Let's get LAOdy

Trip Start Dec 01, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
the slow boat

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Oudômxai,
Sunday, January 10, 2010

A very popular way to enter Laos is to start at the border of Pakbeng and slowly float down the Mekong for 2 days to Luang Prabang. The slowboats leave at 10 am every morning. We had taken the earliest bus from Chiang Rai, and arrived at the border at 9 am. Unfortunately, the border was a complete madhouse. In order to get a visa on arrival, you had to fight through a throng of people and shove your passport along with your application into the window, and then join the throng of people waiting to get their passports back. We banded together with the New Zealanders, and Sarah and Rob braved the crowds while the rest stayed behind. They used their time to buy beer for the slowboat. Ash and Lindsey cleaned out the duty free store. While we were waiting, we met Katie, Darlene and Cal 3 Canadian girls from Vancouver. They seemed really fun, so we were hoping they would be on our slow boat.

We got our passports back around 10:30 am. We were worried about catching the slow boat, but as it turns out the boat waits for everyone to get through the border. The company we signed up with took us to a restaurant, and then warned us that the small town where we would spend the night had no electricity, no way to exchange money, not enough rooms for everyone (so you had to book ahead) and no food. We were suspicious of this, especially when they told us they were exchanging money at 200 kip to the baht (yes, Laos kip is one of those currencies with a million zeros on the end of it. The current exchange rate is around 9000 kip to 1 USD) when it should be more like 250 kip to the baht. We each exchanged 500 Baht (about 15 dollars) and ignored their warnings that this would not be enough. We also declined to prebook a hotel room, but we did buy a few snacks.

The slow boat holds 123 people, and it was packed when we got in. We thought we were going to have to sit on the uncomfortable looking wooden benches. Luckily Lindsey found some comfy car seats in the back. We saved 3 in hopes that the Canadian girls would board the boat, and found ourselves fighting off many people who wanted the nicer seats. This was the beginning of the hatred our slow boat had for us. The last 3 people to board the boat were the Canadians, who were very excited we had saved them seats. The border crossing had been pretty stressful, so as the ship left the dock at around noon we cracked open our first beerlaos.We started a rather rowdy game of Kings, and made the germans around us take pictures at every hour mark. 8 hours on a tiny boat with 123 people is a really long time.  I'm pretty sure the Austrian couple just outside our area would have happily killed us. After kings we had a silent disco style dance party (everone had their headphones on and danced to their own music) and then finally, around hour 6 we started to fall asleep.

We arrived at our destination around 8 and suprise suprise, it had food, enough rooms for everyone (at half the price) and all of the hotels accepted thai baht or US dollars. We checked into our room and got our first taste of Laos food. Delicious!

The next day we had to be back on the boat at 8 am. We sent a few people ahead to save seats for us all, and once again we claimed the back room of the boat. We must have been on a different boat because there were no car style seats, and we sat on pillows on the floor. We started out slower than the day before, but around noon we broke into the to-go food we had ordered from our guesthouse in the morning and our Beer Laos stash. We played another game of Kings, reigniting the nasty looks of hatred we received from the rest of the boat. However, not everyone hated us because we had 3 new recruits- 2 brothers from Australia and a girl from Ireland joined our game. This time we added truth or dare, and Ash ended up having to run up and down the boat in his boxers. No one but us was amused. Some other amusing rules were that everyone had to touch the skipper of the boat and wear some sort of funny hat on their head.

Finally, after a total of 16 hours on the beautiful Mekong we arrived in Luang Prabang and set out too look for a guest house.
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rayray51 on

i think i am sea sick just reading about how much time you spent on a boat!

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