Hello there!
So after our tearful separation from the rest of the group we boarded our plane to Bali, flying to Denpassar, and spending the first nights in Kuta. We were dead set convinced that we would hate Kuta as it is the most touristy place you can imagine, one of those kind of places we have tried to stay clear of. But, the big but, we actually really liked it. We strolled through the shop-lined alleys and swam in the meter high waves, watching the surfers do their thing. We absolutely intend to surf ourselves, but we saved that treat for later and used this first day to just unwind and get into the Bali-not-a-problem-in-the-world-can-stress-me-mode. We cheated and abandoned our tradition of only eating local food, and went for Greek breakfast, ceasar salad lunch, and taco dinner, as we figured that in Kuta that is perhaps more "local"  than the local. It was a welcomed contrast to our usual fried rice and noodles diet.
We then got on a bus and ended up in Ubud, the "yoga center of Asia". It was beautiful, if a little expensive on a backpacker's budget. Still we managed to squeeze in the traditional museum, the monkey sanctuary, traditional dancing in the royal palace, and early morning yoga. The morning yoga was a total cliché, from the serene music and big open room with an evergreen bamboo forest dotted with stone Buddha statues right outside the floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows, to the overly bendable yoga instructor, and yet, I really, really enjoyed it! The session came to an abrupt halt when we had to grab our bags and run to catch our bus (which turned up more then 30 minutes late, of course). Going from south to north.
To be continued
See you later, alligator!

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Hey! Long time no see.
There has been so much to do so I haven't really had time to write, but now I will try and recapture the last days of our Laos-Thailand round-trip.
Our boat took us to the the Thai immigration boarder at Chiang Khong in northern Thailand, and where everyone passed smoothly by, with me as only exception. With my long stay visa and 3 refreshers the immigration officer eyed me suspiciously, to say the least, for a looong time before eventually letting me in. So I found myself back in dear old Thailand, home sweet home. We stayed only for the night in Chiang Khong before heading off to Chiang Mai. Here we stayed for 2 days. Jessie, Luise, Carly, Elsa, and I went on a bike tour around the countryside, seeing all kind of things; rice fields, chili plantations, coffin makers, rural houses, gigantic spiders, and local restaurants. We also went to the night market and saw a lady-boys show. The show was real fun, but I still have mixed feelings about it. After Chiang Mai we took the night train to Bangkok, where Carly and I spent an entire day at Thailand's biggest market. We didn't buy much, it was more the general feeling of strolling through the crammed booth-lined alleys.
Then it was time to say goodbye. It was awful! By this point we had grown real tight and it was tough to leave them behind. But we'll keep in touch, and see each other again someday I'm sure.
So until then,
See you later, alligator!

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Hi there!
We are now back in a country with some kind of working WiFi after our trip through Laos. After meeting up with our G-adventures group in Hanoi on February 1st we hopped on the plane the next day heading off to our first stop - the capital of Laos: Vientiane. The group consists of a nice mix of people from all over the world and it was awesome! And as there was no Internet to be found anywhere in the country I'll give it to you all at once.
Intinerary
1 - Sapa/Hanoi - G adventures
2 - Hanoi /Vientiane - G adventures
3 - Vientiane /Vang Vieng
4 - Vang Vieng
5 - Vang Vieng /Luang Prabang
6 - Luang Prabang
7 - Luang Prabang /boat
8 - boat /Chiang khong
9 - Chiang Khong /Chiang Mai
10 - Chiang Mai
11 - Bangkok
12 - Bangkok /Bali

Vientiane

So, our first stop - Vientiane.
The capital of Laos.
When we got there we could hardly believe that this was the capital. It was just too small, quiet, and deserted, especially compared to the ear splitting, ever-honking noise of Hanoi. We got there in time to have a street food-dinner and check out the night market. The next day Elsa and I decided to get up early to have time to see everything in the city before we got on the but that was taking us to out next stop - the quaint little city of Vang Vieng.
(2-3/2 2017)

