Tarynne Mingione, June 3 2014
We departed from Chiang Mai around 9 a.m. on the shuttle headed for Chiang Khong. The driver stopped halfway into the five hour ride somewhere in Chiang Rai to give his ankle a break from violently sealing the pedal to the floor for the past couple hundred of k’s.
The stop ended up being a pleasant surprise. We were given permission for a quarter of an hour to explore the White Temple, Wat Rung Khun. The buddhist temple was blinding and absolutely stunning, like a bridge in a crisp white wedding gown that indecisively chose to decorate herself with too many jewels so you couldn’t decided what to focus on.
I felt like I was walking around the set of The NeverEnding Story.
A few hours later we arrived at Chiang Khong. Chiang Khong doesn’t exactly have a lot going on, which was fine because we were only in the mood to stroll around in the sleepy town. We went out to dinner with Jackson and Lyndsey and called it a night before our border crossing and slow boat the following day.
This particular morning was pretty crap.
That might be because we were told to be up and ready by 8 a.m. and at 7:15 a.m. our idiot guide was slamming on my door telling me to get in the truck. Thanks to him putting us up in the wrong hotel, we need to be at breakfast somewhere else without more than a 2 second notice.
He was furious with me and I can’t say I was very apologetic for his own idiocy. Sorry dude. I’ve dealt with elite scamming scum likeminded indiviuals the past three months; and this particular morning I wasn’t in the mood to spend the next 12 hours half-showered still in my pajamas.
While trying to find a quiet spot to enjoy my powdered coffee and my own miserable company, this same guide decided to set up his folding table scam shop just outside the reception of the hotel we were supposed to (and already paid for) have stayed at…also the one I could be enjoying a shower and a change of clothes that very same moment.
He carried on, ripping off every poor budget traveler with every opportunity he could. He was charging for coffee (that was included in their package), transfer to the border (also included), and offering up exchange rates that even a Zimbabwe bank wouldn’t accept in exchange for their once existent currency.
By the time I tasted the undissolved sand in my coffee, I was fully aware that this guy sucked, and I was confident that his ego was so inflated that his feet didn’t even touch the ground.
Next up, it was our groups turn to deal with him. We forked over our transfer tickets and exchanged some baht into kip. He told us Laos had locked currency and it would cost $20 to get anything out of an ATM, regardless of the withdrawal amount. James handed him 3000 baht and the sucky man handed him back the equivalent of a quarter of what it was worth in kip. With my XE Currency app in hand, I immediately called him out. He didn’t appreciate me one bit as he had already decided he didn’t like me earlier that morning. We asked for our money back and he handed us exactly half back, claiming that is all we gave him. He flat out just pocked half of the money we had handed him seconds ago.
“Very funny. The rest of our money?” We said loudly.
We weren’t impressed with the magician and probably shouldn’t have put ourselves in that situation. Our voices were raised and obviously inflated with anger.
I think we forgot we weren’t in India – the land where screaming gets you further in life.
He didn’t respond well and immediately morphed into a crazy raging defensive lunatic. Long story short, he threatened to call the police, send us to jail, and in the end our bags were thrown out of his truck and we hung off the back of another pickup to get to the border crossing into Laos.
The border crossing was pretty hellish. Still pissed off, I apologized to the Laotian border control for sticking my ass in the air while repeating down dog and sun salutations in attempt to chill the heck out.
By noon we were finally on the slow boat.
The slow boat is primarily a tourist boat that takes travelers down the Mekong River. It shouldn’t be called a slow boat. When everyone said ‘slow boat’ I imagined we would be crammed into a little wooden row boat with a man dressed in a two tone onsie, a variation of a sailers hat, smoking a pipe while playing an organ and intermittently paddling us down the Mekong.
It’s not slow. It is fully equipped with a roaring engine that has some serious guts.
The whole trip has the potential to be quite boring. If you have good company, some cash for onboard beers, snacks and playing cards then this is easily an enjoyable way to spend a day (well, two).
The scenery that passes by is a sweet green hazy welcome into Laos.
We moored at around 4 p.m. and found a hotel to make home for the short night in Pakbeng.
Pakbeng was surprisingly sweet. There were several options for eating and drinking, but besides that there wasn’t much to see or do so that’s how we spent our evening.
We boarded the boat around 9 a.m.
Unfortunately we chose seats wrong and there was a very sick, maybe dead body that was brought onto the boat about 45 minutes into the ride so James and forfeited our seats and shared the stairs as a seat for the eight hour journey. It wasn’t necessarily a fun day but it sure beat any day in India.
We arrived into Luang Prabang and I have to say I was a bit nervous. I wanted badly to love everything about Laos, particularly Luang Prabang.
The first impression one receives after walking up the stairs from the dock might not be the best, but oh how quickly one can fall in love with Luang Prabang!!