Up all night!!

Trip Start Jul 17, 2012
1
12
19
Trip End Jun 01, 2013


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Where I stayed
Boom Guesthouse
Pakbeng Guesthouse
What I did
The Mekong River

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Friday, August 17, 2012

ARRIVAL

Morning time was thrilling. I dragged myself out of bed after hitting snooze a few times. I rattled to the bathroom. I really felt like I wanted to throw up but nothing would happen. With gentle movements I finished the rest of my packing and Andrew went to rouse Louise.. Meanwhile I hid in the bathroom. He came back and shouted through the door that he couldn't wake her. I sent him back with the instructions not to return until he got a response. Ten minutes later he came back and said he was heading for breakfast. I hung out in the bathroom for a bit longer. When I got to breakfast they were both there. I wasn't sure whether eating was a good plan or not. I ate some anyway and we sat and waited for the bus, drowning the acid in our stomachs with lots of fluids.
And thus our day began.The bus journey to Chiang Khong was as epic as I had expected it to be. Six hours in a minivan, scorching heat, feck all room and windy roads. Why did we do it to ourselves. The highlight of Andrews brief visit to Chiang Khong was yet to come!
Our bus pulled up at a guesthouse and everyone was unloaded. We were all equally glad to see the back of that bus. We were then split up some stayed in this guesthouse and we stayed at Boom House. We were loaded into a pick up with our bags, they majority of people in to the tray of the pick up and driven a small distance down the road. We pulled up at what can only be described as a building that looked like it was about to fall down. It was quite spread out and ramshackle looking, and extremely weather beaten. Andrew was sent off to a room on his own and myself and Louise were to share. Now if I described the rooms as palatial it would have been the greatest over exaggeration in the history of over exaggerating. They looked pretty much the same on the inside as the outside. If they hadn't been part of the 'package' we had purchased for our Mekong trip I would have quite possibly left. They could have been doing with being completely gutted and rebuilt. Anyway the bathrooms were pretty grim, the rooms were just as grim, there was a solitary fan mounted on the ceiling, and electrics that looked like they could kill. Andrews room looked even more like something from a prison cell. At least we had two proper beds however scruffy they were. Andrew had a double mattress balanced on two metal single bed frames. He had to clamber across about two foot of bare bed frame, risking losing a limb, in order to get in to bed. The door lock was far from the most secure I'd ever seen. Anyway we showered and got ready for dinner. We were being picked up at 18.00. When Louise came out of the shower she was very concerned about where all the water that was lying on the floor was going to go. Must bathrooms in Asia are simply wet rooms. A loo, a sink, and a shower unit or head coming out of the wall. Very few actually have a shower cubicle which is something I quite like. But when you have this kind of set-up you need a drainage hole for all the water to drain to. There wasn't an obvious one here, and there was a hefty presence of bugs in the bathroom, hence Louises fear. On quite a prolonged search I located a hole in the bottom of the wall behind the loo.One thing to be happy about was that we had some drainage!
When we were all showered and felt relatively human again we were picked up in the pick-up again and brought back to where we began. Here we had a buffet style dinner and began filling out the paper work for our visas tomorrow. The three of us were completely pooped. It had been a long aul day, and not the most pleasant of hangovers. Eventually the eating and long processof visa paperwork was complete and we were fading fast. Eventually we were driven back to our luxury accommodation. Here we bade our good nights. Some of us were going to have a better night than others!!
Myself and Lou tucked ourselves in to our wee beds and prepared ourselves for an immense sleep. Lou was out cold in a matter of minutes. I on the other hand took considerably longer. My issue was the immense heat. Our solitary fan didn't provide much relief. It was an introduction to the hot night I was to have again the next night.
Bright an early we awoke to Andrews facebook status. He'd spent the night partying with bedbugs. His back, his head, his elbows and his morale were red and swollen with bedbug bites. I felt that it would not be a very pleasant day. Andrews day then got worse with a breakfast of eggs. After which we packed up our stuff in preparation to bid farewell to Thailand for a while.
