Laos : the conclusion

Lao was a crush for us : friendly people, beautiful landscapes… so let’s have a look to our conclusion :

Luang Prabang and Muang Gnoi : Beautiful landscapes again !!!

As Lao has only few inhabitants and is mountainous, we saw beautiful and wild landscapes.

First, just few kilometres from Luang Prabang, town well known for its elephants and its temples, we discovered the beautiful Kuang Si waterfalls!!! A clear blue water, enough water to swim… That was enough for us to put on our swimming suits and jump into the water!!! It was cold (yes, it is a waterfall, not a hot spring) but we enjoyed it!!! And now we can say “we did it!!! » ;-)

Small bracket : As you can notice, I didn’t start this post with elephants or temples… There are several reasons for that: Regarding elephants, we asked few agencies about their tours; they all offer the same service: a ride on elephant... in a “gondola”!!!! And we know that “gondola” hurt elephants, so we don’t support this practice!!! If you want to discover how an elephant journey is, without being a last (and a pain) for the elephant, then we suggest you to go out of the city and find a real preservation centre for elephants!!! Then, regarding temples and Buddhism here in Luang Prabang; yes, at 6AM you can assist at the monk ceremony (people on their knees offer food to monks who walk on line and who then sing a prayer to “thank” the donators) but in this city, it is now the first touristic attraction: donors are not local people anymore but curious tourists not even enough respectful to stay on their knees!!! Monks don’t sing anymore (it is not necessary as tourists don’t understand Lao language …) and the other tourists (the ones who just assist at the ceremony) have big cameras and stand 10 centimetres away from the monks… So we went there with the thought that we will see something very traditional and we just saw a tourist parade… Fortunately, we saw one “real” monk ceremony in a village in the North. No tourist, just local people waiting faithfully for the monks, and monks who sing after getting the food!!! That was really intense this time and meaningful!!! Bracket closed !

Later, we went by boat to Muang Gnoi : Along the river, we saw river weeds fishermen, buffaloes, drying hemp and maïs culture.

After a “peaceful” night (because the boat wasn’t really comfortable) we hiked, with our bags without really knowing where to go!!! It is very steep in this region!!! After 4,5 hours we finally reached the village at the top of the mountain… Very hungry and thirsty!!!! The village is beautiful and there is no signs in English, no shops, no homestays…. Just a REAL village! While walking in “the street”, we asked a guy (with body language) where we could eat and he invited us in his house. We sat on the floor. In one side of the house, hemp was drying. He explained us that it was then sold in Vietnam and transformed in fabrics. His son, Klit, arrived. He looked very shy  but when we showed him our football ball that we had (you remember, the one we won in Mozambique, during the World Cup), a big smile appeared on his face and he ran to get a pump. Once the ball ready, Romain and Klit went outside to play. Our meal was served (noodles and omelette) and Kilt and Romain came in ; Kilt with his new ball securely in his arms. As thanks his father offered us a cigarette (that e denied of course) but we accepted the Lao Lao drink (traditional alcohol). We drank it the same way as the tradition: only one glass for everybody: the first one drinks the glass and refills for the second, etc, etc, until the last one!!! For his warm welcome and hospitality we gave him some money and we were really pleased to see that he gave the money to his son in order to buy clothes for school!!!
We spent a lovely time with this family but it was already time for us to come back… 3hours walking were waiting for us!!! We arrived at the bottom very tired after 30kilometres but really happy!!! A nice day!!

After these two days, we took the boat to the “gate to Vietnam” city!!! Next stop for us: Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam!

Vang Vieng : Our Christmas gift from the French School of Mouvaux

Vang Vieng is a small town near the Nam Song River. The city centre is not really a must see place except if watching Friends while smoking “happy stuff” is what you like. (Actually Vang Vieng was famous among the ravers and people who liked to party all night as the place with no limit but after some deadly incidents, the city closed many bars and tries now to upgrade and change the image of Vang Vieng. Anyway you still feel this atmosphere and some bars are still open)

But we found a peaceful place just across the bridge, in a small bungalow surrounded by a great countryside.

While driving our motorbike through rice fields and villages, surrounded by mountains, we met a very friendly bunch of children. They were playing together with a ball. In team of 2 they formed a circle. One of the two children of the team was “sitting on the back” of his friend like a jockey on a horse. The “jockeys” were passing the ball from one to another. If the ball hit the ground, then all jockeys had to run away and the “horses” had to catch the ball as soon as possible. While staying in the circle, the horse with the ball could try to touch one jockey with the ball. If he matched his target, then all horses became jockeys and the jockeys were horses!!! After 10-15 minutes of watching them, one of the girls, called us to play with them!!! That was really funny! For us, for the children and also for all adults who were watching us and laughing at us. A lot of fun without any words (except « Sabaidee » (=Hello) and « Khop Chaï » (=Thank you))

The next day, we “climbed” a small montain to have a great view on the region. But after having paid the entrance fees, two kids followed us on the hike. We knew they wanted money and we have one rule than we always apply: We never give money to children; first because it keep them in the street instead of sending them to school and second because the money is never for them but for someone else! So we tried to tell them to stop as we won’t give them money but as they don’t speak English, they keep following us. One of them is sick and coughs a lot but he still climbs faster than us!!! At the top we took some pictures, it is beautiful. The children are making fun of us because of all the pics we take!!! Once at the bottom, they ask us for money (the only english word they know). Of course we refuse but we propose them some food. At the beginning they hesitated but after few seconds, they accepted our offer and brought us in a nearby restaurant. On the way, they met 2 of their friends and proposed them to come with. That’s how we had lunch with 4 boys between 8 and 11. 4 children who might not have any lunch and who had a big plate of chicken rice!!!! A great great time together, once again without any conversation, but smiles!!!! After we did the traditional “funny face picture” and we left. So please, if a child is asking you money, just give him some rice!!!!!

After this wonderful day, we had another unforgettable time. As we were “celebrating” our first 9 months on the road (it is going soooo fast) and as the children and their parents from the school in France gave us some money for Christmas, we decided to fly over Vang Vieng in a hot air balloon.

Just before the sun set, we took off. Pomme Pidou in the front row of course!!! We flew over the market, it was beautiful to see all umbrellas from above. Kids and parents were looking at us and making hello signs!!! Then the sun started to disappear behind the mountains; and the sky took amazing colors. 40 minutes later, we touched the floor again!!!
Once again, a big thanks to the French School of Mouvaux! Without them, we could not afford this extra in our travel!!!! And we would have missed an amazing experience!!! 

