Thailand and Laos 2017

Thailand and Laos – day six (Vientiane)

There is already a rhythm developing to our days.  A bit of a sleep in.  Excellent coffee  Delicious breakfasts.  Then we ask Mike what he has in store for us that day.  Today we were visiting the COPE centre.  Once again we jumped into the twin cab ute (Stella loves it in the back and I actually also rather enjoy it – it’s a great way to really see the street scenes as we travel) and headed in to the centre of town.

Did you have to write essays at school with topics that were really a statement followed by the phrase “compare and contrast”?  I find that when we are travelling I constantly compare and contrast.  I compare different ways of life, different ways of doing things, different ways of speaking, different cultural approaches – I think it’s all in the effort to make sense and order of the world around me.  And I don’t just mean of the country that I am visiting – I also mean the countries of fellow travellers, and my own.  In my day job I am used to sorting, ordering, classifying, and grouping.  It’s the way that my mind works.  My husband says jokingly that I like to put things in boxes.  Yes, I categorise.  I just hope that I don’t discriminate or judge as well.  That’s the challenge.

Vientiane day six

Vientiane day six

Vientiane day six

P1000907

Vientiane day six

I said earlier that we are quite ignorant about Laos and its history.  I wonder how many of you know about the deliberate bombing that took place in Laos from 1964 to 1973?  Some basic information from the Legacies of War website:

From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years – making Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. The bombings were part of the U.S. Secret War in Laos to support the Royal Lao Government against the Pathet Lao and to interdict traffic along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The bombings destroyed many villages and displaced hundreds of thousands of Lao civilians during the nine-year period.

Up to a third of the bombs dropped did not explode, leaving Laos contaminated with vast quantities of unexploded ordnance (UXO). Over 20,000 people have been killed or injured by UXO in Laos since the bombing ceased.

Vientiane day six

COPE – Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise –  was founded in 1997 by our guesthouse host, Mike Boddington.  The goal is for people with physical disabilities to have local, free access to quality rehabilitative services.

Vientiane day six

There was a massive amount of UXO – unexploded ordnance – left in Laos from the bombings.  And every now and then, some of these bombies go off, and maim yet more people.

I cannot fathom how those who order, manufacture and distribute these types of weapons can live with themselves.

Vientiane day six

Vientiane day six

Vientiane day six

From the COPE website:

The effect of unexploded ordnance (UXOs) on Lao PDR has been and continues to be immense.  UXOs are ‘explosive weapons that failed to detonate when they were fired, dropped, launched or projected, and still pose a risk of exploding’.  In Lao PDR, there are a range of UXOs contaminating the countryside, including large bombs, rockets, grenades, artillery munitions, mortars, landmines and cluster munitions (Source: NRA UXO Sector Annual Report 2009).

It has been estimated that around 50 000 people have been injured or killed as a result of UXO incidents between 1964 and 2008.  Roughly 30 000 of these incidents occurred during the time of the Second Indochina War/Vietnam War (up until 1973).  The other 20 000 occurred in the post-conflict era (from 1973 to 2008).  It is estimated that more than 50% of victims in the post-conflict era are children and over 80% of victims are male (Source: NRA UXO Sector Annual Report 2009). 

SOME STATISTICS TO REMEMBER:

  • 260 million
    Estimated number of sub-munitions (bombies) from cluster bombs dropped over Lao PDR between 1964 and 1973.
  • 2 million tons
    Estimated ordnance dropped on Lao PDR between 1964 and 1973
  • 580 000
    Estimated number of bombing missions flown over Lao PDR between 1964 and 1973
  • 30%
    Estimated failure rate of sub-munitions under ideal conditions.
  • 80 million
    Estimated number of sub-munitions that failed to explode.
  • 1,090,228
    Estimated number of unexploded sub-munitions destroyed by UXO LAO from 1996 to December 2009.
  • 300
    Estimated number of new casualties from UXO incidents every year in Lao PDR

Vientiane day six

Children are taught at school not to play with bombies or toss them as balls.  UXO can be valuable as it contains both metal and explosives, which can be repurposed (metal casings into utensils, tables, lamps, and other handy household items) or sold.  This prompts people to try to retrieve UXO and defuse it – often with tragic consequences.  Setting up cooking fires above buried UXO can prompt them to explode.  It’s absolutely horrific.