Vang Vieng

Our second stop was a little city in the mountains called Vang Vieng, to which you get to by a 5 hours bus ride. We had our own minivan so it was a very nice and comfy ride. When we got there we checked in to our hotel and went out for drinks on a sunset terrace by the river Som. We also booked our activities for the following day, and at 8.30 the pickup arrived to take us to the tubing. As it turns out, tubing is sitting in a inflated tyre of a truck pulling a rope in a pitch black cave in ice cold water. Fortunately we had head torches and the advantage of being vikings and could thus deal with the cold. It was super cool. After that we went on a short trekk visiting the elephant cave, and then headed to the kayaks. After a nice lunch in a bungalow on the river we grabbed a paddle and tried our best not to get stuck on the shallows of the river. The sun was shining and the water was warm. It was pretty much all you could ask for. Making our way down the river we met up with the truck which took us to the blue lagoon. It was blue indeed, but a bit touristy for my taste. We got back around 5ish, ate dinner, and left for Luang Prabang at 8 the next morning.
(3-5/2)

Luang Prabang

Next stop - The Unesco protected city of Luang Prabang.
After a scenic bus ride and lunch at a mountain top we arrived in the heated sleepy afternoon. We climbed the temple mountain and watched the sun slowly set along with about a thousand selfie-taking Chinese tourists, before dining at the night market. The thing to do in Luang Prabang is to go and see the waterfalls, so that is what we did. I must admit that I was a bit skeptical initially, expecting it to be similar to the blue lagoon in Vang Vieng and full of tourists, but I was wonderfully wrong. The waterfalls were beautiful! First you come to the bear sanctuary, where bears in captivity are rehabilitated and released back into the wild. You then head up the wood trail and reach the base of the river. You walk along the river and the water was wonderfully clear blue due to the limestone cliffs. At the base of the waterfall there was a picturesque bridge, which leads to the really steep off track trail up to the top of the roaring falls.
Luang Prabang is as mentioned a Unesco protected city and therefore has a 12 a'clock curfew, so after dinner we had to take a tuktuk to the outskirts of town to go bowling. In the morning of the 7th, after giving alms to the monks on the street at 5 am, we started our 2 days boat ride on the Mekong River to get from Laos and popping out in Thailand.
(5-7/2)

The Mekong River

First thought - it's fu@*# freezing!

And it was, in the morning before the sun rose, sitting in a boat with no walls, windy, with only a thin blanket. But it got better. So. Much. Better. As the sun rose, the temperature rose with it. And with it the spirit of us. We played cards and talked, and it was so cozy. By this time we had all gotten close and when we got cold we huddled up next to each other. The night was spent in a tiny village with about 60 kids. We ate, played, and took a lot of photos. It was truly interesting to see how they lived, their lives so different from ours.

Then another day of landscape gazing and cards until it was time to cross the Thai boarder. And that was the end of our stay in Laos.

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Hello!
Wanna hear a funny story? Because it is quite funny now in retrospect. But it was so, so, SO close to be a very NOT funny story. NOT. AT. ALL. So here it goes.
For not the first time we jumped on the bus, this time to get from Hoi An to Hanoi. Everything started smoothly, and we had nice seats and everything. At about 9 pm we stopped for dinner and leg stretching. 30 minutes. They were very clear about this. 30 minutes. Alright. So we get off and eat some food, bonding with another Swedish couple. And then we all went to the bathroom. Still 7 minutes left, no stress. So we do what you do, and then just look out to make sure everything is okay. That is when we see it. The bus. Leaving. So we run out to the restaurant and see a buss parked there. Puuh! Close one there. And then we look at the  restaurant owner who smilingly shakes his head and points to the fading backlights OUR bus. RUN! And we did. Waving like crazy, trying to get the driver's attention. And we did. The bus pulled over after about 300 meters. We caught up, all blushed, sweating, and flushed. So close. So, so, close. Let's put it this way, we are now more on our toes.
So yeah.
See you later, alligator.

