Thursday, September 23, 2010


There’s little to match the feeling when you’re travelling of crossing a border. New country, new visa, new challenges, new currency and an entire country awaiting to be explored. And so begins the next leg of this trip. Made it to Chiang Mai but left a couple of days early as it wasn’t at all what I’d expected. More wats, lots of monks but little or none of the oft-mentioned charm on show. One of my reasons for moving to Chiang Mai was to sample the city’s reputation as a gateway to tribal village trekking. It’s only when you get here that you realise that the ‘trekking’ on offer involves relatively short hikes, a one hour elephant ride (I mean why would you bother?), and a short trip down a river on a bamboo raft. Fuck that. It’s the equivalent of being in Ireland, doing a short bog walk, getting a ride on a donkey and a lift home on a fucking tractor. Not what I came for but my fault for not reading the small print. Still, a nice place to overnight in for sure. And a good place to meet photo-journalist Mr. Cleary also. Cheers for the book John!
And so it is that I move to Laos a little earlier than expected. This being Thailand, there are many options for getting to Laos - specifically Luang Prabang - which involve no effort on the traveller’s part. Basically this involves going to a hostel and travelling by minibus all the way to Laos. Now, for me, this would defeat the very purpose of travelling - the hassles along the way, the arguments with tuk tuk drivers, watching the clock to see if you‘ll make that connection, when is this fucking bus going to stop as I need a piss etc etc. Crossing the border the independent - and equally easy - way involves the following;
1. Bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai (3 hours)
2. Bus from Chiang Rai to the border town of Chiang Khong (3 hours)
3. Longboat across the Mekong river to the Laos village of Huay Xai ( 2 minutes)
And easy it is. Crossing borders is, as I’ve said, a wonderful experience but to cross a border in a longboat across the Mekong as the sun descends is pretty hard to beat, and here I am in Laos.

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