Delos @ Mykonos

Although Mykonos is beautiful with its cubist style Cycladic architecture and postcard-ready natural beauty, it doesn't take long there to realize that it's one giant tourist trap. For me, the one thing which was able to help the island regain some points was taking the thirty-minute ferry ride over to Delos for a breath of fresh air.

Little Italy
Pulling into Delos on the ferry

Ohrid

Before heading over the border into Greece, I decided to make a visit to the most popular destination Macedonia has to offer, a small lake on the border with Albania called Ohrid. Every place has a certain speed with which it operates, which subconsciously infects you and causes you to catch up or slow down, this place slows you down to a crawl. I spent about an entire week here, and I don't have much to show for it except that my skin is a bit more tanned now, but I definitely recommend visiting if you want a place to relax.

Ohrid Old Town
Streets of Old Town

Skopje

Knowing that I had to get to Greece within a couple weeks and that I also would have to exit Thailand within a couple days, I decided why not fly somewhere nearby Greece and see what else the area had to offer. What I ended up choosing was Skopje, the capital city of Macedonia. I only spent a day and a half here before moving on, but in case you pass through with a day to kill maybe this can help.

The Skopje Fortress is a relatively easy walk, and it's free so there is no excuse not to visit, from the walls of the Fortress you can get a nice view looking back down onto the city and a bit of a view of the old town. Exiting from the Fortress you should go east, cross the road and checkout Skopje Old Town Brewery(aka Pivnica Star Grad). This rustic bar sits on the edge of the Old Town with both the Old Town and the Fortress in view, so as your buzz kicks in you can soak in your surroundings and drift back in time a bit.

Looking out from the Fortress

Ban Khoun Souk and Ban Chantan @ Phong Sa Ly

In the mountains around Phong Sa Ly are various minority villages which attract people to endure the long bus ride from civilization to get here. To get to the best ones you'll need to hire a local guide for about 30-60 USD and make a trekking day trip out of it, but if you end up here and just want to explore the area alone there is still some stuff to see.

On the north side of town right next to the Phoufa Hotel, lies a dirt road heading northeast out of town toward the village of Ban Khoun Souk. The walk is pretty much flat and dry with the exception of a couple of puddles here and there and you won't see much along the way other than a couple villagers going back and forth between Phong Sa Ly on a motorbike. You'll know you're in the right place when on your right-hand side you see a bunch of people showering in plain sight on the side of the road. I guess one of the local traditions which still survives here is that each village has one communal shower where everyone baths together. Walking around here everyone is pretty much exuberantly excited to see a visitor, one lady actually called her kids to come out of the house so they could wave hello to me. The economy here appears to be driven by tea, outside of most huts were little areas designated for drying tea leaves and a couple families were all out together performing some sort of processing of the tea leaves in what looked like large cooking walks. There aren't any designated shops here, however, if you get thirsty just keep saying "Beer Lao" to people and they will eventually direct you to a lady at the main road with a fridge full of beer.

The beginning of the path

Phong Sa Ly

Sitting at the bus station at Dien Bien Phu at 7am after my day of exploration, I had a little decision to make. Only two more busses would leave on this day, and both in the next thirty minutes, one to Phong Sa Ly and the other Luang Prabang. Without too much thought about it, and very little information to go on I decided I would get the ticket to Phong Sa Ly.

After the border crossing at Tay Tang, there were about fifteen hours of windy mountain roads through northern Laos, including stopping for an hour behind a crash on the road and unloading cement bricks for an hour at a random town along the way. By the time I was dropped off at the bus station it was dark, foggy and there wasn't another person in sight, I walked with my backpack along the road for about thirty minutes before finding a restaurant that was open for business. I was able to order noodles by pointing, but my cell phone was not working in Laos and nobody understood a word of English, I decided to try my luck with Chinese, and before I knew it the people next to me were helping to describe exactly where I could find a hotel and offering their help to get me there.

Tay Tang border crossing
View out the bus window in Laos

Dien Bien Phu

Dien Bien Phu is located about thirty kilometers from the Tay Tang boarder passing and is basically the last stop going west before crossing into Laos, on my way over to Laos I decided to spend one day here in order to break up the twenty hours of bus rides involved.

My exploration here started on the south side of town where the jungle is dotted with several French Military relics from the first Indochina War. There aren't really any signs describing where to go around here so you can kind of just wander around the jungle until you bump into something important. One of the pieces of artillery which I found was surrounded by piles of mud and getting up to it to take a picture was a bit of a challenge, I'm not sure if it was even meant to be on display however it added a bit of adventure to the morning.


French tank