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27. August 2009 12:18
by Rene Pallesen
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Videos from our trip in Italy and Denmark

27. August 2009 12:18 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

videos from our trip


During the trip Kim took a number of videos using her compact camera. Here are the best ones (Click on the links to download the videos):

Denmark:


Knights Fighting
Firing Weapon

Italy:

Verona
Aida the Opera 1
Aida the Opera 2
Aida the Opera 3
Aida the Opera 4
San Gimignano
View of Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre from the boat
Driving to Portofino
Portofino
View of Lake Como
Lake Como from the Boat
Driving on mountain roads
Cow (Dont kill the cow)
Switzerland


27. August 2009 10:27
by Rene Pallesen
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Hernia Surgery

27. August 2009 10:27 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

hernia


The week before we went away on holiday I experienced pain in the pelvic area. I quickly got it diagnosed with ultrasound to be a hernia. Furtunately it could wait until we came back from holiday to be fixed although it was giving me some problems along the way carrying suitcases etc.

As soon as we came back I went to see the specialist and he told he that it would have to be fixed with surgery and that he could schedule it for the following week.

In the morning of the surgery I had to be at the hospital at 6.30am in the morning. Surgery started at 9am and by 11am I was awake again released at 1pm.

So it terms of the surgery it was very smooth...but it was very painful afterwards. I had problems standing up and sitting down.


This photo was taken two days after the surgery:



The cut is 13cm long and at this point I am still very much in pain.


The feedback from the doctor was that this was an Indirect Inaugural hernia and apparently the type that can cause a lot of problems later on if not fixed.

Unfortunately part of hernia surgery is that they have to cut some of the nerves so that they don't get caught in the mesh they use to repair it with.


This means that now two and a half weeks after the surgery there is still a large area around the cut that has got no sensation to touch or pain and some areas are hyper sensitive with the result that even the lightest touch is painful.

I hope the eventually all the sensation returns to normal (apparently in 25% of the cases this doesn't happen). I also hope that the scar won't be too bad and will mostly disappear long term.

27. August 2009 10:07
by Rene Pallesen
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Going Solar

27. August 2009 10:07 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

going solar


When we came back from our holiday our watertank had started leaking significantly. Actually it had started leaking slightly back in May where at the same time the government was introducing the stimulus package as part of their rescue plan for the financial crisis. Part of this package was an increased rebate on Solar hot water which provided a total $3400 government funding.

Back then I got a couple of quotes, but never proceeded hoping that the tank would last a little longer.

When we came back the leak had become a lot worse and could burst any time. It therefore had to be replaced very fast. It seemed that just replacing the existing electric tank would cost almost the same as installing Solar hot water and would be more expensive in electricity. Besides we have already installed extra insulation and energy efficient appliances so it only made sense to use Solar hot water as well.

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It took them 3 hours to pull down the old 160 litre tank and install a new 300 litre tank on the roof. So far we are happy with the system. We have more hot water than before, it is not nearly as hot as the old system, but plenty hot for what is needed (The old system had water which was close to 90 degrees Celcius and the new is appx 60 degrees).

It has an electric booster installed for cloudy days, but once summer is here I should be able to turn that off completely. And an extra advantage is that it has cleared out some space on the side of the house.

27. August 2009 02:00
by Rene Pallesen
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Jump shots

27. August 2009 02:00 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

jump shots


While we were travelling in Denmark and Italy we did a large number of Jump shots.

Here are some of the coolest ones we did.

First in Denmark

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Then Italy


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17. August 2009 10:30
by Rene Pallesen
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Switzerland - Going home

17. August 2009 10:30 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

switserland


After Lake Como it was our last day and Italy and was time to go home. We had to return to Milan that evening to fly back to Sydney next morning.

We decided to detour around the lake and possibly stop at some of the villages along the way. At the top end of the lake we came to a T intersection. I told kim that Switzerland was one hour if we turned left and Milan was 2 hours to the right. I asked her if she felt like a quick dash across the border before returning.

Most of the borders to Switzerland (and Austria) are located on the top of the mountain passes since the Mountains was what defined the borders the old days. The road up to this mountain pass was very narrow and full of blind corners. Kim developed stomach cramps on a number of occations on the trip and we eventually came to the conclusion that it was the tension when driving on these roads.

The scenery on the way up there was stunning. It was nice and cool climate and we were soon above the tree line and could see patches of snow on the mountains surrounding up.

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The style of houses changed from being traditional italian to be more swiss looking.

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Eventually we got to the border. Unfortunately the officer at the post didn't have a stamp to stamp Kims passport.

