White Temple in a hurry and across to Laos

Trip Start Sep 15, 2012
Trip End May 01, 2013

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Did we mention that the cook at Green Tulip did the most amazing runny eggs, this is how we started the day before our transfer to the border arrived. Swilled down with a coffee and Vikki running down to the mailing office to post Christmas cards home (only to discover it was closed for a public holiday). Over breakfast we got chatting to a Canadian couple, Heidi and Greg, who had noticed our Africa t-shirts and were interested in the overland experience as a future experience for themselves.....short lived, our transfer arrived but as it turned out they were headed in the same direction and on the same transfer....

Around 8.15am we left in our minibus following a minor annoyance concerning a miserable faced German lady and her husband who sat on the outside two seats of a row and wouldn't budge over...Vikki having crawled in and worried about travel sickness then negotiated with an American to swap with her and sit up front, unfortunately after the American vacated the German woman then moved into the front seat even though she had witnessed the exchange between Vikki and the Yank over swapping?? Life should be easier, Paula caught hold of the door before the lady closed it and following a lot of foreign words muttered she moved back to her seat, next to her husband!! Weird start to the journey.

A couple of hours later following a quick cigarette and beer pit stop we arrived into Chiang Rai and were told we had exactly FIFTEEN minutes to see and photograph the White Temple.....fifteen minutes! This temple was the single most beautiful building we had ever seen, a picture of pure white glistening architecture, vastly ornate, and twinkling like a multitude of stars from the bright sunlight that bounced off every curve and swirl of its rendered design. We didn't have time to ponder the disappointment of the time we had, so we got snapping away and quickly made our way over the walkway and into the temple itself, a internal space that was ridiculously small compared to the overall size of the structure. Inside a single monk sat staring, meditating cross-legged whilst hundreds of bare foot of tourists marched in and out, he didn't blink an eye.

Painfully aware of our time limit we high-tailed it back to the minibus to find everyone waiting for us - some had seen no point in visiting the temple as they too were 'templed out' but were disappointed when we gave them a wide eyed account of it's beauty! Two British girls on the bus had stopped in the shop not realising that this was part of the package trip they had paid for and the time constraints and before they knew it they were being hustled back on the bus with the guide telling them that the White Temple was not actually part of their tour! We were fuming for them but glad we had made the effort - no matter how short-lived.

Shortly after we arrived at a hotel near the Laos border and everyone was bundled out dazed and confused! Luckily, Greg and Heidi (being seasoned travellers) took us under their wing and pretty soon we were in another transfer for the 3km ride to the border proper - we must have looked all innocent and naive! We got our papers stamped and headed to what must be, quite possibly, the strangest border crossing ever. We were rushed into a dugout boat surrounded by cows and chickens on the Thai shore and made a quick flit over the Mekong river to the Laos side where we disembarked and went through a fairly painful process of obtaining our Laos Visa - money changed hands (and some extra for 'overtime' for the officials - anything after 4pm...), tourists were clambering over each other, Tuk-Tuk drivers were touting for business, a lady fell down the slipway after being run over by a drinks trolley....madness!

We somehow got through it and walked up the main drag with Greg and Heidi giving us strength in numbers. By this point a beer was well in order...for all of us...but first, the small matter of getting accommodation for the night and arranging a boat down the Mekong to Luang Prabang. Our first couple of attempts were fruitless but third time lucky we found a cheap and cheerful guesthouse, dumped our stuff, and headed out for some liquid refreshment. Over a beer, a whole grilled fish and a papaya salad we relaxed in the company of Heidi and Greg and learned all about their 'Good Bug' business which introduces natural predators to the crops of Canada - very interesting couple! We walked back to the crazy street to book a speedboat for the morning slog to Luang Prabang and settled on a company who promised maximum 6 people in a boat and an early enough start to get us to the city late afternoon.

Tick list complete we settled down for a relatively decent nights sleep wondering how the hell we would survive six hours in a packed boat with our knees up round our chins... 
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annewardell on

White Temple looks fantastic!! Glad you made the effort to visit it, inspirational place xxxxxx

Sue on

Fabulous temple, looks like something out of Narnia from a distance. The hands are strange though!

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