Sunday, January 20, 2008

Crawl Walk Travel-opedia: Are you a Backpacker?

A dormant backpacker in his natural habit, the shared hostel dormitory 

It may come as a surprise that despite a long history of spreading freedom through surgical military strikes and the surreptitious incitement of civil war, outside of the United States there are still some people that don't speak American.

While shouting loudly and slowly in a poor approximation of the accent of those you are speaking to is the preferred method to permeate any language barrier, even those of us who are fortunate enough to speak the correct language, the revered language of such important figures as Rush Limbaugh and God, sometimes need a little guidance regarding the peculiar vocabulary that has sprung up among the travel set. Thus I have created an enclyclopedia installment as a reference for my fellow travelers and those wishing to live vicariously through them. Read on for todays definition and interactive traveler's quiz.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Mighty Spider Battler

The town of Vang Vieng, Laos is rapidly developing into a beloved backpacker stop on the Southeast Asia circuit. A haven for outdoor sports enthusiasts, Vang Vieng is a perfect place to pretend that that you will eventually get off your hammock and go biking, rock climbing or hiking. But in reality all that anyone can really muster up the energy for here is tubing. The pristine blue green river that runs through town is lined with sandy beaches and surrounded by intimidating crags and cliffs.

The natural beauty of the place has only been enhanced by the arrival of the myriad riverside bars each sporting a stack of 3000 watt speakers, blaring everything from metal to Marley, and Lao bartenders pushing free shots of Lao Lao, the local rice whiskey. Visitors rent tubes and a tuk-tuk in town to haul them up river and spend the day drifting and drinking their way back towards town. For those who drink up the courage, each bar has a rope swing or zip line to launch themselves gracelessly into the water from rickety wooden platforms built to absurd heights. Clearly this place was totally awesome.

Arriving in town in the early afternoon I find myself a charming little bungalow by the river. The behemoth speakers on either side of my room are pumping out bad Asian pop, bad European dance music and, mysteriously, bad Christmas tunes, but at least it masks the inescapable clamor of construction. All in all, a lovely place to base my adventures in Vang Vieng considering the price of five dollars a night. Or so I thought. Then I discovered Vang Vieng's dark secret...

(read more)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Buddha of the Cave

Reclining buddha in a cavern near Vang Vieng

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Travel Day: An Epic Tale of Adventure

A familiar shiver of panic forces me upright in bed and I turn on the tv to check the time. It's 8:04. I was supposed to meet Hannah downstairs at eight and most of my stuff is still decorating the floor of my hotel room. The plan was to catch a tuk-tuk, two buses and a boat to Mong Ngoi Neua today and the first bus leaves the Luang Nam Tha station at eight thirty. The station is fifteen minutes away. She knocks on my door as I begin to toss everything in sight haphazardly into my pack and I tell her not to bother waiting. She tells me she'll wait downstairs anyway. Five minutes later I'm on the sidewalk and she's nowhere in sight. As I scan the street for her I see a full tuk-tuk pull away in the direction of the station and I know that was my last chance to make the bus. It's just as well. Hannah wears her Canadian accent like a skintight neon jumpsuit and I wasn't sure that I could have maintained my composure as she recited "hey?" after every sentence over the next ten hours...
(read more)