Vientiane day six

COPE allows people to receive the prostheses and orthoses that they need to live fuller lives, free of charge.  It assists all those with physical disabilities, whether received as a result of UXO injury or other birth deformities or acquired injury.

My area of work is in healthcare.  In Australia children born with clubfoot have it identified shortly after birth, and have physiotherapy and orthoses to treat it (primarily paid for by our health care system).  Some may need surgery, and will receive it (primarily paid for by the state).

Until COPE was set up in Laos children born with clubfoot didn’t have it treated.  They grew up with a developing physical disability that continued to affect the quality of their life.  Remember, this isn’t a country set up to be easily accessible for those with physical disabilities.  There aren’t any ramps here.  It distresses me greatly that medical care that we take for granted in Australia is not accessible here – and the long-term ramifications are huge.

Vientiane day six

It also distresses me greatly that the countries primarily involved in bombing Laos (primarily the USA) in the first place do not do more to assist those who are the ongoing victims of their actions.  Have a read of COPE’s fundraising page to get an idea of the difficulties of continuing to provide a quality, free service to the population.  All that money spent on death and destruction, yet so little spent to assist those left behind. I find this highly confronting.  And we all know that similar is continuing in other countries today.

Vientiane day six

I really can’t communicate adequately about this in a few short paragraphs.  I will add a few links to information about The Secret War in Laos and about COPE for those of you wishing to read further.

And then, rather incongruously, I buy some Colin Cotterill books (from the Dr Siri series set in Laos) and keyrings from the COPE visitor centre gift shop, and we eat ice cream (happy rainbow with fluffy clouds flavour).  Surreal.

Vientiane day six

Vientiane day six

Then we went to Kung’s Cafe for a delicious lunch.

When I write about my day, I shake my head as we move from learning about the horrors of war to sitting down in a gorgeous laneway eating local food.  It doesn’t seem quite real.

Vientiane day six

Vientiane day six

Vientiane day six

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Vientiane day six

Vientiane day six

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Our group is an interesting mix of nationalities.  All my readers know that we are Australian.  Our host, Mike, is English.  His wife Xioukiet is Lao.  The other guests are Joe, who is from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, USA, and Joe’s brother-in-law Thanh, who is from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.  We had a great deal of conversation, much of it challenging and thought provoking, throughout the day and over meals.  Joe had been a Vietnam war protester, yet he’d never heard of the war in Laos.  Thanh is from the south of Vietnam so had another perspective and set of knowledge on the region’s history.  Our conversations swayed from domestic politics to the history of Laos to responsibilities following war to differences in spoken english from country to country.  Joe now knows all about fridges, tellies and wheelie bins!  We’ve had serious conversations and a great deal of laughter mixed in.  This is the joy and the value of international travel.

Vientiane day six

Vientiane day six

On our way home we stopped to investigate some rice shops. There are over 2000 varieties of rice grown here in Laos!  As a consequence the sheer number of types of rice varieties provides the rest of the world with genetic diversity and insurance to make sure that their rice crops can still be maintained.  The Lao buy different varieties of rice for different purposes, but as in many countries, things are starting to change in terms of rice production and usage.  From the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) website: Lao PDR has one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity of rice in the world, and it appears to be the center of biodiversity for glutinous rice. Much of this rice is conserved in IRRI‘s International Rice Genebank.  Rice production in the country is subsistence-oriented. It is produced mainly by small farm households that have an average farm size of less than two hectares. Although rice production is the single most important economic activity, accounting for 39% of agricultural gross domestic product, very little rice is currently marketed.

There is some more information on IRRI’s work in Laos here.

Thailand and Laos 2017

Thailand and Laos – day five (Vientiane)

After a delicious breakfast of cereal, yoghurt, excellent Lao coffee, breads, spreads and most importantly for our girls, pain au chocolat, Mike took us into Vientiane for an orientation tour.  Another two guests are staying at Jungle House, so there were seven of us including Mike in the party.  Much to the delight of the kids, this meant that two people got to sit in the tray of the twin cab ute as we traveled.

Laos day 5

Laos day 5

Laos day 5

Laos day 5

Laos day 5

Mike took us past many places of interest, all the while putting them into their historical and often their political context. We passed Pha That Luang, the Victory Monument, and That Dam.

