LifeStyleBreak: Cambodia - complex of Angkor

the former capital of the Khmer Empire

Around 2:00 am we arrive at our destination. We quickly find a hotel and go to sleep to regenerate our strength for the next day. We plan to visit the biggest attraction in this part of Asia, which attracts crowds of tourists from all over the world, namely the ruins of Angkor.

The historic city complex of Angkor is a remnant of the former capital of the Khmer Empire. In modern Khmer language, Angkor means "capital" or "holy city". The Khmer Empire is considered a continuation of Funan (1st century BC - 6th century AD) and the later Chenla kingdom (7th - 8th century), the earlier states of Indochina in the lower Mekong region, and is officially recognized as the state from which it was constituted today's Kingdom of Cambodia. The Angkor Monument Complex consists of many stone buildings, cities, temples, woodlands and water reservoirs covering an area of ​​over 300 km², located a few kilometers from Siem Reap. It is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is considered the largest city in the world in the period before the industrial revolution. It is estimated to have a population of about a million, while at the same time London's population was 50,000.

We decide to spend two or three days on sightseeing. As we did not have much sleep last night, on the first day we move around the complex by tuk-tuk. Our driver, who had brought us to the hotel the night before, turned out to be a very nice and helpful person. He took us around places in the far corners of the complex, spending the whole day with us. First, we visit the ruins of a small temple of Prasat Kravan. Built in the 10th century, a group of five red brick towers was dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. Then we go to the Buddhist temple of Banteay Kdei. It was built at the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries during the reign of King Jayanarman VII. Another place is a Buddhist temple built in the 12th century, dedicated to the mother of the current ruler. It is one of the showpieces of Angkor, and it owes it to its unique appearance, as if from the Indiana Jones movies. Looking at this place, you have the impression that the jungle wanted to take over this building, growing its huge roots into the walls of the building, breaking it piece by piece. No wonder that the makers of the Tomb Rider movie chose this place for their movie set.

Another facility, we like it very much. It is the temple-hill Ta Keo. It resembles a little of the pyramids found in South and Central America. The possibility of going up the steep stairs and the view of the surrounding jungle provide many positive impressions. Just before the lunch break, we visit two more places, Chau Say Tevoda and Thommanon. These are Hindu temples from the 12th century dedicated to the gods of Shiva and Vishnu. They were built during the reign of Suryavarman II.

During a lunch break, we come across one of the monkeys living in this area. In addition to them, the whole stay here is accompanied by the sounds of parrots living in the surrounding trees. After lunch, we visit the temples of Bayon, built of 54 towers, on which there are 216 faces looking down on the surroundings. To wait until the sun goes down, we walk towards the pyramidal temple of Baphuon. Unfortunately, only one of us visits it, as Viola had been denied an entry. The reason is inadequate clothing, i.e. bare knees, and shoulders. To admire the sunset, we go to Phnom Bakheng, a temple located on a hill. After reaching the top, it turns out that we must stand in a queue of over a hundred people to get to a place from which you can see the setting sun. As not long ago we had the opportunity to admire a similar show on the Mekong river, we give up and return to the hotel.

In the evening we visit Siem Reap, which scares us a bit. The city is full of tourists, bars, restaurants, ladyboys and other things drawn from the world of the west. This is not what we want to see in Asia. Tomorrow we are taking a break from the ruins of Angkor, so maybe during the day, when the crowds are busy sightseeing, we will be able to find better sides of the city.


“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes


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LifeStyleBreak: Cambodia - crossing the borders


The inevitable day has come, and we must say goodbye to Laos. Our next destination, Cambodia, is just on the other side of the river. However, we still have a long journey ahead of us. We decided to go directly to Siem Reap, which if famous for Angkor Wat Temple. The main roads lead through Kompong Cham, which makes the route much longer. On the island of Don Det, it was possible to buy a bus ticket at a tourist agency, but we wanted to arrange the transport ourselves. We get up in the morning and after saying goodbye to our host family, we take a boat to Ban Nakasang. There, we bypass another travel agency and look for a different way to get to the border. We meet a nice couple from Holland, who has the same goal as us, so we join forces and after a few minutes we go towards the border by a tuk-tuk.

