Sabai-di, hello from Lao(s) – the “s” in Laos is silent. I’m on an eight hour slow boat along the Mekong River headed SE to Pakbeng, a small town that only has electricity during the limited hours from 6-10pm and 6-10am. Laos still lacks development in many places. In many rural areas electricity is unavailable or offered only during scheduled periods. We’ll be staying a basic guesthouse. I exchanged a little bit of money at the border: the Laos kip is 8500 kip to $1 USD,
This morning was pretty mellow. I woke up at 6:45am and started downloading some photos onto flickr. I have so many photos it made sense to have a membership with a photo management site. I took a shower in my bathroom; it had no separation from the shower and was all one unit. The guesthouse provided me with rubber bath slippers to use while inside. Very strange!
I called my mom quickly this morning and in a member of senioritis, she thought I was still in Italy!! We left around 7:45am to leave Thailand immigration and took a longboat across the Mekong to Laos, where I purchased my Laos same day visa for $30 USD. We then took a Songthaews (pick-up trucks with benches) to the “slow “ boat that we are on now. It seems relatively fast and I’ve seen small villages and cattle thus far.
Yesterday, I woke up at 8am to be ready for a Thai cooking class. A tuk-tuk picked us up from the hotel promptly at 9am. After an informative visit to a local produce market and education on Thai ingredients, we started cooking. I made my first Thai meal ever: spicy coconut soup, green curry chicken, pad thai, spring rolls, and sweet sticky rice with mango. Yummmm. I did an excellent job!! I briefly fantasized about drinking a Donnhoff Riesling but reality quickly set in. We didn’t finish the course completely as we needed to meet the others at 1pm.
In the afternoon, we took a five hour minivan ride to Chiang Kong. We stopped at a cashew factory, where I purchased dried ginger and a favorite treat from my childhood, dried preserved plum, common in Hawaii. Our next stop was the Wat Rong Khun, the craziest looking temple that I’ve ever seen; if the wicked white witch has a castle, this is it! I had a visual of the Narnia series with Angelina Jolie starring as the wicked witch. There were skulls and outstretched arms at the entrance, perhaps representing purgatory. At the base of the staircase were two creepy gargoyles. On the left was a male with a serpent head on his penis and on the left, a woman with her left breast grossly disfigured and sagging.
We arrived to our guesthouse in Chiang Kong around 6pm. I saw the muddy but peaceful Mekong River for the first time. We stayed at the Rimnam Guesthouse with views of the river. The room was spartan but clean.
Dinner was very good. I shared a local snapper with lime and ginger with mixed vegetables with Mimi, from New Jersey. Total price with a large Singha beer was 210 Baht, about $6 USD, each. Given the size of our group(16 total), we ordered ahead of time and we were asked to return in 30-40 minutes. I looked at some clothes at a local shop but decided to spend my 30 minutes at a massage shop across the street from the restaurant. I think I’m addicted to foot massages… what a perfect commencement to dinner. I was tired so I went to bed early with only the fan; there was no AC at the guesthouse. Snoooooze, the sheets and pillowcase smelled like Dove soap. I was a sleepyhead.
I hope that etrade comes through with sending me a new atm card in Hanoi. I haven’t tried it yet, but American Express premium global assist confirmed a link to my checking account and will let me withdraw up to $500 with a one time pin. I will try to use it in Luang Prabang. In the meanwhile, I have about $200 cash.
The fifteen people in my group are nice, as is my tour leader. Listed are their names and nationalities(and their ages, if I know it(Arn did most of the due diligence):
1- Mimi- USA
2- Mike-, Canada, Calgary, 70
3- Ron- USA, 64
4- Arn-UK, 24
5- Dawn-UK, 37
6- Mark- Ireland, 29
7- Fiona- Ireland, 30
8- Gary- Canada, 62
9- Jim- Canada
10- Jill- Canada
11- Victor- Canada, Lithuania, 80 – what an inspiring trooper!
12- Leni- Norway
13- Monika – Norway, 26
14- Karen- Norway
15- Elisa- USA
16- Derek, tour leader- Canada
The youngest is 24 years old and the oldest is 80!
Again, I’m grateful for this opportunity to be travelling. I’m so enjoying this Mekong river ride as it is a wonderful opportunity to see the landscape of Laos.
Soht dii(thank you) for tuning in…
I’m on my way to Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand, a city that serves as a gateway to Myanmar, Laos, and western China. We are on board a national Thai train in second class sleeper cars. At 9pm, someone will connect the seats to make a bed. I’m excited for this trip and I like the idea of going with GAP Adventures. Accommodations will be fairly basic but real.
I woke up early this morning to leave Phuket for Bangkok. I negotiated a fare from Surin Beach to the airport for 450 Baht, although the advertised rate was 600 Bht. I’ve found people amenable to a 20 to 25% discount on the asking price but I’ve found more success by determining a fair price, lowering that, and using that as a base for negotiation. I made some new friends in Phuket(hi Jeanette, Dave and Brian) and I hope to return soon!
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Posted by Elisa Kwon at 2:25 AM