Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Beer Is Always Cheaper On The Other Side

 
NB: The country 'Laos' is pronounced 'Lao', as in it rhymes with 'now' or 'ka-pow'. The people are ethnically 'Lao', the language is called 'Lao', the local beer is called 'Beerlao' and they call sandwiches 'Lao sandwiches' for some reason. I guess it's ironic that for a country that really loves naming things eponymously, nobody else seems to sure how pronounce it's name. The French just tacked on an unnecessary 'S' during the colonial days because reasons and it stuck.          Usually border crossings are rarely considered 'fun'. Entering a new country (expect in the open-border areas of Europe) generally involves a good deal of waiting in lines in an airport or at a border crossing checkpoint. Our trip crossing into Laos, however, was arguably one of the highlights of the trip. 
The only photo I took of the border bridge
Jess and I woke up early in Chiang Khong to catch a tuk-tuk to the Thai-Laos border which is a long bridge (the 'Friendship Bridge IV') over the Mekong river. Admittedly, when we got to the other side there was some waiting around in lines to receive our visas but after that process finished, we got into another tuk-tuk and headed down to the rivers edge to a dock where a number of boats waited to carry us down the river to nearest large city, Luang Prabang. Each boat held approximately 100 people and although there were some locals, most people on the boat were foreigners. The journey takes two days of roughly 7-8 hours each day so there is plenty of time to kill, which is fine because a) the boat is full of 100 other backpackers, b) the view from the boat of the small fishing villages along the Mekong is pretty nice and, c) a longneck of the surprisingly good local 'Beerlao' cost about $1.50 (and that was considered quite expensive). 
Water buffaloes
Our packed lunch for the trip
  Points A) and C) culminated nicely in us meeting this group of bad influences and traveling with them for the rest of our time in Laos. This international group consisted of two Australians, two Irish, two Dutch and two Pom's. I'm not saying that we took advantage of the expensive but still very cheap beers on the boat but the next day when we went to climb on board, a number of the older travelers said we were not welcome on their boat and that we should get our own. In the words of one particularly grumpy retiree, "we know what we did". He refused to elaborate and to this day, I'm not sure any of us know what we did to deserve being banned from their boat but we found a better, smaller, faster boat with a much more fun/creepy/drunk captain and only one of us had to buy two tickets, so it all worked out in the end. 
That's the captain. He should probably should have been steering the boat instead of stealing our whiskey
When we made it to Luang Prabang, the sun was just setting and none of us really had the energy to do much more than grab a feed at the local market and head to bed. Also, I left my hat on the boat. Sad. 
Goodnight, sweet prince
       

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