17 Oct 2013

We've moved!

Thanks for visiting our blog! 

We've moved to www.paddyandmaddy.wordpress.com so please head there to read about our latest adventures. 

Much love!
Maddy & Paddy xxx

29 Aug 2013

How Did We Spend Our First Wedding Anniversary?

Dearest lovelies, 

Those of you who are on Facebook will have seen us post all sorts of lovey-dovey messages and photos about our first wedding anniversary. We can hardly believe it's been one whole year since this...

So how to celebrate? 

Maddy is a huge fan of Royal anything, and Paddy likes to keep Maddy happy so...

Behold, the royal receiving wat where up until 1975, the king of Laos graciously received his visitors...

Unfortunately we had to put our handbags and cameras in lockers so no photos of the amazing rooms and exhibits, but the bit that we were allowed to photograph was a very impressive wat within the grounds, which reminded Maddy of the ballroom in Sound of Music actually! 

The very intricately carved ceiling


Looking through the royal carrying box....

Help! I'm stuck in a gold palace!
For our special anniversary dinner we chose to eat at Tamarind, which is a restaurant which introduces Westerners to Lao food with taster dishes, and explanations given by the super friendly waiters. We had read rave reviews about it, and as soon as we walked in and met the manager Rudy, it was a hit for us! 

We drank champagne, toasted the future and ate delicious food. We highly recommend the Laos taster plate and the stuffed lemongrass - om nom nom. 

Thank you for all your lovely messages of congratulations and love from all our lovely family, friends, and all the support we receive from Balanced View

We love you too!

Maddy and Paddy xxx

Dang! Luang Prabang, You're Beautiful!

Gorgeous painted bamboo plates at the market
WOW! Luang Prabang! What an amazing and beautiful place!

So, Luang Prabang is actually on a peninsula between the Mekong and the Nam Khan rivers. Needless to say, they're both very, very big, especially in monsoon season. They kind of make the Thames look like a babbling brook. 

For those fact fans out there, here's the location of Luang Prabang in Laos!
Close-up view of the town
Once we arrived here after our beautiful two day journey down the mighty Mekong we completely fell in love with this luscious green town. We were a little worried because August is the rainiest month of the rainy season, but that's nothing some stylish 
umbrellas couldn't fix. Plus rain in 30 degrees makes it all a little easier to bear!

Side note: As soon as we landed in town, we sat down for a cold drink before heading off for the usual guesthouse search, and before we knew it we were befriended by a very sweet little boy named Alan who had six toes! Yes count them, 6 bad boys!

It's a wonderful town to walk around in, with luscious greenery everywhere, and amazing views of the water, the surrounding jungle-y hills and temples at every turn. 

Something we kept spotting everywhere we walked was a gold temple up on the hill, and so it was that we found ourselves climbing the 400 slippy steps (see aforementioned rainy season) up Mount Phu Si (pronounced Poo-see) where we saw an imprint of Buddha's foot (!), several gold Buddhas, and an almighty view over all over Luang Prabang. Look, Maddy even stood on the edge! (talk about resting with your fears)

Imprint of Buddha's foot......


Of course, we sampled the delights of traditional Lao food... 

There's Khao Soi (pork balls in noodle soup)...

These little bad boys look like blinis but taste sort of like custardy pancakes, served up in banana leaves and are sold as street snacks straight off the pan. They are delicious!

And oh boy do they like their barbecues..nice of bit of ping sin (grilled pork) Paddy? It's a buffet for a quid a head - let's dig in! Now we're ready for the deep fried spiders and grilled snake in Cambodia (uh...)

There were also stalls full of who-knows-what-part-of-the-animal of which we did NOT take photos but instead have a photo of Maddy's reaction to said stalls.

Of course Laos used to be a French colony, and the influence is obvious in several different ways. The main one? BAGUETTES. Oh bread, how we have missed thee (but not the pounds you have added to our tummies).

The beautiful teak buildings are a reminder that this part of Laos is completely surrounded by teak groves. Makes everything look very luscious, particularly when posing next to nice cars, of which there are many down the more expensive end of town. Simon just borrowed this one for the day.

We also visited the beautiful Wat Xieng Thong. This wat was built in 16th century and it is considered one of the most important of Lao monasteries as up until 1975, all Lao kings were crowned there. The complex consists of over 20 structures of different sparkly pavilions and shrines.

This mosaic on the back wall of the main wat depicts the tree of life.
Maddy fell in love with all the blue and green mosaics...

