Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Landing in Laos via Land

The border station into Laos
We made it to the bus a little after 5am as we wanted to make sure that we got a seat and thankfully this time it was a real bus, we had a 2x2 seat to ourselves and we didn’t even have to put our bags at our feet – what luxury!

We arrived at the border around 7.30am, it was one of the more picturesque border crossings we’d seen which was a nice distraction as we waited for the slow process of getting our visa. It was all straightforward, although we were surprised when the Swiss girl in front of us only paid $1 for her two week visa – it was something that we hadn’t read about, apparently any stay in Laos less than two weeks only costs $1. Had we known that we would’ve have taken that visa instead of paying $60 each for ours as we’d only planned on approximately staying only two weeks anyway…
Playing peek-a-boo with some local kids
during a long stop due to road works

Back on the road, now officially in Laos, we encountered a few lengthy delays with major road works – in a few years’ time this crossing will be a lot easier, but for the moment it made for a slow journey. Thanks to the delays we didn’t arrive at Muang Khua until 2pm and then we still had to cross over the river, something the bus apparently wasn’t going to do. We disembarked, grabbed our bags and climbed into a small flat bottomed canoe style craft after insisting we only pay the 2000Kip that the locals paid and not the 5000Kip the guy was trying to charge each of us. None of us were trying to be particularly stingy it was mainly that no one had managed to change much money into Kip and it was already Friday afternoon and we knew that might mean the cash we had would have to last till Monday.

Once safely over most of the other travellers jumped straight onto another bus as they wanted to make it to Udomxai by evening, but we decided to stay a night in the village along with an Argentinian guy and Swiss girl who had bonded rather well over the two long bus trips even though they’d been strangers at the start. Maybe that’s the upside to such long journeys with bodies pressed so closely together. 

The river crossing....
Once we’d found a room with the Argentinian and Swiss next door, we did the sums with our cash supply and were a little bit worried about having enough funds to make the onwards trip to Nong Khiaw. A seat on the boat was meant to cost 120,000Kip, but if there weren’t at least 10 people it could cost upwards of 250,000Kip. Surprisingly the exchange in town for US$ was reasonable so we all went to change some money, however the bank was closed by the time we made it there and being Friday that left us a bit stranded for cash.

The Sw-Arg’s (Swiss and Argentinian) went to bond further over a beer and we thought they needed their own space so we set about planning our time in Laos and also trying to work out our cash flow problem. After a quick lunch (well quickly eaten, very slowly served, but we were soon to learn that was just the way things were done in Laos) we headed back to our room, only to quickly grab our books and leave again as the Sw-Arg’s had given into their 2 days romancing on buses and were being quite noisily amorous in the adjoining room.
The view down river from our room - beautiful!

We found another river-side restaurant and Dave enjoyed the first of many Beer Laos’, and it was decided that we may have found one better than Singha, a big call! Sarah was still taking antibiotics for her inner ear infection so it was a delicious fresh pineapple shake instead. 

After considering our options, we decided that it was too risky to pay for the boat down to Nong Khiaw as we had only read one blog saying there was an ATM in town and there were no banks. This meant that the cheaper bus trip was going to have to be our option. The upside was that it didn’t leave till lunchtime the next day, the downside was it would be our 3rd bus in 3 days, and that was something we weren’t looking forward too at all.

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