The land borders of Cambodia are infamous for the bribery practices of customs officers who add extra money for obtaining a visa. First you need an exit stamp from Laos, for which you have to pay! When it is time to get a visa to Cambodia, even though the price on the embassy website is $20, the guards ask $25! We decided to fight it, and we were probably not the first ones, as the guards knew how to deal with it. There is no information about these fees anywhere. In the event of a refusal to pay, the guards refuse to stamp the visa. When asked where the money is going to, or when asked about an invoice for the fee, they turn their heads and throw our passports without stamps. The other ways don't work either. If you don't have money, borrow from a friend. If you are alone, borrow from the guide who brought you to the borders. If you don't have one, borrow from the driver who takes you to Cambodia. If you didn’t buy a ticket yet, sit down and wait. At repeated visa requests, the guards, who are also policemen, start to get irritated. In order not to get into unnecessary trouble, we give up paying a total of $8 extra. We know it's not much money, but the fact that they openly rob people did not seem right.

While we were fighting the injustice, our Dutch friends found out about further transport. We managed to find a bus to Siem Reap with a change in Kompong Cham. And since Jacklyn liked to bargain, she managed to get tickets at a good price. We get to Kompong Cham around 20:00, where after an hour we are taken by another bus to Siem Reap. We look forward meeting Southeast Asia's greatest attraction.

“I travel because it makes me realize how much I haven’t seen, how much I’m not going to see, and how much I still need to see.” – Carew Papritz

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In total, we spent five nights on the Don Det island. Mainly focusing on relaxing and resting. We felt like on a real vacation. Daily breakfasts by the river or lunch at beautiful sunsets, walks around the island and watching how the locals live caused our pulse to drop significantly. We do not remember when we were so relaxed. The weather was perfect, most of the time the sky was clear which forced us to get off the hammocks and go to the beach. It was not the most beautiful one, but that was not important.

Going to the land of 4,000 islands, you have a choice of three islands where you can stay. The largest of them is Don Khong, which is said to have nothing but hotels. However, we have heard from other travelers that the scenery is incredibly beautiful and very friendly people live there. You can explore the whole island by bike visiting places and meeting locals who have not seen a tourist many times, which makes such a meeting much more interesting. The next one is Don Khon which we visited. As we wrote earlier, it is famous for its waterfalls and the possibility of seeing river dolphins. Finally, Don Det, the island where we stayed. We got to its northern tip from Ban Nakasang. Most of the places where you can stay on the island are small bamboo houses. We chose one located right by the river with a view to the west, which gave us the opportunity to admire the spectacular sunset from our hammocks, and the price of $3.50 per night made it an irresistible offer. Of course, the luxuries were not there, but we do not need them. When going to the islands, we advise you to be prepared in terms of cash to avoid unnecessary fees. There is no ATM or bank on the islands and the exchange rate is poor. It is possible to exchange travelers' checks for a slightly larger commission, or to take the so-called cash back in one of the bars, also with extra charges. Internet in cafes is slow and several dozen times more expensive than on the land. Fortunately, many restaurants have free wi-fi at not the worst speed. We even managed to chat a few times on Skype. Prices in bars and restaurants do not differ from those seen on the counter. The development of the island is not impressive, but you must know that electricity has only been available there for the last three years! This is as much information as we were able to gather. Tomorrow we are leaving Laos and setting out to conquer Cambodia.



It was our second country visited in Asia. We have already heard the opinions that there are not many attractions in Laos, and 4-5 days should be enough to visit it. Of course, we do not share this opinion, which over 2 weeks spent here may prove it. Indeed, there are not so many places, but where they are, the atmosphere is so unique that you do not feel like leaving. Nature is another factor that makes this country worth visiting. Laos is one great green and lush land, with picturesque mountains, majestic waterfalls, and a multitude of beautifully situated temples. Local cuisine can also be another reason for a visit. The food is delicious, and the price makes it impossible to stop trying more. But what will most be remembered after visiting this country are its people. Smiling, cheerful, friendly, kind, warm-hearted, polite - one could just exchange words like that. Probably never in our life, in such a short time, have we picked up and sent so many greetings to people who are completely strangers to us. This is evidenced by the fact that after a few days, involuntarily, we were able to greet and thank each other in the local language, as probably all visitors to this wonderful corner of the world. Laotians are very respectful, and they enjoy life. We once read that when a Laotian man does not enjoy his work, he changes it for another, even less paid, as long as it only brings joy. What an approach to life, nothing but applause.

