The two sides of the coin…Crossing into Laos – Laos and Thailand

The two sides of the coin…Crossing into Laos
Chiang Mai, Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos

So, like I said there are two sides to this story of going from Chiang Mai, Thailand to our final destination of Luang Prabang…The romantic side and the realistic side. You need both sides to really understand the adventure we’ve been on for the past three days.

Crossing into Laos: The Romantic Side
We rode a beautiful covered wooden boat down the Mekong River. The river current wasn’t as such that there were rapids or anything that would make us quesy or sick. It was smooth and the boat glided over everything as the breeze cooled us from the Thai sun. We slept a bit in the sun and then read the books we bought just before departuring Chaing Mai.

We stopped halfway on our crossing to Laos to spend the night at a very small riverside villiage. Having limited electricity, we dined by candlelight at the villiage’s small Indian restaurant before going back to our guesthouse, which was run by a sweet family and their 12-year-old girl. (Who spoke French and English as well as some Japanese!!)

The next day was spent floating down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang, Laos. The trip cruised by some of the most beautiful and lush foliage and landscape we’ve both ever seen. Small, tribal villages dotted the hills and every once in a while, the boat stopped off somewhere seemingly primitive…only to find a small trail where we ‘docked’ to let a lone villiager get off the boat.

If you paid attention and had good eyesight, you would see a small hut or a gathering of small huts high on the hillside as the boat pulled away and would know that this person wasn’t afraid of the lush jungle ahead of him…that he was just home.

We amused ourselves on the long six hour journey by telling stories of our lives or exchanging theories and thoughts about all we’d seen.

Crossing into Laos: The Realistic Side
We were to leave Chiang Mai on Wednesday morning and go by double decker, aircon bus to Chiang Khong. What we got was a small VW bus (aircon though!) because, according to the guide, not enough people signed up to justify a double decker bus with reclinable seats.

So, for five hours, we rode crammed into a small bus to Chaing Khong. Once in Chiang Khong, we checked into one of the only guest houses there was in this small villiage on the river.

Now, to put any romantic notions out of your head, “On the river” isn’t as quaint as it seems. “On the river” means, at night, lots and lots of mosquitos. We were terrified.

Also keep in mind that our guest house was small and family-run. “Rustic” would have been nice. This was down right primitive (unless you gave points for the family having lots of Thai beer on hand and a cable TV in the lounge area that broadcast soccer and rugby games).

I made Nico sleep with the lights on and — allergy to mosquito repellent be damned! — I layered it on. Hours slept that night: 3.

We boarded the small platform of a boat to cross the river into Laos. By “platform,” I mean wood hammered together and an ancient boat motor at one end. We bonded with the other 5 passengers simply by the sheer thought that we all might be the last people we ever saw…that is, until Nico started humming the theme from “Pirates of the Carribean”.

We boarded another ship that would take us halfway down the Mekong. Not too bad…except a few things:

The “bathroom” was a hole at the back of the boat (discreetly screened by walls, but a hole nevertheless)

Not a cushion in site. By the end of the first day, our bums were very, very numb.

But we survived. We did stop at a small villiage. Stayed in a guest house where the electricity was cut off at 11. Nothing to do with paying the bill…the entire villiage was on generators. ALL electricity cut off between 11 and midnight. We spent the night itching from imaginary (or otherwise) bug bites and trying to fall asleep despite the heat.

The next day was spend reading and trying to amuse ourselves on a 50 foot wooden boat, crammed with people (both tourists and locals) and dreaming of a shower. We reached Luang Prbang tired, hungry and giggly from all the odd aventures we just had.

Would we have changed anything about this trip? Would we have flown on an air conditioned plane instead of a wooden boat?

Never. Not in a million years.

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