. Funny city, Bangkok is. It offers everything to everyone. Literally everything; from ready to eat scorpions-on-a-stick to liquor on the go, anything one may ask is to be found.

Fancy scorpion on a stick?

Fancy scorpion on a stick?

...or perhaps a take-away drink from a mobile bar?

…or perhaps a take-away drink from a mobile bar?

For the brave ones, some street food perhaps

For the brave ones, some street food perhaps

While the rest of the group stayed in Thailand, myself and my wife Despina opted to travel around the area. After all, how many times in our life would we have the chance to travel to this part of the world. So after a good four days in Thailand, we left for Laos and the city of Luang Prabang. The city was the former capital of the kingdom and is today proclaimed a UNESCO world heritage site. It is intersected by the Mekong river and has a total population of just fifty thousand people. During the night, the main road is transformed to a night market with locals selling food, souvenirs and clothes while early in the morning, before sunrise, it is crowded by locals offering alms to the monks. Having three days to spend in Laos, we also chose to do a cultural, seven hour trekking around the mountains and through villages, which included a home stay at one of the villages for the night, and visitation to the Kuang Si waterfalls with an optional elephant ride around them. The return trip involved four hour canoeing back to Luang Prabang.

The beginning of a full day cultural hike around the mountains

The beginning of a full day cultural hike around the mountains

Happy children at a Hmong village

Happy children at a Hmong village

Happy teenagers at a Hmong village

Happy teenagers at a Hmong village

Pregnant Hmong lady working the rice

Pregnant Hmong lady working the rice

More happy Hmong children

More happy Hmong children

Children on the second Hmong village we encountered, selling their home made stuff

Children on the second Hmong village we encountered, selling their home made stuff

Their only source of income is through agriculture and selling homemade items to visitors

Their only source of income is through agriculture and selling homemade items to visitors

Fancy a beautiful bracelet? Perhaps a bottle holder?

Fancy a beautiful bracelet? Perhaps a bottle holder?

Most kids follow their parents to the rice fields to spend the day and help out. Usually these rice fields are located quite a few kilometres away from their village

Most kids follow their parents to the rice fields to spend the day and help out. Usually these rice fields are located quite a few kilometres away from their village

Steep mountains form the Laotian landscape

Steep mountains form the Laotian landscape

After several hours of trekking up and down the mountains we reached at our destination for the day and night; a Khmu village in the middle of...nowhere

After several hours of trekking up and down the mountains we reached at our destination for the day and night; a Khmu village in the middle of…nowhere

The Kmhu villagers were more than welcome to have their picture taken

The Kmhu villagers were more than welcome to have their picture taken

A father carrying his baby son while his older brother follows close by

A father carrying his baby son while his older brother follows close by

Waiting for the dinner to be cooked, most people spend their afternoon socialising or just gazing at the village "traffic"

Waiting for the dinner to be cooked, most people spend their afternoon socialising or just gazing at the village “traffic”

Children are left unattended for the biggest part of the day to play while parents are at the rice fields working.

Children are left unattended for the biggest part of the day to play while parents are at the rice fields working.

Teenagers entertain themselves by playing footvolley during the late hours of the day

Teenagers entertain themselves by playing footvolley during the late hours of the day

Our dinner being prepared. Our landlady for the day preparing delicious bamboo soup, sticky rice and amazingly tasty fried vegetables and pork

Our dinner being prepared. Our landlady for the day preparing delicious bamboo soup, sticky rice and amazingly tasty fried vegetables and pork

Private showers are not available in the village. Most villagers, men and women alike, have a shower at the village fountain located in the middle of the village.

Private showers are not available in the village. Most villagers, men and women alike, have a shower at the village fountain located in the middle of the village.

Grandmother with her three grandchildren posing for a quick picture. Notice by her facial expression how peaceful and happy she is

Grandmother with her three grandchildren posing for a quick picture. Notice by her facial expression how peaceful and happy she is

Despina posing with a child

Despina posing with a child

Children often make handmade toys from trash collected around the village.

Children often make handmade toys from trash collected around the village.

Our landlady was also the owner of one of the two mini markets in the village. No electricity meant no cold drinks or food.

Our landlady was also the owner of one of the two mini markets in the village. No electricity meant no cold drinks or food.

The landlady's daughter was also the mini markets main employee

The landlady’s daughter was also the mini markets main employee

The Kuang Si waterfalls at Laos

The Kuang Si waterfalls at Laos

Before the sunrise, monks at Luang Prabang are being offerd alms for the day

Before the sunrise, monks at Luang Prabang are being offerd alms for the day

Many poor people are the receptors of the alms from the monks

Many poor people are the receptors of the alms from the monks

The rich people in Luang Prabang offer alms to the monks

The rich people in Luang Prabang offer alms to the monks

The alms are being placed in specially crafted pots being held by the monks

The alms are being placed in specially crafted pots being held by the monks

Following Laos, we headed to Cambodia and Siem Reap, a popular resort town in northwest Cambodia and getaway to bayon Angkor region. Having just a day and a half, we spent it visiting the most popular temples in Angkor like Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Baphuon and Bayon temples. The day begun early at 4 AM in order to be at the temples early. After a lot of walking around the temples and being drenched by the pouring rain, around 3 PM we left the temples and drove 1,5 hours away to visit the floating villages, which as the name implies are flooded villages built around the Tonle Sap lave which overflows and floods the area around it with waters as high as 10 meters in height.

The Pub street in Siem Reap; a popular spot for tourists visiting the area

The Pub street in Siem Reap; a popular spot for tourists visiting the area

The infamous Angkor Wat at sunrise

The infamous Angkor Wat at sunrise

Angkor Wat, build at around 1300, was first a Hindu, then subsequently a Buddhist, temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world.

Angkor Wat, build around the 13th century, was first a Hindu, then subsequently a Buddhist, temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world.

Baphuon is another temple in the Angkor Thom complex

Baphuon is another temple in the Angkor Thom complex

Later in the day we visited the floating villages close to Siem Reap

Later in the day we visited the floating villages close to Siem Reap

The only way to move around the village is by boat

The only way to move around the village is by boat

...and the main source of income during the rainy season is fishing at the nearby lake

…and the main source of income during the rainy season is fishing at the nearby lake

Old ladies cutting bamboo

Old ladies cutting bamboo

Old ladies cutting bamboo

Old ladies cutting bamboo

Everything floats at the river, like English schools

Everything floats at the river, like English schools

...floating markets...

…floating markets…

There are even floating blacksmiths

There are even floating blacksmiths

Some floating trading going on

Some floating trading going on

Our trip concluded back in Thailand. We traveled straight back from Cambodia, to Phuket where we spent the remaining two days visiting the scenic area and the small islands around it during the day and relaxing during the night while recovering from the crazy days in Laos and Cambodia.