So, we recommend Laos to everyone. Everyone will find something for themselves here. And do not be surprised if you stay longer than you assumed. It’s time for us to move on, and start exploring another country. We will miss Laos, its people and the most their famous greetings SABADI!


“You don’t have to be rich to travel well.” – Eugene Fodor


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LifeStyleBreak: Laos - the land of 4000 islands


Unfortunately, our adventure with the Bolaven plateau is coming to an end. We move on, and the next destination is "the land of 4000 islands". It is a place where the Mekong River, which flows as far as from Tibet, slows down, and widens. A multitude of islands and islets have arisen here, the number of which is said to be 4,000. This is where we decide to "charge the batteries" before our next adventures, by enjoying laziness. It will be our main activity for the next few days.

First, we get to the village of Ban Nakasang, where we take a boat, which takes us to the island of Don Det. We find accommodation in a bamboo house right on the river’s banks. We lay down on hammocks hanging in front of our door, and while relaxing, we watch the local fishermen and the view of the Cambodia stretching on the other side of the river. The day said goodbye to us with a wonderful sunset.


As one day of lazing around is enough for us, we decide to spend today’s day actively. We rent bikes and go to explore the island of Don Khon, lying right next to Don Det. We get there by crossing the concrete bridge that connects the two islands. We visit three waterfalls lying close to each other. At this point, the Mekong again turns into a rushing and dangerous river. The scenery is amazing. Lots of huge rocks between which the water flows, creating loud and impressive waterfalls. We observe how the locals catch fish. They hold two crossed bamboo sticks in their hands with a net on the end. It looks like a very large landing net, which they dip in the water every now and then to pull fish the size of sardines. It looks like a hard and dangerous job, as you have to repeat it many times, standing on the edge of a rock by a rushing river. After catching a certain amount of fish, they spread them on the rocks heated by the sun, probably waiting for the sun to dry them. There is a beach nearby where we decide to relax and cool off in the waters of the river. This is where the rocks shield against a strong current, creating something like a swimming pool. However, we must be careful, because a few meters further the water rushes at great speed.

After cooling off, we continue our trip, stopping from time to time to replenish the liquid, a meal or another relaxation in the waters of the Mekong. This way, we reach the place where we hope to see one of the greatest attractions of the island. These are the river dolphins found in these waters. It is an endangered species, and the number inhabiting these areas is only 20 individuals. These are not dolphinarium type shows. Most often you can spot them in the early morning or just before sunset. As they are wild animals that live in the wild, it is also possible that we will not see them at all. Nevertheless, we decide to try. If we are not able to see them, at least we will be able to admire the sunset from the boat.

We get into the boat and sail to the middle of the wide river at this point, where the water is calm like on a lake. Our steersman turns off the engine, there is silence, we are drifting, waiting in peace. We are surrounded by green islands. You can hear the voices of children playing on the Cambodian side, where the setting sun will hide in a few minutes. Suddenly there is a whistle in the distance. A whistle of blowing air. It is there! We can see them! One of the dolphins emerged to get air. Second one after a while! Awesome! Even though we can see them only in the distance, and only for a fraction of a second, it is an amazing experience. It is so different from watching captive animals in a zoo or dolphinarium. A wild, free creature in its natural habitat, behaving in its natural way, is a priceless sight. The sun is slowly hiding behind the islands, coloring the sky in various shades of red. In total, we manage to spot these beautiful mammals several times. One even emerged relatively close.

Full of delight, we return to our bamboo house. We cover most of the route in the dark. Headlamps illuminating our path, also help to avoid buffaloes, cows, and frogs.


