From Chiang Mai we made our way to the border crossing to Laos. We were kind of ripped off on our pre-booked 'border crossing' package - it was just a guest house that took a service fee on the visa. It was obvious that they hadn't cleaned the rooms or sheets in a while...
The next day getting the visa was chaotic as Huay Xai is not well equipped to handle the volume of travellers it is getting. Laos has only been open to tourists for about 4-5 years so everyone is rushing in to see it.
The boat down the Mekong river was a cool experience. The Mekong is grouped with the Amazon as likely the two most ecologically diverse river systems in the world. You can see crazy pictures of the 8-10 feet long catfish and giant string-ray that live in its waters.
It was wild to see them start to over pack the boats - apparently it is typical that they cram as many people as possible until the passengers revolt and demand no one else enters. We started chanting "enough - take another boat". We heard from friends we met that their boats didn't
cause a stir at all and eventually filled all the aisles, even people back in the engine room and had chickens running around at their feet. It is a little less than safe to cram 100+ people on a wooden boat that seats 70 or so but they do it every day. Still much safer than the "speedboats" they use.
The river ride was scenic but we were drenched as it rained heavily on both days. It was a great way to see the countryside.
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