Chang Mai definitely grew on us as a city and when it was time to leave, we were both a bit sad to say goodbye. However, on the horizon was an exciting two-day trip on the slow boat down the Mekong River in to Laos.
After a grubby night spent in the bleakest hotel yet, Pakban Hotel in Chiang Khong plus an extra Gecko in our room at no extra cost, we left for the border crossing in to Laos. The ethos in Laos is “PDR”, Please don’t rush because nobody else is; which became extremely apparent at the border. Once filling out our visa forms and queing to hand in our passports, it took around 1 hour and a half to receive our passports back. After that, we headed to a nearby shop where we needed to hand them in again and wait another 30 minutes. It took around 3 hours in total but we made it to the boat and we crossed our first border, relatively hassle free! 🙂
Due to border hold ups, the boat left 2.5 hours later than scheduled but on full steam ahead we made it to Pakbeng 6 hours later. Even though we were seeing out the end to our first monsoon in South East Asia, the view was incredible. I couldn’t guess how many SLR camera’s were wapped out on the boat but I managed to get this shot on my little compact Samsung 5mm optimal zoom.
We thought it best to pre book accommodation in Pakbeng, as it’s a small one street town, aimed at housing the tourist travelling through on the slow boat. When we got to our booked guesthouse, we were greeted with a smile but also “Full”. We tried to explain we had pre booked on the Internet but the owner didn’t speak very much English & ushered over an English speaking local for us to talk to. He explained that even though the guesthouse accepts pre bookings, they don’t always check the Internet. Annoyed and frustrated, we walked up and down the street but everywhere was full! In a stroke of luck, I spoke to one owner of a guesthouse who had a spare room in her own house. We shared this room with a lovely couple from the Netherlands, who were also struggling with finding somewhere to stay. We paid £2 each for the night & were relieved we had somewhere to stay. (Apparently a couple of girls from the boat had to sleep on mattresses on someone’s front porch!)
Check out our beds in Pakbeng – it was definitely cosy!
Leaving promptly at 9am the next morning we cruised further south along the Mekong River to the final destination, Luang Prabang. We headed out to eat with Ilsa and Mike, who we shared the floor space with in Pakbeng, & went on to Utopia Bar in the evening. Tonight we’re off to Dao Fah, a club which showcases live local bands playing Lao and Thai pop alternative; then on for some 12am bowling & more BeerLao!
Tomorrow we’re attempting an early start to watched the apprentice monks receive alms at dawn. Hello 5.30am with a fragile BeerLao head…
PS. Check out these amusing Do’s and Don’ts of Luang Prabang!