Slow boat into Laos and Luang Prabang
So it is our last day in Thailand and we have to get out because or visas run out in a day, we had arranged to take the slow boat trip from Thailand into Laos and to do this we were first picked up my minivan in Chang Mai and driven for a day to the border town of Chiang Khong. The dive was not too bad and the van ok to, it was a good way to get to know some more people that were doing the boat trip with us. One we arrived in Chiang Khong we were dropped off at the guest house that all the slow boat trip peopled stayed at with the package that they had bought, I have to say that the guest house was really bad, the rooms were small, unclean and overall the whole place needed to be demolished back in the 80's, but it only cost £2 per night and for one night would be ok. After we put our bags in our room me and Anna walked into town to exchange some Thai money into Laos Kip and have a look around. There was really not much to see in the town so we hired a motorbike for a few house and headed off into the hills to see the surrounding countryside, and wow it was amazing, one of the best little rides we had ever done. We passed through lush rolling hills and small villages where all the kids ran out to say hi, we kept riding and riding until it got dark and we had to get back and by this time the evening fly's were out and riding back was not fun with a face full of midges. That evening we all sat down and had the dinner that was provided, not be bad and then stayed up drinking for a time getting to know some other people on the trip. There was a really interesting mix of ages and walks of life all wanting to float down the Mekong river into Laos.
The following day we set off early to cross the border into Laos and to get out visas. To do this, once we had all eaten our breakfast we were crammed into a minivan with our bags on a truck and then taken to the Thai immigration border crossing to get out exit stamps which are very important if you ever want to come back into Thailand. The man who stamped my passport was very pleased that I had spent as long as I could in his country and thanked me for that, what a nice man. After the stamp we were then put into a small boat and ferried across the Mekong to the Laos immigration post, here we had to join the other hundred people all not knowing what they are meant to do to get out new Laos visas and passports stamped but after a hour of paperwork and forms we finally had it and we were now officially in Laos.
One first impression it seemed very similar to Thailand, but less developed and dirtier but first impressions and always be wrong.
One we had our passports stamped we headed down to the boat in a taxi and from here we were to set off. It had taken most of the morning to get across the border and the thought of sitting and relaxing on boat was very appealing. The taxi of people that we were with was the last one down to the pier and the boast that everyone else had got on was rammed full and did not look comfy at all, but no problem because we were sent off to another boat that was massive and there was only 20 people on it. The boat was about 40ft long and make off wood, the front half was full of very comfy seats and the back half had a large wooden table with seats. For the next six hours we floated down the Mekong through amazing country side and by massive lime stone cliffs, drinking bear and taking to the other passengers. We all left very lucky after seeing the other boat and how rammed it was, we all felt very lucky for getting such an amazing boat and because of this I decided to bride the captain of the boat with £2 for make sure that me and Anna had the same seats the next day and on the same boat, this was a good move as you will read in a moment.
The overnight stop was in a place called Pak Beng and as we were docking in the most amazing thing happened, right in front of our eyes we watched 2 restaurants drop down the cliff and into the Mekong River. It made the loudest noise of crashing wood and metal that was dropped into the river and left a huge cloud of dust and as it dropped into the river it made a large wave that sent all the slow boats crashing into each other and our boat interlocked with the boat next to use. All the captains had started up there massive boat and slammed then in reverse to escape the now floating restaurant and other boats that could crash into them. As we started to move unlocked and managed to finally dock and get onto dry land. I took some great photos of the landside and the restaurant and it was luck that no one had been killed and from what I had seen it looked like they knew that it was going to fall because they had taken all the belonging out of the building, apparently it happened due to the river flooding and being it highest in 47 years making the soil unstable.
The following morning we headed down to the boat to find that they had removed the large table and put in lots of wooden benches of others to sit on, in fact there was so many benches that the other boat came on to our boat. This made out boar very cramp, but no problem because my bride had paid off and we had our nice comfy seats all the way to Luang Prabang.