Monday, October 31, 2016

MY FIRST BACKPACK: GELERT SHADOW 65L + 10L

All this while, I've been travelling with a 28L pack - sufficient for a weekend away, not so for longer trips with all manner of weather and activities bundled in (winter in Sydney, hiking Mt. Rinjani in Lombok, diving in Koh Tao, etc). 

This has forced me to always take a large separate carry-on, which is truly annoying when you're running through airports, shoving luggage into bus compartments, wading knee-high through waves from the shore to the taxiboat to take you to your next island, or wandering around in a new city trying to find your hostel on foot and walking for up to 3 hours lugging all your stuff around (because if you're anything like me, you'll be too cheap to pay aka get ripped off by a taxi driver).

Finally, I said enough was enough and bought myself a proper travelling rucksack. Yes, the massive kind all the backpackers use which look like they could well fit everything plus the kitchen sink.

My rucksack holds 65L + 10L (expandable) with a lightweight aluminium frame (helps distribute weight evenly), comes with a raincoat, and has a nice comfy sturdy belt with buckles (so weight is also portioned on your hips and back instead of solely on your shoulders). It has a special compartment for shoes and I got mine in green! (My favourite colour). 

I tried it on in the store, taking my time to adjust every strap and buckling up fully to have a proper feel of how it would fit me. It did great! 





Pictures are of the Gelert Shadow 55L + 10L as I couldn't find any of the 65L + 10L ; though I do assure you they look just the same with the only difference being size.

I was a bit skeptical as I'd never heard of Gelert. I researched them and turns out they are a long-time established UK owned company which manufacture an entire world of hiking, camping, and backpacking gear. Think tents, hiking poles, sleeping bags, hiking boots, backpacks, raincoats, etc. Several reviews from varied sources give them the thumbs up, so I would assume they are a reliable bet.

Looking forward to many happy travels with this one. :)

***
In case you're wondering, I got mine for Rm119 (marked down from Rm600) from Sports Direct Warehouse in Subang. I would highly recommend them as they have an abundance of options to cater to every budget and preference. Karrimor, Deuter, North Face, and Osprey are the more prominent brands which come at Rm600-800 on average for a 55L.

Sports Direct Warehouse
Address: 8, Jalan SS 13/5, Subang Jaya Industrial Estate, 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Business hours: 10am - 8pm daily (open on weekends)






Thursday, October 20, 2016

SOLO BACKPACKING SERIES: LAOS Pt. 3

This is a recollection of my solo backpacking trip to Laos in July 2014.

Pt. 1 
http://cherished-me.blogspot.my/2016/08/solo-backpacking-series-laos-pt1.html

Pt. 2 
http://cherished-me.blogspot.my/2016/08/solo-backpacking-series-laos-pt2.html

***
Day 4: Vang Vieng Village Walk

I woke up and had a baguette for breakfast.


Crispy chicken baguette. Not bad, but bacon was better.

Maddy and I decided to take a walking tour of Vang Vieng, wandering and pausing wherever we fancied.


Setting off.


Lots of puppies in VV.


I think he likes her.


Interesting that they would have an Israeli restaurant.


The only bank in VV. We went in to see if I could change Malaysian ringgit for Laotian kips, but nope. You can change money in VV but bear in mind there are only one or two dodgy looking moneychangers and their rates aren't the best. Vientiane (the capital) has much better rates and loads of banks and licensed moneychangers to get the most bang for your kips.


Communal well.



Really just a hole in the ground with lots of rubbish.


Wandered into another cafe, apparently has 5-star rating on Tripadvisor


Friendly owner spoke decent enough english to have a conversation with. He told us about the glory days of tubing in VV where drugs were rampant and deaths were commonplace.

Partyers would get wasted on alcohol or high on drugs, then slip off their tubes and drown in the river. The police got a lot stricter on tubing due to the alarming number of deaths, shutting down most of the bars (apparently there used to be some 20 riverside bars ; the number has now dropped to about 4-5 establishments).

I think it's pretty stupid for anyone at all to blame the abundance of drugs and alcohol provided by local bars for the number of deaths on the river. If anything, it's on yourself to be responsible, educated, self-aware and watch out for your own best interests (which means not overdosing and drowning lol).

Anyway on with our village walk.


Street food. 2000kp - 5000kp (Rm1~ - Rm2.50~) per skewer.

 

More street food.


Laotions are really fond of adding chopped mint leaves in everything!


Maddy and I. 

Good gracious I looked so different back then.

***

Day 5: Vang Vieng to Vientiane

Departure to Vientiane was today.


Hung round outside the tubing center, which was where my bus would depart from to Vientiane.


4.5 hour ride to Vientiane.


Finally, civilization!


Roaming the city trying to find my couchsurfing host's house.

Back then when I was young and poor (actually still am), I gathered all my pennies to make my travel goals a reality. In order to stretch my budget and do this as cheaply as I could, I came across this site called 'Couchsurfing.com' which is essentially a culture and hospitality exchange site which allows you to find accommodation for free.

I used it in Sumatera, Indonesia, where my host (another poor student who was renting a room in a student house) gave me her bed while she slept on a mat on the floor.

This time round my host in Vientiane was a French girl who was working for the French embassy and lived in a mansion with a massive garden, 5 bedrooms, balcony, kitchen, dining hall, and movie room.

She showed me around and told me to 

" Pick a room, any room "


Well okay.

And that was how I spent my first night in Vientiane.

***
To be continued in Pt. 4.