Two days on the Mekong: taking the slow boat from Thailand to Laos

Taking the ‘slow boat to Laos’ is a Southeast Asia backpacker classic, and also a misnomer. The boat actually starts on the Laos side of Laos/Thailand border, so technically you’re not taking it to Laos.

However, it’s still a must-do when you’re in the area and heading to Luang Prabang.

You can book a trip from anywhere in the northern region of Thailand, with many starting off in Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai and booking a package that takes them all the way onto the boat. We decided to make our own way across the border and spend the night before the boat journey in the tiny Laos border town of Houayxay. We took a bus from Chiang Rai across the border, and then teamed up with some other travellers for a tuk-tuk to Houayxay.

A note: I know it’s been almost a year at this point since I was in Southeast Asia, but time has been mostly meaningless for the last 10 months and I still have stories to share. Hopefully this will be helpful to people who are planning their travels for when the world is open again, and entertaining to everyone else in the meantime.

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A small ramble up Strickeen

If you’re looking for a hike around the Killarney area that offers a combination of great views and easy trails, you couldn’t get much better bang for your buck than Strickeen. The mountain’s name is anglicised from Stricín, or “little peak” (-een or -ín is a diminutive suffix as Gaeilge) but while the peak is indeed little (only ~380 elevation gain for a summit height of 440 meters), this 6.5km hike finishes with lovely views of the surrounds, the lakes of Killarney, and the rest of the MacGillycuddy Reeks, such as Carrauntoohil.

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On Top of Ireland… Again

A few weeks ago I found myself standing on the highest point in Ireland after hiking to the summit of Carrauntoohil for the first time. Then, two weeks ago, I made the ascent again. When Steve and I did the hike the first time, heading up the Devil’s Ladder and down the ZigZag route, we had gotten talking to a gentleman near the summit who, it sounded, had done just about every trail on the mountain. He recommended that next time we give the mountain a go, we head via Beenkeragh and Caher, the second and third highest mountains in Ireland, for a more difficult but equally rewarding hike. When we had a string of sunny, summery days, we did just that.

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Off the beaten path around Barley Lake

Most of the trails I hike on are fairly clearly marked, whether it’s the luxe wooden boardwalks of New Zealand’s Great Walks or the rough gravel of a well-trodden route up Carrauntoohil. But sometimes I think it’s fun to leave the comfort of a clear path and get your feet dirty, and luckily I have friends who feel the same way. When I originally moved to Ireland for grad school, Medb was one of my very first friends, and now after international moves and much travel on both of our parts, we are finally living in the same country again. She and her partner Callum are currently on a trip from Dublin to gorgeous West Cork, so yesterday Steve and I headed out to meet them. Medb suggested the Barley Lake walk, but there was conflicting info about it online so none of us really knew what to expect.

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On Top of Ireland

Earlier this week I wrote about three routes I’ve recently hiked in and around Killarney, but there’s a fourth I trekked this week, taking advantage of a weekend of gorgeous weather. Carrauntoohil is the highest mountain in Ireland, and although it’s not particularly impressive compared to the highest mountains in most countries (only 1038m/3047f, not even as tall as the last “top of a country” I’ve visited), it was still a fantastic adventure.

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Three Hikes Around Killarney

Moving to another country is never easy, and even more so during a pandemic. I’m still trying to get my residency card, set up a bank account, etc. etc. And job-hunting during a pandemic, in a small town known mostly for tourism? Nightmare. At least while I’m in the midst of getting all the logistics sorted out and sending an endless stream of CVs, I’m lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful places ever. There’s a reason that Co. Kerry is known as The Kingdom. And the magnificent weather over the last week has offered ample opportunity to explore it with beautiful local hikes. I’m writing about them here in order of easiest to most difficult:

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