Laos millionaires

Trip Start Jan 01, 2011
Trip End Mar 21, 2011

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Today we made our way into Laos. We left the guesthouse, which had a view of Laos on the other side of the river, at 8 am and walked to Thai immigration. We then took large motorized canoes across the river to Laos. Upon arriving in Laos, we had to get our Laos visas. It was a bit of a gong show. There's a window to hand in your passport along with the visa forms which are then processed and held up at another window to be claimed and the visa fee paid. Of course, Canada is again the most expensive visa fee at US$42 compared to US$30 for the next highest fee. There were travelers everywhere and everyone was jostling to get their passports processed. This took about an hour and a bit and was quite frustrating.

As the visa was being processed, we exchanged some Thai Baht to Laos Kip and are now millionaires in Laos as one Baht is worth 264 Kip! Finally, we received our visas and walked up the hill to the orange Stray bus and met our local guide who is quite into the company colors with a Stray t-shirt, orange pants and runners! The bus was a bit smaller than expected and we ended up picking up 4 more travelers across the boarder, so we now have 18 in our group, which is the largest group to date, we have been told. The bus was quite tight - I couldn't imagine if it was filled to capacity.

We started our journey to Luang Namtha where we will be for the night. The roads in Laos are extremely winding and are rough in some parts, so the overland travel will be interesting for the next couple weeks. The scenery on the way was small mountains covered in jungle or farms. We were also able to see many villages on the way which were made of rattan or banana leaf - very traditional and not as developed as Thailand. On the bus, the two guides provided us information on Laos, on the tour and we played games to pass the time.

On the way, we stopped for a late lunch. We really enjoyed our first taste of Lao food - chicken fried rice for me and noodle soup and stir-fried vegetables for Jeff. The food was simple, but flavourful and full of vegetables.

We arrived in Luang Namtha around 3:30 pm and checked into our guesthouse, which we were very surprised at. For just over $10, we have a huge room with a private bathroom, tv, fan and wifi - we were blown away. We have never stayed somewhere so cheap. After checking in, we got back onto the bus and drove 8 km to a local village which we walked through and then walked up to the waterfall located behind it. The village was very traditional with traditional houses and storage huts and lots of chickens and pigs running around.

Tonight we are heading to the local market for dinner - the duck and sticky rice is supposed to be amazing and may be heading to a Chinese disco afters. Should be interesting.
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