Vientiane : another tragic story but also new games !

After a long (dusty and uncomfortable) bus journey, we arrived in Vientiane, capital city of Lao, where we were warmly welcomed by our hosts Pierre and Cathy, both teachers at the French School. So the next morning, after a lovely evening and a delicious breakfast, we went to school with them!
During 3 days, we played with 5 different classes (from 6 years old to 9-10 years old)! We discovered plenty of games!!!

-        At the “sardines” game, one player hides himself while the others are counting (until a predefined number). When they are finished, they have to find the hidden player. If one of them finds him, he has to stay quiet and stays with him. The looser is the last player who discover all other people!

-        For the “lunch box” game, you need a ball (or a lunch box???). One child is the wolf and the playing field is determined. At the beginning, all players are in the middle of the field, near the ball and the wolf. One player shoots the ball in order to send it as far as possible. The wolf has to take the ball and bring it back to its place. During that time all kids hide themselves. The wolf tries then to find the other players. If he finds someone, he has to touch the ball and says loudly who he saw and where (for example: I saw John behind the tree). If it is correct, the found player comes and sits next to the ball. To be delivered, the player needs to wait until one other player comes and touches the ball without being seen by the wolf. The game is finished when all players are prisoners.

-        Ngad Khay Tao (turtles ‘eggs): we draw (or define) a small circle on the ground (1,5m diameter). One child goes inside and the others put their right shoe in it. They have to take back their shoe without being touch by the turtle (the kid inside). If someone is touched by the turtle, then he takes its place and the turtle becomes a normal player (and put his right shoe inside). When everybody has his shoe back, the turtle counts until 20 and the children have to hide their shoe. Then the turtle has to find all shoes in a predetermined time!

-        Ban Khouk (or “Lao prisoner ball”) is a game with 2 teams and one ball. Players are divided in two teams like on the sketch: one team in the centre of the field, the other team divided in two, one part on each side of the field. The “external” team has the ball and has to touch the players from the “central” team. If one child is touched, he get out of the field. If a child catches the ball before it touches the ground, he wins a life: he can either use it for one player of his team who was out of the game and who now can play again or for himself: he will need to be touched twice to be eliminated. When there is only one player left on the central field, the team has 10 chances to touch him. If the players fail then, the central team wins the game!

-        In the « bull » game, all children are in circle and one is in the middle. The players from the circle have a ball and pass it to each other (with the hand or the foot). If the bull (the child inside the circle) catches the ball, the player who was passing the ball becomes the bull and the bull can enter the circle and play!

-        The “007” game is similar to “stone, paper, scissors”: 2 players are facing each other. They can either shoot, protect themselves or recharge their guns. Of course you can only shoot if your guns are charged. One player wins a point if he shoots and the other is charging his guns. The first player with 3 points is the winner.

-        For the flag game, 2 teams are facing each other and one flag (or ball or something) stands on each side of the playing field. The players have to “steal” the flag from the other team without being caught and when they have the flag, they have to bring it back on their side of the field. (if it is a ball, the players can send the balls to make the game more difficult)
We spent 3 great days in this school. Our game collection is getting bigger and our smiles keep going to be spread out!!!

But in Vientiane, there are unfortunately also some places which are not so smiling than a school. We visited the COPE Centre (Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Entreprise), which is an organism which tries to offer rehabilitation services to all physically injured people. Actually, Lao is the most bombarded country in the world, sad record! Officially Lao and the US never declared a war but Lao received more than 500000 American bombardments between 1964 and 1973 which represents 200 billion of tons of bombs. (Lao is on the Ho Chi Ming road, and as the US aircrafts couldn’t land if they were full, they “had to” leave their bombs on Lao). 30% of all these bombs have not exploded yet and it is the biggest issue nowadays. When a farmer is harvesting or doing some work on his land, a bomb can explode and the man can lose an arm, a leg, the sight, the life…. COPE tries to help this devastated population (because an injured man cannot support his family anymore) and does also some demining campaigns. These operations are dangerous, long, and expensive and it will need dozens and dozens of years until the country will be totally free from these hidden and dangerous unexploded bombs. That is also one the reason why a large part of the country is not exploited (nor by a farming field, nor by a plant, not by a village, neither by a road…)

Once again, it is very painful to discover this part of History but it is also frustrating and revolting!!! Lao did not ask anything, was not in war and is the country with the most remaining consequences!!!

At last but not least, Vientiane has also something else to offer: beautiful colonial constructions, good pastries and bakeries, even a triumph arch… It is a small town where it is nice to live!!!

4000 islands, Thakhek and Konglor : Mother Nature in all its beauty

After a not so quiet border crossing (or at least, a corrupted border crossing) we arrived at 4000 islands. This place is, as you can guess, a group of islands on the Mekong River (sorry we didn’t count if they are 4000!!!). 

Here the River is not polluted (at least not enough to refrain us of swimming); so even if the temperature of the water was quite low, we did some tubing!!! It is really nice, slow and quiet. While lying in the tubing, you have time to discover the place from another angle. For example we saw boats transporting motorbikes, women fishing riverweeds or doing their laundry, kids playing in the water or taking a shower, ducks having fun…

By bicycle, we visited the Mekong waterfalls. They are huge and impressive!!! We were especially impressed by the courageous ones (and pro) who did some kayak in it!

On the island we stayed, people are also making their own charcoal: they stack pieces of wood together and cover it with clay and straw. They light a fire at the base of this “house” and as the smoke cannot go away, wood is consumed slowly and becomes charcoal. When everything has burnt, the “house” is destroyed and charcoal taken.

In Lao, the French influence is still strong and visible ! People play pétanque, how funny is that ?? As kids don’t have the right bowls to play they have invented another version: instead of the jack they use rubber bands, small wood pieces or just “something” and to replace the petanque bowls they use their flip flops. They throw their shoe in order to touch the “jack”! Some of them are really good at it!

This venue in Lao is really peaceful and beautiful… We enjoyed spending time in our hammocks in front of our bungalows and smiling at the very friendly population.

But after 3 days on “our” island we arrived in Thakhek. This limestone region is well known for its caves. We took a motorbike and drove through a mountainous landscape to discover caves. Some of them only contains beautiful stalagmites and stalactites, some of them contain a lot of Buddha…. Really nice… but not as nice as French caves J!!

With « very » local transport we moved to Konglor, another place known for its cave. 

