Chiang Mai - Huay Xai - Pakbeng - Luang Prabang

Trip Start Sep 08, 2004
Trip End Sep 07, 2005

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Sunday, September 26, 2004

We headed off on Monday with Brendan and Helen (English couple we
met in Chiang Mai) on a 6 hour bus trip to the Thailand-Laos border
at Chiang Kong/Huay Xai. Spent the night in Patbeng in Laos, a ghost
town in the middle of nowhere - strange place! There was about 15 of
us staying in this rundown shack so we did the only thing that you can
do in such a place - drink!

It was all fine while we were on the beer, but things got interesting
when the 80% proof whiskey was produced!! Heads weren't too good the
next day though for our 6.45am rise - followed by 3 hours messing about
at immigration\border crossings and then the journey commenced.

This was very enjoyable, if not comforable. About 30 of us were on a
'slow boat' down the Mekong River on the way to Luang Prabang. The
scenery ia fantastic, got loads of pictures! After seven hours we got to
out port for the night - a dirt-track village on the river. This place
was tiny - with no electricity! Power was managed via generator - that
was until the diseal ran out! It made for a very interesting night -
eating and drinking beer with the locals by candlelight!

The next morning saw yet again an early rise, and heads were again not
the best! Todays boat journey was just over 8 hours - and it was not
comfortable! About 70 of us were crammed onto the boat - about 60
backpackers and 10 locals - and all out luggage! The boat was so packed
that we couldn't even get a seat - which were just wooden church like
seats anyway. We found a spot to throw ourselves on the floor at the
back of the engine room - not pretty. Once the engine started up though
we quickely realised that this was not an option - the noise was
deafening and the fumes choking!

We looked in vain for any other spot on the boat - not even floor space
was to be found - it was going to be a long day! Passed the first couple
of hours wandering around the boat chatting to newfound friends, sitting
in the middle of the aisle and leaning out any open window. Eventually a
few people got off the boat at a stop and we were able to find a spot to
throw out selves - seriously no bigger than a pallet for 4 of us! There
was about 14 of us in close proximity - all thrown on the floor - with
not even room to straigen our legs - it was painful, but you've got to
see the funny side. Chatting and reading made the day pass by, and a
short stop at some caves allowed us a chance to stretch our legs.

Finally we made it to Luang Prabang - an enchanting little town on the
Mekong. Stayed in a nice guest house last night - you have to take your
shoes off before entering - have forgotten once already and got some
dirty looks! The people we have met here in Laos are very friendly -
always up for a chat to practice their English!

We plan to stay here for a another night or two and then move on....
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