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Hannah and Jase's World Tour

Laos: Houay Xai - Luang PraBang: 21st Feb - 25th Feb.

LAOS | Saturday, 24 February 2007 | Views [2228]

On 21st Feb Hannah and I left Chiang Mai and headed north to the Laos border. We had been staying at a lovely guesthouse called Libra. In return for the flowers we bought them (all sisters), Hannah and I were chuffed to receive a great present - an electic killing mosquito/fly tennis racket - great fun! It makes a great execution sound when you hit the bugs - therapeutic.

Hannah - I love that guest house and think they are the best place we have stayed at. Dow was the one in charge it seemed and she was almost nine months pregnant, but couldn't sit still. She really took an interest in what we were doing and her catchphrase was 'Beeeuuutifuuul'. Now Jason and I have adopted the expression. Jason Loves the bat thing and gets it out to show everyone! It is good though.

We had paid 1200 Bhat each for a Laos package which includes taking you to the thai / Laos border in North Thailand close to the golden triangle at Chang Khong, a small ferry boat ride over the Mekong river border into Laos, one night accommodation in Houay Xai and then a 2 day slow boat trip down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang with a one night stop over in Pak Beng, so that is what we did. 6 hour mini bus ride to Chang Khong with a stop at a Cashew nut factory, where we bought lots of food we should eat if we want to stay slim. Talking of that, Jason is putting on weight, can you believe it. where we were then ushered to a very scenic riverside restaurant (the immigration office) to fill in the necessary paperwork and receive our Laos visas. Our travel plans have been based upon the assumption that we could only get 15 day visas but it turns out that for the same price we were able to get a 30 day visa, which is great. It will not change our plans that significantly but it is nice to have the flexibility.

A 3 minute ferry ride saw us in Laos at the little of village of Houay Xai and instantly having to come to terms with their interesting monopoly money. 17,700 kip to one sterling pound. Mmmm. As things are so cheap here I thought that best way to get round this little headache is to think in 5 pence pieces! 5 pence is a 1000 kip, sorted. Now fluent in Lao 'hello', 'thank you' and 'bye' we checked into our guesthouse provided through the package and drank 10,000 kip worth of beer. Yum Yum. Most annoyed that they don't do wine, or anything like an alcopop. So I have to keep drinking beer!

We had been warned that transport in Laos was extremely slow and laid back, very much the 'hurry up and wait syndrome'. We had been warned that the 2 day slow boat trip would be very uncomfortable sitting on wooden seats with no leg room so hannah bought some kid cushions to ease the aches. The 2 day boat trip was fantatsic. 70 people all squashed onto a thin little rice boat with everyone's bags all thrown in the back in some ordered random mess. No real stops and great scenic views. 85% of Laos is supposed to be uninhabited and in our 2 day trip we didn't see any port civilisation other than sparse huts strewn across these beautiful beaches carved by the tides. Nice. They really were beaches too. Sanding dunes all along the Mekong. But I'm sure they have a few mines thrown in for good measure.

Halfway through the boat trip we stayed the evening of 22nd Feb in Pak Beng, an idle and lazy place where no effort seems to be made as river tourists are fed to them on a daily basis. A lovely hillside village where there was only electricity from 6.00 to 10.30 in the evening. The boat was moored against some rocks so everyone had to get off the boat in a single file and literally do some serious rock climbing just to get on land. Where is the disabled access, I say? Our bags were last to be off loaded onto the rock and Jason thought he had lost one of them, because the locals like to pick them up and offer to carry them for a fee. I was waiting at the top, because their was no room to move and it was so steep and dangerous. Got a good guest house, with a small cabin room and it looked right out over the Mekong. Wow. what a view in the morning. BeeeeuuutifUUl. Not having been told what time to arrive for our onward journey, we headed down to the 'rock' to board our boat to find that we were late. Virtually everyone was on the boat, leaving no space or seats for us stragglers behind. There was a crazy 5 minutes where one of the crew was telling us to sit on the floor and others were advisng us to jump onto the next boat moored alongside and simply wait for that one to fill up! More and more people were boarding this already overcrowded boat with nowhere to go. Hannah suddenly makes the jump to the next boat as it began to drift away leaving me with the bags. For a couple of seconds I was resigned to the fact that we were going to be spending the day apart in separate boats so threw her bag to her so at least she would have had some food. By now the crew were trying to stop more and more people from jumping ship where there were seats. Thankfully, at last, Hannah's boat drifted back enough for me to throw my bags over and clamberr aboard! Phew! IT was all a bit crazy, but I was told to get on the other boat. Poor Jason. Although we had to wait a further 30 minutes for the boat to fill up, we later found out that our original boat had broken down with engine failure and their 6 hour trip down the Mekong river to Luang Prabang became 10. He, He, He. I am sure that there is an old chinese proverb that can be learnt from this...'The early bird never catches the worm if its is sailing a flawed boat.' We passed them on the river and gave them a good wave.

As a result of our jumping ship, Hannah and I met some great swedes and we ended up spending a couple of days with them in Luang Prabang when we finally arrived. They were great fun and they taught us some fab card games. Drinking games too. We have now been in Luang Prangbang since the afternoon of the 23rd. Our accommodation is 2.70 quid.Bargain and hot showers too! 2 full days. A very laid back village on the river where as the locals accept the dollar, bhat and the euro, we are having to >constantly get the calculator out to keep on top of things. Certainly more relaxed than thailand and a country still quite naive in many respects, it would seem. I like that. They have a great night market and its nice and cheap, but a lot of the same stuff on offer. We have booked our bus tickets to start our route down south in Laos and across to Vietnam. Tomorrow we will be going to Vang Beng, about 150 km south towards the capital. The plan is to stay there for a couple of days and try some 'tubing'. Floating down the Mekong river at our own pace in a tractor's inner tube, apparently. Stoppng off when you want and having a drink. Why not? Beats work. Hannah and I are off now to go and have a 10,000 kip sauna, massage and bath spa and possibly off to watch some ballet in the local Lao theatre. Lovely.

Cheers my dears.

Tags: The Great Outdoors

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