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Hoi An.
Hoi An in new year spirit.
We arrived with the rain early in the morning of the 25th. We had nothing booked, but looked around some and found a homestay a bit outside the center of ancient Hoi An, called Petunia Garden Homestay. Not quite what we expected but a very nice helpful family and the cutest puppy. After taking a shower and dumping our bags we set off to explore the city which by this time was starting to fill up. Even though one could have wished for better weather there was little to wish for in the way I'd history and beauty in the city. We asked around town, and saw all that you "have" to see, like the old pagodas and meeting halls. We ate the local dish Cao Lau, which we more or less lived on for from that moment. Hoi An is beautiful. It is all ancient houses, lights, and lanterns. The streets were all decorated with lanterns of all the colors of the rainbow, with restaurant boats lining the river shore, and paper flowers with candles floated serenely about on the water. All in the spirit of welcoming the new year with a light festival. It was truly beautiful.  The next day we continued our exploration of the cobblestone alleys. We were cunningly tricked by an little old lady in the market, where she first almost forced us to take a picture with her, and as we didn't want to be rude we did, and then she demanded money for us having taken the photo. Not a chance said we and left. You can always try I guess, and others did but we won't fall into that trap again anytime soon. However, the greatest adventure of that day was that we rented a scooter and drove to the marble mountains. The marble mountains are five "mountains" in an otherwise flat landscape which are filled with caves, pagodas, sculptures, tops, and viewing platforms. We got the high top to ourselves and it was well worth the climb. Elsa drive a scooter for the first time on our way back which was hilarious. For diner we allowed ourselves to be dragged along into an alley restaurant which only served one thing. This thing however was everything. We got to try all the specialities of Hoi An. Weird pancakes
with shrimps, soup, and a sort of rice paper wrap. One of the beat meals of the entire trip, I dare say. The last day we only had a little time before the buss came to pick us up to go to Hanoi and from there on to Sapa, so we just strolled down the streets one last time, saying goodbye and hopefully I'll see you again.
So, see you later, alligator

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Happy new year! (well at least if you're navigating by the lunar calendar)
Our plan was to get from the Mekong Delta to Dalat, where we planned on staying a day or so to do some canoeing, and from there to Hoi An. Easy peasy, or so we thought. So starting with the ferry from An Binh into Vinh Long, and from there an hour on the local buss to Can Tho. On this buss we met an overly friendly Canadian couple and got a freak dose of TMI (too much information) mostly about things we had no interest in whatsoever, like how they went on a pub crawl with some backpackers in their twenties, or the lady's sister wasn't as adventurous as her. Okay... But as it turns out there were no busses to Dalat, or rather no busses from Dalat upwards. Neither are there any busses from Can Tho to Danang, or trains, or anything really. Everything is either full or closed due to the new year celebrations. Oh well, we hopped on the 11 hours buss to Dalat just get anywhere, and try our luck there. The wheels of the bus goes round and round. We get there at 5 am and it is freezing! Literally freezing! We were definitely not prepared for that one, let me tell you. But still no busses to Danang (from where we can easily get to Hoi An). However there is a buss at 9 am to Nha Trang, and so we only spent a few hours in Dalat drinking coffee and playing at the park gym. We figured that as Nha Trang is more of a tourist spot maybe the busses are still going from there, but no one could tell us. 5 more hour. When we get there we actually have some extremely good luck, as two persons just canceled their tickets from the last and only buss from Nha Trang to Danang for a week. 4 hours in Nha Trang and 13 on the buss to Danang. From Danang we took the local buss to Hoi An. Finally there's after a total of about 30 hours on the road. FINALLY! We had been told that they were sort of crazy about the new year and that some shops and restaurants might be closed, but so we NEVER anticipated this level of hassle, but we got there eventually. Don't underestimate the Vietnamese peoples love for a good party.
Later, gater!

