. By 8:30 we are stopping in the town of Wacao or Kuchinerai and this gives an opportunity for all of the ladies at the bus station to board the bus and try to sell their BBQ chicken, sweetcorn, etc. On our way again and about 10km short of Kam Cha-i we are stopped at a police checkpoint and asked to produce ID. Apart from making life miserable for one lad at the back they hardly pay anyone else any attention and we soon off again. Pass another checkpoint as we enter town but are not stopped this time. Arrive Kam Cha-i about 9:30 and a little warmer than we were last time when travelling by bike ! We arrive in Mukdahan about 10:00 and get tickets for the 10:30 departure of the INternational Bus to Laos. It is only half full when it leaves which looks promising but when we arrive at the border bridge it is busier than I have seen it before. With only one passport control booth open it is not surprising. There is a long queue and we are here for a good half hour. A Vietnamese chap was behind me and he didnt have the faintest idea about the protocols of queueing; prodding me in the back every couple of seconds. He is better informed now !! It is really hot by now and feels like the hotest day so far this year so when we get back on the bus and discover that the aircon has gone on the blink we are not chuffed. Drive over the bridge and the mighty Mekhong and arrive at Laos immigration. I have all of my paperwork prepared in advance and it onlt takes a couple of minutes for my visa to be issued
. Strangely it is very quiet on this side of the river - where have all the people gone ? - and I pass through immigration almost immediately. I had already decided to leave the bus here and take a tuk-tuk, or skylab as they call them over here, direct to the guest house so we dont wait around. Off we head to Savannakhet and the wind blowing through the skylab is great although it is still very hot. We arrive at our usual guest house, Sayamongkhun, only to find that it was closed. Story has it that the owner died about 5 months ago and no-one else in the family wants to run it. We get our skylab to drive us up the road a bit to the Savanbanhao Guest House that I remember passing when we have been here before. The rooms are pretty dull but quite big, have aircon, hot water bathrooms, satellite TV, etc. It is now seriously hot so we check-in and crash out in the room for a while to cool down. We go out about 12:30 and walk to a small bank to change some money. 1 Thai Baht is now worth 259 Laos Kip and although we dont change too much we walk away with a bundle of notes stuffed in our pockets. We stop at a noodle store for lunch but the food was awful. We return to the room for a bit whilst we try to get our heads around Laos Kip again !! Out about 4:30 after a lazy afternoon watching football o TV whilst Jai slept. Suddenly realise that the aircon is now blowing warm and not cold air, that the room is baking hot and we are both sweating. Down to reception to alert them to this and we are quickly moved to a neighbouring room with working aircon that feels cool as soon as we walk through the door
. We go out and walk down to the river but the views over the Mekhong to Mukdahan are almost blotted out by a still powerful setting sun. Walk around the old market and visit a couple of Vietnamese temples and the Catholic St Theresas church then stop on the main road for an enormous pate and salad filled baguette - the highlight of a visit to Savannakhet for me ! Wanted to sit at a bar on the main road and watch the world go by over a BeerLaos but couldnt see anywhere that looked inviting. Ended up sat outside a small shop opposite the guest house with a cold one and chatting to an elderly German lady travelling on her own and a Swedish chap with his Thai wife on a visa update the same as myself. Back to the room about 7:30, which constitutes a late night for me !, and enjoyed a warm shower and then the aircon.
Up at 4:30 for an early breakfast and by 6:00 we are stood outside the house waiting for the school bus to pass. We normally catch it up the road a bit at 7:00 but decided today to catch it before it did the rounds to pick up all the kids as then it passed in front of the house and I wouldnt have to carry a bag any distance. It finally arrived at 6:50 and plodded off to the next village of Pak Chong where it picked up anyone who was bothering to go to school today then returned to Kamnadie and did the rounds there as well before setting off for Phon Thong. Sharing the bus with all of these schoolkids should have been anexcellent opportunity for Planet Stupid research but to be honest I havent woken up yet ! It was slow progress and looking as though we would miss our 8:00 bus butthe driver dropped us off first before the school run in town began. We had 5 mins to spare before our Mukdahan bus left. The price on this bus seems to change every time we come although as today it is on the cheaper side we can hardly complain