falling behind…

so i’ve totally fallen behind on the journal. it’s because i’ve spent most of the last few days on a boat… but i’ll just pick up where i left off.

Jan 19th

on the 19th i woke up and met jamie at the airport in chang rai. tom had just flown home from bangkok, and jamie and i were about to set off to Laos. it was pretty weird for me cause this meant that i was on the last part of my journey. when i had been planning my thailand trip, i had pretty much decided to just wing it and go wherever i felt like whenever i felt like it… but the only concrete plan i really had was that on the 19th i would set off to laos. of course that was always so far off.. the end of the trip and everything, and now it was here. it’s amazing how fast the month flew by.

we hung around town for part of the day, just kicking it, and then caught the 5pm bus up to chiang khong. chiang khong is a tiny border town in the north east corner of thailand and is right across the river from laos. we got in fairly late and pretty much only had one goal for the night. there are no ATM’s in all of Laos, so we needed to get some cash tonight before we went to laos in the morning. unfortunately, there was no such luck. there was some weird wiring problem, and all of the ATM’s in the city were down. crap! what were we gonna do? we had about 4$ between the 2 of us, and if these ATM’s didnt start working by the next morning, we’d have no money and be stuck in this tiny middle of nowhere town. we went to bed praying that everything would be fine in the morning.

jan 20th

luckily for us everything turned out ok. we hit the ATM in the morning, grabbed a bunch of cash, bought our boat ticket (12$), and headed for the pier. after some confusion at immigration, we were soon on the boat. now i really had no idea what to expect of the boat. it turns out that the boat is a super long flat boat w/ a metallic roof. everyone’s backpacks are left on top of the roof while the passengers sit underneath. unfortunately the boat has *no seats*. if you’re lucky and get there early you could sit around the edge of the boat and lean your back on the side of the boat, but if you were late like us, you just sat on the floor… for *8* hours! needless to say, the boatride was long and exhausting.

at the beginning of the ride, some guy was collecting everyone’s passports for a while and then eventually handing the passports back to people. we didn’t really understand why this was, and when we asked the guy whether we needed to give our passports too, he said that we didn’t need to bother. huh? so the boat ride itself was really scenic. nice lush forests and jungles on all sides, beautiful mountains, and some cool rock formations jutting out of the water. it was cool cause you could climb out of the boat on top of the roof, and it was really nice to be able to just hang out up there, and watch the banks of the river roll on by. despite this, after all 8 hours, we were practically dying to get off the boat. 8 hours just sitting there was starting to drive us crazy (especially since it was super uncomfortable) and we dreaded the fact that we would have a whole other day of this.

the boat dropped us off in a tiny village called pakbang where a mob of little kids (like 8 or 9 years old!) scampered to grab our bags off the boat. it was pretty sad to see these super young kids having to haul heavy stuff just to get a tiny bit of money or food. we then needed to find a room, and after following several touts who lied to us about whether or not their rooms had hot water or even a bathroom, finally found a place to stay. it had been a long exhausting day and we were starving.

at the restaurant i ordered chicken w/ tomatoes an onions, but when they brought me my food, it was obvious that it was not chicken but some kind of red meat (cow? water buffalo?). when i complained to the waiter, they simply refused to admit that it wasn’t chicken. they just kept pointing at it and saying “chicken! big big chicken!! 6 kilo chicken”. now, there was absolutely NO WAY that this was chicken. it sucked to have people stand there and just lie to your face. and yet there was nothing i could do about it, so i had to just order another dish. i think that this is definitely one of the most frustrating things about traveling here in southeast asia. there’s nothing you can do if you get ripped off. people rip you off all the time, lie to your face, give you wrong information, or whatever… and you just have to take it. who are you gonna complain to? no one here has a manager or anything, and especially if you can’t speak the language, they just pretend (or don’t pretend) that they can’t understand you. *sigh*.

jan 21st

last night i was awakened by something crawling around in our room. not sure what it was, but judging by the clicking of feet on the floor and little scampering noises, it probably was a rat. ugh. and then around 6am the roosters started going nuts as usual. so after getting hardly any sleep we dragged ourselves to the boat (without showering). that was where we found out why people had been collecting passports yesterday. turns out, when they grab your passport, they put a ticket for the second day of the boat ride into it. and since we hadn’t given our passports we had no ticket, so now we had to pay again. it was so lame, especially since we had specifically asked if we need to turn in the passport, and they had said no!! so now we ended up paying more money, and of course once again… what could we do? just get ripped off again as usual.

so we started the day off poorly, and then had to endure another 8 hours of the boat. we hadn’t had time to buy any food (or water) before we got on the boat, and the only thing we had to eat all day was a few pieces of bread and some Laughing Cow cheese. finally around 5ish, we docked in Luang Prabang. at this point the guy who had made us pay the second time this morning had the audacity of trying to get us to pay him *again*! DUDE!!! we were so pissed, but just ignored him in the end. at this point we were so glad to be done w/ the boat trip. i mean don’t get me wrong, there were definitely some pleasant parts of the last 2 days, but overall the boat ride was quite an ordeal.

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is the second largest city in Laos and is considered one of the best preserved cities in southeast asia. it is a united nations world heritage area because it has such a unique blend of french colonial architecture and asian architecture together. it’s really really cool here. the city totally has a super mellow small town feel with a casual atmosphere. monks stroll the streets, there are temples everywhere, little kids running around, old ladies sell there wares, and lots of chill restaurants. finally seeing the city makes me really glad that i came to Laos.

we spent the night wandering around town a little. right in front of our hotel (which by the way was the most expensive place i’ve stayed in so far here 20$!!) there was a cool little night-market. everyone was selling grilled food, woven gods, and various trinkets. there were so many little kids running around everywhere. the other cool thing about this town, is that because of the french influence, there are tons of shops selling baguettes, espresso, and all sort of different donuts, pastries, and baked goods.

Jan 22nd

we woke up today and switched hotels to a much cheaper place (6$). it’s pretty crazy using money here, cause the currency that they use is the Kip and there are 9,000 kip in one dollar… but the largest bill that they have is the 5,000 kip bill. when the largest bill you have in your pocket is barely worth 50 cents, you have to carry a ton of money. so we walk around with *huge* piles of bills in our pockets.

after breakfast (food in laos actually is pretty damn good and cheap too), we set off to explore the city. like i said earlier, the city is really picturesque and it was cool to wander the streets, check out the buildings, and explore several of the watts in town.

-vlad

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