Laos day 5

Vientiane is a city that has been razed to the ground and then restored and reconstructed a number of times throughout its history. There are only four original buildings still standing. There is evidence of building throughout the city – often very tall concrete structures built by the Chinese, in locations that make me scratch my head wondering about the appeal. Lots of these buildings are empty. The building in the above photograph is a new market building with three levels of car parking available on the top stories – except there is no way to actually GET to the car parking on the top three stories! Highly incongruous.

Laos day 5

Laos day 5

Laos day 5

Laos day 5

At a number of significant statues, from those of Fa Ngum to Sisavangvong, Mike was able to describe the history of the country and shifts in power and occupation that have taken place. As per Wikipedia: Present day Laos traces its historic and cultural identity to the kingdom of Lan Xang Hom Khao (Kingdom of a Million Elephants Under the White Parasol), which existed for four centuries as one of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asia.[11] Due to Lan Xang’s central geographical location in Southeast Asia, the kingdom was able to become a popular hub for overland trade, becoming wealthy economically as well as culturally.[11]  After a period of internal conflict, Lan Xang broke off into three separate kingdoms— Luang Phabang, Vientiane and Champasak. In 1893, it became a French protectorate, with the three territories uniting to form what is now known as the country of Laos. It briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation, but returned to French rule until it was granted autonomy in 1949. Laos became independent in 1953, with a constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong. Shortly after independence, a long civil war ended the monarchy, when the Communist Pathet Lao movement came to power in 1975.

Laos day 5

Laos day 5

As is the case in much of South East Asia, Wats abound in the city.  I’ll steal some more information from Wikipedia: Laos has an area of 85,000 square miles (220,000 km2) and contains a population of 7.2 million. Almost all ethnic or “lowland” Lao (Lao Loum and Lao Lom) are followers of Theravada Buddhism; however, they constitute only 40-50% of the population. The remainder of the population belongs to at least 48 distinct ethnic minority groups. Most of these ethnic groups (30%) are practitioners of Laotian folk religion, with beliefs that vary greatly among groups. Laotian folk religion is predominant among most Lao Theung, Lao Sung, the Sino-Thai groups, such as the Thai Dam and Thai Daeng, as well as among Mon-Khmer and Tibeto-Burman groups. Even among lowland Lao, many pre-Buddhist phi religious beliefs have been incorporated into Theravada Buddhist practice. Catholics and Protestants constitute approximately 2% of the population. Other minority religious groups include those practicing the Bahá’í faith, Mahayana Buddhism, and Chinese folk religions. A very small number of citizens are atheist or agnostic.

Laos day 5

Laos day 5

Laos day 5

We had lunch at a lovely little restaurant that would once have been beside the Mekong River, but thanks to a new road that runs alongside the river is now a little way away.  The road was built for flood control purposes, which is probably now a moot point because of the amount of dams that have been built across the Mekong.  We ate local dishes and enjoyed our first beerlao.  The dish in one of the photos above is a river weed that has been fried so that it is crispy – a bit like potato chips, I suppose!  It was very tasty.

Laos day 5

Laos day 5

After lunch we returned to Jungle House for a refreshing swim, some time playing the Sims, and the chance to debrief about our day and ask yet more questions.  We’d had a terrific overview of the city and the development of the country.  We were also rather fascinated by these palm leaf books.

Laos day 5

Laos day 5

There is so much to learn and so much information to take in and synthesise, both about the country’s past and about current ways of life. We ended our day with Mike’s wonderful gin and tonic, a delicious meal cooked by Xioukiet, and a great deal of conversation with both our hosts and the other guests.  As is often the case when travelling, one question leads to another and yet another.  We have only just begun to scratch the surface of Laos.

Thailand and Laos 2017

Thailand and Laos – day four (Laos)

Yesterday was quite a day.  We have hit the jackpot with our choice of accommodation in Vientiane.  But I suppose that I should start at the beginning.

Laos day four

Our marvellous overnight train ran right on time. Clare woke up on the morning of her fourteenth birthday not far from Nong Khai, near the land border between Thailand and Laos. I say land border, but the border is actually the Mekong River. We loved watching the sun rising over the countryside as we arrived at Nong Khai at 6.45am, right on schedule.