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We had lunch at the border and then returned toward Milan. We had dinner at the southern end of Lake Como and arrived at our airport hotel at 10pm.

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I had to return the car to the rental company at the Airport. Fortunately the hotel had an efficient shuttle bus service that made it easy to come back to the hotel. Unfortunately I forgot the cover for my phone in the car so I had to make the trip twice and was pretty knackered (and grumpy) when I eventually got back.

At 6am next morning we were back at the airport returning to Sydney.


17. August 2009 10:29
by Rene Pallesen
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Lago di Como

17. August 2009 10:29 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

lago di como


After the Riviera we drove up to Lago di Como (Lake Como). This was the only place on the trip where we hadn't organised accomodation prior to us arriving.

When we arrived we initially used the TomTom to find us a B&B, but it kept taking us up into the hills on all these narrow streets with blind corners. We therefore instead decided to drive up along the shore of the lake and just check out whatever hotels we came past.

We ended up finding a place for a reasonable price in Argegno. It was right on the lake next to the passenger ferry and our room was facing the lake....perfect!

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For dinner we drove to Menaggio a bit further up the lake. Parking was impossible because there was another festival happening so I ended up doing another illegal parking (If you are in Italy you do like the Italians).

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Next morning we went down to the ferry and bought a day ticket for the central part of the ticket. This enabled us to take the ferry and hop on and off whenever we felt like it.

This meant that we we easily could get to other places on the lake such as Bellagio and Varenna. It also meant that we were able to look at the expensive villas from the lakeside.

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On the way back in the afternoon we stopped at Tremezzo at one of the large villas that was open to the public. The villa was surrounded by a beautiful garden.

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In the evening we were tired (and I was finally developing some sort of a sun tan evident from the sandal stripes on my feet).

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17. August 2009 10:28
by Rene Pallesen
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Italian Riviera & Cinque Terre

17. August 2009 10:28 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

italian riviera


After Pisa we headed to the Italian Riviera, also called the Flower Riviera. I asked Kim to find us a nice spot along the coast for lunch and she picked Lido di Camaiore.

When I was a kid I went to the italian riviera quite a lot with my parents. My mum and dad met eachother here in a town called Diano Marina, both working for the same travel company as travel companies. We used to stay in caravan parks along the coast and I don't remember the place being very busy (but I may remember wrong).

When we arrived to Camaiore we were met by beaches full of hotels (whom had each closed of an area of the beach for themselves), umbrellas and people boiling in the sun and tanning oil.

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After lunch I decided to drive along the coast to our hotel in Sestri Levante...this turned out to be a mistake. After 30 kilometers full endless beaches covered in umbrellas, of dodging pedestrians and cyclists, traffic lights and people parking to go for a swim I decided I'd had enough and headed for the motorway. This part of the riviera is really not very nice and I was looking forward to go somewhere with a bit more charm.

Sestri Levante was the only place we could find accomodation. The hotel was up in the hills far away from the coast line, it was expensive and absolutely nothing special compared to all the other places we were staying during our trip.

In the evening we drove to a town called Rapallo for dinner. The city had closed off the roads around the water because of a festival, so it was really nice to sit at the water eating seafood and watch people.

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After dinner we went for a walk along the water down to the area where the festival was taking place. We were sitting there for a while listening to the music and enjoying a perfect evening.

When we came back to the car to drive home it turned out that we'd received a parking ticket (20 Euros). We were parking in a valid parking space and I thought we were outside the hours wheer we had to pay....but obviously not. I'd done lots of illigal parking elsewhere on the trip so didn't feel too bad about it.




Next day it was time to explore Cinque Terre. This is a national park along the costline with 5 small villages accessible only from the ocean (There is a trainline now). We drove to the only one of the villages that can be accessed by car Monterosso and parking right next to the village area.

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From here we walked down to the water. It turned out that the trains weren't running between the villages so the only access was by boat or walk. We didn't have time to walk so bought a day ticket for the boat.

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While on the boat we did a bit of planning and decided to go to the furtherst village Riomaggiore first and from here walk to the next village Manarola. From here we would take the boat to Vernazza and then back to Monterosso.

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Cinque Terre is a beautiful part of the Italian riviera, and although there is a lot of tourists there it doesn't feel overcrowded such as many other places. When we vere having lunch along the beached the previous day I was dreading that Cinque Terre would be as crowded as that.

In the evening we decided to drive to Portofino for dinner. We arrived there (along all these small narrow streets) around 7pm. Although Portofine if a nice place it doesn't beat the villages at Cinque Terre in beauty. The place is expensive in all respects and there isn't a lot of shops and restaurants, it is mainly fashion and expensive jewellery being sold there. Obviously catering for the Euripean rich who dock here in their expensive million dollar boats.

