Our trip from Laos to Thailand started off promising after a few mishaps. We had decided to take a speed boat up the Mekong (which is advised against as it is dangerous, although we only found this out after booking it) which after they over booked it tried to make us change. Needless to say we refused (with a lad from Manchester) and they went and got a bigger boat. I say bigger but you still only had enough room to sit with your knees against your chest (after 6 hours we all had severe cramp). We were each given crash helmets and set off at high speed up the river (and I mean high speed!!) After about 20 minutes we pulled into a alcove of the river as the engine had failed! We floated there whilst he spent the next 30 minutes taking the engine apart, forcing a screwdriver into a few connectors and then putting it back together again. Whatever he did it worked and once again we were on our way up the river at an even greater speed (at least 50mph) for another 30 minutes when we were waved down from the shore and one of the local passengers bought a huge fish. After this stop we were at least 2 hours behind schedule with a border to cross! and hoped that he would just get us there. I'm sure yuo've already guessed that he didn't, and ten minutes later stopped to pick up another passenger. Yet again we set off with high hopes only to make the strangest stop of them all!
We arrived at a house on the beach and all got off to stretch our legs abit to notice that the locals had a huge lizard (at least 4 foot in length) hog tied and the driver was bartering over a price (after having weighed it). This lizard was not happy to say the least and tried to bite anything that got close enough. Once the price had been agreed it was brought to the boat and we thought it was going to be slaughtered. NO! it went into the boat alive (and the boat wasn't that big).
To try and keep this as short as I can we arrived at the hi-speed boat port (after a few more uneventful stops) at 5pm and it was out of town. This is when we found out that the Mancunian who was on our boat had entered Laos illegally and didn't have a visa entry stamp. The fool was hoping somebody would take him across the river at night (the river is the border, one side is Laos the other Thailand). He latched on to us as a hopeful way to cross. We had been given a number of a guy that would collect us and take us across the border and then to Chiang Mai, but (pardon my language but I can't explain this, and the emotions I felt without it) he fused to pick up his phone at first but eventually did and was f***ing useless. After a few phone calls to him and the company in Laos (if ever there do not use 'Discovery Laos) his son arrived and got a tuk tuk to take us to the border.
This is when I decided that the Mancunian was a prize winning t*** as he tried to say that he had booked with us and had shown only his boat receipt. The lad wasn't stupid and then made him pay extra! Then things started to make me angry as the border was closing, we were meant to be across the river but were held up because he wouldn't go through customs!
Eventually we got the last boat across the river but the Thai side had already closed!!!! We then had an immigration officer tell us that if we left he would arrest us. I'm sure you can imagine how my blood was starting to boil!! After a couple of irrate phone calls I gave up on the travel company and we found somewhere to sleep.
The next day we had to go back over to the laos side of the river to get our passports restamped (with the current date as the Thai's wouldn't let us in with yesterdays stamp), then back across the river to be told to be more careful with my entry/departure card as I needed 2 because the first one they gave me was already filled in, in Thai! It is fair to say that this border was the most stressful due to a few knobheads (not the hi-speed boat driver).
There was one good thing to come from all this and that was that we stayed in a town we otherwise would not have stayed in and just passed through. The guesthouse we stayed in had bungalows and the staff were polite (they gave us a lift to the cash machine 2km away as soon as we asked where it was and wouldn't let us walk). Although the bugs were huge. A praymantis about 4 inches long interupted our drinks on the first night.
Other than this there was nothing to the town but a few bars and after the stress of the border we loved it. The last thing I'll say is to Sarah's credit she kept her cool throughout everything, and even calmed me down (after a couple of rants of course!).