From Chaing Mai to Chaing Rai, still Northern Thailand. We then headed to the Golden Triangle where Thailand, Burma & Laos meet, an area renowned for its opium production. The opium museum being quite an eye opener! Time was getting on and we managed to miss the last bus back to town so hitched a lift in a pick up truck with a Thai family of 16. Bit of a tight squeeze but more comfortable than the bus with all the fresh air you could ask for.
The next day up early to make our way across the border (the mighty Mekong river) and into Laos. The only way to our next destination is via the waterways – 2 days on a boat down the Mekong. Absolutely beautiful scenery passing through hillside villages with huts of straw – just a shame the boat was the most uncomfortable boat in the world. Packed to the brim of people, crammed into a small space like sardines, sat on the slimmest wooden plank, head almost touching the roof, no leg room, I think you get the picture. After two days you get to know your fellow passengers very well.
Pleased to be off the boat we stretch our legs exploring Luang Prabang. I made friends with a couple of the Lao street vendors – two really sweet old guys who smelt like they were a bit partial to the odd whiskey if you know what I mean. One of them sold tiny bags of wood chips – very bizarre. I attempted to find out why people would want to buy a 2 x 5cm bag of wood. This was slightly a difficult task as he did not speak a word of English and me only being in Laos a few days have not yet mastered the Lao language. Needless to say we resorted to body language and from what I could ascertain the wood is soaked in liquid which is then used as medicine, different woods used for different ailments. His mate on the next stall had put his wood in his whiskey and was insistent that I have some as it would make me strong! I reclined the offer telling him that alcohol has many affects on me but it certainly doesn’t make me very strong.
From Luang Prohbang we went on a day trip stopping first at a local village then onto an absolutely superb waterfall with the best plunge pools to swim in. I climbed to the top of the waterfall for a great view while Lesley sunbathed at the bottom after she decided that she is allergic to any form of exercise!
Onto Vang Vieng, again passing through great scenery. Laos is another beautiful country reminding me a lot of Nepal. Vang Vieng was supposed to be a stop off place to break up the long journey to Vietiane, however it was so nice we ended up staying a few days. The small town set on a river hosted the popular activity of tubing. Those of you who I was in the Middle East with will know what I mean. 2 hours floating merrily down the river on large inner tubes – good fun! There was also some great caves in the area which I explored, one being 2km long and another hosting a big pool at the end of the cave to swim in.
From there sadly onto our last destination in Laos – Vietiane. Set again on the Mekong river. Quite a relaxed small place for a capital city. Today we have done the sites, the usual Vats and Stupas with a festival occurring at one of the sites. We then took a trip out of the city this afternoon and I got attacked by an albino vicious monkey – the cheeky little thing and he looked so cute. Tomorrow we leave on a jet plane to Nam – Vietnam. Flying with Lao Aviation – renowned for being one of the worst airlines in the world with a very bad safety record. Apparently due to the lack of equipment the pilots rely on visual flying techniques and search for a hole in the cloud in order to descend! If no hole found then it is back to departure point to refuel and try again!!! When asking the guy who sold us the flight ticket if they were safe he just laughed and said he wasn’t allowed to say negative things about Lao Aviation. Talk about instilling confidence. Lets just pray that there’s clear skies tomorrow.
Anyway, I’ll be charging around Vietnam as a lot of mileage to be done so may not be able to email for a while.