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Time to say goodbye
Mekong River (Laos) to Bangkok (Thailand), Feb-25-09 / Mar-16-09

The last eight weeks went by very fast. It feels like the day of yesterday that Ivonne’s parents arrived on the international airport of Bangkok for the seven weeks journey that we made together. And now it is already a week ago that we said goodbye on the same airport. Time flies! We had a great journey, and our main goal to give the parents of Ivonne a taste of the real Asia is gloriously achieved. We all look back to a fantastic and intensive time with each other, that we probably wouldn’t be able to take in Europe, living apart only tens of kilometres. It is so special to spend seven intensive weeks together with your parents and we are thankful that we got the opportunity.

We ended our last web log at the moment that we were still navigating the Mekong River on our way to the Thai border. After we crossed the border, we had a small culture shock. Of course, we knew already that Thailand is much richer than Laos, but we were also overwhelmed with the friendliness and openness of the Thai people, in comparison to the Laotians. The reservedness of the Laos people probably has to do with the fact that they are still living in a communist environment. Another difference that is remarkable is the number of birds that you see. In Laos, it is hard to see birds in the wild, without going bird watching in the forests. It has everything to do with the fact that Laotians catch the wild birds for cheap food. Fortunately, the birds of Thailand have a much more relaxed life.

By hitch on a pick-up back to Chiang Mai
From the Thai-Laotian border, we took the bus to the big northern city of Chiang Mai. The local bus that we took was much less characteristic than the ones we had in Laos. The busses are not packed like sardines in a tin, the bus stops only at some bus stations in between and there are no street vendors who besiege the bus with their merchandise. We spent one night in Chiang Mai after which we took the bus to the nearby Don Inthanon National Park. We booked a bungalow in the park, where we stayed three nights. In the park you will find several villages whose main activity is growing flowers in some kind of green houses, that are used for offering activities at temples. The fact that the villages are present does not give you the feeling that you are really in a national park. But still, it is still a beautiful environment, with a lot of things to see. We decided to hire for one of the days a guide and car, to show us different areas of the park. The guide, whose name was Somchat, was specialised in birds, which gave us the opportunity to see also some birds. We saw among others the Chestnut-crowned Laughing Thrush, Green-tailed Sunbird, Silver-eared Mesia and the Chestnut throated Partridge. We also saw some waterfalls, and we went to the highest point of the national park, which is also the highest point of Thailand. The higher elevations of the park were still very green, in comparison to the lower parts that were dry and barren as result of the dry season. We also decided to hire Somchat for the next morning, to see also some birds on the lowers altitudes of the park. Besides that, Somchat could tell us a lot about the background of the two different tribes that are living within the boundaries of the park, the Karen people and the Hmong.

From Doi Inthanon National Park, we hitched back to the main road to Chiang Mai. We only had to wait ten minutes before some local people with a pick-up truck decided to take us for the thirty kilometres ride. They dropped us at the bus stop on the main road, and within a couple of minutes we had our next transport, a Songtheaw, to Chiang Mai. A Songtheaw is a typical Asian form of transport, of course with different names in the different countries. The concept is always the same. It is some kind of a small minibus that only has an opening at the back of the bus. In the bus are two benches in longitudinal direction on where the passengers take a seat. The Songtheaws are small and low, making it not that comfortable for bigger sized and taller westerners. After a day in Chiang Mai, we took for the first time a VIP-bus. Our destination was Bangkok. And VIP it was. It was a double-decker bus in which we had the front seats on the upper floor. The bus even had stewardess and the leg space was unprecedented! After spending the night in Bangkok, we took the bus to Khao Yai National Park. We had to change to a songtheaw in the town of Pak Chong, for the ride to the park entrance. From there, we hitched our way to the park headquarters. Because of the lack of villages in Khao Yai National Park, the park gives you much more the feeling to be in the jungle. We stayed three nights and during the days, we made different day walks.

Jan in a Songtheaw on the way to Khao Yai National Park

During the first day, we walked a flat and easy trail through some nice parts of the jungle. We saw three different species of Hornbills that walk. In the afternoon we did a walk over the plastered road. At some point we got the feeling to have entered a nature documentary. Only a couple of metres away from us, we saw a group of Oriental Pied Hornbills fighting with each other. It was very special to see it from so nearby. For the next day we planned a more strenuous hike. The path was more going up and down, and we even had to cross a stream. Our target was to see a Trogon, and we did. We also saw elephant pooh and some huge jungle trees. Our visit to Khao Yai was a dignified end of our journey through Cambodia, Laos and Thailand with the parents of Ivonne. From the headquarters we tried to get a hitch back to the entrance of the park, where public transport is available. But the ladies in the pick-up decided to bring us all the way to the bus station of Pak Chong, where we took the bus back to Bangkok. We stayed one more day with the parents in Bangkok, to take a look around, and especially to prepare ourselves for the fast approaching ‘goodbye’.

After an emotional goodbye at the airport last week, we are with the two of us again, and still in Bangkok. We used the time to write articles for our website and to finish some photo and video impressions. We also went to the dentist to fix the brace of Ivonne again, and we used a lot of time to relax and to decide about our next destination. We thought about the Philippines, but all the cheap tickets were already gone. So we have to postpone that destination to next year. We also thought thoroughly about Papua New Guinea, but were not confident with the security situation over there. Besides that, it is a very expensive country. So at the end, we decided to go back to Indonesia, to places that we did not visit yet and that are high on our wish list, namely the areas Papua, Molucca and Nusa Tenggara. In between, we hope to visit Timor-Leste (East Timor). That’s our present plan……


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