Laotian Living

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Latimer: Ridley and I are working hard to get the second book of our Keeping Secrets series read for publication! But, in the meantime, we are daydreaming about the exotic and the far-away, reliving some holidays and thinking about some new ones.

Last I left off on my trip down the South-East Asian holiday memory-lane, I was in Laos, heading towards Vang Vieng and the capital city of Laos Vientiane!

In Vang Vieng, we were lucky enough to stay with a local family in a small village (just a few minutes from Vang Vieng central). It was a real eye-opener because we just don’t live like this anymore in Ireland. Everyone was really nice and the homemade food was yummy.

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Village living

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Little piggys!

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While in Vang Vieng, I checked out the beauty of the Blue Lagoon; petted a butterfly – no really, it felt like I was Snow White or something, it was crazy, I was surrounded for the briefest moment by a flock (?) of colourful butterflies! I trekked up a mountain and had a poke around an amazing cave, which really inspired me for writing! And then, I had some fresh coconut juice. I also had a bit of relaxation getting a brilliant Laotian massage – I definitely recommend them!

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Blue lagoon… beautiful!!

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Stunning butterfly

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My Disney/Snow White moment!!

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We had a few relaxing days in Vang Vieng, ending the trip there with a beautiful sunset and some nice juices…

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Then it was off to Vientiane, the most laid-back capital city in the world. It’s really small, but has this relaxing feel to the place, that just doesn’t exist in… well, basically any capital city I’ve ever been in. It’s such a cool, fun place. We managed to get lost walking around the whole city, but all roads lead to where you want to go eventually in Vientiane! On the detour we managed to check out some nice temples.

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We didn’t have long in Vientiane before we were saying goodbye to Laos and GOOD MORNING to VIETNAM 🙂

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For other posts about South-East Asia check out: Lovely Laos and Trekking through Thailand

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Grouplove

grouplove_js_170913Ridley: I went to see this band a while ago in The Academy. I love going to concerts. Music is always fantastic live! They were really good! I’d like a range and mix of different types of music. From heavy metal to country, pop, rock, classical and everything in between! I can often be found singing Disney songs in my car too. Who doesn’t love a good old blast out of the Circle of Life from the Lion King? Is there anyone that doesn’t love that song?

So my favourite song from Grouplove, is Ways to Go. I think the video is just brilliant with the little kid in it.

Then we’ve a Coca Cola ad on the television, that has this song on it, so most people will recognise it, well here anyway!

Supposedly this type music is known as surfer rock.

Just some good tunes to relax and spend an evening listening to!

And of course, let’s end it on….

Stop-motion love

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Latimer: There are some interesting movies on the horizon. Just the other day I saw a trailer for The Boxtrolls, a beautiful-looking stop-motion movie made by the Laika group.

It’s been a while since I saw one of their movies (Paranorman) but I always look forward to them – because I love me some stop-motion.The Nightmare before Christmas is one of my favourite movies (and also, strangely, one of the movies that creeps me out most… not sure what that says about me!).

Paranorman was preceded by Coraline (one of Neil Gaiman’s books), which was on the TV recently and made me fall in love, all over again, with lovely Laika stop-motion.

What a beautiful art-form stop-motion it is. These movies are so detailed and so lovingly made. You can see how much time and effort went into crafting them. I love the wacky character designs, the seamless movement and yes, I love the eerie feeling that niggles at the back of my mind, because stop-motion, in a lot of ways, boarders on the very, very creepy.

They take years to make and I guess that’s the price we pay for the quality – the time. But, YES, time to look forward to The Boxtrolls!  

Lovely Laos

20140502_091324Latimer: I continued my adventure through South East Asia by crossing from Thailand into Laos. I have to say it’s one of the loveliest, most laid back countries I’ve ever visited. I’ll put my hand up and say I really didn’t know anything about Laos before I went there. So, here’s a quick list of facts/interesting info, about Laos!

  • Laos is actually called; Lao People’s Democratic Republic
  • Hello is pronounced – SAA-BAI-DEE
  • Thank you is pronounced – KUP-JAI; Thank you very much – KUP JAI LAI LAI
  • Currency is called ‘kip’
  • Biggest export is coffee
  • New Year occurs in Mid-April
  • It’s the most bombed country; due to its proximity to Vietnam and Cambodia
  • 75% people are farmers
  • 67% Buddhist; 32% Phii (a jungle religion); 1% Christian

First stop on the journey through Laos was a trip down the might Mekong River. Which gave me some time to catch up on my note-taking from my trip, eat some traditional Laotian food and have my first taste of lychee! 20140502_092012 20140502_102145 20140502_112257 20140502_161101 20140502_17410520140502_103556 20140503_115759

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Thai Buddha art catch up on the Mekong River!

