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Beyond Our Conestoga

Millionares in Lovely Laos

LAOS | Friday, 12 February 2010 | Views [391] | Comments [2]

Wow! Loas. 4 days and we are loving it! First of all, we crossed the sleepy border which involved a small boat ferry across the Mekong at Huay Xai. Nice to catch our first glimpse of this mighty river. Sunset was gorgeous. Men fishing. Women cleaning. Purple, maroon skies. Children playing badminton in the street.

The border was the least secure one I have ever witnessed. No gates, no que lines, no lines and lines and lines. After getting our official exit stamp from Thailand we walk to the boat, an old woman points the way. Us and a lone traveler we picked up for the day cross the river. Signs say, must pass immigration check before entering Laos. What immigration check? Did we miss something? No, just no one to be checking. Upon stepping on the other side, just locals about their way. We see a sign for Visas and Passport check. We get our visas, hilarious upon itself. No queing what so ever. People pushing through. Handover your passport and walk away. Wait, then the man holds up a passport in the window, everyone checks...is it yours? Two frenchman are charged too much but fail in argueing with the immigration officer. Finally my passport pops up. We pay, in American DOllars! Cheaper this way. We came prepared. Funny, more expensive if you pay in the local Kip or the Thai Baht. Eric next. Yes. Now for our Visa stamp. Will our dreaded Thai experience happen here?....thankfully no. 30 days. Yes! We're golden. $1 fee for passing on the weekand. An overtime fee. We exchange a small amount of money, just to get us through the night until we can find a better exhange rate. Instantly, we become Millionares, actually, Multi-Millionaires! There are no coins in Laos, only dollars. The smallest bill is a $500 Dollar Kip. We are pockets full of $20,000 and $50,000 Kip bills. Crazy. My money belt is bulging. Makes me look so bloated! Funny. Ok. The best part yet. After our stamps are all approved, we head to the actual immigration check before being sent loose to the country. I hand over my passport as we cross with it open to the new visa page. The officer glances and hands it back. He didn't even flip to see my picture! I could of used anyone's passport!! And our bags...no x-ray, no customs declarations, no asking. Just come on in. Ah, if there were all this easy.

Our first night, cool and comfy. If only we had known there was a rooster sleeping under our window, me might have thought differently about accepting the room. Ah well, had to get up early to catch a tuk-tuk to the bus station for our bus to Vieng Phuka in the am. I must describe diner though. Eric is asleep now so I can take a little liberty in explaining some food : ). Fish, caught that day from the Mekong, brined and stuffed with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, grilled out front of the restaurant. Eric picks his fish. Lovely. Eric knows already to order (and how to roder, [amazing]) for sticky rice and the sauce we should be getting with the fish. Yummy. Also some noodles with lots of veggies cooked in. Ah, much needed. The vegetables have been lacking. Not too many options. Stirfried in here were cabbage, caulifower, brocolli, carrot, chinese cabbage. We have 'Pepsy' (no spelling typo here on my behalf). Our first of the trip. Water up until now, but now we are less willing to risk drinking the local water. If the locals don't, then we won't. Need a little flavor though. SO much bottled water we have been drinking. It has been our daily routine to buy water in the morning as we head out, or buying on the way 'home' in preparation for the next day or to rehydrate from the day. Fresh squeezed orange juice (Thai oranges...so much better) have spoiled us in Thailand. We will miss them in Laos.

Our first bus ride in Laos only lived up to the reputation, longer than expected, bumpy and put on those face masks! We chuckle as the guided tour buses we pass are full and not stopping at all the places this local bus is. How much less did we pay? Well, worth it. We go to Vieng Phuka. A nice nice town. Not too many tourists stop here. ENough to have a few accomodations but very few. One guy tells us in high season (Dec.-March), they get maybe 20 tourists a month.

The town has electricity, but only through generator. At 9 o'clock we are told, the power goes out. 8:32pm it was. Our guesthouse, a raton cabin on the river Nam Chook, important because this is where you wash. Our room has only a pit toilet. Mosquito net provided. But is actually very very cool. Northern Thailand is in the 'mountains.' All our layers come out. Eric's thermator reads 45 in the morning. yikes! Hot enough during the day though.

From Vieng Phouka, we book a trekking tour. 3 days, 2 nights, one guide takes us into the jungle of Nam Ha National Park. We hike during the day and stay in the tribal villages at night. Great Great experience. I don't have time to write now the details, but they will come. Worth leaving Thailand for. One hour on the computer goes way too fast with the other things I need to get done. I should tell you though that before entering Laos, we did spend 4 days in Bangkok (did Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha, sleeping Buddha, Day of shopping at Chatachuk, went to MBK, saw a Thai movie); took a sleeper train to Chaing Mai, spend 4 days there (one of me being sick). Rode the elephants, toured the Wat on the hill (for those that know), Attended the annual Flower festival (great way to see the local tribes in full garb, awesome parade). Details to come. Bus from Chaing Mai to Laos border.

Now in Luang Nam Tha. Just passing through on our way to Muang Khoa to ride the Nam Oa river south through what we are told are gorgeous cliff lines. Then on to Luang Prabang for a few days and then try to make it to Hongsa by the 20th for the annual Elephant Festival. We hear rumors that this is quit the spectacle and that we might even see a white elephant here.



This is amazingly fascinating! Thanks so much for writing the blog!

  Rebecca Sawyer Feb 13, 2010 11:34 AM


I miss you guys, but your trip sounds amazing! The Pub Crawl a couple weeks ago was missing you guys...

  Mike Feb 17, 2010 5:45 PM

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