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We therefore decided to go back to the centre of Sestri Levante and have dinner here.

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17. August 2009 10:27
by Rene Pallesen
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Pisa - A revisit three decades later

17. August 2009 10:27 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

pisa


When I was a child I spend a lot of summers with my parents in Italy. They used to work in the Northern part of Italy as travel guides and as a result we generally headed that way during the summer time with our caravan or with a tent.

When I was a baby my parent took me to Pisa (I have to trust them I an don't remember) and also up into the leaning tower.

Kim and I was planning to drive from Tuscany to the Italien Riviera and I asked Kim if it was ok to make a short stop at Pisa for me to have a look at the tower some 3X years later.

Our Tom-Tom navigated us by the backway into the city and within a short timefra we were at the tower. We had a look for a parking spot and literally found a spot less than 100 metres from the tower (so far pretty fortunate with the parking).

It was really cool to have a look at the tower. They have started allowing people to enter the tower again, but when we got there they next timeslot was 6pm in the evening (8 hours later) so we instead took some photos and bought some T shirts for Kims family.

Of cause we had to take the classic photos of trying to straighten the tower.

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And a couple of nice ones

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And then there was the silly ones

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And then some photos from the beautiful architecture of the tower and the church next to it.

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17. August 2009 10:26
by Rene Pallesen
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Tuscany

17. August 2009 10:26 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

tuscany


While Kim and I was in San Gemignano in Tuscany we spent a day just driving around in the beautiful landscape. Even though we just missed the harvest it was still really beautiful. It is full of all these rolling hills, Vineyards, Sunflower fields and old Italian houses.

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Driving was fun and I could easily have spent longer time just driving around there exploring small villages etc. I would love to go back there during spring when all the flowers are out and the fields have been planted.


17. August 2009 10:25
by Rene Pallesen
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Siena and one expensive dinner

17. August 2009 10:25 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

siena and one expensive dinner


On the first day in Tuscany we decided to drive into Siena and have a look around.

Our first impression was that parking was going to be a problem. There was some large tourist carparks on the outside of the city walls changing an exorbant amount of money per hour. We were planning to have dinner in the city and was planning to be there for most of the day and eventually we found a spot in a parking area that didn't have any meters. There was some italian scribling underneath the sign and we hoped that it didn't say "Reserved for residents and permit holders".

Anyway, eventually we made it inside the city walls and was met by 8 storeys of escalators from the walls to the innner city (You wouldn't want those fat Americans loosing any weight while on holiday).

We went around to some of the tourist attractions and there was unbeliveable queues everywhere. We started queuing up to get into the large tower at the main square and for 30 minuted the queue didn't move. Eventually we gave up and couldn't be bothered.

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Instead we decided to wander around the city looking at the old buildings and at shops which is really nice.

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Siena is known for the annual horse race in the center of the city. It was amazing to look at the area and suddenly realise why the horses often go flying into the barriers when they get around the corners of the race course.

The details of the houses is incredible. Everything is decorated. A metal spike is not just a skike any longer, but a instead formed into a dragon, a snake or a swan.

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In the evening we were going for dinner at an italian restaurant called 'Cane e Gato' (Kat and Dog). It was recommended to Kim by one of her colleagues who had also warned us that it was a bit on the pricey side.

At the place we were staying I found a book about Tuscany where it said that the degustation was 50 Euros (Appx $95 AUD). When we arrived we were given no menu's or any price list. The girl (Who turned out to be the daughter of the owner, who himself was in the kitchen with his wife) showed us our table.

We were told what was the degustation menu consisted of and got started. The food was quite nice...all ingredients that were in season from the surrounding country side. The pastas were home made and everything was very delicious.

At the end Kim and I was discussing what the damage was...a bit of a surprise when we were presented with a bill of 175 Euros ($320 AUD). This was a bit more than we expected.

Fortunately we didn't have a parking ticket when we got back to the car (This would have been the icing on the cake).

Another late night finishing dinner after midnight and then 45 minutes drive back to San Gimignano.
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26. August 2018 14:08
by Rene Pallesen
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Bangkok

26. August 2018 14:08 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

After Laos we went back to Bangkok.Bangkok is much the same, however it feels a lot cleaner with reg
After Laos we went back to Bangkok.

Bangkok is much the same, however it feels a lot cleaner with regards to smoke from all the bikes, but the traffic itself is horrendous.


The tuk-tuks are still there, but they try to charge exorbitant prices, so it was far cheaper and more convenient to get a taxi.