“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson


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LifeStyleBreak: Laos - another day in the land of waterfalls

The Bolaven Plateau day 2

The Bolaven Plateau and its natural beauty charmed us so much that we decided to extend our stay here for one more day. This time we start early. Just after 7:00 am we set off to conquer this land again. Today we are taking the direction to waterfalls located by the road from Pakse to Salavan. We have over 200 kilometers to travel, which is a real challenge for us, novice motorcyclists. You might think that we are crazy about waterfalls, and I guess it is a bit like that. After all, who would not like to admire such beautiful wonders of nature, which give you refreshment on hot days.

The first waterfall visited, already seen from the bamboo bridge, makes quite an impression on us. It is not high, but very wide indeed, with many watercourses. Especially in its center you can see its power. In addition to the waterfall, you can also visit the village of a local tribe. They are dressed in their traditional costumes and show how they produce colorful fabrics with different patterns.

We reach the second waterfall after several dozen minutes. It is 10 kilometers from the main road and that is probably why we are here alone. The river in this place is very rushing. Flowing between enormous boulders, it creates a few smaller but impressive water drops. The water is so turbulent that it turns brown due to the rising mud from the riverbed.

We go to the third, called Tat Lo, excited, because, as the guide shows, you can take a bath there. It is highly recommended on this hot day. On the spot, it turns out that the current is quite strong, and we end up getting only our hands and legs wet. A little disappointed, we go to the last waterfall today. We do not know yet that it will turn out to be the one we will probably remember the most.

The waterfall is located a short distance from the previous one. As we arrive, we see two signs pointing to two different directions. We take the road to the left, and then turn right immediately entering the very center of the tiny village. It is not a village on the main road, as seen by us before. We are going between the houses and the residents, paying attention to everyone. We make sure that this is the right path, which ends soon anyway. From the entrance to the village, we were accompanied by a few local boys who ran behind and in front of us, guiding us to the right place. We see an information sign. We have 600 meters to walk. The group of boys is still with us, showing the way. We pass the river, where the cows graze, and the locals plant vegetables. Then we go through the forest to get to the huge boulders along which a path leads. Our little guides know these areas very well. They move very smoothly, sometimes leaving us behind. Our goal can be seen in the distance. Against the background of a huge wall, we can see two rather poor waterfalls. The wall is several dozen meters high and about a hundred meters wide. We are getting closer and closer. The scenery around us is amazing. It looks like we are walking on a dry bed of a huge river, which probably fills with hectolitres of water during the rainy season. We feel terribly small here. Our companions suggest approaching the wall, where it is possible to take a bath. We like this idea right away. They also show us their fun. Using slippery rock surface, they slide downward, landing in the water below. We join them. The fun is great. Even a group of Thai tourists joined us. Our little friends did a great job. Now we want to pay them back somehow. Unfortunately, we have nothing interesting with us. After returning to the bike, we give them all our sweets and throw in some cash. The idea with money is not the best, but we were not prepared for such a situation. The little ones with a smile on their faces receive their reward, and the shyness with which they do it makes us realize that they deserve it one hundred percent.


“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” – Randy Komisar


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LifeStyleBreak: Laos - in the land of waterfalls

the Bolaven Plateau

The reason why we stopped in Pakse is the Bolaven Plateau located nearby. It is famous mainly for its coffee plantations, which are exported all over the world. But it was not coffee that brought us here. We are more interested in the natural environment of this region, especially in the numerous waterfalls. To visit them, we rent a motorbike. We choose the direction to the village of Paxong, 50 kilometers away. On this route we visit four waterfalls. One of them is the twin Tat Fan waterfall. These are two watercourses located next to each other, falling into a 120-meter deep precipice. Along the way, they crash into the rocks, presenting a wonderful spectacle. We admire it only from a distance as the way to the waterfalls is a few hours walk through the jungle.

Tad Yuang is another very impressive product of nature. Several dozen meters high, surrounded by beautiful vegetation. It makes a huge impression on us. First, we come to the very edge, where there is an amazing view of the deviation where the water falls. Then we go to the bottom, where the breeze is so strong that after a few minutes we are all wet. On the way back, one of the local girls shows us a huge spider, like we saw during our visit to Kong Lo Cave. It turned out that they are not dangerous, and in addition they are on the menu of local cuisine.

