A Travellerspoint blog

Laos

Laos – 4000 Islands

One, Two, Three...... ok we take your word for it.

storm 28 °C

The island of Don Det was our intended destination amongst the other 3999 islands that sit in this part of the Mekong river. The journey from Thakhek was on a sleeper bus but what welcomed us at the bus station at 11pm was more of a freight bus than a passenger bus. It seemed like there were a few tonnes of goods being transported where humans should have been. The back of the bus was filled with a jumble of boxes and the aisle was completely full with more boxes and everyone’s bags. On the roof of the bus was a scooter, some whitegoods and more unidentifiable boxes.

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Somehow we slept in between stops whereby the bus lights would come on and a bunch of the goods would be unloaded, many times requiring us to pass down a box or two from the back. James and Ruben left the bus a couple of hours before the end of the journey as they were heading somewhere else. At around 5am Tanya, Stevie, Paul, Niels and I were woken up as we pulled into Pakse. There was transport waiting at the bus station that was going over to the islands, but it left at 7am, so we packed our bags on it and then waited around. The journey to the Islands was going to be 3 hours so we expected a proper bus. Nope, just a big truck like tuk tuk for 3 hours!

It held around 20 people and we were at capacity when we left the bus station. Two and a half hours passed without any problems but then we heard a distinct metal on metal clash and it ground to a halt. We all got out to stretch our legs as the front seats were removed and the driver got to work trying to fix the problem. As we were waiting, we got out a ball and threw it around with one of the kids and entertained a younger one with a few games. We ended up waiting for an hour before another tuk tuk bus passed. We were told to hop on this one, but the problem was it was also at capacity itself. Never fear, this is Asia, nothing is ever at capacity! We ended up having 10 of us hanging from the back and everyone else squeezed inside.

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We got to the end of the road and then hopped into a longboat for a quick ride over to Don Det. There were lots of islands around which obviously give the place its Western name of 4000 islands. We found a guesthouse right where the boat dropped us and after a quick shower we headed out for some food and some wifi. Afterwards we rented some bikes from our guesthouse to go for a ride over to one of the other islands to try and see some of the freshwater dolphins that are in the area. These bikes hardly had any brakes and wouldn’t have seen a drop of oil in their lives, but luckily the track was flat. Within a few minutes cycling through the town we bumped into Chris, Valentina, Claude, Freddie and Corinne from Konglor cave. They had been for the bike ride already and said that it was a fair distance away. We agreed to meet up for some drinks later and continued on. 2 minutes later Niels had a flat tyre! It was the motorbike ride all over again.

We decided to stop at the bridge between the two islands and meet Niels there while he went back to change bikes. We had a cheeky beverage and continued on again when he was back. Down at the end of the road we looked but didn’t see any of the river dolphins playing around in the water, there is only a group of 20 of them, so not surprising I guess. We headed back and got to the bridge again and decided to get some food there. It meant that we would be riding back to town in the dark, but we figured that would bring back some more fond memories from our motorbike loop. All that we had for a light was our mobile phones and we ended up back in town without any mishaps.

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We met the others and ended up having a really drunken night until being kicked out of the bar after closing time. It turned out to be a great night with lots of laughs over a fair few BeerLaos

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The boxing kangaroos

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The next day it lashed down rain all day, which was lucky as none of us had the energy to do anything anyway. Instead we recovered from the big night with greasy food and movies paying at one of the pubs. We had an afternoon sleep before staying up late to support Holland for Niels in the 1.45am kickoff in the last group game of Euro 2012. It started well but then went downhill from there.

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These kids all know how to use an iphone

We got an early morning boat the following day to take us all to the Cambodian border.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – To be honest, there isn’t much to do in the 4000 islands. But if you are crossing to Cambodia by land, it makes a good enough stop off point for a day or two to break up the journey. Thankfully we were here with a good crew to make it memorable!