Laos day four

Laos day four

There is no direct train that goes from Bangkok to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. In fact, Laos has only one train line – the few kilometres that go from Thailand into Thanalaeng, well on the outskirts of Vientiane, and one train – the one that took us from Nong Khai! There is a slightly convoluted process to getting here, but it actually all ran really smoothly. After some extensive googling, we took the most straightforward option for a family of four. The overnight train to Nong Khai, then once at Nong Khai (the Thailand side) we bought another 20 baht train ticket each that would take us to Thanalaeng on the Laos side. We were going to be collected from Thanalaeng station by our hosts. If you are NOT being collected from there, I suggest you just buy the 300 baht ticket from Nong Khai that also includes minivan transfer in to the centre of Vientiane.

Laos day four

There were actually only about thirty people on the border crossing train, about half tourists. We checked out of Thailand immigration on the Nong Khai side, then took the train across the Mekong River. What a river it is! I had truly underestimated its size, despite having seen it on many a television documentary.  Once on the Thanalaeng side we obtained visas on arrival, went through immigration, then were picked up by our delightful host Mike Boddington and driven to our accommodation, Jungle House.

Laos day four

Laos day four

Laos day four

Laos day four

You can quickly see from my photos how beautiful the physical surrounds are here. But the main reason we’re so thrilled with our choice of place to stay in Vientiane is with our hosts, Mike and Xoukiet. We could not have chosen more knowledgeable, interesting and informed people to stay with. Mike has a fascinating work history, as does Xoukiet who specialises in combating human trafficking from Laos.

Laos day four

Laos day four

Laos day four

Laos day four

Laos day four

Laos day four

Laos day four

Laos day four

You have probably figured out by now that we are not budget travellers. That said, we don’t have loads of cash to splash around on five star holidays either! We work on the premise that if we’d be happy to spend a certain amount in Australia, we’re happy to spend similar when overseas. This means that when we’re in places like Thailand and Laos we end up with much better quality accommodation than we would be in at home! We’re much more interested in staying in guest house and boutique hotel types of accommodation where we can interact and talk with people who live in the country, than we are in staying in fancy hotels that could essentially be anywhere. I found Jungle House through Trip Advisor originally – although they are also on Air BNB – then went straight to their website to see if it was the type of place we’d like to stay. It only took a couple of emails back and forth with Mike to determine that it would surpass expectations. After all, how many guest house hosts would arrange for Red Velvet Cake – her cake of choice – for their guest’s 14th birthday?

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It’s time for us to go and have breakfast in the main house (we’re staying in the separate two-bedroom cottage).  I have a feeling that today is going to bring many new things for all of us.  We were/are pretty ignorant about the Lao People’s Democratic Republic before we arrived – so we have a great deal to learn!

Thailand and Laos 2017

Thailand and Laos – day three (Bangkok)

Technology really is an incredible thing.  When I did the typical Australian early-20s thing and spent a year travelling I kept in touch by writing a weekly letter.  Occasionally a photo would be included.  Very occasionally I’d make a phone call.  Now I can write daily blog posts, send emails, and post to Instagram – all wifi permitting, of course (we’re not paying for international roaming data)!  For me, there is nothing quite like being able to record our trip with the details fresh in my mind.  So much happens that if it wasn’t recorded fairly promptly it would all turn into one long blur.

Thailand Laos day two

Thailand Laos day two

Thailand Laos day two

We began our day with a short walk to the local train station to travel a couple of stations to meet up with our guide for a food and canal tour of the Thon Buri area. Last time we were in Bangkok we’d really enjoyed the walking food tour we did around the Bang Rak area (where we stayed this visit, actually) so thought it would be an enjoyable and informative way to spend the day. We weren’t wrong!

Thailand Laos day two

Thailand Laos day two

Thailand Laos day two

Thailand Laos day two

Our tour guide, Lucy, was absolutely wonderful. She took us on a walking tour down back laneways and local markets, answering our many questions as we went. And there were all sorts of questions – not just about the food. Questions about daily life for her in Bangkok, about the rate of construction currently taking place on the south side of the river, about education, about Buddhism. As always, I was intrigued and amazed at how life and business is conducted immediately adjacent to train platforms, railway lines, and roadways.

Thailand Laos day two

Thailand Laos day two

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Clare was happy to try most of the foods that were offered to us, but Stella was highly resistant. Looks like she’ll be subsisting on pancakes and rice for the next few weeks. Dan really enjoys hot food, so the prevalence of chilli in the local cooking was a real bonus for him. Me? Not so much. I like the flavour of chilli but not the heat. Does that make sense? Anyway, between us we managed to try a wide variety of foods.

