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Catching the slowboat to Laos

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So its finally time for my long overdue blog post about travelling between Chiang Mai, Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos :) Sorry its so late!

Chiang Rai was a bit disappointing after Chiang Mai but it was really just a 2 day stopover on our way to Laos and we did find a couple of cool things to do :)

One day we went to the White Temple which, as you can see, is very white and quite good. They started building it about 10 years ago and there’s still lots left to finish. It was already way more interesting than the average temple, what with the skulls hanging from trees and hands coming out of the ground. The architect is also a painter and there was a gallery with some of his (very odd) paintings. If you fancy seeing paintings of aliens and American presidents strapped to rockets you could google him, Chalermchai Kositpipat.

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There was a great food court to eat at in the evening - loads of tables surrounded by 60ish food stalls including one selling a dish called ‘the moustache is tiny squid roasts’. Unfortunately (and one of my biggest regrets on the trip!) we never tried it so have no idea what a moustache tastes like :(

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After dinner we’d go to a pretty crazy looking bar for more cheap beer and some very odd music (obscure and badly recorded 80’s metal). Chiang Rai seems a bit off the tourist trail and we were travelling at an unpopular time so we were the only people ever in there. Oh well!

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A couple of days was enough so we hopped on a bus heading to a village called Huay Xai, just over the Laos border. The bus was pretty much the opposite of the one we arrived on, really cramped noisy and bumpy :( Most travellers are just in Huay Xai for a couple of hours before hopping on a 2 day slowboat to Luang Prabang but we had some time so decided to stay overnight. We spent the day relaxing by the river with cheap beer and met one of the most memorable people of the trip, this 70 year old german man. He’d retired and spent the last 20 years driving his campervan around the world with his wife. He had stories to tell about every country I could think of - Eritrea, Tajikistan, Iran, he’d been everywhere!

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The 2 day slowboat trip to Luang Prabang has a bad reputation. People tell stories about dangerously cramped boats which sink halfway down the river and nothing but a small wooden bench to sit on. We were very happy that things had changed :) Our ticket came with a seat number and all the wooden benches were gone, replaced with (relatively) comfy seats ripped out of old minibuses.

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Unfortunately they hadn’t got around to replacing the engine yet and the rivers water level was very slow so we crashed after about 10 minutes then broke down a couple of hours later! Beer was $1 and there’s nothing like a disaster for making friends with other travellers though so we were standing on a beach watching our broken boat make strange noises and having a great time :)

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Eventually things started working and we chugged slowly to Pak Beng, arriving way after dark. Luckily we’d booked a good guesthouse in advance so we just dropped our bags and got some food.

Every village in Laos seems to have a snooker table and I went to the one in Pak Beng with a German guy I met on the boat. We had a fun game with some locals but things went wrong when they demanded $30 for the game :( I guess its easy and tempting to rip off tourists when they only ever stay one night. It’s a shame though, everyone we met elsewhere in Laos was lovely! We grabbed our bags and started walking away, then running when they started shouting and following us. Luckily the hotel was close so I just got back, locked the door and went to sleep.

The next day was pretty uneventful. We had a less broken boat and spent 8 hours cruising down to Luang Prabang nursing hangovers and admiring the scenery. There’s some of it below:

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The slowboat was fun and way more interesting than just getting the bus would have been :) We ended up bumping into people from the boat the whole time we were in Laos. I’d definitely recommend it!

Posted by charlotter45 22:23 Archived in Laos Tagged slowboat

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