Tanya – Our little bike ride a great start to our enjoyment on the island, shame about the rain on the last day, but glad it held off till now.

Posted by dbgomes 00:15 Archived in Laos Tagged laos round_the_world Comments (0)

Laos – The Kong Lor Cave Loop

The Rice Paddy Crew

semi-overcast 33 °C

SEVEN people
SIX bikes
FIVE year old cave guide
FOUR nationalities
THREE days
TWO flat tyres
ONE AWESOME ADVENTURE
(ZERO accidents)

That pretty much sums up a great addition to our travel in Laos. By chance we saw a paragraph in the Lonely Planet which said about a 3 day motorcycle loop that includes visiting a 7.5km long cave that goes through the central Laos mountains. Intrigued by this, we investigated further and then restructured the planned travels to include the stop.

After the chilled couple of days in Vientiane we were excited to be doing something a bit more adventurous again. We were lucky that when we arrived at the bus station in Thakhek, there were some other guys who were planning on doing the loop and wanting to go to the same guesthouse. After the Tuk Tuk drivers initially offered us 70,000 kip ($8) per person to take the 6 of us the kilometre or so into town, they finally settled on 10,000 kip per person after we walked away from such a ridiculous offer.

The Travel Lodge is the place to go in town for those wanting to do the loop motorbike ride. They have a big red logbook where people write their stories and offer tips and advice for future travellers. Over the candlelight of a typical power cut here in Laos, we read the log book and decided that the 7 of us would head out in the morning as a group to tackle what the 3 days could throw at us. The log book offered plenty of good advice and we decided to head clockwise around the loop leaving the ‘treacherous’ roads till the end of the trip.

A planned early departure from Thakhek was delayed with our not so smooth bike hire. The night before, Tan and I read about a place down the road that rented bikes for 50,000 kip per day rather than the 120,000 at Mr Ku’s who is based on the site of the Travel Lodge. We got what seemed like a good bike, so the rest of the guys wanted to get theirs from the same place. I took 2 of the guys down (riding Asian style with 3 to a bike), but apart from 1 other ok bike, the rest of their stock was dodgy to say the least. Given the bloke was having to do repair works on two of the bikes before we even took them out the door, it didn’t bode well for 3 days of punishing dirt roads. So we found another place further down the road called Wang Wang Cafe Internet, and the man there said that the bikes that we had got were fake Honda bikes. Upon closer inspection he was right, they are Chinese brands with Honda body panels thrown on to them. He said that he doesn’t try to con tourists, so his bike stocks are all Shenzen and Korean bikes without fake Honda pannels but he has a warranty on any problems with the engines, electrics and brakes. And he only charged 45,000 kip per day. So we returned the current bikes and replaced our fleet. We were finally rolling out of town at 11:30am.

As soon as we were actually out on the road, we could tell it was going to be a good few days! The wind in your hair (well helmet) and completely down to us as to what we want to do. So our crew consisted of the following
Niels & Ruben from Holland
Me, Paul and James from England
Tan from Australia
Stevie from Ireland

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Any good biker group needs a name, and Stevie was trying to work something Irish into it because as he said, ‘Everyone likes the Irish’. After a day on the road we eventually came up with the name Rice Paddy Crew to satisfy Stevie’s request and give it a suitable Asian flavour!!

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The ‘not necessarily to scale’ map that we were using

The scenery for the first couple of hours was actually rather boring. After the initial excitement of being on a motorbike, the mundane, long, straight highway road didn’t do much except cramp our hands and numb our butts. We had one variation as we passed a traffic holdup that turned out to be a crash involving 2 trucks. I think it was safe to say that the cab of one truck was destroyed and the driver was unlikely to be around any longer. Great introduction to the high safety standards on Lao roads. The stretch of road was a good way for everyone to get used to their bikes though, and also getting this over and done with now, meant it was all more exciting riding from here. The highway lasted 105km until we hit the junction to turn into the hills. We had gone through a tank of fuel by that point so a quick pit stop and we continued on.

