Published: February 4th 2009February 4th 2009
So we woke early for our 7:30 AM breakfast in Chiang Khong, because we were told that we'd be leaving for the slow boat down the Mekong River around 8:30 or 9 AM. When 9:30 AM rolls around, some trucks show up to bring people down to the river. The complete lack of organization or sticking to plans makes traveling in Asia pretty unpredictable. Well, it's predictable in the sense that you can add at least an hour to the given time frame of every bus ride or planned event you schedule. That's predictable! We took a small boat across the river to Laos. Here we spent the next two hours showing our passports to people, what seemed like every 15 minutes! We filled out visa forms and got our entry taken care of and thought we could put our passports away, but no. Walk 20 feet further into the country and they want to see it again. Walk another 20 feet, and again! Then, they wanted to collect everyone's passport for the police to look over and make sure the stamps they JUST stamped into our passports were actually there. We went from complete lack of organization on one side
It was packed!
of the Mekong to an overkill of it at the other side. So eventually we get our passports back and are promised we won't have to show them again..thank goodness! We put them safely away and make our way back down to the river where we boarded a fully packed slow boat. The first day on the river was six hours to our overnight stopover destination. These six hours flew by for Bryan and I, because within 15 minutes of being on the boat, we found two Canadians to play euchre with and did just that for the entire ride! Well that and had our first tastes of Beer Laos. Not as good as Thailand's Chang, but still does the trick.
Six hours later we moseyed off the boat and onto mainland Laos where we stayed for the night. I actually never knew the name of this town. It was tiny and lovely and all the electricity went out at 10 PM. We met up with two groups of Irish and a group of Canadians and went out for dinner. The dinner was actually quite nice and we enjoyed ourselves until it came time to pay. Money has been
insane, because the people in Laos will take Thai Baht, but of course prefer their own currency, Laos Kips. Now just a recap, $1 = 34 Thai Baht. Well in Laos, $1 = 8,500 Laos Kips. So, my dinner alone (I splurged!) cost 41,000 Kips, I paid with my last 500 Baht note, and received back 100 Baht and some amount of Kip that I cannot even remember! Talk about confusing. And there was a table of about 15 of us, each trying to pay separately in a range of currencies from USD, to Baht, to Kips. That poor waiter. But we made it out of there all paid, full and content just before 10 PM when the lights began to flicker. We headed over, with the two Irish groups, to the one bar in town that stayed open by candlelight and had a couple more beers, but kept the night an early one, because we had an 8:30 AM breakfast and a 9 AM departure for our last day on the slow boat.
We made it down the most unsafe hill to be walking down with luggage on our backs, across a board of extremely unsteady wood, and
The Hill of Death
We actually walked up with with our bags on our backs and back down the next day...unbelievably, no one ended up in the river!
onto the slow boat around 10 AM. This day we were in for an 8 hour trip, ending in Luang Prabang, Laos. Though euchre was tempting, I instead spent the majority of my day reading, sleeping, doing Sudoku's and taking in the scenery. We arrived in Luang Prabang by 6 PM, checked out the markets, which were "same same but different" and hopped on a 7:30 PM bus to Vang Vien. Before I go on, it is a common phrase in Southeast Asia, to describe things as "same same, but different," whether you're talking about cities, markets, fruit. We've taken to using the phrase and the markets everywhere are pretty much "same same, but different." So we took this bus to Vang Vieng and they dropped us on the edge of town at 3 AM. We had a 5 - 10 minute walk into town, then went to the hostel where Maren stayed on her last visit to Vang Vieng. We were lucky for this, because we walked behind a tarp that blocked off the hostel's restaurant and found all the restaurant tables, which have pillows and mattresses to sit on while eating. We shacked up here, each at our
Bus from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng
Those people in the middle sat there for 8 hours! Insane.
own table, cuddling with our luggage, until we were nudged awake at 6:30 AM by a man preparing the restaurant to open. They had a room for us and let us check-in by 8 AM and we caught up on showers and sleep right away. It's probably the cleanest little hostel I've stayed in yet, which is such a refreshing change. I'm loving Vang Vieng and will tell you more about it when I've adventured through all there is to do here.
I think I love this town, because it's not the same same...it's different.
There are more photos below