From Thailand to Laos
I'm making myself write this one post before we leave because I haven't posted in ages, which means I'm going to have a huge workload once I get home. We've just come back to Bangkok and we have 2 days here before flying home. I can't believe our 3 month adventure is coming to an end, but I'll be able to relive it all when I write my blogposts about each place we've been.
Once we were finally able to leave Pai, we had to get a 3 hour very bendy bus journey back to Chiang Mai through the hills of Thailand. There were 9 people in this minibus, including the women in front of me who was experiencing very bad travel sickness and throwing up for most of the journey. Very fun. In Chaing Mai we had to wait a few hours until our next bus to Chiang Rai left, so we decided to get an uber back to our favourite cheap food spot 'Lucky Toos' before heading back to the bus station.
|A quiet morning in Chiang Rai|
Our bus left at 6am the next morning, so we had to leave the hostel at about 5am and try to find this hidden local bus stop. We were walking around very lost when my boyfriend just happened to catch sight of a bus and decided to check it out. That was our bus and thank goodness he saw it, otherwise we probably would have been stranded in Thailand and missed our boat. This local bus was filled to the brim with only a little fan and drove through Northern Thailand for around 2 hours, before stopping 10 minutes before the border for the tourists to take a Tuk Tuk the rest of the way. This is a common agreement travel companies have, which is annoying for tourists because it means you have to pay more. We actually splashed out on luxury boat tickets to travel to Luang Prabang, as we didn't fancy two days of 7 hours on a wooden bench sharing 2 toilets with 80-100 other people. Apparently on public boats, they stop about half an hour outside of Luang Prabang and force the tourists off to get Tuk Tuks the rest of the way, and then continue down the river to deliver the locals into the city.
Now of course, this was all a huge crazy confusing and eventful because it's us and nothing can ever work simply when we're trying to do it. We had a huge drama about money because the boat company wanted us to pay in cash as their card machine was broken, which they only told us once we were already on the bus. So we got out the Lao Kip at the border, then were told they would prefer the money in Thai Baht as it's much easier for them...ain't much easier for us though -.-
Kip is a very confusing currency for a foreigner because huge numbers are worth very little. So then we had to try and get the right amount of money in Baht using Kip, Pounds and Dollars at the currency exchange. We got the amount our tour guide told us to get and made our way to the boat, however, once we sat down and gave the 'Boss' the money, we were told it wasn't enough. When we stated that was the amount the guide told us to get, his response was "oh I don't know, my boss knows how much money"...seriously dude? Luckily we managed to find enough Baht in my bag which we had left over from Thailand, but omg were we done at that point.
|Proof of how confusing it is -.-|
Ok, so the beginning part of the journey was without a doubt infuriating. But, once the boss left and we started to sail, we had an amazing time. 7 hours in very comfy seats, great food, drinks and beautiful views with only 6 other people on the boat who we got on with very well. During the trip we stopped for breaks at local tribe hill villages and caves, one of which was sitting at the top of over 250 steps.
|Mechanism used by the locals to grind grain|
After the first day sailing down the Mekong river, we stopped for the night in a small Laos town known as Pakbeng. This town has grown quickly due to the amount of tourists who stop overnight between boat trips. Among the shops and guesthouses is the large local food market, including spit roasted rats, chicken hearts and bags of blood. One woman was sat on a rug displaying lots of herbs, ginger and plants. She was basically the local pharmacy, selling natural remedies to the locals.
|The local pharmacy|
|Spit roasted rats|
That night, we all went to our tour guide's favourite restaurant where he proceeded to offer us all locally made rice whiskey, which he then got very drunk on. He was a strange man. We had a bit to drink and stayed in the restaurant talking to two Australian women who were on the boat with us, when suddenly we noticed they were closing the restaurant around us and the owner had settled down with a tv in the middle of all the tables. It was only 9pm, which seemed very strange to us, but by that time the town was dead and pretty much everyone was in bed.
The next day we were back on the boat with our hungover guide and visited another village and Pak Ou Caves. These caves consist of an upper and lower cave and are full with hundreds of miniature Buddha statues.
By the end of our trip, we were pretty upset our time on the boat was finished. We had been really enjoying lazing on the cozy chairs, reading our books and watching the beautiful views past by. If you're travelling to Laos and are able to splash out, I would definitely recommend taking a private boat to Luang Prabang over the public boat. It is one of the best things we did on our trip.
Next post will be posted once I am back home in good ol' Blighty. I'm experiencing a real mix of emotions right now, it's so so strange to think our time here is almost over and to think back to all the amazing things we've done in Asia. However, at the same time there are definitely things out here I can't wait to get away from (constant hassling from taxi drivers and shop keepers) and I am pretty homesick at this point. Constant moving around is getting very tiring and I'm so excited to be in my own bed soon. We've also been eating terribly so some vegetables would probably do us some good too.
Anyway, next post will be about our 3 days in Luang Prabang :)