That's a nice blue!
We also celebrated our first wedding anniversary in this beautiful town, but more on that in a later post...

On our final day in Luang Prabang, Maddy had some admin to do (work, eh?!) so Paddy took himself off for a cycle ride to some local waterfalls...they were truly stunning. (Side note from Maddy: almost jealous, but then she heard about the snake eating the lizard and thought maybe not)

Luang Prabang - we love you!

With love from Laos,
Maddy and Paddy xxx

28 Aug 2013

Catching Up: Goa, Goa, Gone! The One Where Maddy's Parents Come to Visit

This post was originally sent out in March by email.

This is part 2 of our adventures in Goa, you can read part 1 here. 

Dearest lovelies, 

So in the last three or four weeks since sending you an instalment of our adventures you will be relieved to hear that no more pig castrations have been witnessed, but lots of deluxe food has been consumed, Madeleine’s parents have been to see us for ten days…

…and we have said our goodbyes to Goa with a tear in our eye. 
So what have we been up to? With Kate & Robert (Maddy’s parents) we visited a spice plantation in the Goa backwaters…

…where Simon just had to try the seventh hottest chili in the world, the piri piri, where he chewed on it without breaking into a sweat (though it did remind him of a rather tempestuous chicken phal he once had in a north London curry house in ’97). We drank fenny out of coconut shells (fermented cashew fruit, hold on to the top of your heads, it’s that strong!)...

…we almost rode an elephant until we realised the ride would be through the car park rather than the plantation, and stocked up on natural oils for Kate and her massage clients. Robert took photos of snakes, and Kate tried not to freak out about the snakes given she was already being terribly brave standing on a bridge with gaps in a la Indiana Jones. We took the ferry over the Tiracol river just north of Arambol...

…and visited Fort Tiracol, drank lime sodas, marvelled at the majestic eagles soaring overhead (Simon counted 16 at one time), enjoyed the beauty of the waves breaking over the barely submerged sandbars that appear at low tide. 

Robert brought his “small” camera to snap away… 

 …whilst Kate and Maddy sat outside St Anthony’s chapel within the fort and reminisced about school days (they went to the same convent school) Kate taught Madeleine this rhyme which you were supposed to say at school whenever you had lost something: 

 “St Anthony, St Anthony, you’re a very holy man, please help me find my (insert lost object) as fast as you can” 

We’ve been to Old Goa which used to be Goa’s capital when the Portuguese still ruled, so think plenty of old churches full of churchy things...

 …and visited 10 rupee museums, filled with huge portraits of stern-looking European men trying not to laugh having just gotten away with pillaging half the local towns. We also learnt what a hero stone was, which was simply a carved bit of stone depicting well, heroic sort of things. Either that or it was depicting a group love-in. Taking a photo in these museums meant a six month stretch in a Goan prison (not for the sensitive souls) so no photo evidence we’re afraid. 

We watched the sun go down over many a gin and tonic in a beachside restaurant, where Robert and Simon calculated that one Goan gin was the equivalent of five UK measures, which explains a lot really... 

We’ve been chilling/clinging in the hammocks at their resort Yab Yum, where Kate & Robert had originally booked into a cottage but after Simon had shown Kate round the cool eco-pods on offer and had reassured her that there were no bugs, they moved in and the hammock clinging could begin… 

We’ve been swimming in the sea, whilst being attacked every which way by strong waves, the shrieks of laughter from Kate and Madeleine could be heard by most of Goa. 

We took Kate & Robert to a Balanced View meeting and everyone was super lovely to them of course, which we think put their minds at ease. The pointed hoods, white robes and virgin sacrifice were saved for another day ;o) They also joined a Community Movie Night where we watched Life of Pi under the stars – an amazing film. 

We’ve eaten amazing food at La Plage (thank you to Jen and Gordon who bought this as a wedding present for us!) – mango and beetroot carpaccio, goat cheese bubbles, tomato crumble, potato ravioli with tomato coulis were all sampled with great relish – yum. 
Maddy's favourite: mango and beetroot carpaccio with goats cheese!

We took them to the now renowned Laughing Buddha for banana lassis and dinner where after a round of musical chairs trying to escape the drunk Americans, Kate tried the infamous Brinjal Rogan Josh having seen us mention it once or twice on this blog – we’re not sure she was as big a fan of it as Simon, so it may be a little while before Waitrose adds this particular curry to their “Foods around the world” section. Madeleine took Kate shopping to the local market – haggling for beautiful fabrics and blinged up edging so Kate can make some dresses when she gets back to the UK. 