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Yes, that last photo was of coffins for sale. Thai style – the highly decorated ones – and chinese style. Some of you might know that in a previous career I worked for a funeral director, and as a result I am always interested in death and burial/cremation practices from other cultures. We certainly don’t have shopfront coffins for sale in Australia!

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

The Buddha in this temple is unusual as he is lying flat on his back, in a “death” position. Lucy explained that buddha statues are in positions found in those of everyday people – sitting, standing, reclining, and in this case, lying flat. There was building going on in the temple grounds, and we made an offering to add our names to a roof tile and ask for blessings. Stella in particular attracted quite a bit of interest in this area for her very pale skin and long strawberry blonde hair. It is always a little weird being the obvious tourists in an area where there aren’t many!

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

The markets were full of foods that I recognised and foods that I didn’t. There certainly wasn’t much refrigeration, but there was plenty of ice around. The weather here at the moment is just wonderful. It’s hot, but not too hot. Not particularly humid. Pretty much perfect, really!

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Next we were on the canals in a long tailed boat. Stella in particular loves transportation that goes quickly, and she loves it even more if there are waves and bumps. Clare and I just want to vomit in those situations. However, we all enjoyed our trip on the water. There were water monitors, loads of fish, and people all living right beside the water. Bangkok is so multi-layered. There are elevated roads and train tracks way up high, other roads at ground level, narrow laneways snaking between other roadways, and then the canals and the walkways in between. Any vehicle that is small enough to travel along any space does and will – motorbikes drive straight through the narrow laneways in the markets that are only one person wide.

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

We stopped off at an artist’s house beside the river. The girls had a ball feeding the fish – there were so many fish trying to eat the food that the water was positively boiling with them. It was slightly revolting in a way.

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

I really enjoyed the coolness and quiet of the smaller canals. Despite it being high tourist season there really didn’t appear to be loads of tourists in the area we were visiting – I suspect that was thanks to Lucy knowing where to take us.

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

We had quite a giggle at this Christmas tree with lights inside it – it’s made from plastic water bottles! Ingenious!

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

We went around the outside of Wat Arun to avoid a traffic jam on our way to the next market. We visited quite a few wats last time we were in Thailand. This one is very impressive, but had an equally impressive number of tourists at it. There were also plenty of locals though, as it was Saturday and a good day for families to be able to visit the temple together.

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Who said that money doesn’t grow on trees – it does at this temple! From here we visited another market, tasting roti, other local thai dishes, and some icypoles made from soft drink in a tub full of ice and salt.

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

After the tour we returned to our hotel by passenger ferry. In my opinion it is ABSOLUTELY worth paying for tours like this with guides who speak great English and know the area well. Yes, we could have wandered around by ourselves, but wouldn’t have even learned 1% of what we learned about life in Bangkok by taking this tour with Lucy. For me, travel is as much about the people and how they live as it is about the “sights” – although of course I enjoy those as well.

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos day 2

Thailand Laos

We were especially fortunate to have just enough time to meet Meg and her husband Tim for cocktails at the Shangri La! Meg and I first met by accident at Tessuti in Melbourne when she was on holiday a year ago – we recognised one another from our blogs/instagram. Rather hilariously we both turned up wearing green linen dresses sewn from Stylearc patterns.

Thailand Laos

Sewing friends are everywhere! Then it was time to check out of our hotel and head to the main train station to catch an overnight train to Laos. The train actually goes to a small town before the Thai border. From there you catch another train across the Mekong River to Thanalaeng in Laos, and from there on to Vientiane by road.

Thailand Laos

Thailand Laos

Thailand Laos

Thailand Laos

Thailand Laos

I have to say – Thai Railways, you are IMPRESSIVE! Australian train services could learn a lot from this! We had first class sleepers, with two interconnecting two berth cabins. They came with wifi, small sinks, individual televisions/screens with up to date travel and weather information, and a USB port. Talk about luxury! And the train left on time, was comfortable to travel on – although a little bit cold, take layers if you travel on the overnight train – and even arrived on time. So I am typing this from our superb accommodation in Vientiane, Laos – but I’ll fill you in on that in my next blog post! Thanks for hanging in there through this EPIC one.