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Turning off the main road brought instant improvements, the road was narrower and had nice sweeping curves running along the plains and then climbing up the hillsides until we reached a vantage point overlooking the forest and the black hills. As soon as we got into the forest and started to climb there was a noticeable drop in the temperature which was not unwelcome. After the lookout point we rode down the fun sweeping curves of the hillside and then turned onto a long road that would take us the 40km to Konglor Cave. We stopped at the first place that looked like it served food. Sauce bottles on the table were the giveaway, but there was no menu, just a noodle soup that we were automatically served up. It was a welcome stop though to rest the bums.

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The final ride of the day was very scenic as it took us another couple of hours of riding past flooded rice fields filled with people planting shoots of rice and rustic houses stood on stilts under the protection of a lone big tree in each field. All of this was framed by a big row of mountains on either side. When we finally got to the end of the road, it was too late in the day to take the tour through the mountain so we went looking for a place to stay. We saw a sign pointing down a dirt track for a guesthouse and we went to take a look. The dry dirt track soon turned into a muddy, boggy treacherous track along the sides of rice paddies. The exploration finished when Niels ended up in a rice paddy and we turned back to the safer guesthouses on the main road.

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The place we chose to stay at ended up being a good choice as we bartered the room to 40,000kip per double room and there were 5 other tourists staying here. This included Chris, Valentina, Claude, Freddie and Corinne who we ended up catching up with after the loop. We had a good night with plenty of beers and chatter as we recounted our days biking and past travel stories.

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In the morning we left the guesthouse around 10am but when we got to the river for the boat through the cave, all the boats were already in the cave. The other guys from the guesthouse were already waiting too, so we spent an hour chatting some more before the boats finally came back and we headed off into the cave after a short boat trip across to the other side of the river

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The entrance to middle earth...

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Flip flop paddles, can do anything!

As we walked into the cave the light faded quickly behind us and we switched to our head torches before hopping into the motorised boats (3 to a boat) that would take us 7.5km under the mountains above us and out the other side. After 10minutes or so we hopped out the boats (as the boatmen had to carry the boats upstream with it not being full wet season yet) and walked a short way upstream and met the boat guides again. The cave was lit up through here and the massive cavern with stalactites and stalagmites was very impressive. Back in the boats we motored upstream for another 50 minutes just taking in the enormity of the cave by dim torchlight.

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We saw daylight again as we approached the far side of the cave. We turned the boats around at a small village clearing before doing the reverse 1 hour trip downstream. The only difference on the way back was that we stayed in the boats and white water rafted down the low water sections.

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Getting back to our bikes we gave the 5 others a lift back to the guesthouse so that they could get their bus back to Thakhek and then we had a bite to eat for lunch before hitting the road again. We had another 170km of road to pass and we knew that we had the ‘worst’ part of the road to tackle before our next planned guesthouse. It was already 2pm so we retraced the cave road back to the main road for 40km keeping the speeds up to try and make good time. We did squeeze in a stop or two for some shots of us in flying formation :-)

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The 58km of main road had some scenic parts, exciting hilly parts, interesting sights and long straight dull parts (and not forgetting a friendly gibbon) so we opened the throttles and clocked 100+kmph out of the little 100cc engines before we got to the town of Laksao.

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We made a right turn at Laksao and WOW!!! Talk about chalk and cheese! The smooth bitumen of the last 2 days gave way to a potholed, rocky, crevasse field track that they try to call a road. Riding through the town following trucks and cars you had to pick your lines while having dust blinding you. Leaving town didn’t improve the situation, rather the faint remnants of road that there was in town vanished completely giving way to muddy, rocky tracks showing the signs of recent rains. The track rose up through some hills and we all agreed that if it was raining this part of the road would be almost impossible to pass. We pulled into a little shack to buy some snacks and water. At this point it was near 6pm and we had been on this stretch of road for about an hour. At the stop we figured we were only about 1/3 of the way and night would be on us by 7pm!! We hopped back on the bikes and it was as we rode away that I noticed... We had a flat tyre! Great!! We had some unbelievable luck though, not more than 20meters down the road was a guy who fixed the tyre for us (after this point we didn’t see anyone else who would have been able to fix it for us for the next 2 hours).