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Hallå Hallå!
So, the Mekong delta. We took the bus from Saigon to Vinh Long down where the Mekong River meats the sea,habing no clue where to go (on purpose). We got off the buss and took motos into town in the rain, admittedly not one of our brightest ideas but at least is was cheap. We immediately "got taken" by a small man who had a homestay on one of the local islands, and that's how we ended up on An Binh. A small little island with winding alternating concrete and cobblestone paths, and on which 99% of the tourists were French retirees and the other percent Elsa and I. To no one's surprise we fitted right in. The first day we borrowed bikes and explored our little piece of land, whiles on the second we took a boat ride exploring the canals, seas, bridges, islands, and floating markets. We also went to a bee farm, nuttery, candy "fabric", orchard, and wine tasting, where we tasted snake wine. Fun story that one. It is "only" for men as it is a powerful aphrodisiac and "when the man is no sleep good and happy, the woman is happy too. But if the woman wants more sexy-time the man not so happy...", according to our guide. Furthermore you cannot drink the wine immediately after putting the snake in it, but whait for 7 months as it is way to poisonous otherwise, plus it tasted really bad. And what idiot came up with this idea?!? Did someone just go" Hey, guys. You know what, we should put snakes in our wine to make it taste better!", and the others when "Yeah, that's a great idea. Let's do it!". Or what? And how many died before they realized that "Wow maybe people are dying because of the snake venom in the wine, and we should cool it for 7 months or so"? I mean, who? So, that's what we've been up to lately.
See you later, alligator!

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Well hello there!
Now our road had led us to Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), aka Saigon, to be a bit more precise. It is so, so... alive! It is like a big buzzeling beehive. Not having seen a BIG city in a few months (living in the old quarters in Bangkok which felt small and cozy, and to be frank Phnom Penh was quite "small", well maybe not small but run down with low houses) it felt gigantic and left me almost flabbergasted at first sight. We came Friday night and checked in at our hostel before heading out onto the unknown streets of Saigon. That first night  we went to the "street food hangout" for dinner , the night market, and the backpacker quarters. The next morning we rose before the sun to catch our tour to the Cu Chi tunnels. Lovely scenery and very interesting history, combined with a very strange but funny guide. Definitely worth a visit! Then to the War Remnants Museum and some Viet Cong propaganda, followed by some French architecture which more or less concluded our visit in Saigon.
Mekong here we come.
See you later, alligator!

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Hola!
As the heading suggests we have been busy here in the capital with a name that no one can pronounce, Phnom Penh. We started by diving head first into the Cambodian history and horror under the Khmer Rouge by visiting the killing fields. The sun was shining, the grass was emerald green, the trees were blossoming, the birds  singing, the butterflys fluttered, the whole shebang, and yet this was the place where about 20,000 men, women, and children were tortured or else worked to death. Murdered and buried in shallow graves. And walking around listening to our audio guide you could still make out traces of the nightmare, a bit of fabric buried in the dirt, dents in a tree trunk, or bits of bone brought to the surface by the rain. It was hard to imagine, and still... this only happened about 42 years ago.
The rest of the day we walked about town. We went to the central market and improved our bargaining skills being fluttering silk pants. Dark lavender blue for me and jade green for Elsa.
Day two on our submersion in Khmer history was a visit to the high school turned secret prison, S-21. Walking through the rooms where the prisoners were beaten and kicked, waterboarded and electrocuted, and so so much more. Seeing the faces of the  12,000 that came but never left. I finally believe the saying that the human being is never more creative than when it comes to harming another. This is all incomprehensible to me. How could anyone do this to another human being? How? Yet we repeat the same things, the same horror, the same nightmare over and over and over. Will we ever learn?
I hope so.
And with that philosophical note I leave you to ponder.
Later, gator - see you in Vietnam!

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A bungalow on the beach.
A sky blue horizon that melts together.
A burning sun.
Yes, please!
And that is exactly what we got at Otres Beach in Sihanoukville. Just a few days do wind down from the buzzing cities. Sunbathing, swimming, and runs on the beach. Elsa reached her goal of no longer being pale as a Swede during winter.
Just a couple of deep breaths.
Next up: the capital.
See you later, alligator.

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