Let the Good Times Roll

Hello Friends & Family,

We have officially been on the road for over 7 months! We can't even believe it because time has literally flown by. We have seen some unbelievable landscapes, met some amazing new friends, eaten some interesting food, have had countless great days and a few not so great days. We've learned hello, thank you and goodbye in several languages along the way. Not once have we regretted our decision to travel the world. However, we do miss our friends and family tremendously. There's always an open invitation to come visit us along the way. 

This update will cover our travels through beautiful Laos. We were only able to explore Laos for 13 days and that was not nearly enough time. We did our best to make the most of our limited time. We spent our first night in 4,000 Islands (Don Det) in a complete dump of a guesthouse. Josh woke up early the next morning and found us a nice place to move to so we left the dump at 9:00 a.m. and checked into a lovely bungalow for only $5 a night. The night before we met a hilarious couple from Amsterdam by the names of Renu and Jorgund. It just so happened that they were staying at the same bungalows as us so it seems fate was at work! They became our travel buddies for the next four days. 

We were exhausted from the crazy border crossing trip so we lounged around with our new friends for most of the day. As late afternoon approached we decided to rent bikes and hit the open dirt road around the island. 

Looks like someone's biological clock is ticking! This little baby lived at the shop next to our bungalows.  We rented bikes and purchased many snacks and beers from her parents during our stay.  This was the sweetest baby and every time she saw us she wheeled her way over to grab us and smile.

The Mekong River. Don't let its brown hue fool you. It is absolutely stunning.

We had beautiful sunny weather and we were thankful for it.

This was our sink in our room. All bungalows on the island came with a bonus of Mekong brown water. We weren't sure if we should wash our hands or brush our teeth first. As an extra bonus, you never had to double flush!

The next day we rented bikes again but this time we got an earlier start in our quest for waterfalls. Mission accomplished! Josh thought he could tube down this part of the river. Leanne thought he was full of nothing but brown Mekong water.

Our new buddies! There was some serious elbow popping posing going on for this picture.

Apparently, this is the exact spot where this postcard picture was taken? We found it a little hard to believe but the lady at the shop said she was certain it was the same location only it was taken during the dry season.  What a big difference from the wet season.

Speaking of the wet season, right about here is when it started to pour on us for the first time.

We saw this large creepy-crawler on our walk around the forrest.

Road block! School's out!

More rapids on the other side of the island. This is right about when it started pouring for the second time.

Josh thought he could tube this part too. You can take the boy out of San Antonio but you can't take the San Antonio out of the boy.

We spent an hour biking through mud and being laughed at by the locals. We each blew out our flip-flops several times. We were covered in mud and soaked to the bone but we had some great laughs along the way. We laughed so hard at one point that Leanne started crying.

We clean up nice! BBQ was on the menu this night and we had a fantastic evening with our friends. One of the best things about traveling is meeting new friends. One of the worst things about traveling is leaving those friends. Thanks, Renu and Jorgund for making our first few days in Laos unforgettable. We will see you soon!

As much as we loved Don Det, we had to make our way to the next destination which entailed one boat ride, 4 mini-buses, and a 12-hour sleeper bus equating to over 27 hours of traveling! This wasn't our first rodeo. This time the bus wasn't full so we had our own beds. Josh slept the entire night while Leanne stayed awake in a panic watching the bus driver occasionally nod off. He drank at least 7 Red Bulls that night.

Destination: Vang Vieng. This town gained its popularity in the backpacker community through tubing and a chaotic party scene. Josh had hopes of getting his tubing fix while Leanne was reluctant to stop here because of all of the crazy stories we had heard.  The bars had actually been shut down for 3 months because of an Asian meeting that was taking place in late September. Lucky for us we were able to experience the true Vang Vieng. We were so surprised by the absolute beauty of this place.  There were rivers, overwhelming cliffs and rocks, seemingly endless caves, rice fields, and lagoons to swim in.

   Gorgeous landscape

Random rooster shot.

One of the many caves we entered while in Vang Vieng

Big Buddha foot inside a cave.

Children playing in the Mekong.

So pretty!

Yeah, the mountains in background are ok too.

Ready to explore a cave with our guide.

Inside the cave.

One of the caves we entered was a water cave so your only means of transportation was via tube and rope.  This was, without a question, the coolest cave either one of us has ever been in.  Unfortunately, we were unable to take pictures because it was too wet and we were continuously being splashed by water from the river that ran through the cave.

Ahhh!!  It feels good to sit on a tube.

We also kayaked down the Mekong River during our stay in Vang Vieng.  It was a breathtaking 17-kilometer journey.

A few locals along the way.

We shared the day with Krista and Albert, also from the Netherlands, and really enjoyed their company.

We were able to rent a motorbike. It was the first time in months because of Josh's hand injury in Myanmar. We were so happy to have the open air of a motorbike running through our hair once again.  

Funny how giving two small girls with no smiles on their face a tiny (and we mean tiny) amount of money can turn them into the happiest girls in Laos.

Man, we're suckers.

We hit the dirt road again.

We stopped off at swimming spot to jump in the water for a quick cool-off.

We weren't the only ones looking for relief from the heat.

Hiking up to another cave.

