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Category: On the road

The unrepeatable adventures of two foreigners down the Nam Ou river (Phongsali to Muang Khua)

I had a pretty vague idea about where we were and an even vaguer idea about how we could get out of there. It was midday on a Sunday; I was sitting on a plastic chair in a small shaded area in a desolate village market; I needed to go to the bathroom, I was hungry, and the heat was intense. Almost no locals were around. A few meters from me, D., the Australian I…

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Endless road to Phongsali

In retrospect, my decision to travel to Phongsali, one of the northernmost towns in Laos, was a highly masochistic tribute to the saying “The journey is the destination.”  Unlike Thailand, Laos is somewhat in the early stages of tourism, the infrastructure is still being built or expanded, and, as a result, visitors are mostly sticking to the same routes. Guide books funnel tourists coming into Laos from Chiang Khong in Thailand down the Mekong: an…

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1219 (Umphang)

“Songthaew” is a word I couldn’t once say right during my two months in Thailand. The first syllable, ‘song’, was intuitive and at the same time suggestive of the second part, ‘thaew’, a tonal roller-coaster with far more vowels than one might think. It is a vital word to know in certain areas in Northern Thailand, where this repurposed pickup truck with two plain benches covered by a tarp is the only means of public…

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Riding with the locals

Once the Thai-Burmese border became the next target of my trip, I learned to look for platforms filled with locals in major bus terminals or for small bus stations near marketplaces. It was after the experience in the crammed, heavily air-conditioned and dangerously fast mini-buses of Southern Thailand that “VIP bus” became something to avoid rather than take comfort in. Nothing to see there other than the driver honking incessantly and the other passengers, all…

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Leaving Lanta

Celebrating your birthday while you travel generates all sorts of temptations to spoil yourself. I gave in to one of these temptations and decided to spend my birthday in style on Koh Lanta, a developed island which doesn’t rank so high on the touristy scale. I rented a decent bungalow in a small resort run by a very young Muslim couple—it was cheap by local standards, but still the most expensive accommodation of my entire…

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January 23, 2016

10:00pm local time at departure airport. 3:00am local time at destination. When you fly at 11,000 meters, time is only defined by the routine of the flight attendants. I don’t yet speak the language of long-haul flights, so I glance furtively at the freckled young girl sitting next to me to figure out what to do with all the airline branded objects surrounding me. She slides gracefully into her role as passenger and I try…

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