Okay first things first, I’d like to thank my buddy, Corey for the Laos pun. I REALLY could not think of one- Shame on me!!
Right so I left Pai and headed on the way to the Thai/Laos border at Chiang Khong/Huay Xai. This sounds so much nicer and easier than it actually was. If anyone reading has ever done any sort of “long” travel in Thailand you know the buses or vans are quite uncomfortable and the roads are sketchy at best. Like sheer drops off the side of a mountain and no safety railings- It’s those times you look out the window and see the cliff below you that begin to question your sanity. This bus driver was actually okay- he took corners slowly and we had the good fortune of getting out of the mountains before it got dark. YAY! But the problem with taking the corners slowly is that you end up 2 hours behind schedule, and when you are a bus driver in Thailand you presumably have another job that you did before you started an 8 hour trip, you might get a little sleepy. This is exactly what happened. I had the misfortune of choosing the seat just to the left side behind the driver so I could see everything, including the few…..5 times he nodded off. This being South East Asia you take what you are given and learn to be happy that he didn’t nod off while going round one of the corners on the mountain…………..
There was one moment where I felt the overwhelming urge to poke him in the back of the head to wake him up a little but the Canadian in me wouldn’t let it out. That’s right, we are too polite to wake up a sleepy driver who may or may not veer off the road at any moment. At least we were off the mountain!!!
Without any major incidents except for being 2 hours late; a busload of cranky, tired backpackers pulled into the Boom House parking lot to get our 4 hours of sleep before we needed to be up for the next portion of out journey. Couples were shown straight to a room while the singles were left out in the parking lot to buddy up. I yawned heartily, looked at the Korean girl next to me and gave her a “You want to share?”. Thankfully she agreed, otherwise I was going to pull out my air mattress and sleep in the parking lot.
Now, I usually a the person who takes forever to fall asleep but that night I am pretty sure that I was asleep BEFORE my head hit the pillow. After totally not enough sleep, it was time to get up for the free breakfast that we were offered with our package deal. Now, I know some people will get this but for others who don’t know me very well…I get really cranky without sleep. Some people get H-angry, I get T-angry. And after my experience in the dorm in Pai I had had about 4 hours of sleep in the last 2 days. This was almost my breaking point. I was so tired I couldn’t eat food without feeling sick.
We all got shunted into another bus to be driven to the border where we would get our visas to enter Laos. The first part (leaving Thailand) of the process was relatively painless, you gave in your departure form, got a stamp and you were on your way. Then we were all loaded on ANOTHER bus to be transported across no-mans land to apply for the Laos visa. One long line bonding later, I had gained some new friends :). Jena and Janelle, 2 girls from Calgary who have been travelling Asia for the last few months. Canadians, man. Those guys get everywhere.
They were luckily doing the same slow boat trip down the Mekong to Luang Prabang so I now had some travelling buddies. YAY. Now to not alienate my new buds, I was trying so hard to not be cranky but was getting harder with every nautical mile I was sitting on the mini van seats that the slow boat was fitted out with.
Yes, seats from a mini van! Like a Dodge, sliding door, soccer mom mini van! I was so uncomfortable that halfway down the river I moved to the back of the boat and wedged myself in between some backpacks and tried to sleep. Mmmmm comfy.
It was going really well until some people sitting next to me asked in the briefest of moments I had my eyes open if I wanted to play Yahtzee. I did. But then I remembered I hadn’t played Yahtzee since I was about 7 and I have no idea what the rules or point system are. And apparently no one else did either – it’s like a bad joke: A Canadian, American, German and Finn are playing Yahtzee on a boat but no one knows the rules…..You can make up your own punchline.
After what seemed like 34534534 hours but was actually more like 6 or 7 we arrived in Pakbang. Pakbang seems to be a town with 1 main street and 13 hotels and restaurants. It’s main purpose is to be a stopping point on the slow boat to Luang Prabang.
I crashed in a room with Jena and Janelle- 3 in room is cheaper than 1. And before I could fall asleep on the most ridiculously comfortable bed ever, we ventured out in search of dinner. You apparently have to eat early in Pakbang because the power goes off at a certain time unless the place has a generator. We met up with some other people from the boat and tried our luck with an Indian restaurant. The guy who owned it has lived in Laos for like 15 years (and there seems to be a fairly sizable Indian population in Laos. I have to look into this). I LOVE Indian food but at that precise moment all I really wanted to eat was Ginger Ale and Kraft Dinner. Sue me, I haven’t been in Canada in 2 years. I love my KD and get crazy cravings for it. I ordered my saag aloo and rice, barely touched any of it before throwing in the towel and practically running-sleepily- across the road to the hotel. I was literally sleep drunk, I don’t even think I changed into pyjamas before getting into bed. Jena and Janelle came back a little bit later and told me that they were going to sit out on the balcony for a bit, the response they got was, “HMRTPDFFDGR……”, then they came in to go to bed and said, “We’ve set the alarm to get up at 7:30”, the response again was something along the lines of, “ERgdfgvdfhfd!! OK.”
After a good 12 hour sleep I was feeling much more like myself- sarcastically chipper- and welcomed the day with a croissant the size of my head. I am not even joking; I wish I had a photo. We made plans the night before that we were going to go to the boat early and put our bags down so we could get good seats.
Thank Zeus we did this because when we asked what time the boat was leaving, the answer was, “In 30 minutes”. We had been told the day before that the boat wasn’t leaving until 10am the next day. I really don’t know how many people missed the boat but we didn’t. HURRAY. And because of my mammoth sleep I was actually able to enjoy the trip this time. The landscape around the Mekong was phenomenal. And as I have found in my travels listening to the “Into the Wild” soundtrack completely enhances the experience. Seriously, try it on your next car, boat, train, donkey ride- anything that you can stare out the window (or off the back of). Thank you, Eddie Vedder, your depressingly haunting music is the soundtrack to my last 2 years.
Finally after 2 days of travelling we reached Luang Prabang and the next part of the journey.