Crossing the border to Laos

Trip Start Jan 04, 2005
1
7
66
Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Sunday, February 27, 2005

We had to drag ourselves away from Pai, but it's somewhere I'd definitely like to go back to. Seven of us had chartered a taxi / truck to take us directly to Chang Khong, on the Laos border, and we set off at 9am. The journey was supposed to take 5/6 hours according to the driver, but it ended up being 8/9 hours, and he was flying along all the way, driving down the middle of the road while cars almost swerved to avoid him. We got to Chang Khong and booked into a a guest house for 1 night. We all met up for dinner later and were wandering down the road talking about how safe the drivers were in Thailand, despite the speed and how dangerous it seems, when a moped with 2 Thais on ran into a Farang (westerner) who was harmlessly walking down the side of the road. Everyone went flying but they were all OK, since then we've been very careful.

The next morning we were up at 7am, to get the ferry across the Mekong to Huay Xai, in Laos. After a hectic few hours of pushing through the immigration office and trying to bribe the people to get ours done more quickly we eventually got onto the slow boat to Luang Prabang, the first stop we wanted in Laos. The boat took 2 days, with an overnight stopover in Pak Beng, which I suspect is Laoatian for hell. I had been told by a Thai guest house owner that the geckos either make an even or odd number of squeaks when calling, an even number means 'bad karma' in the location, and until I arrived here I had only heard 'good karma' odd numbered squeaks. As well as the scary gecko calls, the electricity was all run by generator, which shut down at 9pm, and Mary found a rat in her bed when she pulled back the covers. We both spent the majority of the night awake, either uncomfortable or scared of the rats scratching at the door. We were glad to get out of the place in the morning, and get back onto the hard seats in the boat for another 8 hours.

Eventually we arrived in Luang Prabang, and were very glad to get a nice room with a hot shower and no rats for about 2 pounds each per night. the money here will take a bit of getting used to, at the moment it's about 19000 kip to the pound, so if you change 50 quid you become a millionaire, but then spend it all in a week.

Luang Prabang is a strange, but nice, little town with a French collonial past, so there are lots of nice buildings and the food is generally good, also the views around are stunning. Our first day was spent exploring the town and visiting a couple of Wats, including the one at the top of a giant hill in the town centre, about 400 steps until we reached the top, sweating. In the evening we met up with a couple of the friends we had been travelling with recently and had a nice meal.

The following day we had planned to visit the caves in the morning and te waterfall in the afternoon, although we forgot we were working on Laos time, similar to Thai time, but possibly even slower. So we got back from the caves (which were rubbish by the way) too late to visit the waterfall so decided to leave that for the next day. The evening was spent eating nice food and then to a local (across the road from our guest house) bar where we ran into a couple more people from Pai.

The next day we set off for the waterfall, an hours drive away. Once we arrived and got our bearings we found a small hostel for some mountain bears and a tiger, which seemed a little out of place as these were the only animals. As we walked up the river we came across lots of nice splash pools and small waterfalls, which seemed to get nicer the further up we got. We got to a small restaurant at the bottom of the main waterfall which was stunning (the waterfall, not the restaurant), but we had heard that the best places were near the top, so we found a path and began hiking. Half an hour later we found what we were looking for, and I can hoestly say I have never seen anything like it. A large splashpool near the top of the fall, which you could jump into from about 10ft, and look over the edge of the waterfall at the 200ft drop, or the most amazing view across a large valley. The photos on here can never do it justice and it was the most breathtaking scene of my trip / life.

After forcing ourselves away from the pool (after many jumps) we worked our way down at stopped off at another pool with a rope swing. The evening was a quiet one after our fun day, and we were due to set off for Vang Vieng the next day.
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