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The Saga of Heather's Travels ... the story of a dream come true

The story of my most eventful journey....

LAOS | Saturday, 21 November 2009 | Views [847] | Comments [4]

Truly incredibly beautiful!!

Truly incredibly beautiful!!

Well I always said I liked adventure, and I've just experienced the 2 most challenging days of my travels so far! I have survived it, and in hindsight, it was great fun! It started with an early morning pickup from guesthouse in ChiangRai, to go to the Thai border town of ChiangKhong, where Lao visa application, and customs formalities were completed. Then I along with my newly found french friends, Djamila and JeanMarc piled into a very precarious small boat for the ferry crossing to Huay Xai, Lao, in the pouring rain I must add! (The country is actually now called Lao PDR [People's Democratic Republic] not Laos anymore, I wish sites such as this would catch up) the next hour then was waiting for Visa approval, completing customs and immigration etc, and into taxi truck for short drive to the slowboat jetty. This is the trip I had been looking forward to for so long, 2 days down the Mekong, and we board the boat to find it already crammed and the only seating is tiny narrow wooden bench seats, a bit like but smaller than church pews (from my distant memory!) Fortunately I had been warned and had purchased a cushion to sit on as had everyone else on board, what a racket, why cant they just supply them? I found a pew, hoping to have it to myself, however there was to be none of that! the skipper came along and told everyone to move along, double up, seats are money to him! As well as the seats, a great number of people have found floor spaces to sit, in fact it is hard to get from one end to other of the boat. And the skipper's not leaving till every last person wanting to make the trip is on board, even if it is 2 hours late. By the time of leaving, there are 100+ people in a space I estimate designed for 60-80, and there is only one toilet on board and it's stinking hot! Good times! However as we motored along, the breeze and the scenery made it all worth while, it is stunning, wilderness, rain forest, small villages, boats and craft on the river, fishermen (no didn't see any fisherwomen!) traders, villagers, water buffallo, goats, so much to look at and to photograph. However after about 2 hours we came to a halt, it appears the motor's clapped out! When not moving, there is no breeze, and did I mention that it is stinking hot? OMG, we sat there for about 2hours! the braver souls climbed overboard and waded ashore, some even swam, but there was no shade as it was a very large wide river beach we had pulled over to. I felt it was safer to stay put where at least there was some shade. There was NO communication, so noone really knew what was happening, but finally after about 2 hours another boat arrived and pulled up alongside on the riverside (as opposed to the shallower, beach side of our boat) Then it was every man for themselves as we all scramble across the side from one boat to the other, so dangerous, but noone fell down the gap. Now the new boat had some very comfortable looking seats, but few in number. It was first in first served and this boat is designed for even less people. There were some stacks of red plastic chairs, a couple of tables (??? I know! crazy!) By the time we had all distributed ourselves through the boat there was not an inch of space to spare. No aisles, and if someone needed to pass through to go to toilet, everyone on red chairs had to stand up and hold their chair over their head to let them pass. and still some people had to take turns standing all the way.You had to laugh really it was so dangerous that it was comical! But we were off again, and after all the delays, it was soon turning dark. Wouldn't you know it, there are no lights! The Mekong river is very rocky, huge outcrops of rock everywhere, and we were told that that is why there is an overnight stop, as captains don't like navigating in the dark! hello!! Surprisingly (or not) we finally made it, and the scramble out of the boat with so many people, trying to find your pack in the dark, (a few people had torches) and then the scramble up the rocks and steps to the village, must go down as one of my all time favourite events! My friends and I had booked a guesthouse while waiting for visa at HuayXai, unsure if we were doing right thing or not, as were we being ripped off??? However, turned out it was a great move, they came looking for us, and we were led straight to guest house. It was about 8pm at this stage, and in this particular village, the power goes off at 9pm each evening, so we rushed straight to the dining area, and managed to get a pretty decent meal. After that it was cold shower by torchlight, and sleep of the dead in rockhard bed! In the morning we were told that they were splitting us into 2 groups and there were 2 boats. One was the comfy nice seat one, and one was another wooden bench seat job. Guess which one I got?? Another day on the narrow wooden seat, I'm loving it! At least with the split there was room to have one to myself so at least you could stand up when you liked and move around. However the 2nd day was freezing cold. The weather had turned overnight, and fortunately I had a light jacket in my daypack, and a sarong, and with both of these I was still freezing, some other poor devils had nothing warm. I was tempted to offer my sarong to one old chap, but resisted the urge! Apart from the cold, the 2nd day was reasonably uneventful, and we arrived in Luang Prabang at around 4.30pm. What an amazing place, after having been through and seeing such primitive conditions. This town is classy, french bakeries, cobbled streets, good coffee, great international cuisine, dozens of restaurants and cafes and wine bars, I actually had a decent glass of wine for first time since leaving NZ! I was surprised to find they drive on the "wrong" side of the road, and have to be careful when crossing. The currency is Lao kip, and/or US$$, everyone takes either. There are interesting temples, caves and waterfalls, and lots of opportunities for trekking, white water rafting, kayaking and other extreme sports. The main industry is tourism here, but it is relatively unspoilt so far. I am off on day trip tomorrow to see some of the attractions, so far have spent 2 days just exploring around the town and just loving it, wow, so stunningly beauitful and so surprising after my 2 days on the river. Still trying to decide whether or not to do the rest of the way to Vientienne by slowboat (another 2 days) or to take the easy option and fly! What a decision.....

Comments

1

I've jus finished work Heather.Its 12.30am jus had to read your latest edition of your wonderful saga!!Wow you would rival some of the Intrepid journeys on TV. this ones the best by far. Will reread in the morning when I'm not so tired.Its brillant. Stories to tell the grand kids for years. Loving it,as usual can't wait for the next chapter to be created.Keep having fun your very brave on your own. Take care. All our love from little Nelson. love- your big sis-Carolynxxxxx

  Carolyn Bisley Nov 21, 2009 10:31 PM

2

Really enjoyed reading about the adventures!! keep things in mind when i hopefully get around to visiting Lao. We did a 6 hour riverboat trip when last in Cambodia and that was a hike enough i recognize the deciption of the wooden benches and crammed boats, so maybe next trip wouldnt be so bad flying!!!i would be tempted myself1

  Jean Nov 22, 2009 2:23 PM

3

Yay! Now its getting interesting... x

  deb Nov 23, 2009 4:04 PM

4

Amazing journey g.f. What an experience, Im impressed. Sure is another world. Happy trails and yes ... enjoy!

  Chris Nov 23, 2009 10:18 PM

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