23/2/2009 – To Chiang Khong – Thai Border Town
I woke with a start; excited about the day and journey ahead. Here I was about to embark on a return trip to Laos with a group of really fun people at the very end of my travels. I was pushing it time-wise with just 10 days left before my flight departed from Bangkok to London. But this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so caution is thrown to the wind.
I spent the morning packing which had to be done in a rather strategic manner as I had loaded myself up with loads of goodies from the market thinking that this would be my last stop. Backpacking with souvenirs is not ideal. So with lots of cajoling, folding, unfolding, rolling and squishing I managed, just about, to get my backpacks closed.
There was a buzz in the hostel as we all get ready and two of our friends, Nick and Sylvia, had just returned from a stint at the Buddhist temple. In a moment of madness they decided to come with us and booked themselves on the bus leaving before ours and left within 20 minutes of decision-making.
At Midday our minibus arrived and I bade my farewells to Noom and Pong who had loaded me up with stuff to take back to Spicylaos for him. We piled into the bus, I sat next to Sarah and with ipods on hand we embarked on the 5 hour journey to the border town of Chiang Khong.
It was a blasting hot day and the air-con wasn`t really working so we got a bit sweaty on the bus. Not having much room was particularly difficult for the guys with Rob at over 6 foot having to sit sideways.
We arrived at a skanky looking guesthouse by the river. It did look proper rough. And as a kind of appointed group leader I went up to the Receptionist to sort out the rooms for our group of 10. It appeared to be a hub for people stopping the night before doing the border crossing and they had overbooked. I was informed that they only had 4 beds available there and the other 6 would have to get back in the mini bus and go to the sister hotel up the road. Needless to say I expressed my annoyance at this considering we were booked as a group and there were plenty of other guests in couples etc who could have been shipped to a different place. But the argument was lost so we allocated the 4 bed room to the four guys and the girls had to load our bags back into the bus and we were whisked off to the other end of Chiang Khong, which in fairness is not that big.
Luckily for us girlie`s the other hotel was newly built and with much nicer accommodation. The longer straw was picked by us it would seem. Split into two rooms we got showered and dressed for dinner and a minibus took us back to the first hotel where we were given a buffet dinner. It was delicious and all included in the price. For 1800 baht (about £36) we got the mini bus to the border, a night`s stay with dinner and breakfast at the border plus a packed lunch, the 2 day slow boat and free pickup at Luang Prabang. Not bad value if you ask me.
After dinner, everyone was pretty shattered, so Donna, Sarah and I walked back to our room and read our books for a bit and got an early night, readying ourselves for the long journey down the mighty Mekong river.