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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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

A Chinese St Patrick’s Day

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Latimer: I know Saint Patrick’s day is long over, but this year was the first I’d spent ‘off world’ and it was a little out of the ordinary!

I didn’t really expect to see any Paddy’s Day stuff in China and just as well because I didn’t. I had to explain Paddy’s Day to my Chinese guide. In primary school we all learned about Patrick from An Bhreatain Bheag (Wales, that’s what we were told anyway), and how he was kidnapped by the Irish slaver Niall of the Nine Hostages and taken to Ireland.

I got a bit of a way into this story and paused.

‘Well, Saint Patrick’s day itself is more about celebrating your Irishness’; the guide looked confused, so I carried on, feeling the weight of the whole of Ireland bearing down on me. ‘It’s for the people that went away’, I smiled, ‘you know like in China when people leave and then they want to feel connected to home?’

He nodded. I’m not sure I explained it well enough in the end!

It’s just an Irish holiday to celebrating your culture and where you come from, or just having fun (or craic – Irish for fun)!

I spent the day in a monastery! I had fun letting everyone back home know I was in a monastery on Paddy’s Day!

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During the day I climbed the Giant Stone Buddha at Leshan, looking for any ‘signs’ of Paddy’s Day –  haha, which I didn’t find!

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There were no signs – no green, no shamrocks, nothing… BUT! When we got to the monastery to check-in we were introduced to our local guide.

Aside here: in China, people take Western names (like Tom, John, Seamus, Charles) so it’s easier for Western’s to say their names (their parents don’t actually call them John etc). These names are usually given to the Chinese people by their English teachers.

The local guide introduced himself; “Hello, my name is Patrick!” And I just started laughing. Brilliant.

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 So that was my Paddy’s Day in China – a simple name had me smiling all day!

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My Bailey’s Irish Cream drink 🙂

Holiday Photos

Stop taking photos and enjoy!

Stop taking photos and enjoy!

Latimer: I love taking photos. And ever since I got a smart phone, I take photos almost all the time. But I’m honestly trying to put the phone down and just enjoy the experience when out and about. ‘Just be’ – something like that!

I hope I put that into practice, on my trip, as it comes to an end now 😦

And, as I’m looking forward (from the past), at the travelling I’m going to do – the places I’ll ‘see’ – I’m thinking that the world’s a big place and there are so many amazing places that I’ve yet to see… This video has added more to a never-ending list!

Vogue Vogue Go with The Flow!

Latimer and Ridley hit the ‘beautification button’ and got dolled up for a photoshoot… no seriously… they did!

Ridley: We’ve been doing exciting things the last little while. Busy, busy! We got our structural edits back from our editor. So the last two and a half weekends, Friday night to Sunday evening, (with many cups of tea), in between colds and broken laptops, we’ve been working away through his notes. We’ve been changing, adding, rewriting and generally whimpering. The words, ‘location description’, have become despised at MLR central! Haha! It seems while we’re decent enough at the ole characters, setting them into a specific location and describing it is something we forget to do. (Sure, why do we need to do this, it’s in our heads, we see it, surely you all have telepathic powers and can see it too, no?? Haha.)

Latimer: It’s going really well. We feel pretty positive. Although writing a story is fun, it’s a lot of hard work, but every time we edit the story gets tighter. We are now nearing the ‘we are happy’ point! So onward, onward we go!

Ridley: Other than that, the second exciting thing we’ve been getting up to is we did a joint photo shoot a few weeks ago (I love saying this, we sound so professional! ‘I can’t do Saturday, I have a photo shoot to attend, shall I check my diary and I’ll get back to you?’ Ha!) Anyway, yes a photo shoot and before I run away with a massive hot air balloon sized head, it was a groupon voucher deal (a company that gives fantastic discounts on different things, from hotel breaks away, bean bags to teeth whitening!) Anyway, we jumped at the chance to do the photo shoot, not only was it something completely different, we wanted a nice author biography picture for both the Amazon author page and our blog.

Latimer: I’ve never been properly done up so this was great fun! My constant thought was, ‘well, however I look, it will be the best I can ever look, so, please God don’t let it be bad!’.

Ridley: Now, getting my picture taken is not one of my favourite past times. I think we were both worried that we’d be stiff and awkward in front of the camera. (Smile with your eyes people!) However, going in we’d decided we wanted it to be as natural as possible, no posing.

Latimer: I was worried it would take ages for us to warm up and then it would be over and we would be left with some very awkward photos!

Ridley: When we arrived at the studio (MFK on Dame Street, in Dublin), it was in an old building on the second floor. However, to get up there we had to walk through a Chinese herbal shop (I know, really weird, right?) The shop also happened to be closed. So it was dark when we walked in. Expecting to be met by glamorous studio people with flawless skin and high stilettos, we stopped and stared around at the giant jars filled with dried who knows what.

There was this little white door just in on the right with a black arrow and the words MFK studio. I reached out thinking that we had to duck in through it and maybe twist up some narrow winding stairs. I swung it open and tried to walk into an electric box. We burst out laughing. Eventually, we found the lift just around the corner.

Once upstairs, we had our makeup done and our hair styled for us. Then we were ushered up to a small room with a white backdrop (and a black one to the side) and giant spot lights (my eyes started watering at one point from them). The photographer was very welcoming. When we explained we had cups that we wanted in the photo (we wanted it to appear as if we’d been having a cup of tea and a chat).

I think she thought we were crazy, but then she said a few weeks ago, there was a woman who wanted to have tea cakes in her picture. (*Sigh* That would have been a great addition with the cup of tea! Haha.)

We had so much fun. The two of us and the photographer basically spent the whole time giggling, you should see some of the rejected photos, we’re bent over (we were telling her about how I walked into the cupboard downstairs). She let us in on the old trick of extras in the background of Fair City (Dublin based TV show) use the word, ‘rhubarb’, to appear as if they’re talking about something.

That cracked us up; the idea of all these people wandering around a television studio set mumbling rhubarb at each other while the main actors said their lines. So, of course, we started saying it. Anyway, by the end and shots later, here’s the two we picked!

Latimer: Hopefully they look like we are having a laugh and a bit of craic, Irish stylie!

Ridley: The only other time we had so much fun with a camera was when we were in Tokyo and we discovered the photo booths in their arcade centres, there’s loads of them (in the same building as the infamous pachinko parlours).

Latimer: These photos are called ‘purikura’ and are very popular with the ‘kids’.

Ridley: Each one have different effects, in the one we picked we had five seconds to copy different random J-pop poses before the camera flashed, then you can basically add loads of effects and random clip art to the resulting photos. This was the result.

Latimer: Very crazy pictures you have been warned! The people on the screen suggest the poses- we didn’t do them randomly… ah sigh well, here they are!

The eyes are just so freaking looking. 🙂