LAOS UPDATE: Hitchhiking, motorbiking, wild camping and unexploded bombs (plus a dying hard drive)

I’m leaving Laos for Bangkok tomorrow. I think I shall miss the laziness of the tuk-tuk drivers (many of whom bring their hammocks to work, and seem to dislike being asked to drive anywhere), the outrageously chilled out working manner of the local traffic police, and the abundance of sticky rice and rather good French-style bread.

But, with a little luck, I will find someone in Bangkok to replace my hard drive and my whole netbook will be good as new.

Here is a brief summary of my three weeks of silence: Continue reading LAOS UPDATE: Hitchhiking, motorbiking, wild camping and unexploded bombs (plus a dying hard drive)

LAOS: What’s inside those mystery banana leaf packages?

Laos, Luang Prabang, Steamed banana leaf, street food
Inside the third package

Another day, another misadventure which, in hindsight, was highly preventable.

The large bowl of pho you’d just had for lunch was not quite enough to satisfy your roving eye, and a woman’s basket of little banana leaf packages proved too tempting to pass up. You pick three at random and ask the price, to which the woman raises an eyebrow.

Continue reading LAOS: What’s inside those mystery banana leaf packages?

LAOS: So the police just rendered me homeless, but I know how to eat Pho now

Mount Phousi
Mount Phousi

“Falang? Are you there?”

Kindred peers in through the screen door before letting himself into your room.

“We have to get out of here. Police are onto us.”


“It’s illegal for foreigners to sleep over at a Laotian’s house. They’re coming at two.”

Continue reading LAOS: So the police just rendered me homeless, but I know how to eat Pho now

Godspeed to a Mighty Balloon is now on Facebook!

Did you know: A Boeing 747s wingspan (197 ft) is longer than the Wright brother’s first flight (120 ft)? Their second flight covered 200 ft, and now we’ve all forgotten how incredible commercial flight is.

Anyway,  you can click here to like the page and get posts to your Facebook news feed, or like it because you would like to show everyone that you like my blog. It’s like an online high-five, and I would like your like in the same way a cat would like a scratch behind the ears.

Alternatively, use the Facebook widget on the left. Many danke and happy January 5th!

Diving on Koh Tao: How a Jellyfish Ruined My New Year’s Eve

My leg swelled up so much my ankle disappeared and I couldn't rotate my foot. This must be what pregnant women experience.
Fresh from the doctor.

You toasted the new year alone with a bottle of stale water and some antibiotics in your friend’s apartment in Chumphon. Fireworks burst behind the cover of coconut trees as the clock on your netbook reset and a fresh wave of nausea passed over you.

A brush with a jellyfish off the coast of Koh Tao put a premature end to your diving lessons and left you with an expensive doctor’s bill and several symptoms you would rather have gone without; namely, a heart rate as high as 114, fever, breathlessness, muscle weakness and constant and severe nausea and stomach cramps.

Continue reading Diving on Koh Tao: How a Jellyfish Ruined My New Year’s Eve

After 378 days, my little capturer of light is dead.

Broken Lens, Nikon, Camera,

Usually I am grateful for gravity. It is nice being able to walk around in flipflops without floating off into the ether. Without gravity the planet would also float away from the sun, and I would not enjoy spending the last days of Earth’s existence in a polar winter.

Unfortunately it sometimes works against you, and on this occasion I can emphatically say that gravity was not my friend- though I accept that a force has no feelings and the idea of it being friendly, unfriendly, on my side or otherwise, is fallacy.

My late camera survived knocks and falls in three continents, the zealous attentions of dogs and children, the sticky caress of orange juice, the heat and humidity of a greenhouse in London and dozens of hours of juddering in the seat storage compartment of dirt bikes in the Thai countryside. However, it was a small fall in Chiang Mai that finally put an end to my little black capturer of light.

I am happy that we adventured together, and I am sad that you are dead, but all I am worried about now is whether Photoguard insurance will replace you. Looking at everyone else’s photographs causes me something close to physical pain so I hope they make a decision soon. Also, having to lug your useless corpse around with me is annoying.

In short, I have been busy mourning my camera and tending to a jellyfish sting. I’ll be back soon.

The Rice Harvest: Leeches, rashes and (dammit) more ants

Thailand, travel, rice harvesting, rice, farming, wwoofing, helpx, workawayThe fauna of Thailand are large and bad tempered. Giant ants will hitch a ride on your sandals and sting you even when they are not in any danger of being crushed; the spiders are covered in devil symbols and can grow to the size of your face; and bees build their giant drop-like nests right by the passionfruit you had otherwise wanted to pick.

Life in the Karen village you are living in is self-sufficient by necessity; the only income available to them is through seasonal work on the garlic and strawberry farms in Samoeng, and most of the money goes to buy petrol and replacement tools. Rice is an integral part of the Thai diet (the Karen greeting is Oh-mu-lah: ‘have you eaten rice?’) and a condition of your stay is that you help with the harvest. All of the rice will feed the village for a year, and you found yourself working in fields owned by people you hadn’t met before.

Continue reading The Rice Harvest: Leeches, rashes and (dammit) more ants


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