As usual there are still lots of interesting choices for food, such as braised pigs head.


Or Scorpions (which are mostly sold to tourists)


When it comes to shopping, Kim was in shoe shop heaven.


The boys however was in their own upside down ice cream heaven.



The nightlife is also much the same, with the more relaxes and romantic atmosphere along the river.


As opposed to the more thrashy massage parlour atmosphere just around the corner from our hotel.


While we were there it was childrens week, much to the joy of the boys.



This also gave me some unique photo opportunities such as the Thai version of Wonder woman.


Evening were spend having nice dinners with friends, Kim's colleagues and by ourselves.



This photo was my all I packed for the entire trip (only thing missing is my camera and the two lenses I brought along). Everything fitted into a small carry-on backpack.



26. August 2018 14:08
by Rene Pallesen
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Thailand - Floating market

26. August 2018 14:08 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

The floating market is 2 hours drive south of Bangkok. We made a bargain with a taxi driver to drive
The floating market is 2 hours drive south of Bangkok. We made a bargain with a taxi driver to drive us all there in a minivan. In the process he tried to take us to the wrong place 5 kilometers from the market and tried to rip us off by saying we should pay an exorbitant amount to take a boat from there - Kim and I had been there before and remembered that it was possible to drive there. With the assistance from Kim's colleague, the driver was put in his place and took us to the right location, so we still came out ahead and it turned out to be a nice day trip.


The market is very much for tourists these days, but they still have the original boats selling food, although the market itself is all souvernirs.






It is however interesting to observe the other tourists and I managed to capture a couple of good moments.









11. March 2018 22:03
by Rene Pallesen
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Monks - Laos

11. March 2018 22:03 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

Religion is an integral part of Laos society where the majority are Budhists.
Religion is an integral part of Laos society where the majority are Budhists.



The monks dressed in orange and red ropes are still visible everywhere and it is largely seen as becoming a novice (junior monk) is seen as an opportunity to get an education and support your family if you come from a poor rural area.


 


The high influx of tourists, especially to Luang Prabang is therefore a bit of a win-win situation for everyone. The tourists support the temples in the area by paying their admission fees to visit and on both my trips I have found that the monks are keen to have a conversation as it is a way of practicing their language skills.

In Luang Prabang the monks walk in procession every morning to collect rice from worshipper along the roads. Before sunrise there are hundreds of monks walking the streets in every direction. There is an equal horde of tourists trying to take photos of these monks and equally tourists handing out (sometimes dubious) rice to them.



There are posters around the city encouraging being there and seeing the monks as well as providing some guidelines such as keeping a certain distance, not using flash photography and if you hand out rice then where to get it from. Most of it common sense really, so it was sad to see how some would be blocking the paths and sticking their camera phones with flashes into the monks faces.





Sacha and I went there a couple of mornings, but because of the time of the year everything was dark and because the monks move quite fast through the streets it was a challenge getting good shots.



One afternoon we walked past a temple and a group of monks were in progress of cutting down a large tree and afterwards trimming off the branches. They were going to use some of the tree trunk for traditional drums and the rest for ornamental purposes inside the temple.







In the late afternoons you would hear them chanting in the small rooms of meditations, chanting and prayer. These are often smaller places of worship and not part of the main temples which are used for more ceremonial purposes.
One evening I heard such chanting and went to investigate and found these monks. Definitely one of my favourite moments in Luang Prabang.



A common assumption and misconception is that the monks live by an ancient code with a simple life, so it is quite interesting to see that even they have adopted modern technology with smart phones and cameras.



11. February 2018 22:03
by Rene Pallesen
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Locals transport - Laos

11. February 2018 22:03 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

The locals are still relying on motorbikes to get around. They are far cheaper and more convenient i
The locals are still relying on motorbikes to get around. They are far cheaper and more convenient in the towns. It is even possible to fit an entire family onto a single motorbike.







Younger kids and high schoolers ride their push bikes for transport.



Although Aiden and the other kids definitely preferred the motor bikes.



Nothing too flash for weddings - a normal new car will suffice. If you notice the sign on the door, then I am not sure if the bride was expecting to come home to 'Meat & Sausage'.



There are also some vintage cars around which have survived since colonial times - like this 1952 Citroen.

10. February 2018 07:03
by Rene Pallesen
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Bowling - Laos

10. February 2018 07:03 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

On the last day in Luang Prabang we went to the local ten pin bowling alley.We had heard and read th
On the last day in Luang Prabang we went to the local ten pin bowling alley.

