Goodbye Thailand, we’ll miss you!
Our Thai visa finally ran out on the 1st of February so we bought a ticket for the bus and slow boat to Laos, leaving from Chiang Mai on the 31st. We took a risk on a relatively new journey. The usual deal is a 3 day 2 night trip that takes you up to Chang Kong in the north of Thailand, here you cross the border into Laos and stay the night. You then spend 2 long days on the slow boat, stopping off for the night in Pak Beng before spending another day on the boat down to Luang Prabang. This sounded fun but LONG and with my back still a little sensitive we were keen to do it a bit quicker. We found a few travel agents offering tickets on the Pakcan boat, this crosses at a closer border to Chiang Mai (Huaikone) after a day on the bus and you spend one night in Muang Nguen before just a one day trip on the slow boat on the Mekong to Luang Prabang. We would also get an individual soft seat on this boat, if we were to believe the photos!
The trip started off successfully with an 8am pick up in a mini bus. We stayed on the bus pretty much all day except for a couple of 7Eleven stops for food (the tuna toasted sandwich is definitely the most palatable, in case you’re interested). We got to the border around 4pm, it was pretty remote and the process took a while. We paid $35 for our 30 day visa plus a 20 baht bribe for overtime for the border workers (apparently they stayed open late for us). This is the border office:
After that it was just 10 minutes on the bus to our home for the night. As we pulled up I said something silly like “Ooh they look lovely” about the quaint little huts we would be sleeping in. Right after that I realised ours was hut number 1, which had a pane of glass missing from the door and was made of wood instead of the brick the others were built from. Ah well!
Our humble abode:
We headed straight out for a beer which we were craving after the long 10 hours on the bus. I’d heard that Beer Laos is the best in SE Asia, but unfortunately I’m not enough of a beer connoisseur to taste the difference, it could have been Chang and I would never have known! We soon realised we needed an ATM (you can’t get Laos Kip outside of the country and we were low on Baht) but there didn’t seem to be one close by. Luckily there was a nice Norwegian guy who offered to take Jack in his car so we got sorted out. We had dinner with some lovely people from our bus, the restaurant didn’t seem to have a menu so we all had the house dish, pork with rice served with a thin soup. It was actually pretty good. After this we made our way to a noisier bar which amusingly had about 4 Laotian customers drinking fanta and earnestly singing karaoke around a table together. We had another couple of beers and then headed back to our humble abode with the rest of the group.
After a not so restful night (the first cockerel started at 3am) we got up at 7am for breakfast, this was sweet bread served with a fried egg and a sausage, plus coffee with Coffee Mate – I bloody love Coffee Mate. We left for the pier around 8am, and being a very new border and pier this was basically the river bank with a few ramshackle shops. Laotian children ran around as did plenty of stray dogs. We boarded the boat and waited for the rest of the passengers.
So, did we get a comfy seat? The seats were padded but were actually all double car seats, interesting! Certainly better than a wooden plank though. We got chatting to our fellow passengers and learnt how to play a new card game – hearts. The mekong river is really picturesque, lots of small villages to stare at along the journey plus the occasional hazardous speedboat bombing past with passengers ducked down with motorcycle helmets on!
Arriving in Luang Prabang was amazing, the scenery is just beautiful and it has such a lovely feel to it. The view:
We found a decent guesthouse almost straight away and went out to explore. We even had a Laos Fondue for dinner, this is brilliant as you basically pay to cook your own meal! You get a bucket of hot coal put in the centre of your table with a metal dish on top, you cook meat on the centre of this dish and the sides are rimmed with room for water to be poured in to create a soup – basically loads of fresh veggies, noodles and egg go in the soup and beef, chicken and seafood can be cooked on top – it tasted amazing! Our fondue – the photo makes it look a bit gross though!
We have lots of plans for the next few days but I won’t bore you with them now, we’ll blog about them afterwards with photos.
Love to everybody!