26.01.2012 - 03.01.2012 32 °C
Happy new year everyone! last update was boxing day so we've got quite abit to catch up on!
We left Chiang Mai feeling a little bleary eyed and tired after our trecking but optimistic about our journey into Laos. We did the usual, got picked up in a mini van and travelled for 6 hours heading north to Chiang Khong. After having a decent 12 hours sleep in our guesthouse we set off to the pier where we crossed the river into Laos ( 2 minutes on a taxi boat is all it took!!) but this was just to collect our Visas, a process that we are both quite glad to see the back of ( it was a nightmare!) .. finally after Mike did his best to stay calm at the fact that there is no queueing system in this part of the world we got our visas and made our way in a tuk tuk with 7 others to get our Boat to Luang Prabang. A journey about 2 minutes up stream had us fairly confident we would be on our way speedy gonzalezly.... 10 am turned into 11 am and 11 am turned into 12 pm, waiting around for the river boat to leave downstream. i suppose when the ticket was only a 100,000 kip about £8 for a 7 hour journey you cant be pushy. The people of Laos seem to be more laid back then thai people. any how like sardines crammed into a tin we got on the boat and we were on our way!!
It was quite a peaceful journey, the sound of the motor just trudging along the murky mekong river with jungles and sporadic hill tribes either side of you. If you've ever had a trip along the river thames on a sunny day its quite enjoyable but then the journey you took on the river thames was probably a 2 hour loop max... not for us! we got nearly 4 times that "excitement" and so much going on, on the boat and around you to possibly report back on so we can leave the pictures to try and give you a pretty good idea of what can be expected from the slow boat. We were however grateful we wern't on a tiny speed boat which we had heard were quite dangerous.
Pakbeng.... tired, bums numb from 7th class wooden seats we arrived.. Pakbeng was interesting, it consisted of one road and several guesthouses. Thats it. The town has only started using electricity in the past year and everything closes when it gets dark so we clambered off the boat, found a room for the night and tried to find somewhere to get some food in our bellies! On our boat trip we met a really good group of people, most of which were staying in the same guesthouse as us so we headed out for dinner with 2 argentinian girls who we'd been travelling with for the last few days and enjoyed some grub.
The second day on the boat. We left Pakbeng behind having stocked up on drinks and food for the 8 hour journey that was ahead of us. It was pretty much the same as the day before, a few pick ups along the way as the boat we were on was also used as a taxi for the local village people who rely on it as there way of getting around, it was great seeing all of the villagers and watching them go by their day to day lives. The river is what they live eat, play and even sleep on... a million miles away from what we are used to it really made us appriciate everything that we have back at home.
We arrived in Luang Prabang at about 5pm... so happy to see a town that had such charm! The riverside was spotted with cafes covered in fairy lights and small shops selling all sorts. We found our hotel for the next 2 nights and went to explore the town. Luang Prabang used to be governed by france, until the 1950s so alot of the buildings are influenced by the french style housing you would find in a quaint little village somewhere in the French countryside... of course this wasnt everywhere, there were still the usual tin houses, street kitchens and all the other quwerks that make south east asia what it is. New years eve was great! Mike managed to watch the Chelsea game ( well 45 mins of it so luckily he didnt find out the result until the next day...pheew) we met up with the group of people we travelled into Laos with and celebrated the new year with them! We started off in a gorgeous garden bar next to the river then headed to a club called Utopia, it wasnt the usual night club, it was a a bar with a massive garden / pit fire/ sand and palm trees it was perfect, a really good night and the best thing about it was that it wasnt planned. New years day was abit of a write off, we tried going out to enjoy the sunshine but the after affects of LaoLao ( local rice wine.... never ever ever again) from the night before werent too good!
The next day we checked out of our hotel and started on our journey to Vang Vieng. The mini bus picked us and 7 others up chucked our bags on the roof and off we went! ...... 7 hours later, quite possibly the worst journey of our trip so far..There are no speed limits in Laos, there are also no roads WITHOUT holes in them so when you combine that with long winding mountain tracks saying it was awful would be an understatement..luckily i had mike to look after me but theres not so much you can do with 1 plastic bag at the back of a mini bus crammed with other people :S Anyway we arrived safely, thank goodness, got dropped in the middle of town centre. a bit of a higgledy piggledy town. deserted really. we had been reccomended to stay somewhere that was amaizing but there website had failed them our custom as we couldnt find anyone who knew where it was! pffft so we were quite fed up after the journey we had had. we walked out of the town towards the namsong river. upon we found a beautiful hotel with semi detached bungalows if you can call them such a thing, a swimming pool and an amaizing view! mike made an executive descion to book 3 nights here which definetly put a smile on my face! i think its probably a bit out of our budget but i think he could sense that we needed to treat ourselves and i wasn't about to complain :D.
so today we just lounged around by the pool drinking fresh lemon shakes playing backgammon and sunning ourselves.. managing to sort out the next leg of our trip into vietnam. tomorrow were heading of to the blue lagoon on bicycles that were renting from the village.
hopefully you've all had just as fun a new years as we have and we cant wait to catch up with everyone!
lots of love
char and mike xxxx
p.s if this text sounds a bit odd me and char keep hijacking the computer off each other to get our pennies worth in! so every now and then it changes from me to char. sorry !!!!