We had heard and read that this is the place where things are happening in Laos. When we got there the place was totally deserted apart from a few staff members.

We did play bowling and it is a bit surreal to play by ourselves in this fairly modern centre in Laos.



They didn't have any support rails for the kids, but Aiden especially did really well and the kids managed to beat Kim on points.



9. February 2018 07:03
by Rene Pallesen
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Water fall - Laos

9. February 2018 07:03 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

Just outside Luang Prabang there is this amazing waterfall cascading down a limestone creek.We decid
Just outside Luang Prabang there is this amazing waterfall cascading down a limestone creek.

We decided to get up early to go a take photos, so that we could be there early before all the crowds arrived.





















At the entrance to the park there is also a Bear rehabilitation centre. They rescue bears from captivity and keep them until it is safe to release them back into the wild (if ever). The bears have a big area and seem to love climbing and sleep in the hammocks provided.



8. February 2018 22:03
by Rene Pallesen
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Our kids - Laos

8. February 2018 22:03 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

Our kids had a blast of a time in Laos. They loved each other company (for the most part) and someti
Our kids had a blast of a time in Laos. They loved each other company (for the most part) and sometime looked like real little travellers.








They were respectful at the temples and even offered a prayer.





At other times they behaved like animals and should be lock away in a cage.





But for the most part they liked exploring things that us adults wouldn't see such as this crater from a crash landed U.F.O.

8. February 2018 22:03
by Rene Pallesen
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The kids and families of Laos

8. February 2018 22:03 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

What I especially remember from my last trip to Laos was the kids. One of my most cherished photos i
What I especially remember from my last trip to Laos was the kids. One of my most cherished photos is one of two little girls holding a bouquet of flowers that I took 20 years ago (it is on this blog if you look for it through the search function).

The children are still there. They are still very shy, dirty and smiling.











They make up their own games such as these kids at a school playing marbles with tamarind seeds.







These kids were playing a game where the kid under the table had to poke the feet of the kids above the table.



And some things never change, kids teasing each other.





The girls in the school yard 'hang out'.



Visiting a local school was great for our kids to get a glimpse of how other kids live.







Along the road we stopped and a family was outside with the mother breastfeeding her son in their outdoor living room. This is where everything happened such as the cooking, washing, feeding etc.





The chicken were running around freely



Here is a rare shot that Kim took with my camera in it.



It is a very family oriented life they live








7. February 2018 21:03
by Rene Pallesen
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Catching local transport - Laos

7. February 2018 21:03 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

For getting around the towns in Laos we mainly used Tuk-Tuks. These are small motorbike powered mini

For getting around the towns in Laos we mainly used Tuk-Tuks. These are small motorbike powered minibuses and the experience can be very mixed. Most of them are generally good, but some have bad brakes have a plume of smelly two stroke engine smoke trailing behind them. We could easily fit our two families into one and I'd joke that there would even be room for another couple of adults.



The kids loved the tuk-tuks and have the fresh air blowing in their hair while riding.



The only downside is that you'd never quite know what the fare would be until you started bargaining and from town to town the fares seemed to be very different. Even though I believe I am reasonable proficient at bargaining, I'm still confident that we paid more that the locals would be paying for the same trips.











For the longer trips we would catch either local buses (mini vans) or in some instances it was worthwhile us hiring a private bus as we were enough people to fill it.

From Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang we hired a private van taking us across the mountain pass at Kasi. Last time I went through here it was in an open bus and at the pass it was raining and really cold. This time round we had a beautiful clear day with a great view of the valley below from the top.





The week before they had a lot of rain and a landslide had taken out large parts of the last section of road (I read in the local newspaper a few days earlier that the road was closed). Our little van was struggling getting enough grip and our driver had to reverse to get enough of a run-up in the next attempt to make it through the steep and muddy section.

The larger trucks were really struggling getting through.



6. February 2018 16:03
by Rene Pallesen
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Morning Markets - Laos

6. February 2018 16:03 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

The morning markets are interesting. This is where the locals still go to buy their fresh produce an
The morning markets are interesting. This is where the locals still go to buy their fresh produce and all kinds of specialties are being sold here. It would be easy to go here and get the ingredients for some really delicious food.

There are also some unusual things that we don't see in our western kitchens. such as:

Dried Squids:



Fresh fish - of cause, but this have sharp teeth.


A protein and herb table that would make most chefs (and diners) salivate:






The Chillies in Lao are more hot than in Thailand - We loved the heat.


A pig:


River crabs:


Beetles:


Dried rats:




Caterpillar - these are yummi when fried:


Frogs:

River snails:


Dried squid, shrimps and fish:






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