We then went to the lovely town of Luang Prabang. Where I found myself up at 5AM to go and offer alms to the Buddhist monks, along with a lot of other visitors. This was a pretty special moment. My offering was some sticky rice; but… it’s very sticky (go figure!) and it was really hard to dish the stuff out without being overwhelmed by the sea of orange clad monks descending upon the streets of Luang Prabang! In Luang Prabang, I met some elephants and had a misadventure kyakking in a boat that had a hole in it and ended up capsizing, with me onboard, in a river full of elephants and their poo… yeah. That’s happened. The elephants were pretty cool about it though, looking on nonchalant as I resurfaced full of rage.

5AM in Luang Prabang

5AM in Luang Prabang

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Monks collecting alms

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Poor children from the mountains come into town and the monks toss some of their food into the children’s baskets. The children then take these baskets home to their families.

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Sticky rice offering

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Elephant rider

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Beautiful elephants having a snack

The RIVER... yesh.... hmmm, I have mixed feeling about you river...

The RIVER… yesh…. hmmm, I have mixed feeling about you river…

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Views of Luang Prabang

No trip of mine would be complete without me waxing lyrical on the food! I had some good food in Laos… We managed to stop off at a local families house in Luang Prabang for some traditional food, that was so good. We were also given a Buddhist blessing by the family for luck on our travels. Then it was on to the next stop on our journey! Vang Vieng and the capital of Laos; Vientiane! But that’s another blog post!

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Food, home cooked foooooood

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Yummy fresh mango and….. a traditional dessert, kind of tasted like coconut…. sorta!

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Blessings and welcomes; I would loose these along with my Buddhist blessing from Thailand when I fell in the river… damnable RIVER!!

For other posts about South-East Asia check out: Laotian Living and Trekking through Thailand

Trekking around Thailand

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Latimer: Lately I’ve been doing some globetrotting. Every time I hitch up my trusty wheelie bag and head off into the far blue yonder, I come back with lots of stories and lots of ideas. I think the most recent trip to South East Asia has me all inspired for writing!

Ridley and I are really excited to be working our way through our Keeping Secrets series, plotting and outlining all the books to come. We are back firmly on track now – and we’ll be releasing Book 2 by the end of August! So stay with us for updates!

In my recent travels I visited Thailand. It was a quick run through the north of the country from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, to a fly-by visit at Chiang Rai and then Chiang Khong (to cross into Laos). I didn’t see that much of Thailand really, but what I saw was stunning, beautiful, strange, inspiring and… stranger still!

Bangkok is a pretty cool place. There are lots of things to see there – when I was there I took a trip around the canals in the city and went to Wat Pho to see the huge golden reclining Buddha, which was amazing. Buddhism (and monks) feature strongly in my Asian travels; I sometimes think I’m starting to understand it, then I always get stuck and realise actually I don’t know much about Buddhism, but it’s really interesting.

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Bangkok canal views

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Reclining Buddha… massive!!

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He looks like he’s pretty comfortable here!

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Wat Pho outside views

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More of the Pho

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Yet more Pho!

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Another Buddha inside another temple in Wat Pho – I ear-wigged as this guy was explaining Buddhism to these people!

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Lot’s of monks – notice how young some of them are! All men in Thailand must serve a year (at least) as a monk before they get married, to be considered ‘a good man’ for marriage

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Thai green Curry… because… it’s Thailand!

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From the back of a tuc-tuc… the only way to travel in Thailand… I love tuc-tucs!

From Bangkok, I got an overnight train to Chiang Mai. Lots of people on the tour were worried about the overnight train, but having experienced the Chinese ones, I was no longer afraid. The ones in Thailand are actually brilliant; and compared to the Chinese ones, they are very spacious and comfortable – this coming from someone with extreme ‘creature comfort’ problems!

Chiang Mai was a fun place; we had a walk around in the blistering heat, went to see beautiful Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple ate some lovely Thai food and went for a cool bike-ride around the city. While on our bike ride we stopped at an orphanage for Hill tribe children, for dinner. I bought some lovely artwork by the children – it was Naruto inspired 🙂

During my time in Chiang Mai, I was coming to terms with the heat, I won’t say I ever ‘got used to it’, just learned to accept I would always be dripping sweat and needing to drink water and isotonic drinks.

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Train station catching my ride to Chiang Mai

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These trains are fantastic! So clean and comfortable. There’s a bunk that comes down from over these seats and the seats themselves are transformed into another bed – big and very comfy.

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I had the top bunk, which was fine… but not as big. I had some pocky for the trip!

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Some cool outside dining in Chiang Mai

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Artwork on the streets

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Beautiful, random temple

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More temple action

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Buddha outside the temple

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A very cool dragon vomiting snakes… well, maybe not but that’s what it looks like!! Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

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Walking up to the temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep bells

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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

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Getting my fortune at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

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Monks visting Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

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I got this white blessing bracelet from a monk in Wat Phra That Doi Suthep; he said a prayer over it, for luck and safety in travel.

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A delicious vegetable spicy soup…. it was feckin hot though!