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Fuel in the countryside

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A 30minute tyre change and we were on our way again but darkness was on us not more than 10 minutes later. Some of us made it even harder in the darkness by forgetting that they had sunglasses on (not naming anyone... James). In pitch darkness and a dead headlight on Pauls bike we had to negotiate probably the worst section of road where some logging work was going on. Consequently the track was churned up by the heavy vehicles, massive muddy puddles covered the whole track and I feared another flat tyre on the sharp exposed rocks as our scooters weren’t made for this type of terrain with their thin tyres and limited shock absorbers. After another hour of riding like this we finally hit some flattened gravel roads that actually meant that we could open the throttles again. Although in the darkness the gravel was a bit unnerving once you got some speed up. Another half hour later we crossed a bridge and sighted the signs for Sabadee Guesthouse!! What a day!! We only had a couple of beers with dinner before a relatively early night for us all.

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Stevie is wiping away his tears, we were so happy to be here and not sleeping out in the hills :-)

The final day was welcomed with another clear looking day. We had been incredibly lucky to have had not a drop of rain over the last two days. We have not witnessed 2 straight days without rain the whole time we have been in South East Asia. Somehow asking for 3 dry days sounds like we are asking for the next lottery numbers to appear right in front of us. The road away from the guesthouse was the same gravel roads that we had on the last stretch the night before, but in daylight they were far less daunting. We were all at one with our bike by now so we had some fun cruising along the snaking gravel roads mindful of the passing vehicles every now and then.

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A few puddles to contend with

We got back to bitumen roads and hit full speed making our first stop for the day in Tham AEN cave. A much smaller cave than Konglor but it was still interesting to explore the cave on foot. A quick shower came and went in minutes not hanging around long enough to soak the ground. Amazingly these were the only drops of rain we ended up seeing while out on the loop.

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Next we pulled onto a small track in search for a landmark called Thafalang. Supposedly some rock formations in a river, we didn’t find anything that was overly impressive, however the track there was a blast. More muddy and slippery than anything we had seen on the trip, we just enjoyed biking down it for as far as we could go. It did result in mud going everywhere with the funniest bits being when Stevie slid out into a big puddle and Paul lost his helmet into the same puddle :-)

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The wildlife don’t move until they are ready

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The last stop of the trip was another cave called Xieng Liab. We rode through some long grass trying to find the cave but turned back around and some locals pointed in the direction that we needed to go. We parked the bikes and a 5 year old boy started indicating to follow him. He kept holding back the prickly tree branches to let us go through and then ran past again to the next obstacle. We wouldn’t have been able to find the cave without him to be fair, we had to cross some rivers and go through some thick forest. We got there and had a look around inside while the little boy was playing around in the trees, hiding behind rocks and calling out to us with no one else there but the 7 of us and the kid.

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As we hopped onto the bikes to make our last ride back into Thakhek, the bike felt strange... Not another flat tyre! This time the front wheel. Our amazing luck continued again as the shack at the side of the track to the cave was another bike repair place. In fact this was the family shack of the boy who had shown us the way to the cave! We did consider that maybe they had let the tyre down while we were at the cave, but I think I ran over something in the long grass to be honest. We were soon on our way again and rolled into Thakhek after 3 awesome days with our bikes. We called into the bus station to book our bus tickets further south before going back to the Travel Lodge to shower and eat. While we were there it started to rain, and continued for a while. We tried to wait it out, but we had to return our bikes, so we rode them back to the rental place and got wetter in that short ride than we did on the whole 3 days of The Loop!!! Crazy!

