Among the ASEAN Countries outside the Philippines, I think Malaysia is the one I have frequented most. I remember it being my first passport stamp out of the country when we climbed Mt Kinabalu in Sabah, and since then Kuala Lumpur has become a gateway for my travels in Asia but have never really gone out to explore the city except for climbing one of the nearby mountain peaks of Bukit Tabur before. So when Tourism Malaysia sent an invite for a Familiarization Tour in conjunction to their Merdeka (Independence) Celebration and suddenly my schedule got free on the said dates, I didn’t think twice of course. It’s an opportunity to get to know the country more.
Island hopping is fun but beach hopping and let alone spending hours on a boat as well can take a toll. One moment I’m looking at those beautiful islands and in seconds I’m looking at the wooden paint patterns on the boat. I think I was bobbing my head up and down getting minutes of those micro-sleeps. While I enjoyed the tour in Ambulong and Ilin Island, I was also yearning to go back to the resort and rest up a little and check up what’s in store at Villa Paulina Gardens and Resort.
I enjoyed walking through the Night Market of Luang Parabang but had to withdraw myself early lest I get tempted to spend. I headed to Th Khem Khong Road, another parallel road to the river but quieter and closer. Then I had a quick dinner of Stir Fry Mushroom Beef (16,000kip) and a strawberry shake (6000 kip) at one of the riverside restos there. Checked the internet and emails nearby then headed back to Levady Guest House for the night’s rest. By 9pm the town quiets down. There’s an 11pm curfew in Luang Prabang.
I was swatting mosquitoes while sitting on the Northern Bus Station in Vientiane. It was 7:30pm, 30 minutes before my boarding time and I started applying a mosquito cream lotion on my exposed skin. There were several buses online and I wondered which one would be the VIP bus I would be taking. I saw other foreigners starting to move on to the last bus on the right. Yep it was our bus, “Luang Prabang” as the sign says. I placed my large pack at the lower storage and hopped in.
With more time to roam around Basco Batanes, I was able to see what has changed since last time I was there. Nothing much really aside from some re-construction of some buildings. What I noticed though are some changes and additions on accommodations in Basco. With the rise of tourist in Batanes, it’s a good thing there’s a growing number of places to stay in Basco. Here’s a nifty guide on where to stay in Basco with personal comments and impressions on each of them.
Traveling on a VIP bus from Pakse, I arrived in Vientiane at the southern Bus Station by 6:00am. The southern bus station is somewhat rustic in feel. There was a sawngthaew there waiting, the driver said they would take us to the city for 10,000 Kip. Since I found that pretty cheap I agreed. But as expected, they packed the sawngthaew with other passengers, mostly tourist heading towards the city. Once full, we rolled off.
Laos has been under my radar for quite a while as I continue my quest to visit some of the UNESCO heritage sites in Asia. So it’s just a matter of time until I finally get to step on this land, popularly known for its “Laid back Lao Life”. Originally I had planned on visiting sights both on Thailand and Laos since it’s so close together. Coming in from Bangkok up to Sukhothai then Chang Mai then Chang Rai. Border crossing to Huay Xai taking the Slow Boat there to Luang Prabang, Laos. That’s the usual route going there, but after thorough planning there is just so much to see in Laos that I decided to drop Thailand altogether and focus on Laos itself. Thailand is just a flight away from Manila but Laos is a different story so I decided to take a different route.