I hope everyone is settled in nicely for another (long awaited) blog!! Steve here to bring you up to speed on our adventure after leaving Chang Mai, what seems like an age ago!! So get ready as we pick up on the Thai/Laos border.......
We successfully left Thailand across the river (turns out I wasn't wanted for anything, except being a Ladyboy) and entered a massive scrum to try and get a Laos visa. It was carnage, with body parts and pens flying everywhere. Again, we slipped past border control ($35 lighter) and was in a brand new country. A communist country I might add, it was very bizarre to see the Laos flag fly high next to a Hammer and Sickle. Although it means absolutey nothing and Coca Cola runs through all the streets.
Now to get to our destination we decided to book the slow boat. It's a two day trip down the Mekong River. We arrived at the port brimming with confidence, and glad we weren't getting on a speed boat, which would cut our journey down to 7 Hours, but with a real great risk of death. Surely the slow boat is a lot safer?? No. A rather nice looking chap stands up and starts preaching to us " The reasons we take your passport number is because you will die! or Not" he quickly adds to the gasps of horror from the 50 strong crowd. He adds "You should all get on my bus, much safer, and a tiny bit more expensive" So after some umming and arrring we take the risk. We laugh at death, square in the face! Look deep into his robes and say No! The river is the better option. And I am so glad we took the river.
Boat # 1: The boat is nothing I have ever seen or expected. About 30 foot long, wooden, with wooden seats, its a floating reason to have a sore bum for 3/4 days. But its all part of the experience! Now let me introduce to you Matt and Rachael, a cool couple who we managed to hoodwink into liking us. We settled into to our painful chairs and started to play cards, a great way to pass time. Until the invasion of the Oz. "Just to let everyone know we party hard and play music blah blah blah" They got the party going so I thought the best idea was 'If you can't beat em, join em' So I got some beer Lao's in. What's that I hear you say? Surely you are traveling for more than Beer Lao Stephen? Well, sorta. Nah just kidding, North Laos has some of the most spectacular scenery. The mountains rise up and up towards the heavens, covered with such dense jungle. The green striking a cord against the blue skys (pictures will follow as soon as we find a good place to upload off our camaras, although you'll disappointed to notice I'm not brown ) We kept a look out for weird or wonderful creatures, but the best we saw was water buffalo. Eventually, after 6/7/8 hours, (We lost track of time, after we finshed 3 beers and a bottle of whiskey (thanks to Matt!)) we arrived in a town called Pakbeng under the cover of darkness. The way the chappy who predicted our impending doom earlier descibed this village put me in mind of a place full of vagabonds, filled with cutless carrying Pirates. He couldn't be further from the truth. It was filled with really nice people and a semi comfy bed. So after a meal of Buffalo curry, which looked and tasted suspiciously like beef, and a hot shower which involved sitting in a tub and pouring hot water over ourselves with water brought from a man in wellies, we slipped into a deep slumber.
Boat #2. So the second day down the Mekong River was not as alcohol filled as the first, but nonetheless just as fun. The boat was really packed up with a lot of different nationalities, including an American Opera singer (male) that Holly thought was a female when he broke into the Stars and Stripes. This journey was filled talking to a Scottish couple called Bruce and Sarah, both very funny, that found jokes in everything, and were brilliant at taking the mick out of the drunk Ozzys in a non malicious way. God bless British Sarcasm. So we eventually arrived at our destination, Luang Prabang.
Hu rang Prabang?? Luang Prabang! (sorry, lame gag)
So Luang Prabang, a wonderful old French Colonial town, mixed with a great chilled out vibe. After dinner with both couples we wandered through the night market, which, as a famous saying out here goes, was Same Same but Different. The only difference being in price. And Holly assures me the Market has grown from about 20 stalls to well over 150. Same Same but Different. But after our death defying two day boat journey we just wanted to crash and burn, didn't set a alarm, and had a good 12/13 hours sleep. How wonderfully lazy. Day two in Luang Prabang was spent exploring. It's a wonderfully chilled out town, nothing to do but eat, sleep and drink, in any order. And Monks, Everywhere! Couldn't move without seeing a monk, climbing trees, cylcing along, an orange blur flying past, yelling Sabaai-dii (hello) from various monasterys as we sweated our way around the village. I loved it here. A nice sleepy town, with a semi-decent pool table.
One of the highlights of Luang Prabang was going to see a waterfall nearby. After a half hour tuk-tuk drive we arrived at base camp, and walked up a hill with the roar of a lion nearby. Turned out to be the waterfall, which was amazing. Gallons of water seem to cascade down every second, and the water colour was the most deepest shade of opal turquoise, very impressive to see. But we also came there to swim. And the best way into the water was via a swingy thing, and the water was ice cold, a welcome relief from the heat of the day. Sort of!
Day 3: The day was spent sitting watching the Mekong from a vantage point after a crossing a rickety bamboo bridge. Nice and chilled out, calling beer o'clock. Holly was teaching Rachael some Poi moves, until a hoarde of Laos kids came past and stole the Poi and had a lot of fun swinging them around over their heads! The evening was spent walking up to the top of Mount Phu Si, to watch the sunset, was only okay, because the sawrms of the photographers trying to get the best shots kept blocking our view. That evening, after dinner, Holly and I bumped into a burping woman, who at first sounded like a bull frog! Very funny stuff and a nice way to wrap up our vist to Luang Prabang.
Tubing central. And the only reason to come to this town. After a 6 hour bus journey through the mountains (I had to close my eyes at some of the drops) and the nutter driving us, we arrived with hoardes of other backpackers to tube, which involves getting in a tube and floating down a river, stopping at bars and drinking copious amounts of whiskey. We used Chinese new year as an excuse to start the party early! The first bar we stopped at had a swing at least 40 foot up in the air, that myself and Matt both braved. So after 5 hours of floating and jumping and zipwiring and pretending to be Oz to get more whiskey (Oz Day) we staggered home with a hazy head and to sleep before the next part of our journey......
So signing out, I hope my waffle hasn't bored you too much! Missing everyone loads, take care Holly and Steve xxxxxx