This one is crossed by a river and measures 9,5kilometres. It connects 2 villages. The cave has beautiful limestone formations but is also the place where the biggest spiders are living (25 centimetres… with the legs of course). Unfortunately we couldn’t see any: we cross in a boat in the dark, with only our headlamps but it is not enough for this huge cavity. Anyway we really appreciated the boat ride!!!


Kampot, Koh Ta Kiev and Kratie : Peaceful time near the Mekong River and the Indian Ocean

For New Year’s Eve, we went to Kampot; a well-known place for its pepper. As pepper lovers, we visited a farm. Pepper grows on a climbing plant and even if we speak about different peppers (green, black, red and white), it is the same plant.

- Green pepper is “fresh” pepper. It is harvested all year round. This pepper has not reached the stage of maturity and once harvested, you can only keep it for few days. Cambodian people use it as a vegetable and cook it with see food.
-   Black pepper is made from green pepper, usually almost at the maturity point but not necessarily and is dried 10 days in the sun

- Red pepper, used with meat, is mature pepper which has been dried in the sun for 10 days.
- White pepper, very good with see food, is made from red pepper. The red pepper is harvested, then boiled in water for 20 minutes and disposed of its red skin.

Of course we went to Kep, the crab city, to eat a good crab with Kampot pepper!!!

We spent a quiet New year ‘s Eve in this city near the Mekong river: It is a lovely place but not the good choice for NYE…

Anyway, we went then to Koh Ta Kiev Island, an « almost deserted island » in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and it was a good decision. We camped in front of the see, on a remote beach, with the jungle behind us. 30 degrees in the air, 26 in the water… 5 camping days, without electricity and running water. Our program: swimming, BBQ, reading, walking in the jungle…

We went to a fishing village and one family, who couldn’t speak English at all, cooked fresh crabs for us. Soooo lovely!!!

We finished our stay in Cambodia in Kratie, a town well-known for its river dolphins. These Irrawady dolphins live in the Mekong River but are an endangered species. Nowadays only less than 100 dolphins still live here. Fishing nets are the biggest problem for this animal and even if they are now protected, many fishermen still use these nets. Mekong dolphins have a round head (not like the ocean dolphins who have a “nose”) but unfortunately we couldn’t see their face, because they didn’t jump high enough!

Our one month stay in Cambodia is now finished. It was a really relaxing place where we could benefit from the French influence to eat delicious French food!!! Now we are heading to Lao by bus.

Phnom Penh or the horrible Story of the Khmers Rouges

We arrived in Phnom Penh the day after Christmas but the magic of Christmas was still present: Chris, owner of the Arun Villa Hotel proposed us to host us for free during 4 nights!!! He liked our project. What a lovely gift: Beautiful and big room, clean with even a French Touch and a private terrace….and a pool outside! The staff was so helpful and friendly that we almost felt home!!!

But in Phnom Penh, not everything is so peaceful. We visited the S21 museum, also called “museum of the Genocide” and the “killing fields” of Choeng EK. In our last post about Battambang, I was telling you about the cruelties done by the Khmers Rouges; when you are in S21 or Choeng Ek these atrocities come unfortunately alive.

Let me try to explain you the terrible History of Cambodia.

Communist ideas in Cambodia appeared in the 40s, when France was still occupying Cambodia. After the Indochina War (1954), some believers of these ideas joined together and built a “militia” to fight against the Sihanouk Prince (who came to power).

Most leaders of this “unit” did their studies in France and were members of the PCF (French Communist Party). In 1970, the Prince of Sihanouk is “replaced” by Lon Nol after a Pro-American Coup d’Etat. But Lon Nol doesn’t achieve to calm tensions in the country and Pol Pot (the Khmers Rouges Leader) managed to federate youth from the countryside and soon they believe him and his ideas: the “Khmers Rouges” were born. (“Khmer” represents the biggest tribe in Cambodia and “Rouge” means red and represents the colour for the communism). On the 17 April 1975, the Khmers Rouges attack Phnom Penh. In a very short time they close schools, hospitals, temples, plants… and force the people to go back to the countryside and abandon cities. Their ideal is simple: eliminate all social classes to create the “new folks” who lives only for the community. Pol Pot wants to live in autarchy and forces people to produce more rice. In order to achieve this, he creates “collective farms” which are in fact slaves work. L’Angkar (Which means “Organisation”) is heavy handed and oppresses the population. All “intellectuals” and/or all who have a link with the western world (except members of the Angkar) are killed with their families because Pol Pot thought, he had to “eliminate the problems from the roots”.

In the country, a lot of prisons appear. The S21 prison was a high school before being “transformed” into a prison by the Khmers Rouges. More than a prison it was a torture centre because anyone entering these gates had to admit a crime (done or not). Electrocution, drowning, hanging… were very common. Almost 20000 people (men, women and children) entered this prison (and less than 200 went out alive). Once their “crime” admitted, prisoners were put in big trucks with tied hands and blindfolded and driven to Choeng Ek (the “killing fields”). They were asked to kneel and were killed in cold blood with a bamboo stick, a hammer, a pickaxe… everything but firearms because bullets were expensive and Pol Pot did not want to “use money for so useless things”.

When people did not died directly, they suffered many hours, especially when guards spray them with pesticides to hide the horrible smell of death.

The cruelty of the Khmers Rouges was endless: one tree was used to killed young children: Killers took the children by the feet and crushed their heads against the trunk…. And in front of their mothers who were raped before being killed as well!

In the Choeng Ek Killing fields, we found 129 common graves but only 89 were excavated. More than 18000 people died and today a commemorative stupa adorns this horror field. In the stupa, 8000 skulls of victims rest in peace and in the respect of the souvenir.

Finally, the government of Pol Pot was stopped on 7 January 1979. This genocidal period killed more than 2 million people (on a population of 8 million at this time). 300 000 died directly killed by a Khmer Rouge, the others died by disease, starvation, hopelessness, brutalities…
Cambodian People had to wait until 1997 to see Pol Pot condemned for crime against humanity and crime of war. Unfortunately he died before his process. Since then, other leaders were arrested, condemned and are in prison now… but the Khmers Rouges ideal isn’t completely “out of the game”…

It is really difficult to imagine how Men can be so cruel with other Men. History is made with great acts but also with horrible things, like this one! 1975 is not so far from today, we were almost born!!!! How such a thing could happen? How such a thing could have been avoided? Can such a thing happen again? Why did we learn from the past??? All of these questions are open but when we were in those terrific places we had a thought about it. It is our duty, not to forget, but also to learn from our mistakes.

