A Travellerspoint blog

July 2012

Laos.....slow boat

Chiang Mai, Chiang Kong, Huay Xai, to Luang Prabang

sunny 27 °C

There is no easy way to get from Chiang Mai over to Laos without taking a few different methods of transport. The trips are widely advertised all over Thailand so we waited until we went to got to our guesthouse to buy the tickets. From this we knew we would be collected from Chiang Mai taken to Chiang Kong to stay there overnight and then take over the border into Laos.....simple....yes.....but what a long long journey. Some good tips here if you need to know.

We took the late bus as it was a mini bus with only 5 of us in there. The journey advertised loses an hour compared to all the others and I initially thought this would be because the roads would be quieter, however, it was because the driver thinks he is Sterling Moss and the best thing to do is buckle up and not look out of the windows otherwise you will be gripping the edge of your seat thinking that this will be your last trip ever. There are some serious close shaves and it doesn't help when you have a toilet stop the driver is swigging on some kind of cough medicine which is a common thing to give you a buzz .....like red bull. I would never touch the stuff but the driver told me that it would keep him awake, so bearing this in mind, we all climbed back into the bus....lives in his hands....with us gripping the seats. It's funny because if I was at home you wouldn't get me in this bus!

So we arrived an hour before....even went past our stop, he was buzzing that much, and our ticket included an nights accommodation with breakfast. The room was basic but nice with ensuite.....not Ritz...but who cares at 130am. Getting up at 7 was a killer though and the breakfast wasn't that enticing. We habit drummed into us that we would be leaving at 8 but we didn't leave til 9 and also they went on and on that there was no where to get food after leaving the guesthouse so we bought rolls and cushions for the boat ....they said the seats were like benches.....everyone bought cushions. We were taken from the guesthouse into the town and dumped off at a travel agency....that was step one. They took our passports....needed for the boat tickets and we had to wait to be collected about by tuk tuk and taken down the road and dropped at at the river where you take a small boat across the river into Huay Xai, Laos. You then queue with your boat group to get your visas....two forms to fill out, bish bash bosh and you're in. You will need passport photos and you can not get them done here. This takes forever....you then have to walk up a steep hill and get another tuk tuk which takes you to a cafe ......where incidently you can buy rolls.....get them here because the guesthouse ones were bloody awful! There are shops for drinks etc and more food so don't panic before.....you can walk down to the boat from here. The boat leaves at 1130.

When we got onto the boat we were told that we couldn't leave yet as more people were arriving, they literally pack you inline sardines....TIP.....GET THERE EARLY AND GET A SEAT.....we didn't see any hard benches just old car seats, which were comfy, so we purched ourselves down. Another tip.....we met Jo and Ashley in Goa who gave us the heads up on the boat, bearing in mind it's a two day trip....the scenery can become second nature.....bring beer, vodka...whatever.....so I bought a bottle of vodka and a bottle of coke with a few cans of beer to share around. We had a brilliant time on that boat....it was like a party! Got to know many people and the people we met on the boat were doing the same trip as us through Laos so we just kept meeting up.....it was lovely. It rained a lot of the way but we were verging on Monsoon season....plus if it was hot there I think the journey would be quite uncomfortable.

We arrived in Pakbeng about 6 or 7 pm and we all stayed in a guesthouse by the river but you have to walk up a very steep hill in the dark, now I'm not blaming the vodka but lack of sleep from the previous nights but there was no chance of me joining the group for dinner as I was absolutely shattered....I went to bed at 7ish and was out for the count. Chloe joined the group and had an amazing time....I missed out apparently! The guesthouse was part of the trip, you can opt to find your own place for less money but to be honest it's just not worth the hassle running around in the dark. there are plenty of guest houses and loads of free roomsobering much of a much so we went with our group. We got up for breakfast ordered rolls for the boat for day two which they forgot to do which made us late for the boat....remember what I said.....get there early....well because we weren't early we didn't have a seat...seriously....no seat for an all day journey. We had to sit on a step....I was not a happy bunny I can tell you especially as there was a Chinese lady...and I say that in the loosest term, with her bare feet up on a spare seat refusing to move them. This is considered very disrespectful in Asia as she should have known. Then her husband kept rubbing his arm against Chloe's leg and putting his stuff by my feet so I couldn't move.....I was getting agitated! I just about kept my cool!

