Hitchin a ride on a river boat queen...

Trip Start Dec 22, 2011
Trip End Jul 04, 2012

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Our trip to Bangkok from Koh Lanta went smoothy, thanks to the professionalism of Air Asia. If Jetstar executives want to understand how to run a low-cost carrier, they could do a lot worse than book a flight with their competitor. Ok, last Jetstar gripe (probably).

Bangkok has a unique atmosphere that incorporates constant heat and activity mixed with the smorgasboard of being an international tourist hub. The traffic is akin to the M1 at 8:30 am. After a day doing our own thing, we met up with our Gecko's tour group. The usual over-representation of Australians, with an interesting spike of fellow English teachers. The obligatory Swiss-German girl had however been replaced with an obnoxious Swiss-French man. C'est La Vie.

The next day involved some sightseeing around Bangkok and an overnight train trip to Chiang Mai. I had an interesting conversation with our Thai tour-guide, Gung, about the battle of Dien Bien Phu and suggested she read The Quiet American (great book as an aside).

Chiang Mai is the second biggest city in Thailand and whilst not as chaotic as Bangkok, still has its fair share of international tourism and all that it entails. It's the home town of leader in absentia, Thaksin, who seems to run the country via his sister who recently won the election. Gung seemed to agree with me that when the king dies, it could be the basis for civil war as the red shirts (supporters of Thaksin) use the opportunity to oust the monarchy altogether.

Away from the political intrigue, we soon crossed over into the somewhat paradoxically-named People's Democratic Republic of Laos. There aren't too many countries where you can see the Soviet hammer and sickle flag on display. New Year's Eve involved setting off lanterns into the night sky on the banks of the Mekong at Huay Xai. Lenin would not have approved of our bourgeois celebration.

The next two days were my highlight of the trip thus far and involved a 2-day boat trip on the Mekong as we traveled to Pakbeng and then to our current location of Luang Prabang. Laos is a wonderful country and I remember why I loved it so much when I was here four years ago. Despite being in the top-10 of poorest countries in the world, the people are always smiling, genuinely friendly and always having a good time.

Luang Prabang is UNESCO listed and described as the 'best preserved city in South East Asia'. So far, Jo has risen early to give rice to the monks as they travel to the temple and I've partaken in the benefits of the French influence as manifested by numerous bakeries. All is well.

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