As you understand, we were touched and disturbed but also revolted by these two sites. But we highly recommend these visits. We cannot forget what happened in the past!!! Nowadays, a lot of Cambodian families are still crying the loss of someone and have physical and mental sequelae from this time. How many years will be necessary to close the wound… Only time will let us know….

Battambang – A wonderful Christmas

We went to Battambang, the second largest city of Cambodia, by boat through Tonlé Sap Lake. This lake has a unique particularity: depending on the season, either it fills in or it empties. Actually during the dry season (from November to Mai), water flows from the Lake to the Mekong, so the lake gets “empty”. During the rainy season (from Mai to November), when the snow melts from the Himalaya, water flows from Mekong River to the Lake. The lake is considered as a “buffer zone” which protects from Mekong flooding and which also regulates its level. The “period” where the current changes direction is called the reversal of the river. The November Water Festival is “calculated” by the monks regarding the moon and is time for a big 3 days ceremony opening the fishing season. As a symbol, the King orders the water to reverse itself.

During the rainy season, the surface of the lake is multiplied by 6: the depth goes from 1 meter to 8 meter. Thus people needs to take this specificity into account: Houses are built on 8 meter high stilts and some are totally floating on the water and can move like boat to “follow fishes”. Of course the first activity for those people is fishing; the lake has very good water for fishes!

It is very impressive to go through these villages. Schools, churches, shops… float on the lake and move with the waves created by boats!

Our boat ride took 8 hours to Battambang. Usually, at this time of the year (beginning of the dry season), the lake should be almost full and the boat should take 5 hours to reach Battambang but the 2014 rainy season was bad and the lake quite empty…

In Battambang we rented a motorbike to visit the surroundings: Few temples from the Angkor period, 

One memorial for the victims of the Khmer Rouges (I will come back on this tragedy in our next post about Phnom Penh). On the wall of this memorial, you can see sculptures about the atrocities the Khmer Rouges did to the people. It is hard to look at and even more to believe that such a cruelty exists… But it is really important, not to forget it!!!

For the sunset we stopped at the bat cave. Just before the sun disappears behind the mountains, bats are coming out to hunt. Not one, not two, not hundred, not thousand, but tens of thousands. They fly in a row and make a huge shadow in the sky!!! Really impressive!!!

Another touristic attraction not to miss is the well known « Bamboo train ». This old transport was used by the local people; nowadays it is only used by the tourists. The “coaches” are made with bamboo, put on axle and set in motion by a petrol engine. As the railway has only one “line”, each time we meet someone coming from the opposite direction, one of the two has to “dismantle” the coach to let the other one go. The first time it happened, we were surprised. Less than 1 minute is needed to dismantle the coach and the same time is needed to “rebuild” it. The joy ride is pleasant. You don’t really see the landscape (because of the trees next to the railway) but being 40 cm above the floor at a 30km/h speed is a nice feeling!!! Just a pity that the ride is 5 USD each!!!

Of course, after all of these, it was time for us to celebrate our 8 months of traveling, 5 years of engagement, Romain 28 birthday and of course Christmas Eve… So for all of these reasons (even if we don’t really need specific reasons, just a pretext), we had a good time: dinner with a show and of course foie gras, duck filet and chocolate dessert and… an hotel with private Jacuzzi!! Christmas in “summer” is a bit weird, without our families is even weirder but we enjoyed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (with a Nutella breakfast…)

Siem Reap – Good time with a formidable family and insects degustation !

Okay, the last (but not least) post about Siem Reap… But how can we do without telling you about our stay with Laetitia, Jacques, and their sons Antoine and Tanguy? It is impossible!!!

Laetitia is a teacher at the French School and…. She loves traveling! That’s why she hosted us for few days!!! We could have French meals, a swimming pool just in front of our bedroom and we could talk in French about everything ;-). 

With Antoine, their 9 year old son, we played a lot, A LOT : Cluedo, 1000 km, Mister “I know everything”, Jungle Speed, Chromino… A lot of fun, smiles and laughing!

Tanguy took all our souvenirs back to France in his coffer!!! Wahou, no we can do some shopping again!

So we spent very nice times with this family and the good byes were particularly sad… Anyway, who knows how the future will be, perhaps we will meet again somewhere!!! Now it is time to go to Battambang!

But before leaving, and with the « good » advices of Laetitia, we had a dinner at the « Bugs café »…. Yes you are reading well: we went there to eat insects! And we did the whole degustation : grilled scorpion and tarantula, silk worms and crickets salad, Water bug, Mediterranean pastry with red ants, spring rolls with flying ants… You’ll not believe it but we liked everything except the water bug. Romain liked the scorpion and I preferred the tarantula (oh… Never in my life could I imagine I would say that). So now, Ladies and gentlemen, dear children, don’t be shy and eat insects!!! It is healthy and it is good for the planet!!!


Siem Reap – Meeting with the children and…. Santa!!!

In Siem Reap, we were glad to discover the “hidden” French School: with only 75 pupils, it is a very small one. Again, it is so nice to be warmly welcome by teachers, headmaster and of course by the children!!!

We first met Laetitia’s pupils (CE1 – CE2) and we learnt a lot of games:

-       -  The game “Gazelle, Lion, Crocodile”: You need as much lions as gazelles and for the crocodiles, they can be a bit less. Crocodiles are in the “river” (lines on the ground) at the end of the play field. Gazelles are on the starting line and have a scarf in their back (used as a tail). The lions are one meter behind the gazelles. At the starting bang, gazelles and lions runs. Lions have to catch the tail of the gazelles but when they reach the river, gazelles are safe and lions can be catch by the crocodiles….
-     - “Monkeys and coconuts”: Monkeys are in team of 2 and stay on each side of the “river” (lines on the ground), where there are many crocodiles. Each team has a ball (a coconut) and the goal is to throw the coconut from one side to another as many time as possible before the crocodiles catch the ball.

-       -  “Wolf and squirrel”: In a basket you put some balls (nuts) and you define where is the river (a line on the ground). Squirrels have to transport the nuts from the basket to their home, after the river. But the territory between the nuts and the river is full of wolves… Be careful not to be catch!!!

-        - “Sparrowhawk with condition”: It is the same game as the normal sparrohawk: all players are on one side of the field and they have to cross it when the sparrowhawk asks them to get out but in this version, the sparrowhawk can had “conditions”. For example “all player with glasses get out”: all children have to cross the field (so that they will be on the same side for the next round) but only the children with glasses can be caught by the sparrowhawk.