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Buddha overlooking the river on my bike ride around Chiang Mai

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Handle bar views in Chiang Mai

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Buddhas in Chiang Mai

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More views from my bike in Chiang Mai

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Chiang Mai temple

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Chiang Mai temple

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Chiang Mai temple

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Cool artwork done by the Hill tribe orphans

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More temples from my bike ride Chiang Mai

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Buddha and candle wax – from bike ride Chiang Mai

From Chiang Mai, we stopped off briefly in Chiang Rai to see the White Temple, which is a bit like Sangrada Familia in Barcelona, in that it’s unfinished at the moment and being built by the artist that designed it. It’s full of demons and cultural references – though I never got to go inside, as we were late getting there and it was closed! It’s supposed to have like cartoony stuff inside and be really strange and interesting. This temple was badly damaged after we had seen in, in the earthquake that hit Thailand – so I feel lucky to have seen it before that happened!

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Batman and Pinhead… heads.. .weird!!

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Freddie, Pinhead and Hellboy… retro weirdness!

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Yummy food in Chiang Khong

Yummy food in Chiang Khong

Then from Thailand, I took a bus into Laos! But that’s a post for another day!

For other posts about South-East Asia check out: Lovely Laos and Laotian Living

Wandering Free

1401550280017Ridley: So, I’m back from my week in Portugal (you’re probably going, ‘eh? I never knew you even left!’) and Latimer is back from her fantastic travels too. If you follow us on twitter, our feed has been packed with pictures. I have to say we’re extremely lucky that we’re both able to do these things, as I know not everyone has the opportunity, and while I didn’t go as far afield as Latimer did on her amazing travels, I still had a brilliant time. We also both had pocket sized travelling Buddhas to keep us company on our separate adventures. He has a little spindle and a giant smile. Latimer gave me mine, she got him in China, you’re not allowed buy the little man you have to be given it, so I was well chuffed to get him!1401550283680IMG_20140531_124548

So with my little Buddha, I was able to step out of my life and into another for a short time. Whenever I go abroad I always come back wishing I could spend my life exploring, to be able to wander to the farthest reaches of the earth, learn new languages, eat unusual foods and experience different cultures. I’m a firm believer in working to live and not living to work. I know on my deathbed I won’t be wishing I’d spent more time at the office. Well maybe I’ll wish I’d once visited an office, as I’ve never worked in one, but you get my meaning!1401551450575

While in Portugal, I got to listen to people speak a different language, try a few words myself, I tasted octopus, sea bass, swordfish, and I had the best of ice cream (lots of it). There were palm trees, cockroaches, crickets and weird beetles, colourful birds and lots of cats, all things that we don’t really have in Ireland (except for the cats, but these are Portuguese cats, so I’ll count them). The houses were painted bright exciting pinks and blues that were complemented by the sparkling sunshine and the tiles of the roofs were beautiful vibrant terracotta.IMG_20140529_200137 1401550285752 IMG_20140531_143657 1401550277759 There was blistering heat during the day, where I burned to a fire engine red, and freckles, that I never knew were lurking just beneath my skin, popped up like uninvited mushrooms. Then night time, it was freezing, the stars were so exceptionally bright, and the darkness came so much earlier than at home. It’s the differences between places, and often times the similarities, that I love and get excited over. I’m certain that there are lots of people out there that feel the same way, right?

I think the one thing I really need to learn to do though, is appreciate what I have in my own country too, to see it through the eyes of a visitor and know that while our houses aren’t bright colours, and we have no palm trees, it’s still a great place to live. 1401551449963Everyone commiserated with me when I returned home on how bad the weather was, that the rain was what greeted me when I stepped off the plane, at first I agreed wholeheartedly, but when I thought about it I decided that there was just a different type of beauty in the dark storm clouds rolling by overhead and the patter of rain, the gurgling of water filled gutters, while I liked being away from it all, I have to say I would miss it if I never had it ever again too.0212

On that note, I’ll leave you with more pretty pictures!

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Make me Laugh

Latimer love's Smodcast

Latimer love’s Smodcast

Latimer: I love me some funny podcasts and Smodcast by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier is one of my favourites. I just love listening to these two old friends talking about random stuff and joking around.

Smodcast is full of bizarre stories and funny nerdy references, and life lessons.

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I just love these two, they make me laugh but they also have all this funny random advice about taking risks on doing the things that you love, and being creative and surrounding yourself with ‘why not?’ people. All this inter-spaced with Kevin’s obsession with Batman and Canada, and fascination with Jaws (or just sharks and being eaten by one).

“But… what would Batman do Scott?” and “Can you give me that in Jaws measurement*? How many Jaws’ would that be Scott?” (*Jaws measurement being one of Kevin’s ways of measuring things in the standard unit of a Jaw’s shark!)

I’m so happy to say that Ridley and I will be heading off to see Kevin Smith doing a live podcast in Dublin in June! I can’t wait 🙂 

If you don’t mind swearing and you like to laugh you should check out Smodcast!