This place is so ugly! Said no one ever!

We stopped off at this small local restaurant with a swinging monkey to see what the story was.  We found out that that the owner was given the baby monkey by a tourist to be taken care of.  The mother was hit by a car and the baby monkey was orphaned.  He planned on raising it until it was old enough to release into the wild.  We're not sure how that will work out after so much interaction with humans but we hope his plan comes together. The monkey's name was Jackie and he was very loving.

Even the monkey couldn't believe how long Josh's hair is.

After a little snack we hit the road again for more scenery.

We really enjoyed our four days in Vang Vieng and found a great guesthouse at the recommendation of a nice Swiss couple.  If any of you are heading there let us know so we can send you the information.  Once again, it was time to move along so we hopped a bus to Luang Probang for the next three days.

We stayed at a guesthouse that was run by a sweet, old couple. It was like staying with our Laotian grandmother and grandfather.  We were the only ones staying there so we felt too guilty moving to another guesthouse. They liked to nap throughout the day so unfortunately we were not able to take a picture with them.

We woke up at 4:30 a.m. to watch the monks collect their daily food from the locals. Leanne was expecting to see hundreds of monks. We saw about thirty monks. Josh wished he could get those few hours of missed sleep back.

While traveling, you meet people in the most random ways. We met Maria and Rodrigo, from Portugal, while outside of an ATM. They were having trouble getting their card to work. Somehow we struck up a conversation which led to grabbing lunch and shakes which then led to spending the entire following day together. We exchanged travel and life stories and couldn't stop laughing all day.

Heading down the "dock" for our boat ride across the river.

Sharing a boat and smiles!

Buddha cave

After a day in the sweltering heat we took a refreshing dip in a waterfall.

Josh and Rodrigo practiced their flips while Leanne and Maria had some quality girl talk time. 

Once again, we had to say goodbye. This is the part we always hate. Thanks, Maria and Rodrigo for the laughs and memorable trip to Luang Probang. Looks like we may be adding Lisbon to the itinerary now. We will keep in touch and hopefully we will see you next spring!

We got real close for this overnight ride. These beds were made for small people. So that meant Leanne was quite comfortable while Josh was miserable. That was one windy trip down the mountain. 

The next morning we rolled into Vientiane around 6:30 in the morning.  We had an early morning flight to Kuala Lumpur the next morning so we didn't have much time here. There really wasn't much to do in this city anyways. We did some sightseeing while we waited to check into our room. We spent a considerable amount of time looking for "That Dam" pagoda.

We took a sunset stroll through the center of town. This day was actually our anniversary but we were waiting to celebrate in Kuala Lumpur.

"No passing a grass"

We finally did it...we cashed in some of our reward points and stayed at a fancy hotel in Kuala Lumpur to celebrate our anniversary. We each took the longest showers of our lives and used all of the free soaps and shampoos. It was incredible to shower sans brown water. Josh even found a shoe cloth in the closet and used it on his hiking boots. We were like hoarder kids in a candy store.

We wore the robes and slippers and drank Kettle One vodka (thanks to the duty free shop in Laos) with some sort of orange drink stuff we bought at the store. Our points allowed us to have the breakfast buffet too. The buffet was unreal with everything you could imagine or want. We stuffed ourselves sick! While the other guests ate cereal and a banana, we tried one of almost everything they had to offer. Since we were not used to eating that much food, we actually felt uncomfortable all day but it was totally worth it.

Even though it was cloudy we spent the day poolside. It was super crowded as you can see.

Josh released his inner child by going down the kiddie slide. We used everything that hotel had to offer.  While Josh splashed around in the pool, Leanne hit the gym. It was the biggest gym she had ever seen at a hotel. She was so ecstatic to get an actual workout in. Josh could care less about the working out thing since he has already lost 20 pounds on this trip. He ordered a drink and a pizza at the pool instead.

We surprised each other with our best outfits for our anniversary dinner. Leanne even fixed her hair for the first time in 7 months!

We have to say a special thank you to Mom and Dad Bearden. They deposited money into our account so we could enjoy an extra special dinner for our anniversary.  We were able to order a bottle of wine and steaks. It was the best meal we have had during our trip. We will always remember that anniversary dinner. Cheers to Mom and Dad Bearden!

We were extremely sad to leave our elaborate hotel room. The two nights in Kuala Lumpur went by so fast. Hopefully, we will build up enough points to stay at another fancy place six months down the road.

The next day we were off to the airport to board our 20th flight. Destination: Kathmandu, Nepal. Objective: Hiking to Everest Base Camp.

We will be posting another update in the next few days before we head up the mountain so keep your eye out for another post.

As always, thanks for following. We miss you all!

Leanne & Josh

1 comment:

  1. No one commented here. So I guess this is where I'll comment. I found this blog, well, you know why. At first I just jumped around then decided I should start from the beginning. This is one of the coolest things I have ever come across. It's like reading the best book ever but it's real and has pictures. You guys have really come alive to me. The pictures are amazing. The perspectives are just unrivaled really. The one here of the kids not smiling could be in Nat Geo or something. Many are like that. I just thought, well, I'm just very touched by this blog. Kudos. Peace. To you, Josh. And Leanne. -James