-        - “Wizard and Goblin version Country”: you need to define 2 countries (2 fields on the ground) and 2 teams. Wizards have to catch the goblins and bring them to the cauldron. Wizards cannot move from one country to another but goblins can. When a goblin is caught, he can be delivered by the “super goblin” who can only be caught by the “super wizard”.  The super wizard is the only wizard who can change “country” and move everywhere! Is is a game with many types of players so children have a lot of fun!

-        - “Rabbit and hunter”: You choose 2 teams : rabbits and hunters. Hunters have balls and have to touch rabbits with the ball. If a rabbit is touched, he is “frozen” and can only be delivered if the “Super rabbit” touches him. And of course the super rabbit can only be touched by the “super hunter”… (so, as you noticed, Laetitia and the children love the “super” players!!!)

As the older ones had to work and couldn’t participate, we came 3 days to “animate” the playground for their break!!! We had a lot of fun together!!!

And as is wasn’t enough, we were invited at the traditional Christmas party. All children sang Christmas songs and then called Santa who came…. Abseiling!! It was so lovely to see him “coming down from the sky”… Only the black boots were missing but with this heat we can understand that he preferred to wear flip flops!!!

We hope that Santa put some clothes in between so that he could bring you everything you asked him !!! We were very spoiled by our families but also by the French School of Mouvaux. Big ones and little ones offered us a lovely surprise. Once again, thank you very much!!!

Siem Reap – The visit of the Angkor Temples

Siem Reap is well known for its temples! What an impressive feeling to arrive by bicycle in the middle of these old stones!!!! Even if the Nature starts to take back what was hers, you can still imagine (or try to) how the temples were amazing and beautiful a long time ago!

By the way, as History is good for everyone, just few lines about the story of these temples. The first monuments were built in the IXth century. Why the King Jayavarman II did chose Angkor as a capital for his Kingdom? Certainly because of the proximity of the Tonle Sap Lake which offered a lot of fishes and makes the rice culture possible.

The temples are a mix between monarchy and religion, as to show that the King’s supremacy.
A lot of hydraulic systems are built around temples to attract villages to live there.
The Angkor era lasted 6 centuries and the most well-known temple is Angkor Vat, symbolized on the Cambodian flag. It was built from 1113.

Few centuries later, around 1430, the Monarchy moved to Phnom Penh and abandoned Angkor. Why? That is still an opened question but the Siam Kingdom (in Thailand) had probably a link with this change. All temples were left except Angkor Vat!

The temples were “rediscovered” in 1861 by the French Henri Mouhot and since then, the World knows the beauty of this venue and try to preserve it! It is a World Heritage since 1992.

For the anecdote, you probably know one of the temple of Angkor even if you never came here : Lara Croft was filmed at Ta Prohm… ;-)

So, after 3 days of bicycle in the middle of these wonders, we’ve only see a part of it (but with a 3 days pass at 40 dollars, it is the maximum we can afford) and we really loved it!!!

Bangkok - Visit of the French School

Before going to Cambodia, we made a stop in Bangkok at the French School !

We were nicely hosted by Philippe and his family! Thank you so much!!!

The French School of Bangkok is very big. More than 1000 pupils!!!! So with all these minds, they had a lot of games ‘ideas :

We discovered a French game called « Baguette » : There are 2 teams : the customs officer and the smugglers. The smugglers secretly decide who will “transport the cam” (a small piece of wood, a coin, a stone…). They all close their fists and try to cross the border without being caught by the custom. One custom officer can only have one target! If one officer catches a smuggler, he has to open his fists. If he has the “Baguette”, the custom team wins 1 point. If the smuggler with the treasure can cross without being caught, his team gets 1 point. After 5 border crossings, teams change roles.

In the English game “ Gold catching”, we put some “Gold” (balls, scarves, Stones…) in a hoop in the center of the play field. One team is in charge of the protection of the Gold and one one more teams are the thieves! The children try to take some gold without being caught. If they get caught, the “gold” is put back in the hoop. After 5 minutes we count how many gold each team has stolen and we change the roles!
 « Dern Sam Kha » is a Thai game that we also know : It is a race between teams of 2 players, where the children are tied up to each other by the feet. The fastest team wins the race.

 « Litching chag » (sorry for the spelling.) is a game similar to the “Devil’s Tail” which means “Monkey’s Tail”. The two teams receive scarves in 2 different colours and attach them in their back (like a tail). In 5 minutes, the players have to take off the tails of the adversary team. The team with the most tails remaining wins the game. If a child loses his tail, he cannot catch anyone else!

In the coconut game, you need to cut a coconut and fix a string, so you can use it at stilts. (Remember, we did the same with food cans)! When your coconut are ready, jump on it and be the fastest (without falling down!)!!

In the « sardine game », there is a shark in the middle of the field. The shark asks the sardines to run. They have to cross the field without being caught. If a sardine is caught by the shark, it becomes a seaweed: the plyer cannot move his legs anymore, but with his hands he can try to touch the remaining sardines! The game finishes when there is only one sardine left!

For the “bunny – game”, children are in team of 2 (one is the rabbit home and has to stand and the second is the rabbit and starts in his home between the legs of his friend). One player is a hunter; when he wants to; he asks the rabbits to go out. All rabbits have to run (in a specific designated way) without being caught by the hunter. The hunter can only attack 3 seconds after the rabbits are out!

So, our collection is becoming bigger… and it will be on internet very soon! Until then, we wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Bagan, Hpa – An and Mawlamyine : Pagodas and Buddha everywhere !!

Bagan is one of the most famous places in Myanmar. In a 42km2 zone, more than 2200 temples and Stupas are standing. All were built between the 9th and the 13th century. It is the biggest Buddhist place of the world.

A lot of temples have been damaged by several earthquakes (the last one in 1975) but the UNESCO, some countries and other organisms try to restore this place!

 It is very pleasant to take a bicycle and ride in the middle of all these pagodas, but what is the most stunning part of it is to climb one of the temple and discover thousands of stupas all around you ! Sunrise and sunset are the best time to look at this place! Especially in the early morning when all hot air balloons fly above the temples!!! Even if you’re not a Buddhist you can feel the spirituality of Bagan!

We finished our trip in Myanmar in two cities south of Yangon: Hpa- An and Mawlamyine. The first city is well known for its natural caves used as temples and decorated with many golden Buddha and sculptures and the second town has the longest lying Buddha of the world. One finger toe is as tall as I am!!!

