December 2015 was spent in Laos, with my travel buddy, partner-in-crime cousin Phoebe. Two and a half years ago our families went to Cambodia together, and I absolutely fell in love with the energetic buzz of South East Asia; the smells, the sights, the food, the people, the culture, the history. Laos did not disappoint, and brought with it it's own incredibly unique charm. While Cambodia is a very flat, hot country, Laos is incredibly lush and mountainous, the weather very mild, even cold in the mornings and nights (although I've heard December is the coolest time of year), and as it was colonised by the French, a certain French charm remains, combined with the colour and buzz of Lao culture.

We flew from Australia to Bangkok, Thailand, and spent two days exploring the chaos of the city, eating the juiciest tropical fruit and sipping on fresh coconuts, before catching the night train across the country and into Laos. Unsure of what to expect from the night train, we were pleasantly surprised; bunk beds all made up with decent mattresses, pillows, sheets and blankets, curtains to draw across our beds, creating our own little cosy space. I highly recommend bringing an eye mask and ear buds though as the train is quite noisy and the lights never go out, and curtains can only do so much. We arrived in the capital city of Laos, Vientiane, in the early morning, grabbed a bunch of sugar bananas for breakfast and hopped straight on a bus to take us to Vang Vieng.

Vang Vieng was overwhelming beautiful. A tiny town dwarfed by nature, magnificent limestone mountains which follow you wherever you go, lined up along the Nam Song river. There was nothing like eating our meals on the balconies of restaurants overlooking the river, seated on pillows and at low set tables, watching the morning mist rise up over the mountains, or the evening light hitting the rock formations. We spent a few days in Vang Vieng, climbing the small mountain not far from the village, exploring the incredible Lusi Cave, swimming in a hidden lagoon that we were taken to by a local, zip-lining through the jungle, swimming in the turquoise waters of the very popular Blue Lagoon, sipping watermelon and bacardi whilst reclined in hammocks, and of course, tubing down the river; four kilometres floating down the Nam Song in a blow up tyre.

Vang Vieng is known as a bit of a party town, and I did find the amount of tourists and backpackers a bit overwhelming (I know I am one but...) considering how small and easily overrun Vang Vieng actually is. Tubing used to be notorious as a drug and alcohol-fuelled activity, with copious amounts of bars strewn along the riverbank that you would be pulled into as you floated down. However the government cracked down on it a few years back (after multiple tourist deaths) and many of the bars along the river have now closed, making tubing more of a relaxing experience (and fair enough too; two hours of floating down a river surrounded by mountains? So zen, I loved it.)

Here are a few of my photos from Bangkok and Vang Vieng, taken on my Olympus OM-D E-M10 with the M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8 lens. From Vang Vieng we headed up to Luang Prabang, so stay tuned for Laos part II!


I took this super fresh salad along to Christmas lunch (along with a mean vegan potato salad, but that's for another post) and was then requested to make it again a few days later for a dinner with some family friends. Both times it went down a treat. It's the perfect side dish, but also so satisfying as a main. The currants add bites of sweetness, the brown rice and quinoa combination is foolproof, the herbs provide so much bite and flavour, and the dressing is super simple and light; get amongst it pals. Also, I got a lot of my ingredients in bulk from The Source (they have multiple stores all around Australia) which is a great way of saving money, time and packaging!

What you need:

1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
1/2 cup uncooked tri-coloured quinoa (or any coloured quinoa tbh)
1 tin of chickpeas
1/2 to 2/3 of a cup of currants
1 carrot, peeled and grated
A big handful (or two) of chopped up shallots/spring onions
(I also used a little bit of dill because we had some in the fridge which added a nice flavour kick, but don't use too much of it bc it's quite an overwhelming flavour)

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange
Freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

What you need to do:

Cook up your rice according to the instructions on the packet (rice + water + boil + drain etc)
Cook up your quinoa according to the instructions
Drain your rice + quinoa
Mix them together in your salad bowl with the chickpeas, currants, grated carrot, shallots, and all your herbs.
Add your orange juice, lemon juice and vinegar, and mix it all together. Simples!