The third waterfall is Tad Charpee. To get to it, you must go down a very impressive ladder made of branches and roots growing out of the neighbouring trees. This waterfall, consisting of three watercourses, is not too high, but the possibility of entering behind its curtain makes us incredibly happy. Another attraction is the raft, on which you can swim up to the waterfall by pulling a rope attached to it. Of course, we take an opportunity to experience this.

The last waterfall turned out to be the least attractive of all we saw today, but that does not mean we did not like it. Waterfalls, whether small or large, are always worth a visit. They show how wonderful and fanciful mother nature can be. Those visited in the Bolaven Plateau are surrounded by lush vegetation, which makes them more attractive. We had no problem finding them. They are very well marked.


“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru


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Kong Lo Cave

The company of chickens in our yard turned out not to be such a great idea. All because the rooster started crowing around 5:00 am, knocking us out of sleep. Nevertheless, we get up refreshed. We step in for breakfast at our hosts. We eat an omelette, rice, and papaya salad. We still have some time before departure, which we use for hammocking.

At 10:00 am a tuk-tuk takes us to Kong Lo cave, 42 kilometers away from our accommodation. It is one of the greatest attractions of this part of Laos. Although we have already visited a lot of caves, we cannot wait to see it. We know that this one will be different than all the others. After about an hour we get there. We cross the turquoise river, and enter the cavern of the cave, where a boat is waiting for us. Kong Lo Cave is nothing more than a seven-and-a-half kilometer long tunnel cut by a river, running under a huge mountain. The only light is the flashlight. We get in the boat and drive for a few minutes. After reaching a small beach, we decide to go ashore, and walk through the dry part of the cave admiring stalactites and stalagmites. Then we get back into the boat to continue the cruise on this underground river. Only us and a two-person crew are there. The water level in some places is so low that we must get off and push the boat out into deeper water. Another time the current gets so much stronger that we take water inside. The cave itself is impressive. It flows through many cave chambers, sometimes tens of meters wide. Water drips in many places, we pass fallen tree limbs, and the darkness there makes it an amazing experience. After about an hour we reach the other side of the mountain. There we go out onto the land to take a little break. Nature surprises us again. We see a spider the size of an adult's hand, and then a green-bright snake feeding on a toad. We do not stay there long. Coming back we follow the same road, getting off several times to overcome the shallows. The cave was worth visiting. We were able to see once again how powerful and beautiful nature can be.

Direction - south

The next day we are moving on. As the village has nothing much to offer, there is no need to sit here any longer. We do not really know how we are going to travel, as communication in this part of the country is incomprehensible to us. We sit by the road with our backpacks on the bench, where the tuk-tuk drivers leave. One of them informs us that in half an hour he will leave for the intersection of roads 8 and 13, and there we can catch a transport to the south of the country. At the same time, there is a coach coming in this direction as well. We get in it. After about an hour, we stop at the side of the road and wait for something that only locals know about. After a few minutes, another bus arrives to Pakse. The driver says we can change over. Pakse suits us very well, but how did the driver know about it? It will remain his secret. Tourists probably travel this route very often.

After purchasing the ticket, we sit down comfortably. We have over 300 kilometers to cover. We ride the "highway" number 13 almost all the time. The traffic is not heavy. Only sometimes we pass other road users, and sometimes herds of cows or buffaloes. After a few hours, we stop again, another bus comes, and we must change again. It is hard to understand what is going on.

Finally, we reach our destination around 19:00. We go to the city center about two kilometers. It turns out that everything is full, and it takes us almost two hours to find accommodation. We are forced to take a more expensive hotel. Let's hope it will be worth it. Tomorrow we will be discovering this area, famous for its waterfalls.