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We waited around at the Travel Lodge and filled in the log book with our tales of the 3 days for all future bikers to see. We got a tuk tuk out to the bus station and all continued south still as the Rice Paddy Crew, just without the bikes now.

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Below is the video we managed to put together of the trip. It was for us all to have a laugh and remember the fun that we had. Have a watch!!

We also left some tips in the log book, but if you are reading this blog contemplating doing The Loop, i will put them here too:
• Name your crew!!
• Get your bikes the night before – saves a heap of time in the morning
• 2 people per bike = flat tyres. Get one each, they are not that hard to learn how to ride
• Try to find others to go with, as a group makes it safe if you have problems with a bike
• Do the loop clockwise, you end on a high with the fun roads and can practice riding on the long boring road
• Bottles of red fluid on the side of the road are fuel
• Check your helmet especially the visor before hiring – keeps bugs out of the eyes
• Try to leave relatively early every day
• Take sunglasses off after dark :-)
• The place we hired our bikes from was cheapest in town but gave guarantee on the bikes still – he was located down the bottom of the main road near a big square and was called Wang Wang Cafe Internet. He spoke really good English.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – This definitely goes up there with some of the best things we have done on the whole trip. Getting a great crew assembled just topped it off perfectly. Our bike ran like a dream the whole time except for the flat tyres, but the fact that flat tyres were the worst of the problems we had, we will happily take that! If you are looking for a bit of adventure, lot of fun and an experience different to the norm in South East Asia – The Loop is it!!!

Tanya – Sure, I probably should have had my own bike, but who would have been photographer/videographer? We had planned to stay at the Travel Lodge with the intention of finding some travel companions and everything fell into place all too easily, what a great crew! It was great to do something different to the norm and a real highlight!!

Posted by dbgomes 06:10 Archived in Laos Tagged laos round_the_world Comments (1)

Laos – Vientiane

Laid back with a Capital L

sunny 38 °C

Vientiane feels more like a rustic little town rather than the capital city of the country. You only need a couple of days to see the main sights and eat the good patisseries and baguettes that the French left behind.

From Luang Prabang, we first stopped in at Vang Vieng which is famous on the South East Asia circuit for its river tubing. Sitting in a tube, floating down the river whilst stopping at all the bars along the riverside is a tempting prospect, although not a very traditional Lao thing to do. There are horror stories floating around about people who die thanks to the mix of alcohol, drugs, waterslides, zip lines and shallow water. In fact when we were in Australia, we saw a 60 minutes feature on the ‘most deadly place in South East Asia’. Tanya wasn’t keen after all of this negative press, but I still wanted to give it a go, figuring that you have to take all of these things with a pinch of salt.

When we pulled into Vang Vieng the weather was pretty atrocious though and considering doing it by myself in torrential rain, I gave up on the idea and we set off the following day for the capital. For what it’s worth, everyone that we have spoken to afterwards had a great time doing it and said as long as you are sensible about where you are diving into the river (watch other people do it first) then you will be fine. The town itself is pretty funny too, with all the bars in town showing Family Guy and Friends episodes as people recover from their hangovers and injuries (it’s not as dangerous as they say, but it’s still not 100% safe either).

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The river without tubers

In Vientiane we found ourselves a nice guesthouse for a really cheap price thanks to a tip from another tourist on the street. We just hung around the river area for the day and got another nice sunset over the river as the locals were all out enjoying the markets.

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Grabbing some bikes in the morning, we headed out to a couple of the main sites. First stop was the Arc de Triomphe of the south. After getting independence the Lao government built an arc in the style of the Parisian equivalent. Just to rub it in a bit more, they made sure this one was slightly bigger than its French forbearer.

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Next stop was the Pha That Luang which was very golden, and surrounded by other temples and Buddha images. This was a little further out of town than we were expecting, and consequently we were sweating more water than the Mekong and found some refuge in a coffee shop with airconditioning before heading back to the centre for some great baguettes.