Romain tried also the national sport : Chilon. This sport is played with a 12 cm ball in rattan. There are several versions of the game: The Burmese traditional one is played with 6 men in a circle. During 5 inutes they have to pass the ball 30 times only using feet or legs. They have penalties if they use their head or if the ball hurts the ground!

In the Thai version,(the one Romain played with the children) : the Takraw : the 6 players are divided in 2 teams separated by a net. They have to make points in the opposite field. The team can only pass the ball 3 times before sending it to their competitors! Head and chest can be used to send the ball! It was really nice to play with children met few minutes before!!!

But after 25 days surrounded by Buddha and stupas, we are glad to see something else ;-) ! Let’s go to Bangkok and its French school! 

Mandalay : the Tek city

To go to Mandalay we took the train from Hsipaw. What an amazing journey! 7 hours for…120 km! And it isn’t a « quiet » journey ! The train is moving from left to right and from right to left every times ! Fortunately we travel in upper class and at least we had comfortable seats. We chose the train only to see (and cross) the Gkteik bridge: it was built in 1901 by the British; it is the highest bridge in Myanmar and at the time of its building it was the highest rail bridge in the world. Even if the bridge was (is) repaired, the train goes very very slowly on it! It’s beautiful!

After that, we spent 2 days in Mandalay, the first one with a hired taxi shared with Moché, an Israeli met before; and the second day with a bicycle! We saw the well known U Bein bridge: the longest tek bridge of the world, and we also visited different temples, monasteries and pagodas! In a tek monastery we saw young monks playing with rubber bands and trying to shoot a wood stick on the ground!!! They shoot very well! Some of them were attending class: 3 levels in the same place: when one class is having a music lesson and the others are learning Maths, it can be very loud….!!!  

Hsipaw : a visit in the Shan region !

To stay fit, we went to Hsipaw to make a 2-days trek. With Sai our guide and 5 other hikers, Iva from Australia, Seb, Delphine 1, Delphine 2 and Bertrand from France, we walked in the Shan countryside! Shan is one of the tribes which live in Myanmar. Its language is similar to Thai and themselves, they say they are Thai. After hiking and passing through several villages we stopped in a school: All pupils in the same room!!! That’s really noisy and loud…

As the teacher for the younger ones was absent, we try to “discuss” with the children; they were really impressed by my necklace made with camel teeth!!! They understood it is made of teeth but we don’t think they know they come from a camel…! At least we had fun together ;-)

At night, we were hosted by a Shan family who cooked a traditional meal. Rice, several vegetable curries, tea leaves salad and tofu chips! Ery good but very oily!!!

We spent a nice evening together, doing some “Light painting” (we will show you what it is later…) and chatting about everything and nothing! After that, good night, we were tired of the day!
The second day was easier, we walked only downwards and we had a bath in hot springs!!! We also had a delicious smoothie and a warm shower!!!

In Hsipaw we also met an incredible woman : Fern: She is the niece of the last Shan Prince and is now taking care of the Shan palace. The palace has nothing special but its history is really impressive to understand the political situation of the country.

Sao Kya Seng, the Shan prince, lived in this palace and had married an Austrian woman met in the USA during his studies. The life in the palace was nice but after the military pouch in 1962 the prince disappeared.. He was arrested by the army and sent in prison from where he could send a message to his wife. When all prisoners were free, the prince didn’t come home. The princess asked the government to give her a death certificate of her husband and wanted some explanation but the government did not recognize anything. They even said, that they never arrested the prince…
Because of the situation in the country, the princess and her 2 daughters left the country and find a place (as refugees) in the USA. Every year the spouse of the prince sent request to Myanmar to give her a letter recognizing the death of her husband. No answer came, except one letter with interdiction to come again to Myanmar!

The story could have stop here, but what Fern told us after, made us think about the political situation of Myanmar: from 1995, Fern and her husband Donald were used to welcome visitors in the palace to tell them about the tragedy of the Shan family; but in 2005, Donald was arrested and condemned to 13 years of prison because “he didn’t have a tourist license”. Of course it was only a pretext to arrest him: Few months before, in 2005, a meeting was organized to write the new Shan constitution. Donald was supposed to attend this meeting but his wife was in hospital and he was with her; so the army couldn’t arrest him because of the meeting and had to find another “reason”…

Visits stopped, because Fern was afraid to be arrested too and needed to see her husband once every two weeks. 4 years later, to show the whole world that Myanmar was a fair and democratic country, the government granted amnesty to 4000 prisoners. Luckily Donald was one of the 4000. He was free but had to stay in the palace with interdiction to speak to foreigners!

Since 2012, visits have started again and the couple explains its history to everyone who wants to hear it. And without being too “direct”, you can feel that they are against the government… Myanmar has still many progresses to do before becoming a real democracy and the country needs people like Fern and Donald to make the things change!!! Let’s see next year if the new election will bring some good news for the country…

Inle Lake : Life on the water

After 10 hours in a “frozen” bus (aircon was set on the lowest temperature), we arrived in Inle Lake. This big lake is famous for its traditional fishermen who use a net made of bamboo to fish!

After a “day off” to rest (that we also used to book our flight ticket to Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Easter Island, and Chile), we rented bikes to go around!! When we passed in front of the winery we couldn’t resist!!! But the wine was not really good (and the quantities too small)… but they had blue cheese… And I love it!!! (Romain preferred garlic bread…)

The next morning we did a boat ride on the lake. A whole life is organized on the lake. Houses built on stilts, with canals instead of streets and boats instead of cars are everywhere on the lake. Even the gardening is made on the water…a real floating garden! The market is also on boats! (Unfortunately we couldn’t see it because it was full moon and there is no market on full moon)

During our tour we also visited many temples, pagodas and monasteries, but also a lot of small handmade shops. Do you know that lotus is used to make string and then fabrics that are sold 7 times more than silk???

We met « long neck women », these Burmese women wear big necklaces which give an impression of a very long neck. It was astonishing to see them “in live” but we think that these women were only “paid to be long neck women” so that tourists can buy their cotton scarves…

Our tour ended with a cigar factory made with banana leaves, and filled with tobacco mixed with anise and other plants or spices!

 Even if the visit of the lake is very touristic, we really enjoyed it and we highly recommend it !

Bago : New games for our collection

We went to Bago, a city well known for its temples, monasteries and pagodas…But the entrance fees are 10 $ each!!! And as we will see other religious sites later, we preferred to visit a local school!!!
It is not easy to be understood in Myanmar… But we were lucky to meet a mother who speaks a little bit English. She helped us to explain our project to the head master and as usual we spent a great time with the children.