This is when the cushions came in handy and chatting to people again takes your mind off the trip. I would definately recommend is journey over a bus ride any day.....think of it as a cruise down the Mekong River. We arrived in Luang Prabang just after 5pm from memory and were bombarded with tuk tuk drivers telling us all sorts of rubbish like you couldn't walk to the town because it's too far or that there are massive hills to walk up.....all rubbish....it's like a five minute walk to the town with ample accommodation. The next leg....... Is on its way....I've got some catching up to do!

Posted by Vicky Bailey 06:26 Archived in Laos Tagged travel river luang_prabang trip chiang_mai ferry journey mother_daughter blog world_trip slow_boat huay_xai back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing chiang_kong Comments (0)

Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Tiger Sanctuary, Chiang Mai market,

sunny 27 °C

We decided that it was time we took our overdue trip to Laos but getting there from Langkawi in Malaysia was going to take approximately 14 hrs by coach...VIP coach, just to get to Bangkok. Then we would stay a night in Bangkok which turned into 2 nights and we took another coach; which promised to be VIP but was no where near it god knows what economy was like! This journey was another 14 hours....supposed to be. So if you are an avid follower as I know some of you are, there is never an uneventful journey with us and this one has given us more memories.

The trip to Bangkok went well, the coach was good and there was even a hostess on board handing out snacks and juice, we had blankets too. We arrived around 6 am and were able to get a good room and slept which we only had to pay for that night so we had a night free. Bangkok....well if you haven't been there in Khosan Road it is bar after bar with a bustling street of people bouncing between bars and street stalls. You will hear a strange popping noise from some of the men smacking their lips together followed with "you want ping pong show?" This is exactly what you may think it is, a show of women that thrust ping pong balls out of Lady Town (to be polite). Apparently, as I didn't want to see the show, sometimes you get a bat and you can try to hit the balls coming out. I couldn't think of anything worse! We sat at a table to have a beer, which is welcoming in the heat there. We were there about an hour when a seller came over to us and handed us a very crude embroidered bracelet, there is no way I can repeat what it said....it was bad! She pointed over to a guy sat a few tables down, as I looked a waitress came over and handed me and Chloe two large beers. I told her we hadn't ordered them and she pointed to a man sat a few tables behind us. Then....I swear this is true ........a rose seller came over and handed us roses.....from a few tables opposite us! How bizarre! It gets better......the guy that bought the roses then bought us balloons! Next two plates of food were plonked down in front of us courtesy of the guy who bought the beer. We couldn't eat the food as it was overflowing with chicken and being veggies....its a no no. So it would be rude to the staff and the guy to send it back so we decided to get the tissue napkins and pick out the chicken to feed the stray cats and dogs around. Had we been meat eaters then this amount of chicken would have pleased anyone but I was stuffing it in my pockets, purse and in my hands, as was Chloe but there was still too much. I stuffed the noodles in a large tissue bag I made and dumped it in the bin near the toilets and voila......our plates were empty! Funny thing was not one of the generous guys came and spoke to us....they didn't try it on or anything....it was very strange!