After we waved a sad goodbye to Kate & Robert, we immersed ourselves in volunteering at the Balanced View centre. Madeleine got up at 6.30am to juice, blend and chop in the kitchen, surprising all and sundry, not least her husband who had yet to witness such a monumental event, whilst Simon donned his sublime figure-hugging rose printed apron and rubber clogs once more to help prep delicious brunches. 

As we write this (and we assure you, contrary to some opinions, we both write this blog for you all to enjoy), we are on a hot and sticky train heading north to Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas. 

We will be travelling for about 40 hours but by the time we send this out to you we will have arrived safely in Rishikesh. So now to the “real” India, no more medium rare rump steak with Roquefort sauce nestling beside a crispy Laotian salad and wasabi mash, washed down with a cheeky Sauvignon. 

It is now to £1 thalis, skipping hastily between cow poos and monkeys on the road, chai so sweet it makes your fillings dissolve, and beggars dressed in orange thrusting their shaky bowls at you. 

Until next time… 

With much love as always Maddy and Paddy xxx

17 Aug 2013

Two Days, One Boat: Meandering Down the Mighty Mekong

We had read all about the delights of travelling for two days by slowboat from Thailand to Luang Prabang (there is also a fast 8 hour boat, but you have to wear safety helmets and shout at each other to be heard, uh..no thanks) and so it was that we found ourselves on a bus to the Thai border one Monday morning, ready for the journey, with soft cushions in hand - we'd heard that 2 day numb bum wasn't much fun, so we were prepared!

It's quite an easy ride from Chiang Mai to the border, you get a nice posh a/c bus to Chiang Rai with free water and a sticky bun, and then change to a hot and sticky local bus, full of smiling old Thai ladies who kindly shuffled along so we could sit together, delighted to meet two falang (Thai word for foreigners) who thanked them in Thai ("Kob koon ka" if you're a girl, "Kob koon krap" if you're a chap) which widened their gap-toothed smiles even more. 

This is the first time we've mentioned the Mekong but definitely not the last as it will feature heavily in our travels through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Simply put, it's beautiful, and very big! 
The view from our guesthouse on the Thai border! We can see Laos on the opposite bank!

So, how long is the Mekong river? Pretty bloomin' long at 4800km (you could theoretically get a boat from Vietnam to China, although it might take you a little while, and there probably isn't a cushion thick enough to sit on for that amount of time!)


Arriving in Chiang Khong, the market town on the Thai border that is slowly turning its head in the tourism direction, and stayed at a beautiful guesthouse right on the river, and enjoyed the view with a cold beer of course!

Information Bit: We had to queue to get exit stamp on Thai side, then take a long tail boat ride (people over 5ft = not comfy!) across the river to Huay Xai, queue to get our Laos visa $35, complete two forms and take a passport photo (we have no shortage of multiple sizes!), take a songthaeuw 50THB per person to the slow boat port. If you book in advance it will cost more but will provide that peace of mind, however we like to live dangerously here in the Noble household and booked there on the spot, with no problem whatsoever. Cost 900THB each.

Long boat seating four across, small food and beer stall at the back, western toilets. and plenty of noisy passengers including Germans, French, Italians, monks, Laotians, Hmong (hill tribe in Thailand and Laos), Thai, Chinese, Japanese. And some small cute kids who serve us drinks and who we hope are the children of the people who run this boat. Something we won't want to think about too deeply, but one was particularly keen that Paddy should take his photo.

The Beauty Bit:
Views on the Mekong - chocolate muddy water, rips (underground eddys), rapids, black volcanic rock, driftwood (so much that we have to turn the boat around in along the way so as to rid ourselves of the wood caught underneath), golden wats buried deep on the hillside, huts, cows taking shade under the trees, pink and black buffalo cooling themselves in the water, with limestone cliffs looming up and over the river, and a sleepy Paddy making occasional 'Nam references mentioning the Mekong. This may be the beginning of a trend. 

The clouds are practically violet against the dramatic cloud formations, and the lush green hillside. One of the many upsides of arriving during the rainy season is the luscious scenery.

So there we were on the boat to Laos PDR (PDR officially means the People's Democratic Republic -  yes, it's communist - but the local joke is that it also means "please don't rush", so all timings are approximate. It actually bears a startling similarity to Irish time, where "I'll be with you in an hour" means an impatient Brit and a faffing Irishman need to compromise...

With much sleepy love from us to you all,

Maddy and Paddy xxx