Dates I was there: 16-17 September 2011
We had an earlier than usual start the next morning. Our guide had told us that first thing the monks walked past our hotel as they collected food, donated to them by the local people, so we went to see it for ourselves. Soon enough, a line of monks glad in orange robes walked past, whilst villagers sat at the roadside offering them food.
After they passed, we ate our egg breakfast and set off to meet the boat that would take us along the Mekong River to Thailand, over the next couple of days. We went via the Joma Bakery to pick up some lunch for the journey. I went with a tuna, cheese, cucumber and mayo sandwich, which was rather amazing.
The boat had more than enough seats for our small group and we stopped off at a cave along the river, which was full of Buddha statues that visitors had brought and left. The journey lasted until about 6.30pm- it was a long one- when we reached a village at which we were to stay the night. It felt remote but was full of tourists, probably all on the same route as us.
We stayed at guesthouse which was the first place we had been to which charged for air-conditioning, which we refused to pay for as we needed our remaining cash for food. Thankfully there was a fan. We all went for a dinner at a nearby restaurant called Sabadee- or something similar. We all went for water buffalo based dishes. My curry was good but my travel buddy’s steak was amazing- so I ate quite a lot of that. We then moved on to the Hive Bar, the only bar in town, for one last Beer Lao.
One of our group wanted to buy some Lao Lao whiskey as a souvenir for her family. It came in nice bottles so seemed like a good gift. We found a shop which still seemed to be open so wandered in to ask if they had any. The man behind the counter said that they did and disappeared into the back. We could suddenly hear the sound of pouring and he came back with a water bottle filled with some amber liquid. It wasn’t quite what my friend had in mind so politely declined and we left without the whiskey.
The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn and on the tuk tuk which took us back to our boat. Today’s stop was to a hill-tribe village. We walked through all the little wooden/bambo houses (most of which unexpectedly had satellite dishes), past a woman pounding rice and another cutting tobacco, followed by the village children. One of which fired a toy bow-and-arrow at us. At the time, I was happy that we went: I had wanted to see a local village. In hindsight, it seems like a bizarre concept: nosing in on other people’s lives and homes and taking photos.
We didn’t stay long before returning to our boat for a lovely lunch of potato curry, noodles, soup, rice and watermelon. Sometime after 3pm, we finally made it to the Laos border. We disembarked from our slow-boat and were taken to the immigration office by tuk tuk, after loading our bags onto the roof. As the vehicle started to climb the hill, the driver stopped and told us that we were too heavy to make it- charming. Some of the boys hopped off, offering to walk instead. The driver then started to reverse back down the hill, edging ever closer to the water. As the locals started laughing at us, pointing and even taking photos, we were all confused as to what he was doing. Was he about to chuck us all off and make us hike as punishment for being too heavy? Thankfully that was not the case- he was just taking a run up.
In the end we made it to the office, had our passports stamped and were taken on a rather unstable feeling longboat across the river, from which we could glimpse Burma, to Thailand.