Monthly Archives: November 2012

A Handful of Travel Quotes …

Susan Strong – “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list” …

Rudyard Kipling – “the first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it” …

Lao Tzu – “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving” …

J.R.R. Tolkien – “Not all those who wander are lost” …

Henry Miller – “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things” …

Henry David Thoreau – “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves” …

??? – “Let your heart guide you.  It whispers so listen closely” …

Maokong, Taipei, Taiwan …

This neighborhood on the outskirts of Taipei City is famous for its ‘tieguanyin’ and ‘baozhong’ teas.  The former is an extremely complex tea that’s partly fermented and then repeatedly rolled and roasted to give it a rich taste with hints of dried fruit.  As it’s such a strong, unique tea, the best blends are among the most expensive sold anywhere in the world.  Baozhong is a much lighter variety of tea, making it a good choice for those new to Chinese tea.  It has a delicate floral aroma and a mildly melon-like flavor.

By taking the Taipei MRT and Maokong Gondola, you can quickly reach the tea fields from the heart of Taipei.  As its’s a tourist area, many of the local farms run guided tours of their fields and processing areas, and for a longer walk among the neatly lined rows of tea plants, just follow the signs for either the Zhanghu Trail or the Historic Tea Trail.

Laos Nature & Trekking …

Laos is know for its unspoiled nature and wildlife.  The Government preserves 20 National Protected Areas, accounts for 14% of the country.

Countless caves are hidden in steep limestone mountains, many with natural waterways flowing through.  New species of animals, inserts and orchids are still being discovered attracting the interest of biologists through the world. 

Visitors to Laos can explore the National Protected Areas by trekking or mountain biking with specialized eco-guides.  Authentic home stays in ethnic minority villages add a cultural dimension to the natural landscape.  Trekking tours in Luang Namtha, located in northern Laos, enjoy an enviable world reputation as a quality ecotourism experience that conserves both nature and the ethnic culture.

Many of the National Protected Areas are located in the catchment basins of the Mekong’s tributaries. Yuang Waterfall is 40m high with two streams (Champasak), Konglor Cave is a natural wonder.  The Hinboun River, a tributary of the Mekong, pierces a rocket limestone cave, 7km long.  Wonderful kayaking abounds in Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang.

Recommended Destinations in Laos are (1)  Luang Namtha, villages of ethnic groups living in the mountain forests, (2)  Luang Prabang, the anicent capital has luxury trekking and natural experiences combinded with ethnic, cruises and elephants, (3)  Sayaboury, the capital of elephants is located on the west bank of the Mekong, (4) Vang Vieng is a utopia sited beside the Nam Song River with limestone mountains and caves, (5)  Bolikhamxay provides a visit to wild elephants in Phou Khan Khouray, the nearest NPA to Vientiane and many more …

Laos – Simply Beautiful …

From Nong Khai, Thailand to Vientiane, Laos …

For those arriving in Nong Khai, Thailand heading into Vientiane, Laos by Freedom Bridge over Mekong River, take a minute to read the following –

(1)  Take a Tuk-Tuk (actually a ‘Sam-Law’, oversize motorcycle with seatting for 4 in the back) from Nong Khai  to Thailand departure point (left side of road) at Freedom Bridge, this will cost $80 Baht for 1 person or $50 Baht each for more than one … don’t pay more, just walk away if they ask for more! …
(2)  Clear Thailand customs/immigration for departure stamp …walk a few feet to buy bridge bus ticket …
(3)  Buy $15 Baht  bus ticket taking you across Freedom Bridge-Mekong River … and jump on bus … someone will show you (for free) the bus to take …
(4)  Enjoy the quick, short ride over the mighty Mekong River …
(5)  Get off bus and walk on left side of road to Lao customs/immigration …
(6)  If you don’t already have a Lao Visa, look for windows #1, #2, and around the corner #3 …
(7)  Go to window #2, it will be closed … tap on it … andn someone will open the window and provide you with the Lao Visa application form …
(8)  Complete the Lao Visa application form … you need only one passport-size photo … and go to window #1 with either $35 USD or $1800 Thai Baht (you will pay more than $35 USD using Thai Baht) … hand your Lao Visa, money and passport to the person at window #1 …
(9)  Now go to window #3 around the corner, stand and wait for someone to open the #3 window and show your passport …
(10) Take your passport … your 30-day Lao Visa will be inside …
(11) Now go to Lao customs/immigration for entry into Lao … get an entry stamp …
(12) Walk straight forward … sometimes you will get stopped for someone to check your passport … most of the time, just walk towards the bus, van, tuk-tuk area …
(14)  A van or private shuttle will cost about $300-400 Thai Baht …
(15)  To start your Lao adventure, walk to the right side of the road beyond Lao customs/immigration beyond where the van and private shuttles are located … and find bus #14 …
(16)  For $25 Thai Baht (less than $1 USD), you can experience local Lao life on a good 30-minute bus ride to the downtown Vientiane bus station … downtown Vientiane is about 30 kilometers from the Freedom Bridge so even a van or private van takes nearly 20 minutes to arrive downtown …
(17)  For travelers in downtown Vientiane heading back to Thailand, just take bus #14 (goes every 30 minutes) from the downtown Vientiane bus station to the Freedom Bridge area for another $25 Thai Baht …and enjoy another local Lao people ride …

Enjoy Laos – Land of a Million Elephants …