From Chiang Mai we took an express bus north-east to Chiang Rai where we stayed the night. This was a very small and quiet place and offered little in the way of entertain but that was fine with us as we only used it as a stop off point. The highlight was a giant clocktower that, on the stroke of 9pm, started singing and changing colour. First vibrant yellow, then green, red and blue, whilst an object rose from its centre and opened up before lowering to its original position. Only slightly more impressive than Newmarket clock tower! Its quite hard to explain and definitely is something that you had to be there for but it was a great spectacle.
After Chiang Rai we set off for the border town of Chiang Khong again via bus, but this time it was a hop on-hop off jobby and there were times that we thought it wouldn't get us there without breaking in two, or our backpacks would fall out of the back door! But once we had arrived it was a quick trip down to the riverbank of the Mekong which we crossed in a watertaxi and entered Laos. After we sorted out our visas and paid USD$35 to get in we walked a short way through the small village called Huay Xiay to a wooden hut where we stayed for the night.
Early the next day we made our way down to the river and set off on a 9 hour journey in the slowboat south to a place called Pak Beng. Here we stayed the night and sampled some free Lao Whiskey, well it would have been rude not to! The following morning it was back to the boat for a further 8 hours downstream to Luang Prabang. Funnily enough the slow boat was very very slow but it was well worth it in our opinions because it gave us the chance to see the breathtaking Lao scenery.
In Luang Prabang we went straight to our already booked hostel called SpicyLaos, sister to the one we stayed at in Chiang Mai. It had a similar friendly, relaxed vibe to it which allowed us to settle in quickly. We really enjoyed our stay here (4 nights in total) because we got to meet up with some mates we made in Thailand as well as make a few more. FAR OUT! SHUT UP! Whatsmore we found the best chill out place yet, the aptly named Utopia. It was this restaurant away from the main part of town overlooking the Mekong River that served great Spaghetti Carbonara and had sun loungers to lay back and drink Beer Lao in. What more could you ask for?! Anyone going to Luang Prabang has to find this place. By night there was a market that stretched the whole length of the main street. We spent about an hour on a few nights browsing through what they had to offer on the hundreds of stalls, haggling down prices for souvenirs and presents. As for food, we liked to venture down one of the side streets and enjoy chicken on a stick with sticky rice because it was so cheap and allowed us to watch the hoards of people passing by. One night we even went bowling which was a very strange night - there were hundreds of drunk foreigners randomly picking up a bowling ball and throwing it down a free alley, well thats what it seemed like. The reason why so many travellers go to this place is because there is a national curfew in Laos which states that locals have to be home by 11pm, so when we found out there was a bowling alley open until 2am it had to be tried. And it was a fun night (apart from me losing my phone!) After a few mornings of waking up feeling rough we decided to take t'tuk-tuk to this waterfall about 45 mins out of town. The water here was really blue and the water quite chilly but it was a good day. Then it was time to say our goodbyes to this place and take a minibus down to Vang Vieng.