Lao PDR Diaries: Luang Prabang & Vientiane

The alarm went off at 5:30 am.

I opened my eyes, and saw the eerily life-like portrait of a Laotian woman hanging on the opposite wall looking at me. Then I saw a stranger sleeping on the other bed. Well, not a total stranger. She is Guonmin from Guangdong, China. We met on the slow boat a day ago…or was it two days ago? I can’t remember. All I know was that we were the only Asians on the boat…aside from the crew, of course.

Continue reading “Lao PDR Diaries: Luang Prabang & Vientiane”

My Top 5 ‘Buti na Lang!’ Moments When I Traveled Solo

As you can probably tell (or not) from the title of this blog post, Taglish ito because…why not? Gusto ko lang! Para maiba naman. There’s always a first time, pero limited edition lang ito kumbaga. Wow! haha

I remember nung nag-travel ako for 32 days nang solo, twice lang ata ako nakapag-Tagalog: when I met up with fellow travel blogger, Joshua, in Chiang Mai, and nung inampon ulit ako ni Riz when I went to KL. Hindi naman ako naubusan ng English pero nag-level up ang charade skills ko. :p
 
Anyway, ano nga ba ang ikkwento ko? Ahh, yung mga bagay na buti na lang ginawa ko nung bumyahe akong mag-isa. 

Kung inaakala mong ang post na ito ay isa sa mga ‘quit-your-job-and-travel-the-world’ posts, pwes, nagkakamali ka. Masyado nang gasgas yun. At sinasabi ko sa ‘yo, maganda lang yan pakinggan sa simula pero pag hindi ka na makabili ng kape sa Starbucks na dati eh inaaraw-araw mo, babalik ka rin sa corporate world. *evil laugh*

5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Sourtheast Asian Adventure

Ever since I got back from my month-long Southeast Asian trip last August 2014, some friends have expressed their interest of doing the same, but don’t know exactly where to start.  

The thing is, when people ask me for my itinerary, I’m a bit hesitant to just give them what I used because it is customized according to MY traveling style. 
I found that it has changed over the years. I no longer feel the need to pack as many attractions as I can in day, and would prefer to pay more for convenience rather than sacrifice comfort for the sake of sticking to my budget. 

I also traveled solo, so my expenses were inevitably bigger than usual. And the only tickets I had pre-booked on sale were my Manila to Bangkok, Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and Bali to Manila flights. The rest of the flights, I booked when I was already on the road.

I actually traveled for 32 days

Continue reading “5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Sourtheast Asian Adventure”

Review: Villa Maydou, Luang Prabang

When the tuktuk driver dropped me off at a temple, I thought he brought me to the wrong place. A group of Germans then approached the same tuktuk driver, so I asked them if I was indeed at Villa Maydou. They assured me I was in the right place, and pointed me towards the reception inside a two-story house with the numbers 1936 inscribed on the facade.
 
This signage was on the other side facing the road to Nam Khan Bridge.
The tuktuk driver dropped me off inside this temple’s compound
Tucked between a temple and the Nam Khan Bridge, Villa Maydou is located in a quiet area a bit offf from the city center.
It’s sort of a compound with 5 traditional Lao houses separated by lush gardens for privacy.
I immediately fell in love with the ambiance.
One of the 5 traditional Lao houses
Pathway to the restaurant
Lovely seating area near the reception
Bikes guests can use free of charge
I arrived earlier than the check-in time so I had to wait until the room was ready. While waiting, I was served freshly-squeezed pineapple juice.
My room was on the second floor
My own veranda
 
I was booked in a pool view room, which is part of 2 new additional buildings.
 
I had a veranda with couch and plush pillows where I had – as the name implies – a view of the saltwater swimming pool.
 


Double doors and windows with elegant French cremone bolts added a bit of flair to the rustic room. 

Dark wood flooring, cream-colored walls, and jewel tone accents adorn the room.
 
I enjoyed walking around barefoot (even though there were slippers provided), but the creaking sound of the wooden flooring made me worried that I might be disturbing the guests downstairs.
 
The bed was decked in beautiful Laotian tapestry.


