Sawatdee to Sabatdee

This morning we hopped in a couple of vans for the ride to the Lao border. We stopped along the way in Chiang Rai to see Wat Rong Khun, which is also known as the White Temple. The king commissioned a local artist to create it and it looks like a frozen temple as it’s covered in mirrors and glass.

We headed to Chiang Khong to exit Thailand and cross the Mekong to Lao. After completing the departure process, you have to head down the shore and haggle with a long boat driver to take you across the river. It’s maybe a couple hundred meters across, but there’s no other way. On the other side is Houay Xai and a long entry process.

We stayed the night in Houay Xai in a small guesthouse house that is the worst we stayed so far. Kind of run down and I woke up with a cold. We headed into town for dinner and Simon took us to a wonderful little restuarant with a hidden deck down on the banks of the Mekong. It was the best dinner we’d had so far and made up for the guesthouse.

The next morning we grabbed a slow boat down the Mekong River headed for Luang Prabang. It was just the thirteen of us on the boat and is a really great way to travel. We each had our own chairs and there was a long table in the back for us to sit around and chat or play cards.

We stopped at Ban Pha Lam along the way. It’s a very small, very poor village on the banks of the river. We walked around town and got to see what rural life in Lao is like. Incredibly poor and basic with a single spigot for water in the town and no electricity. Lots of half naked little kids running around and playing in the dirt. Everyone was just as curious about us as we were about them and while it was poor and basic, everyone seemed pretty content and happy. Very stark contrast to Bangkok.

We stopped in Pak Beng for the night to eat and sleep before hopping on the boat again in the morning for another day drifting down the river. We stopped along the way at Pak Ou caves. The lower cave is filled with hundreds and thousands of images of buddha and the upper cave is more temple like with a direct alter and a main image of buddha. Very interesting and our guide said that it had been here for thousands of years and that some statues predated buddha.

Next stop Luang Prabang.