“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous


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LifeStyleBreak: Laos - the most peaceful capital in the world

Capital of Laos

We got to the capital of Laos quite smoothly. In total, the trip from Vang Vieng took just over 3 hours. We get off the bus somewhere in a quiet area. We assume that we are on the outskirts of the city. However, after checking the map, it turns out that we are in the centre of the Lao capital. There is an amazing peace here, there are almost no cars on the streets, and we can barely see any people. Most probably, the locals have a day off today, as yesterday's national holiday fell on a Sunday. Indeed, offices, banks and even tourist agencies are closed. We even have a problem with the money exchange, but finally we find something.

Vientiane, or at least its centre, is a bit like a European city. There are many traces of French colonization here. Buildings, roads, the riverside promenade, and finally restaurants and bakeries, all this makes us forget that we are in Asia. Only numerous temples, with their beautifully decorated buildings and gates, remind us of this. The Mekong river flowing on the city border also marks the border with the country of Thailand, which can be seen on the other side. Looks like we will not be staying here for long. We will probably move on tomorrow. This time, for a change, we want to try something that we have not been able to do before, and which should be part of such a trip. We want to get to the next destination by using only a local transportation. Most tourists, as well as us so far, choose transport organized by travel agencies, mainly because it is more convenient, faster, and therefore more expensive. We cannot wait to try the other way.

Local transport

In order not to spend the whole day traveling, we start it quite early. Today we set off towards the Kong Lo cave, located about 350 kilometres from the capital. We want to cover this road using local means of transport. The first step is to walk to Talat Sao Bus Station. We walk from the city centre for about 20 minutes. Once there, we learn from a "helpful" tuk-tuk driver that we must get to another station, Southern Bus Station, located 9 kilometres away from here. He immediately offers us a transport for 20,000 kips per person. When we ask if there is any bus going there, he replies that there is one in an hour and a half, and then lowers the price to 15,000. We notice a bus station information, in which we learn that buses go there every 30 minutes and cost 3,000 kips. We find one, get inside, and go.

"Would you like a grasshopper?"

By taking the local bus to the southern bus station, we can get even closer to the local people, to observe their ways of life and traditions. The bus is almost full. In addition to the passengers, the bus is full of different packages located at the aisle. We are travelling with people with groceries, mothers with children, a monk, and a lady with a huge tray full of some kind of unknown to us food. Another passenger, sitting next to us, bought a bag of this delicacy. Calmly crunching, she noticed that we were staring at her, so she decided to treat us. We politely refuse, noticing exactly what was in the bag. She was eating either fried or baked grasshoppers. We are looking at the technique of their consumption. By holding grasshopper’s legs, she bites off its trunk. Looking at the expression on her face, we concluded that this delicacy must be delicious. It even crosses our minds to try, but maybe not on an empty stomach 😉

We finally get to the south station. Its name comes from the fact that buses depart from it towards the south. We find a bus to Savannakhe, we buy our tickets, but only to Paksan. We want to change there to the next one. We set off at 9:00 am to stop after a minute to load various things on the roof. Meanwhile, people passing the bus selling water, gums, medications, baguettes, or books. It looks a bit chaotic, but also funny. In Paxan they drop us off by the road. After a short research we find out that the next bus will arrive here in about half an hour. They were not wrong. The bus is here, and we are getting on. It is quite full, so we are ending up on the little chairs in the aisle. Thus, we can sit next to the locals who treat us with fruit or rice, another very pleasant experience. The ride is quite good and after three hours we land at the crossroads on roads number 8 and 13. There is already a tuk-tuk waiting for us, to take us to the village of Ban Khoun Kham, 41 kilometres away, also known as Ban Na Hin. This will be our base for the caves we are planning to visit. Looking for accommodation does not take long, as there is only one main street in the village. There is also a market, a few shops, a lot of guesthouses, a few restaurants, and even an ATM.  We decide to accommodate in a bamboo house, on a family plot. It is modest but very cosy, and the fact that chickens run around makes the place even more special. There are hammocks on the porch of our house, on which we relax until the end of the day.

When it comes to traveling with local transport, it was a great idea. It may take more time, but it is by no means more interesting. How much would we miss by travelling in a comfortable, air-conditioned bus.  By the way, we managed to save few pennies for accommodation.


“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson


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