Thailand and Laos 2017

Thailand and Laos – day two (Bangkok)

I really did wake up ridiculously early yesterday. Fortunately my body seems to have done a rapid time clock change and after a fabulous night of sleep last night I feel in tune with local time! We started our day with breakfast at the hotel, then headed out on foot up the street to walk to the train ticket agent.

Thailand Laos Day Two

Stella had only just turned 7 years old last time we visited, and she really doesn’t remember anything much about it at all, whereas Clare has some quite good memories and even recognised one of the cafes we went to on a food tour. She was 11 last visit. We all enjoyed the walk, taking in the change in shops and buildings from jewellery stores and tailors to tile shops and providers of building materials. Stella was rather fascinated by the multiplicity of wires and cables stringing the streets. I reflected on how quickly you start not to notice those sorts of things as much when you’ve visited the country before.

Thailand Laos Day Two

As always, I am constantly fascinated by the juxtaposition of building types along the streets and the canals. Differences in height and construction types, differences in maintenance levels, differences in usage. The canal we walked along was pretty smelly, yet had bushes sculpted into animal shapes lining it.

Thailand Laos Day Two

We are of course struck by the impact of the death of the highly respected  and much loved King Bhumibol late last year. There are pictures honouring him everywhere, and the Thai people are clearly still in mourning. Yet at the same time life is also continuing on here as usual. One street vendor we spoke to last night said that for high season, it is considerably quieter than usual. She was concerned that people had cancelled their visits to Thailand since the King’s death as they considered the potential impact of the mourning period on their holidays. It always makes me aware of how vital tourism is for countries like this, and the effect that it has when it drops off.

Thailand Laos Day Two

After collecting our train tickets for the next day, we took a tuk tuk (much to Stella’s great delight) to the Snake Farm at the Queen Saovhaba Memorial Institute. The institute houses The Red Cross Thailand, and the Snake Farm breeds snakes for the production of antivenom and other therapeutic purposes. We arrived just in time to watch a demonstration of snake milking.

Thailand Laos Day Two

It was rather fascinating watching the handlers with these highly venomous snakes. I was surprised at how much venom was collected. We were then able to inspect a number of other snakes.

Thailand Laos Day Two

There is also an excellent museum with all sorts of information about snakes and their life cycle, their biology and their history. I was slightly embarassed to realise that despite having once been a secondary science/biology teacher, I was incredibly ignorant about snakes! They’re rather fascinating – so much housed inside those long smooth bodies.

Thailand Laos Day Two

Stella spent ages watching to see if this snake was going to eat its lunch or not….

Thailand Laos Day Two

Thailand Laos Day Two

One of the displays detailed King Bhumibol’s theory for sufficiency economy. Makes complete sense, I think!

Thailand Laos Day Two

Thailand Laos Day Two

Thailand Laos Day Two

Thailand Laos Day Two

Thailand Laos Day Two

One of the things that I always enjoy in new places is the detail.  Yes, looking at the big picture is always fascinating, but so is zooming in to look at details.  Even the packaging of food and drink; the graphics on the containers and the swirls of foreign (to me) scripts.

2017-01-07_07-39-10 Thailand Laos Day Two

Our next stop was the Jim Thompson House. Jim Thompson was an American architect who fell in love with Thailand and moved here after WWII. He was clearly enamoured with the country and its history and lifestyle, and built a beautiful traditionally styled residence in Bangkok and filled it with antiques.

Thailand Laos Day Two

Thailand Laos Day Two

Thailand Laos Day Two

Thailand Laos Day Two

We were treated to a highly informative tour of the house and gardens. I’m out of time to type more in this blog post at the moment, but there is more on the website here and I’ll leave you with more photos. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to update this later!

Thailand Laos Day Two

Thailand Laos Day Two

Thailand Laos Day Two

Thailand Laos Day Two

Thailand Laos Day Two

Thailand Laos Day Two

Jim Thompson was responsible for introducing Thai Silk to the western world, and there were demonstrations and displays related to this.  I’ll update with more information later!

Thailand Laos Day Two

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Thailand Laos Day Two

Thailand Laos Day Two

Thailand and Laos 2017

Thailand and Laos – day one

We’re here.  In Thailand.  Hooray!  Day one – yesterday – was a travel day.

