Hello from Laos!
As I cruise down the Mekong River on a slow boat I have entered my 35th country and have now been to 14% of the world!
Yesterday the journey to Chiang Kong was a long one. The mini van seemed to take forever but the trip was broken up by a visit to a beautiful temple. In this part of the world it can become very repetitive and temples become almost boring. However, this temple was unlike any other and very impressive. The White Temple is in Chiang Rai and when we arrived the white exterior glistened in the sun. The intricate and in places strange design was beautiful to look at and I enjoyed taking pictures. I attempted to take my compulsory jumping photo but was made to delete it by a very angry security man! I even had to remove it from my deleted photos!
When we arrived in Chiang Kong, the town on the border with Laos, we checked into a very basic guesthouse. The package includes 3 days and 2 nights, travel on the slow boat and 3 meals, not bad for £30! The meal included was at The Hub Pub and after a rest we walked down to it with some others on the tour. We were greeted by a scouser called Alan who was very friendly and loved getting backpackers to mix and chat to each other :)
It became apparent as I looked around the bar that this guy Alan, who appeared to be making ends meat running the only bar in a small town in northern Thailand with his Thai bride, was more than just a cycling enthusiast! Alan was Alan Bate, Guinness World Record holder for cycling around the world in the fastest time, 106 days! A record he set in 2010 and which was broken 2 weeks ago!
So I just took a break from writing... Mitch and Celia were asking about travels and Dubai!
Back to the world record setting drunk scouser! Alan was definitely a character but part of me was sad to see how the mighty can fall! In his day, no so long a go, there is no doubt that Alan was famous in a big way! The winners jerseys, photos, bikes and other memorabilia around the bar was impressive but a sad contrast to the drunken man now organising 'Killer Pool' and 'Carrot-oke' for backpackers! However, he was a great guy, very welcoming and we had a fantastic night! The bar slowly filled up with other backpackers from all around the world and in the end there were about 20 of us, we're all now on the same Slow Boat too!
Today was an early start and after a FaceTime with Tara, who is having a great time in Marbella, we set off to the Laos border at 8am. Entering the country was a long process as the immigration required a number of forms, buildings and buses. After a while we made it through and followed the group to the boat.
As I write now it's 5:04pm and I'm stood at the front of the slow boat with rolling green hills on either side of me and small remote villages occasionally on the banks of the river, from which every so often small groups of children wave! Cruising down the Mekong is definitely an experience of a lifetime and one that is worlds away from my usual life! Here I can feel how remote we are, I feel days away from help and feel like these people really do live and exist off their surroundings!
It is heartbreaking that the conversation of most on the boat has been terrorism, attacks in France and Brexit! Maybe it is because here we feel so far away from the crazy world that is under constant attack and many of us are reading similar news each day to keep up to date. In the words of Elton John, 'It's a sad, sad situation and it's getting more and more absurd!'
Travelling since the Brexit vote has meant an awful lot of Europeans asking about it when I say I am English. It is probably the next question following name, country and age in most conversations. Europeans are appalled the UK voted to leave and I still haven't met anyone my age that voted to do so. It's interesting to hear from the point of view of Europeans my age that most people think it is a tragic decision for the whole of Europe!
The journey down has been really smooth and I have enjoyed talking to fellow travellers from all around the world whilst taking in the scenery. There are around 150 on the boat now, as the second boats engine broke about 3 hours ago! The 75 people from that boat were transferred onto our boat along with all their rucksacks! It's been pretty cramped but everyone is just taking it in their stride. We are around 30 mins from Pakbeng where we will all stay overnight before another day on the river tomorrow.
As we approach the village I'm going to sign off. It looks lovely and people are waiting to collect us on the side.
From a little village along the Mekong River, bye for now X
So as I write I'm in Happy Bar in Pakbeng, half way down the Mekong River. Music is playing, beer is flowing and I've just lost to Martin at beer pong! We checked into a little guesthouse when we got here and we've just been for a curry.... More river time tomorrow... Night all X