The oldest ones were busy, so we went in the classroom of the younger ones. In one single room, 3 classes sat on the floor. The oldest ones (6 years old) showed us 2 new games! In the first one, children make a circle. One player is inside the circle and one is outside. The circle sings and turns. The player outside of the circle has to catch the player inside. He can do what he wants: stay outside or go inside the circle, but the one inside the circle cannot go outside. It is funny to look at, but it is not clearly “organized”! 

In the second game, children make a column and hold each others’ shoulders. One player is alone, facing the column. He has to catch the last child of the column without getting caught by the others! Again, a lot of laughs in the classroom!! But nothing compared to the noise they made when we explained (and demonstrated) them the game “I lost a letter”!!! They really enjoyed it!!! (at least as much as we did!!)

Last but not least, we took the traditional group picture and them we let them learn… The head master offered us some drinks and we discussed for a while. School is free and mandatory in Myanmar but we noticed something (we didn’t dear to talk about it): There are as many girls and boys in the young classes but when we looked at the oldest class (10 years old), only few girls attended the lesson… And unfortunately we saw a lot of young girls working on the street market! We cannot make any conclusion, as it is only an observation but it is a point to consider!!!

Hmm, well, I guess you want to know why the children have some “make –up” on their faces? Actually it is not “make-up”, it is called “Thanaka”. Thanaka is used to protect the skin against the sun, the heat… but it is also an antiseptic, a deodorising and a perfume… We thought it was like clay but it is made of…. Wood!!! This “medicinal” wood is transformed into powder by shredding it against a rock. This powder is humidified and you get the Thanaka. Everyone use it, women, men and children! 


Yangon and Kinpun : Welcome to Myanmar

Hey, sorry fo the late update but internet in Myanmar is like trying to find French Cheese with row milk....very difficult ;-) 

Even if everybody still think about « Burma », this country has a new name (Myanmar) since 1989. (Because Burma only refers to one tribe, and there are more than 100). Myanmar is “free” since 1948… the word « independent » is more appropriated because the government is still in the hands of the army !

After these few geo political explanations, let’s go back to our adventure ! We arrived in Yangon (before called Rangoon but it was the British name and after the independency, the country changed the name), which is not anymore the capital of Myanmar (Now it’s Napyidaw). Like most big cities, there is a lot of noise, of traffic (even if Yangon didn’t seem “traffic jammed”) and “few” sightseeing! (Thus the colonial area is nice to visit)

But discovering  the Schwedagon Pagoda is worth it. It is the most sacred site of the country. The pagoda is 99 meters high, covered by gold and incrusted with thousands of diamonds, rubies and sapphires. Hundreds of Buddha, a lot of gold and a peaceful place. We enjoy this visit even if the LED- aureole are a bit “too much”!

After these 2 days in the noise, we took a bus to the “Golden Rock”. The Golden Rock is located on the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo and it is also a sacred site for pilgrims. A 7,6 meter tall rock with a pagoda on top stands on the edge of the mountain at 1100 meters above sea level. The legend says that this rock only stands because of a Buddha’s hair. Male pilgrims put gold leaves on the rock.

We could have climb to the rock but we took the local way to go: a big truck where 50 people are put in…. Very funny!!! 

Thailand - Celebration of the festival of Lights (Loy Krathong)

Thailand was not on our “travel map” (As we’ve been there 2 years ago) but our Indian via was expiring just before the festival of Lights. And as we had to fly through Bangkok to go to Myanmar, we decided to make a 10 day stop in Thailand and explore the North.

First we went to Chiang Mai where Loy Krathong is very well celebrated. This festival occurs each year at the 12th full moon of the Thai calendar. “Loy” means “to float” in Thai. Like the tradition says, people put some “krathongs” on the water. A “krathong” is a small floating boat made with banana leaves and decorated with flowers, a candle and 3 incense sticks. The meaning of this boat is to abandon your fears, your anger and your resentment… to be free from all your negative and hard feelings accumulated during the year. Putting a Krathong in the water is a good way to well start the year. Candle is here to honour Buddha.

The origin of Loy Krathong is to be find in the Hindu festival Diwali which celebrates and honours the Goddess of the Ganges. During that festival, people put candles on the Ganges. 

In Chiang Mai there is also a specific tradition : people launch hundreds of lanterns in the sky: this paper balloons, heated by a candle, go high in the sky like hundreds of stars. It is also a good time to have fun with fireworks and crackers! 
Loy Krathong is celebrated during several days (between 3 and 6 depending on where you are) and is accompanied with parades, and dancers, all dressed with traditional clothes and lights of course !

We really enjoyed being in Chiang Mai because it remembered us our first holidays in this country and it was like a « test » for our world trip !

We also spend time with Emeric, Romain’s colleague who also took few months off to travel ! 

We then spent our few last days in the North of the country. In Chiang Dao we did a short jungle trek but most important, we met really nice people : Michel and Jennifer, a Dutch couple and Martin and Sarah, a Swiss couple. Together we had fun, played billiard, drunk cocktail (with moderation…), and had a bath in hot springs !

In Chiang Rai we were amazed by the beauty of the White Temple. It is a modern temple with traditional aspects! Incredible how incredible it is!!

We flew from Chiang Rai to Yangon in Myanmar but until the last moment we were really scared… In fact, we read “too quickly” the Myanmar Immigration website and we thought we could get our visa on arrival. But 3 days before our flight, we checked again and we realized that this visa on arrival was not for tourism purpose! We did our application for an E-visa, but this can take up to 5 days… The day of our flight, we didn’t receive the confirmation of our visa, so we flew to Bangkok and we were almost going to cancel the next flight to Myanmar but just at the airport we received our E visas! Wahoo, that was short but we got it!!!

See you then in Myanmar!!!

We have a dream… One day, the Children Rights will be respected !!!

….Unfortunately it is still a dream…. It is a pity, because having Rights is such an important thing!!

UNO has always been fighting for Peace in the World, but peace can only exist if every Human Being has rights. And children have specific needs, so it is normal that they also have specific Rights. In 1959, UNO adopted the Declaration of the Children Rights and this Declaration was completed by a Convention in 1989.

On the 20thNovember 2014, we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Children Rights Day!