The room was spacious with high ceiling, and plenty of windows which allow for natural light into the room.
The usual amenities are present like flat screen TV with cable channels, air conditioning unit, telephone, cabinet, and personal refrigerator. 
There’s also a working desk with enough power outlets for your electronics.
The WiFi can be unreliable — abysmal, to be honest (as is mostly the case in Luang Prabang), but it wasn’t really a big deal for me at the time because I just wanted to relax after traveling for 2 days on a slowboat.

I had to use the AEE camera just to get a whole shot of the bathroom because it was a tad small. I wish they made it bigger given the large size of the room.


The tub doubles as the shower space. And even though there’s a shower curtain, the water from the shower inevitably splashes onto it, and eventually spills on the floor. 

Other than that, the room was fine for me. 

You can only hear the sound of crickets at night.
They serve a good breakfast set, too, which consists of eggs, ham, a bread basket with spreads, fresh fruits (in season), coffee, and fresh fruit juice.

L: Lemon Butter Chicken for dinner (room service); R: breakfast set
The Laotian staff are courteous and nice, but you have to be patient when making some requests because of their limited English proficiency.

Overall, I would recommend Villa Maydou for travelers looking for a relaxing stay in Luang Prabang.

K

~~ I was hosted by Villa Maydou for a night, but all opinions in this review are my own. ~~
 
 
Ban Meuna – Luang Prabang
Lao PDR
Tel: +856 7125 4601-04
Facebook: Villa Maydou

Product Review: AEE MagicCam S51

If there’s one thing I can’t travel without, it would be my camera because I need it to document my trips. (duh!) However, there are times when a DSLR just ain’t fit for the job.

During my recent month-long solo trip around Southeast Asia, I did activities that required me to use both hands or be in or around water, and using my bulky camera was just not an option.

Thankfully, the guys at Visiontec Marketing lent me an AEE MagicCam S51 unit for this trip.

(L) The AEE S51 unit with detachable TFT screen (R) AEE with waterproof casing (up to 100m)

I started my trip in Chiang Mai, Thailand where I signed up for a one-day elephant mahout training.

The ‘training’ involved feeding the elephants, riding them bare-back through the jungle, and bathing them in the river.

Although the package includes a CD containing photos and video of the training, I still wanted to record the experience from a first-person perspective.

AEE S51 in action with the waterproof casing + head strap
Before we started the activities, I removed the detachable TFT screen from the S51 unit, turned the G-sensor on (auto start/stop ), placed it in the waterproof casing, and finally attached it to the head strap.
The elephant mahout training was such a wonderful and memorable experience for me, so I was very happy that the S51 captured it perfectly.
Here’s a short compilation of the videos during the training; the slow boat ride from Chiang Khong, Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos; and the trip to Kuang Si Waterfalls (also in Luang Prabang).

Thailand-Laos 2014 from Kat Torres Video edited by my nephew, JC Abellar.
Please take note that no color correction/grading was applied during editing. 

Aside from outdoor activities, I also worked on some hotel and resort reviews during the trip.

With the S51’s wide angle lens (and used with a monopod), I was able to get the shots/angles I want especially when in enclosed/small spaces that I wouldn’t have captured otherwise with my DSLR.

And yeah, it’s the perfect companion of a solo traveler because it’s very easy to take selfies. No need to bother other tourists for such triviality.

 

(Clockwise) Petronas Twin Towers as seen from my room at Traders Hotel KL | Selfie at Seminyak Beach, Bali, Indonesia | My bathroom at Villa Maydou, Luang Prabang, Laos | Courtyard by Marriott Seminyak’s pool, Bali, Indonesia
 
AEE App
 
I’m no technophile, so I really appreciate the straightforward push-button functions on the S51. It’s even easier to use with the AEE App.
Simply download the AEE App from the Apple or Play store onto your smartphone or tablet to have real-time control and operation of the S51 through the built-in WiFi. You can then easily download and share/upload your pictures and/or videos to social media.

 

Admittedly, I was not able to fully exploit the capabilities of this camera. I’m sure it can do so much more.
Now that I’m starting to find lugging around the DSLR inconvenient, especially on longer trips, I am seriously looking at investing on an action cam like the AEE S51 because it’s compact and would be a better companion on the road for a variety of activities.
***


For pricing and other inquiries, please contact Johannes Yu of Visiontec Marketing at 781-6731 or visiontec.inc@gmail.com.