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We left in the morning heading further south and initially was worried about the comfort of the journey after starting the first 40 minutes in a tuk tuk style van before finally changing to a bigger bus.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – There is a theme that we have found in Laos, everywhere and everyone is incredibly laid back and chilled out. That feeling is embodied perfectly in this capital city which is a world away from the hectic metropolis’ of Bangkok, Java and Phnom Penh.

Tanya – As Dan sais, an easygoing city but starting to feel like we need to do something a little different...

Posted by dbgomes 07:21 Archived in Laos Tagged laos round_the_world Comments (0)

Laos – Luang Prabang

Laidback Laos

storm 38 °C

Crossing the border to Laos has apparently slowed the earth’s rotations. Well that’s what it feels like in the extremely chilled out town of LP. The whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and introduced us to the laid back nature of the Lao people.

After getting in on the slow boat in the evening, there were some hostel representatives waiting at the boat landing (this is common throughout all of Asia) and we went with one that was cheap but looked good. Toon, the lady who was at the boat landing, drove us around to the guesthouse and pointed out the sites on the way. The location was great as we were on the peninsular between two rivers and close enough to be able to walk everywhere in the centre of town. It’s a popular destination in Laos thanks to UNESCO, the fact that it was once the capital of Laos and is still considered to be its cultural heart. However because of the tourist dollar floating around the town, food and services aren’t as cheap as we had expected.

We managed to catch some of the sunset over the Mekong River in the afternoon before walking along the main road and through the good night markets. Laos was under French rule for much of the early 20th century and the buildings around LP have a French feel. All of the public buildings also have Lao and French signs on them.

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In the morning we planned to hire some bicycles to explore the town, although we figured everything that we wanted to see was in walking distance. So we decided to wait out the intense heat of the midday sun in the airconditioned comfort of the room before walking around the town and finishing up at the temple on the hill overlooking the Mekong for sunset. Unfortunately a lot of cloud rolled in just before sunset and we only just managed to make it back down the hill before the rain came down in typical monsoonal style.

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We set the alarm for 5am on the final morning to make sure we were down at the main road for the giving of alms. This is a daily ritual where the local monks walk down the road to receive offerings of food from the locals. They silently walk along in single file receiving the offerings in their little pots dressed in orange. It was definitely a worthwhile thing to watch with monks of all ages receiving their alms.

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Waiting for the monks

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We got picked up from our guesthouse later on in the morning to head south through some winding roads over the mountains.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – Luang Prabang was a nice little stop, not much to do, just soak up the relaxed nature that the Lao people have.

Tanya – I might have said a few times before that this was a great stop to recharge the batteries, Asia has been like that and I’m getting all too used to it!

Posted by dbgomes 20:51 Archived in Laos Tagged laos round_the_world Comments (0)

Laos – Mekong Boat

Meandering on the Mighty Mekong

semi-overcast 33 °C

The Mekong is one of the big rivers. It starts up in the high plateau of Tibet and passing through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam before reaching the sea via the Mekong Delta. We had a good experience on the Amazon slow boat last year so we were looking forward to something similar here.

Before we could meander our way down river we had to negotiate our first overland border crossing for a while. Overland crossings are more renowned for being at the mercy of officials who are looking for a small bribe to make your passing an easier process. As it turned out, getting into Laos was no problem. We did do a bit of internet research but couldn’t find much clear cut information about what to expect and even what we would need to do at the border. In case you are reading this wondering the same thing, we will outline the process below.

We started off in Chiang Rai in Thailand, we spent 2 nights there and had plans of getting out and seeing the sights (which all seem to be out of town) although once we were there, we just didn’t have the energy to drive around seeing more temples and Wats. Instead we had a weekend day. You need these every so often when on the road. A day to do nothing but a bit of admin work, watch a movie, have a few cool drinks and relax. We did make it out at night though to visit the local markets which were one of the better ones we have seen. They had a lot of market food including the odd plate of insects if that takes your fancy.