Thailans Laos 2017 Day 1//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

We flew Jetstar, because it worked out so much cheaper for a family of four, but boy you get what you pay for. Last time I flew overseas it was with Garuda to Bali, and the service there was exemplary. Jetstar definitely is a budget airline. My husband pointed out that the planes aren’t even painted on the outside – they just have the Jetstar log plastered on the outside! But the main thing is that the flight went smoothly and safely.

Thailans Laos 2017 Day 1//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

We’d paid for movies etc for the girls for the flight, and after a couple of hours the staff managed to get them working (!). Stella happily watched three movies over her time in the air. My husband was sitting across the aisle from the girls and me and I think he was very happy with his magazines and books.

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I ended up in a window seat and quite enjoyed watching the landscape and clouds passing beneath. It was also great to have some uninterrupted time to just read. I managed a magazine, some of a guide book, a novel (The Natural Way of Things) and started on another novel. Hooray for the kindle! The toughest part is deciding which book to read.

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Clare tends to get motion sickness (as I did when I was a kid) and yes, she did vomit upon landing. Really took the shine off the trip for her! The flight time was about eight and a half hours, and the time difference between Thailand and Melbourne is currently 4 hours. This meant that although we cleared immigration and customs by about 9.30pm, to the kids it felt like 1.30am. The poor things were exhausted! And unfortunately once we were at the hotel we discovered that we’d left some belongings on the plane – including Stella’s favourite toy. Devastation! By the time we contacted the airline to report the items left behind, it was incredibly late and we were very happy to be in our comfortable beds in our very quiet room.

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But since my body is still on Australian time, I was awake bright and early taking peeks at the view outside our window. We’ve now had breakfast and are ready to launch into the day’s activities. Onwards and upwards!

adult's clothing · sewing

Another Adeline

The Style Arc Adeline dress was such a success for me that I made a third – except this time it was for my Mum.

Style Arc Adeline dress in pinstriped cotton from Darn Cheap Fabrics

Okay, it would have been better if I’d ironed it before she tried it on – it was a Christmas present so was all nicely folded up in a pretty gift bag! Anyway, she likes it!

Style Arc Adeline dress in pinstriped cotton from Darn Cheap Fabrics

Mum and I have some distinct figure similarities, which is hardly surprising considering I share half her genetic material!  It means that dresses that work well on my shape often work well on Mum’s shape too.  She was always a couple of inches taller than me, but is now about my height. I left this dress the pattern length (I shortened my second version) as Mum prefers to have her dresses longer rather than shorter.

Style Arc Adeline dress in pinstriped cotton from Darn Cheap Fabrics

It’s a straight size 16 for Mum – mine is a size 12. Mum and I share the same thick waist, round belly, relatively slim hips and flat bum. She is more blessed in the boob department than I am,  but we both have similarly rounded upper backs. Interestingly, despite the similarities in our body shapes, our head size, hair colour and type and facial features are completely different – I look like Dad, and my brother looks incredibly like Mum, who looks incredibly like her father. Interestingly to me, when I visited Germany twenty odd years ago, I was shocked at how much I looked like many of the population. I have a German great-grandfather, and it seems that those genes are the ones that have been expressed more in my facial features than the Scottish and English genes that make up the rest of me (many, many generations back). Ah genetics – they’re fascinating! My husband’s parents are Dutch (as are all preceding generations of his family) and I find it interesting to watch my girls grow and develop and see which features they express from each side of the family. I don’t think that biology is destiny or that it’s nature before nurture, but those chromosomes do mix things up!

Style Arc Adeline dress in pinstriped cotton from Darn Cheap Fabrics

So, back to the dress. As it’s the third time I’ve sewn this, it was pretty quick and straightforward. The fabric is a olive green cotton pinstriped in black, so I used black thread for the topstitching as well. The fabric is from deep stash but I think it was initially on the Darn Cheap Fabrics $2 table.

Style Arc Adeline dress for Mum in pinstriped cotton from Darn Cheap Fabrics

Do you like how I ran the stripes on the pockets horizontally rather than vertically? That was really to avoid attempting to match the stripes, but I think it’s a nice detail!

Style Arc Adeline dress in pinstriped cotton from Darn Cheap Fabrics

I think that this dress is definitely a success on Mum. You can see my earlier versions here, Meg’s here, Jean’s here, Meg’s here (in a superb colour) and Anna’s here. It’s a great style on anyone who isn’t especially interested in waist definition.  Long live the cocoon dress!