Friday, May 29, 2009

Welcome to Thailand!

Chiang Mai, Thailand - After two 10 hour  days on a boat running rapids up the Mekong River followed by a 6 hour minibus ride from the border we've finally arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

We were here on our honeymoon 5.5 years ago so it is nice to be back in a city we really enjoyed and have some familiarity with.

We left Luang Prabang on Wednesday morning and spent 1o hours on our boat the Luang Say cruising upstream to  Pak Beng where we overnighted.  The cruise was quite nice as we were on a boat that held 40 and there  was only 7 of us so plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the scenery. We made a couple of stops along the way to see some caves and visit a couple of villages. 

One of the villages is famous for its Lao Lao which is the local moonshine aka rice whiskey.  After being told the fine points of how the whiskey is distilled we were invited to sample some of the firewater.

It wasn''t too bad though probably would have tasted better if it wasn't 100F+ outside and the bottles hadn't been sitting in the sun all day.

The scenery along the river was spectacular, very mountainous with many rocky outcrops in the river exposed by how low the river was at this time of year.  The boat even had to run the rapids upsteam quite a few times.  For such a large boat it apparently only drew about a meter of water so didn't need much water to avoid running aground.

We spent a night in Pak Beng actually about a mile upstream of PakBeng at the Luang Say Lodge which was quite nice with great vistas of the mountains and the Mekong River from our windows.

Unfortunately it was quite warm and since there were no screen on the windows we had to keep them closed to keep the bugs out (we did have a mosquito net over the bed as well).

Neither of us slept great as it was so warm though the lodge was very comfortable and the dinner was excellent.

After breakfast it was back on the boat by 7am for another 10 hour  trip.  We stopped at one more village (I feel like I've seen enough villages for awhile) and arrived at Houay Xai on the Lao side of the border around 5pm.  We took a tuk-tuk to the Lao border and got our exit stamps then hopped in a small boat that took us across the Mekong to the Thai side.  After having our temperature taken to make sure we didn't have swine flu (we didn't!) and a couple of forms and stamps later we were officially allowed into Thailand.

We had decided to spend the night  at the border and head to Chiang Mai the  next day as it was 6 more hours to get to Chiang Mai.  We threw our backpacks on and headed down the main road paralleling the Mekong to find a hotel.

After a few hundred meters we were sweating like crazy as it was quite warm and very humid out (Surprise!).  We stopped at the first hotel that said they had AC, I looked at a room and while it wasn't anything special it was reasonably clean, cheap and had AC.

After cooling down for a few minutes we headed out to organize our transport to Chiang Mai the next day and booked a mini-bus.

The next day we had an uneventful minibus ride from Chiang Kong to Chiang Mai followed by a short walk to our hotel and we had arrived.

Twenty hours on a boat, 2 nights and a 6 hour minibus ride was all it had taken!  I think we'll stay in Chiang Mai a few days to recuperate.  The weather is much nicer here, the food is great and we have a few things we need to get done with me needing a hair cut and Betsy needing a spa treatment being the top 2 on the list!

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