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So onto the Thailand / Laos border crossing:
• Busses leave every hour, on the hour from the bus station in the centre of town heading to Chiang Kong at the border. The ride is 2 hrs long and costs 65THB each (advertised on the pillar at platform 4)
• At Chiang Kong, the bus stops on the roadside and from there you need to pay 30THB each for a tuktuk to take you a kilometre further up the road to the border crossing by the river
• Customs is on the left, make sure you have completed your departure card.
• Walk downhill a few meters then pay a lady under a tarpaulin 40THB each to take a rickety boat across the Mekong to Huay Xai.
• Up and on your right, you can apply for a ‘Visa on Arrival’. Pick up 2 forms for completion, hand them in with your passport and a passport photo then wait. Once your visas are ready (maybe 10 to 20mins) you will need to pay US$30 or $35 (depending on your nationality). There is a fee of $1 for weekends and evenings (4-6pm).

We left Chiang Rai at 8am considering that after the bus ride we would be at the border by 10am and have an hour then to cross and get on a slow boat. However the visa processing and crossing time meant that we were finally walking up the road away from Laos customs at 11am. We thought that we had probably missed the boat by that stage as the boat should be leaving around 11am as it takes around 6 hours to get to the first stop, and the boats don’t travel on the river at night. We asked at a ticket office and after phoning to see if the boat was still in town, we got the all clear and were taken to the slow boat departure point (quite a distance up river – not walkable as we had expected). The slow boat was 950THB each and a little cheaper if paid for in Lao Kips, but we were only carrying baht at that point.

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It turned out that we weren’t in that much of a hurry because it wasn’t until just after 12 that the boat finally set off. Our first impressions of the slow boat weren’t as we had hoped. Whereas the Amazon was relaxing in a hammock all day long, the Mekong was perched on seats. And the Amazon was a local transport option where we were the rarity on board, the Mekong is a tourist transport option with the odd Lao on board. Overhearing conversations about peoples Full Moon parties in Koh Pha-Ngan and drunken scooter riding it was clear that we were definitely on the Gap Year trail. Although this was the first time we really felt like this since getting to South East Asia, despite having been to many a popular destination already.

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It wasn’t too bad though, and the Northern Laos landscape around the Mekong was impressive scenery as the boat chugged down the chocolaty waters. In fact looking down on the river, it looked more like the river in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I half expected to see a fat kid float by! We watched as Thai children swam in the water on one side of the boat and Lao children the other as we snaked along the border before the Mekong swings further inland to Laos.

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Our safety in the hands of our 13yr old captain

It was 5 and a half hours before we pulled into PakBeng, a small little river town apparently only there to service the river travellers as every place in town was a guesthouse and restaurant. We got a place for a cheap price of 150THB for the night (food on the boat and everything in PakBeng can be paid in Baht at a very reasonable exchange rate – only about 1% over the official rate) and had dinner overlooking the Mekong.

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The boat left again at 9.30am and we returned to 9 hours of reading and watching the world go by. So many times we got to see everyday life on the river. Children are always playing and splashing around, fishermen trying to catch their dinner in bamboo fish traps and women washing the family clothes.

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We finally arrived at Luang Prabang and immediately felt the laid back atmosphere of the town.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – Given the choice between the boat and a bus, the slow boat was the right move as we did get to see daily life ticking by on the river. However don’t expect the boat journey to be as much of a cultural experience as the sights on the river.

Tanya – The car seats fitted into the slow boat made the long journey bearable. We had a lovely stay at the half way point. The guesthouse did some great takeaway food for us which helped us get thought the following 9 hour day.

Posted by dbgomes 01:09 Archived in Laos Tagged laos round_the_world Comments (1)

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