|Chugging to cheung khong is a bit of any unfair title for the blog as I was pleasantly surprised by how painless the 7 hour bus ride north turned out to be. My start was again a close call as I literally got the last seat on the 8am bus for this trip - was quite important as I had to get across the border before 5pm (when border closes and my boat was leaving at 8.30am next day from the other side)- more of this in next blog.
The bus system was incredibly efficient - right down to actual seat allocation in the same way you book a cinema ticket. Little did I know when I got on the bus that my seat allocation would be a defining moment of my journey.....
A very friendly 46yr old woman sat beside me; she was from Belgium (don't know what you call a person from belgium - a belgiumese??) but lived in Wales (for 15 years i think). She was travelling mostly to buy jewellery which she sells on the street stalls of Cardiff (when not teaching) but also going to meet an Irish man in Laos who adored her - but she didn't know if she was interested in him because he had money and she didn't think he was very good looking. She is very mystical and believes that people with money don't really have much soul and don't know how to be humble.....she's met very few truly humble people in her life. She has 3 children (17, 19 and 22) from a Jamaican man, one of whom got married to a man when she was 16 but is now divorced with a 4 year old son (and is 21) and one son is a bit of a problem (he lives with the father). The true love of her life though was her Indian husband - they were soulmates but he sadly died at the age of 39 of a heart attack. Her next husband was a Malay man but she found that she was much too strong a character for him and as much as she love him she didn't think they were compatible so they had to seperate. She loved the malay way of life and even though her husband could have had many wives he only had her.
And then the bus finally left Chiang Mai for Cheung Khong.......
And the rest of the story was written and lost while trying to save.........aaaaaaaarghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!! So i'm going to leave this and move on.....
Okay, back to finish this section of the tale. The real highlight of the trip had to be the pit-stops along the way in the northern thailand little towns for pick of passengers and use of ablutions! For those of you who haven't been in a less 1st world country (don't think it's quite 3rd world) the toilet facilities are not exactly the western way. By the end of the trip I had mastered the skill (and believe me the level of skill cannot be understimated) in multitasking the following: holding my trouser legs up (so as not to soak in the ankle deep dampness),keeping my bag slung high enough over my shoulder but close enough for tissue access, keeping one finger on a side wall for balance and using the hole in the ground provided.....this may be a little graphic for some but I need men to realise just how damned blessed they are!! And I never said this blog would be censored!
We arrived in cheung kong at the border around 3.30pm and thought we would just hop on a boat to go straight to the laos side. Little did we realise what entreupeneurs the people were; those without laos visas were told they couldn't get on the boat and had to let the Thai side take their passports and go across to get them......and were to wait in the restaurant for an hour while this was done. This was of course despite it being known (and done by those arriving later) that there was nothing to disallow the travellers getting their visas processed on the laos side. Needless to say, the restaurant got about 25 peoples lunch and beer orders that the laos economy would otherwise have benefited from :-)
Myself, julie, harrisa, carl and 2 canadian guys - keith and graham, all boarded a little wooden boat and were zipped across to laos around 5pm! As I was only spending one night there before catching an 8.30am boat I checked into the first guesthouse i found. All okay except for the no hot water in the morning - which would have been nice as it was about 13C - they had a great view from the rooftop breakfast area where some of the street photos were taken. After an okay nights sleep I head to find my Nagi boat - a boat that landed up providing me with an amazing day down the Mekong.