We were once again loaded in to a pick-up and brought down to the 'harbour' in Chiang Khong to be ferried across to Houay Xai in Laos. Here we spent a happy hour or so doing the necessary. This involved crossing the border, getting stamped in, changing money, and general waiting around to get on another boat that would take us on the first leg of our trip down the Mekong.
We eventually got to the boat and what awaited us was a vessel that was once a cargo boat which had been modified for passengers. The modifications included seats that had once been in cars which were packed in, enough to hold about one hundred people, a 'toilet' which was by far the most vile example I had seen so far (there was no light, it was flushed with river water, and when you flushed the water gushed out all over the floor, (Auntie Joany I thought of you)), and a 'shop' which sold the necessary Chang and noodles. Thus were the modern conveniences at our disposal for our six hour cruise.
The cruise was however a very pleasant experience (for me and Lou anyway). The scenery was stunning. We stopped off at points along the river to pick passengers up and drop others off. poor Andrew was plagued with the itch and the tiredness. But we passed the day reading, dosing and taking a few snaps. 
When we finally reached our overnight stop at Pakbeng the scramble to get off the boat was something to see. One had to hop down off the side of the boat on to a floating jetty (jerry cans tied together). This hop was about three feet. Sounds simple enough but it aint so simple when you've got six kilos on your front and sixteen on your back, trying to balance, and trying to avoid the swarm of kids and touts waiting for you on the jetty. The kids wanted to carry your bags for money, or wanted your food and drink, and the touts wanted you to stay at their 'hotel'. It was chaos. We thought we were clever and sent Andrew on up the hill ahead of us to find the place that we agreed sounded good. Alas it was full. We ended up staying in a place right at the top of the hill. It was pittence each so we went for it. The three of us bunked in together. Andrew began stripping as soon as we closed the door. His poor back was destroyed. So while he showered we headed off in search of something to counteract the swelling and itch. We found the 'pharmacy'. Here ensued a comical exchange between myself and the 'pharmacist', with Louises odd We tried for a good ten minutes to act out antihistamine but were getting nowhere. In the end we had to settle for tiger balm. The first tub of many. It relieved the itch anyway, and allegedly prevented more bites. So with Andrew slathered in this and somewhat soothed with a beer our pretty uneventful night in Pakbeng began. 
 After we had all showered and spoke to the folks we headed off in search of a curry. Pakbeng is pretty much a one-horse town. A few shops, hotels, and restaurants on top of a hill halfway between Houay Xai and Luang Phrabang on the banks of the Mekong, and theres just not much else to say about it. Accessible only by boat it's a place to stop on the unnavigatable at night time river. The curry was ok. The sleep atrocious due to the heat (the one fan was pointed at Louises bed and didn't move), and the generator outside the door hummed all night. But it was what it was. It was so cheap it was nearly free,and it was for one night only.
The next morning was a quick brekkie in the the guesthouse and back down to a new boat. It was here that the fun began. The driver tried to fit the same amount of people from the day before on to a smaller boat. It was never going to happen. With the boat full to capacity people were still getting on. There was room for bags but no seats. The boat was dangerously leaning to the right and that was leaning against and tied on to other boats. No one was to excited about what would happen when we finally moved!! Eventually after about 45-60 minutes of arguing with the boatmen they finally agreed to put on an extra boat. Louise finally found herself able to crack a smile and we were off. Day 2 on the Mekong and only about 8 hours to go in a similar set up as yesterday. The only difference this time was that there was no stopping. We were full steam ahead. Not much to write home about on this trip. Andrew was wedged in beside some young dude while myself and Lou had the luxury of a whole seat each. Great day!!
Eventually we pulled up in Luang Phrabang. And my were we a happy bunch. We unloaded our bags and found ourselves some transport to our new gaff. Great times.... the tuk tuk journey was memorable.
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