When we left Bangkok I already felt abit suspicious of our journey because we had to wait an hour over the arranged pick up time only to be dropped off somewhere else to wait there an hour. When we finally got going the coach wasn't up to much....no where near our other coach...no hostess, blankets or snacks. We were supposed to arrive at 6am but at 5.30 apx the coach broke down about 15 km outside of Chiang Mai. They ordered tuk tuks for everyone but again I grew suspicious as the driver divided me and Chloe and two other girls from the other men and couples which meant there were four girls in the tuk tuk. This meant we were vulnerable and I knew straight away there would be a problem. The two girls were friends that had clearly fallen out due to their lack of conversation etc and both were worried about this leg of the journey. I saw the driver hand over the money to take us to our guesthouse and I asked him if the tuk tuk would take us all the way and he confirmed it would. Well what a load of rubbish that was, we got into the city about 7am and he stopped outside of anger guesthouse telling us we all had to stay there. I told him we had booked somewhere else and that he had been paid to take us there. This is when he told me he didn't understand any English albeit he then demanded more money to take us to our accommodation. The two girls rang their hosts and were picked up...this happened because they were on a package deal to travel in the jungle whereas we were not....no one to phone and not a clue where we were in the city. The girls left and we sat in the back of the tuk tuk refusing to pay any more...we were going to sit it out. The Thai lady from the guesthouse came out and said "You pay more...he need to go home if you don't pay he take you to his home" I say she said it but really she had such a screaky loud voice she annoyed me but I wasn't going to let her get the better of me so I said calmly "he's been paid, we will not pay more, ok then we will go to his house." At this point Chloe is tucking into a bag of crisps and Oreos telling the lady she is spoiling her breakfast....it was quite comical looking back. She said in that voice again "Lady are you crazy! You are in Thailand now! His family no speak English!" Obviously I know this but you know what you get fed up of getting ripped off and today I was going to stand my ground. "Thats ok, we can teach them" I said calmly. So guess what happened next..... He drove for about half an hour into the middle of nowhere and we are surrounded by fields with the odd house nearby, stopped the tuk tuk taking the keys out and went and sat up the road! Well....we sat it out for another half hour and by this time it was coming up for 9am, luckily a taxi drove past so we flagged it down and were just about to get in when the tuk tuk driver ran over to the taxi speaking quickly in Thai....apparently he told the driver we had refused to pay him but fortunately for us the taxi driver saw right through him and took us to our guesthouse. It certainly was an experience but on hindsight maybe I should have just given him more money. But if I did this thing will go on and on with other travellers....it's all a scam and there are plenty of them in Thailand but that's not to say everyone is out to scam you because they are not.

Chiang Mai is beautiful and it was a shame we didn't have longer there. We went to the night market which is the biggest I have ever seen any where. It is streets and streets of stalls selling everything from clothes, lights, food, shoes.....you name it you can get it. We walked around til about 1130pm and got to our guesthouse at midnight and guess what......they had only gone and locked it all up so we couldn't get in. After half hour of banging on the door and ringing the bell we were met with a not so happy landlady. The rooms were really beautiful too, wooden floors with lovely sculptured beds, all wooden building.

We spent some time visiting the Tiger Sanctuary where we actually got to touch the tigers of all sizes. That was pretty scary of me as I couldn't get it out of my head that it might just turn on me and bite my head off....a normal reaction I think but Chloe didn't seem to be bothered about this and practically lay on one of them. There are photos on the face book page, it's difficult to load them on this site.

People say that the tigers are drugged but whilst there they grabbed a large leaf and waved it around near the tiger pool to which the tiger run up to grab it and splashed in the water.....amazing....they were not drugged at all, they usually sleep during the day. This was a short visit and next we were on another coach for our trip to Laos.....watch this space!

I forgot to mention that we also spent a day on a zip wire course in the jungle. This was brilliant fun and didn't cost too much for the amount of time we spent there. They give you a harness and then you are with a group of about 6 others and we managed to get through 40 odd obstacles ranging up to 40 meters high flying through the jungle and some were virtual drops which were awful! You have to stand at the edge of the tree, because it's all built of wood around the trees in the jungle and then you lower yourself down,however, you are at the mercy of staff there who control the level of speed that you go down. I stood at the top and in the most polite way without showing fear, because I was petrified and didn't want them to know, pleaded my case why they should let me down slowly. They seemed very sincere and slowly lowered me down before saying "is this speed ok?" of course it was and just as I was about to nod yes they let go of the rope which sent me in a rapid decline until I was inches away from the ground. I screamed! How pathetic of me! Still I guess it's a natural reaction, even though I was the only one to scream like a baby!

Posted by Vicky Bailey 05:42 Archived in Malaysia Tagged travel bangkok chiang_mai roses tuk_tuk journey mother_daughter blog scam world_trip night_market vip_bus back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing stray_dogs broken_down_bus tiger_sanctuary hijacking scammer khosan_road stray_cats Comments (0)

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