We woke up bright and early to get to the bus station and book our tickets to the Laos border as we were advised. Had brekkie at the hostel and the owner a really nice guy even drove us. We arrived before 7:30am and joined a bigger than expected cue at the Thailand Green Bus company to buy our tickets. When we eventually got to the counter....disaster again struck! The 8:30am bus had completely sold out! We were left with no choice really but to get tickets for the 1pm bus or stay another night in Chiang Mia. So reluctantly we bought the tickets and faced a 5 hour wait in the station. We were both pretty cheesed off and spent the first hour barely talking to one another. After a little exploring we found an internet cafe and a good old 7 Eleven!! So we killed some time writing blogs, drinking strawberry milk and eating pickled mango (disgusting!!).
Anyway 13:00 rolled around and we boarded the bus....it wasn't the sort of luxury I was expecting. Not from the reviews we had read. There was one other westerner on the bus, a fairly large guy....with Canadian flags decorating his bags.
He sat at the back.....we were nearer the front next to lots of teenagers who were having great fun photographing their sleeping friends. The bus journey was fine really, no complaints, we arrived at 19:30 more or less on time. The only trouble was we weren't going to be able to cross to Laos as we had planned. We'd have to spend the night in Chiang Khong on the border and make the crossing bright and early with the aim of catching a slow boat the same day.
We were a little lost when the bus did stop as to where to go....luckily for us the Canadian (Adam) came to the rescue. He started chatting to us and pulled out a phone and said do you guys want me to see if they have a room for you too? Perfect!! The place had room and was only a few minutes walk up the road, so off we all went. After dropping off the bags we went to the social area and joined a couple of french girls who were desperately trying to get the DVD player to work. Adam had a look but nothing would work apart from the
fantastic 'Family Guy' so we kind of took over, while one girl left we enjoyed two hilarious episodes before heading to bed for an early start.
Adam asked if we had wanted to cross together and we agreed to leave about 8.30am we had breakfast but couldn't see Adam anywhere. He finally came walking down the road about 8.40 as chilled as anything. We set off to the main street grabbed a Tuk Tuk and headed for border control. It was pretty simple, after getting our Thailand departure cards stamped we jumped into a little taxi boat and headed to Immigration in the Laos town of Huay Xai. As soon as we arrived it was a mad rush with guys saying go here go there, the boats are leaving "hurry, hurry". Luckily for us it was pretty simple as we had organised our visas in Chiang Mai so we just needed a stamp, but Adam had to go through the process of visa on arrival. While he was doing this some official looking guy from a little booth next to the immigration office was being really pushy about the boats leaving now and we must go with him, because
it was now getting on to 10am we paid 1,000baht for the ticket including the Tuk Tuk, Adam wasn't keen but was also being pressured. As it turns out, although the guys did drop us at the boats, we paid about 200baht each too much. My advice for anyone who reads this who may do the crossing is don't listen to this guy, he was telling people at 8.30am to hurry and the boats were leaving. It's easy enough to walk up the hill to the main road after being stamped, (although it may take a little while you could walk to the pier) or just grab a Tuk Tuk. Slow Boat Tickets can easily be bought from the Pier or along the main road for about 800Bht.
We finally set off at 11.30am for a 6 hour trip along the Mekong before stopping for the night in a sleepy little village called Pakbeng. The slow boat itself was ...... odd. Basically the boats are old cargo ships now kitted out with a mixture of coach seats, bus seats and wooden benches there is also the floor!! Luckily somehow we managed to bag one of the few coach seats, which where fairly comfortable and sat looking out over the Mekong. So far Laos is breathtaking, there's mountain after mountain after mountain, trees and greenery everywhere you look. Six hours flew by just taking it all in. The only thing that ruined it slightly were the bunch of booze cruise teen brits at the front of the boat!! We made one stop about an hour in, no one got off but a load of Laos kids jumped on with food baskets charging the earth for crisps and drinks...quite funny really one little lad of about 7 was running up and down the boat with a can of Laos beer shouting "beer lao - 10, beer lao 10!"
We followed some of the guys we met on the boat to a fairly decent guest house and then headed out for dinner. It's a tiny village that consists of just one road but it was very sweet. We ate in an Indian restaurant by the river and had a fairly early night. Tomorrow we head to Luang Prabang.
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