Those Rights are listed below:

1. The right to equality, without distinction on account of race, religion or national origin.

2. The right to special protection for the child’s physical, mental and social development.

3. The right to a name and a nationality.

4. The right to adequate nutrition, housing and medical services.

5. The right to special education and treatment when a child is physically or mentally handicapped.

6. The right to understanding and love by parents and society.

7. The right to recreational activities and free education.

8. The right to be among the first to receive relief in all circumstances.

9. The right to protection against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation.

10. The right to be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, and universal brotherhood.

Unfortunately, specifically today, a lot of children have their Rights violated ! And sometimes you just need to open your eyes and watch carefully to discover that it is not necessary to be in a so-called poor country to face this situation!!!

The Children Rights were yours few years ago!!! One day, our country, our world, will be governed by our children… So in the hope of having a better world one day, we need to fight to make these Rights being respected EVERYWHERE, EVERYTIME!!! As these children, who give their smiles to this cause, stand up and talk!!!!

We have a dream…. One day, everybody will understand why having Right sis so important and why we need to respect them !!!   

Corinne, Jules - France, Sangeeta, Riya, Priya, Jai Prakash - India with the sign "Please respect the rights of all children of the world"

Riya, Priya - India

Vasnave - India

Ronhan, Honey, Daljeet - India

Suma - India
Poe - Myanmar

Snow - Myanmar

Me Me - Myanmar

Su - Myanmar

Thita - Myanmar

24 April 2014 – 24 November 2014 – The Light My Fire Adventure blog is going on !!!

7 months already that we are traveling and that we try to share our experience and feelings with you! 7 months already that we are carrying our backpacks (heavy sometimes) and that we are sleeping in a new bed almost every evening! 7 months already that YOU are following our outdoor adventure!! 7 months already that the Light My Fire sporks are giving away here and there on Earth….

7 months already that we are having fun and sharing smiles with children from all around the world ! With a ball, a skipping rope, singing or just running together, playing is universal. And if there are some differences in some places, games are very similar, just the language is different sometimes!! 

We are amazingly surprized and happy each time we share moments with kids. They don’t have fear, they don’t judge you…. If only grown-ups could sometimes imitate children….

And 7 months already that we realize a lot of things:

-                                                Going on an adventure can be seen like a challenge but we realized that only the first step (« i’ll do it ») is difficult… When you want to do something, everything appears clear to your mind and the way is easy to follow !

-                                                 Some « things » of our « consumer life » are non-necessary (or at least don’t need as much care as we do) and sometimes they refrain you from doing “interesting things”…. You can easily replace the television screen by playing cards or just a “discussion evening”
                          Carrying a lot of stuff in our backpacks (like tent and mattresses) can be difficult in local transports but it is so nice to be able to camp everywhere, to have our own “cosy home” instead of sharing a dark and noisy dorm!!! And in our tent we can also hear a lion roaring (or maybe it was our snoring guide??? We didn’t check!!!

-                                                 Discovering new cultures, and new people every single day can be tiring or at least confusing but it is a great exercise for shy people!!! And what a good surprise when you find yourself eating a Swiss cheese fondue in Jakarta by 35 degrees with a Muslim family or when you visit a fort with an Indian family who wants their children to “discover the world”!!! Best moments are the ones we share with people!!!

-                                              Traveling is also discovering ourselves… and growing-up in a way!!! Together we can easily see those changes!! Romain is less shy but he is more stressed than I am when something unplanned happens. Oddly (I surprise myself) I stay “zen” and calm even when we are in a difficult situation (like when we discovered 3 days before our flight to Myanmar that we needed a visa which takes up to 5 days!!!)

-                                              Going on an adventure makes you realize how lucky you are to have such a great family, great friends and of course great blog readers!!!!

-                                               From a down to Earth point of view, spending 7 days a week (or almost) in the Great Outdoor where the climate is sunny makes you have a nice brownish skin without any effort !!! Travelling makes you look good!!!

-                                               « Living outside » makes you realize that the nature is beautiful but if we don’t take care about it, it will be lost sooner as we think ! We don’t need to be ecologist activists but we can try to make simple things like saving water, switching off lights when not in use, recycling…. The words “Water – shortage” take all their meaning in some parts of the world and we all have a role to play in it, don’t forget it!!!!

So if you have a dream (no matters which dream it is), just do it!!! Even if you have some troubles or difficulties on your way, you’ll be so happy to achieve your dream… And as the proverb says “Better to live with remorse than with regrets”!!!!

India : The conclusion

After one month and few days in the North of India (Mumbai, Rajasthan, Delhi, Varanasi and Darjeeling), it is time for us to summarize our journey. We really like this huge country but there are still many other places to discover!  

You probably noticed, a lot of negative remarks are about people ‘s behaviour… We are not saying that they are all like this, but a huge majority is... It is probably because the culture gap between s is very big! We are not saying they are bad people or something, and of course we don’t judge them, but for us it was a bit too much and sometimes we felt uncomfortable with such behaviours!

Fortunately, India is a beautiful country with a lot of traditions, different cultures and of course delicious food!

Darjeeling : fresh air and India from another angle !!!

After one month with very high temperatures, we needed fresh air. So we went to Darjeeling in the North of India, in the mountains. Darjeeling is also well known for its tea plantations. Here, inhabitants look like Nepalese and have a different culture.

After 13 hours of train and 4 hours with a jeep, we are now at 2070m above sea level and the temperature is about 15 degrees!!

The city is very beautiful but the streets are steep. We took the “Toy Train”. It is a train built by the British between 1879 and 1881. The distance between rails is only 61 cm. That is why we call it Toy Train. It starts rom 121 m above sea level to arrive at 2017 m above sea level; The length of the route is 82km. We took it only until Ghoom (8 km from Darjeeling) with the steam engine locomotive. 

When we arrived at the train station, technicians were already preparing the locomotive and putting coal in the big oven. We starting with the traditional horn of the train and we really enjoy the ride. Rails follow the road and sometimes you have the feeling you are inside a shop!! SO lovely!! But don’t be in a hurry: 40 minutes for 8 kilometres!

The famous Darjeeling tea is usually exported because it is very expensive… and in restaurant, when you ask for Darjeeling tea you usually get a fake tea… so we leave this place without tea but with pictures (and that’s already enough)

We spent the rest of our stay in a 3 day trek in the Singalila National park. 65 kilometres on foot in 3 days with a sunrise on Mount Everest when we were at 3636 meters above sea level!!! Beautiful!! It really worth the trip… and we don’t tell you about the vodka and whisky shared with our new friends!!

We leave India with a warm jacket… and with a new vision of this incredible country!