Well I have made it to Huay Xai, on the Lao side of the Mekong River where I will spend tonight before hopping on a boat in the morning. Thus far, things are working out very well and at this point I’m not quite sure what I was so nervous about!
I began today in Bangkok, flying to Chiang Rai, in the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos, & Burma meet. From there I made my way to the bus terminal and took a bus to Chiang Khong, the Thai border town on the Mekong. I have to say that I’ve rather enjoyed travelling like the locals instead of taking private tours and whatnot. So far I’ve been managing very well.
It’s amazing how cheap the buses are here. My bus from Ching Rai to Chiang Khong cost 56 baht (about $1.50) and it was a 2 hour bus ride. By contrast, my taxi ride from the airport to the bus terminal in Chiang Rai was 200 baht…around $5. That was also how much my guesthouse here in Huay Xai is. I actually could have gotten a room for 50 baht less, but it didn’t have a private bathroom. The guest house also arranges the boat trip, so I’ve really lucked out. I figured a bathroom was worth $1 or so more! My lunch also cost 50 baht!
The bus ride was fine. There was no a/c but it wasn’t a problem because there were lots of open window and little fans in the roof. I took my first Tuk Tuk (basically a 3-wheeled motorcycle taxi) ride from the bus stop to the border crossing on the Mekong River. I took a ferry across and didn’t fall in (as I’d been warned I would). I had no problem getting through Lao immigration or finding a place to stay. I couldn’t change money as the booth was closed. All prices have been quoted to me in bhat, with the exception of smaller things, like food, which I’ve still been able to pay for in dollars and bhat.
I have the feeling that a large part of this small town’s economy is due to the tourists taking the boat trip, and hence many people in the service industry speak broken English. Speaking of which, I’ve encountered loads of other backpackers here! Most are European and there’s some French guys staying in the room next door to me!
Other than that, there ain’t much to do here. I walked around a bit and climbed up the big hill to see the one and only Wat in the town, which also gave great vantage points across the river at Thailand. It’s been pretty hot here and actually didn’t rain at all (yet) and it’s been sunny!
The entrance to Huay Xai’s Wat
Okay well that’s about all for now. Tomorrow it’s on to the boat ride! Hope all is well!
Huay Xai, as seen from the Mekong River