After the 4 hours back to Chang Mai, we arrived in the same state we left - ffewling pretty bad. We decided to upgrade and payed a little extra for a VIP bus to Chiang Khong. This mean't we were entitled to a free Pepsi and air con, which was very sporadic, more cold's in the post for Mrs. P. After 5 hours, there was only 8 foriegners left on the bus all heading up to Chiang Khong.
We checked into Ghekko central for the night, had the most amazing Mexican meal over looking the Mekong and Laos in the distance and retired for a sleepless night. Mrs P couldn't sleep because of the ghekko's running around, Mr. P. couldn't sleep because Mrs. P. wouldn't let him. Next moring, crossed the borders, hopping the Laos immigration would give us a visa upon entry(every one else crossing had already got theirs).
Thankfully, we were assigned a 15 day visa and allowed to proceede. The next decision we had to make was which form of transport to take to Luang Prabang. The options were, a fast boat, taking 6 hours, with helmuts and life jackets provided or the slow boat which takes 2 days with an overnight stop in Pak Beng. After much deliberation, we opted for the slow boat(it was cheaper).
The first day was great, crammed onto a small boat with 50 other foriegners of different nationalities for 9 hours was a real hoot. Most of the time was spent drinking beer Lao, chatting and laughing at those unfortunate people whgo had decided to take the fast boat. Six hours of bone shaking, engine whinning, wondering whether you were going to make it or not, is not a nice introduction to the sleepy pace of Laos.
Everyone was relieved to make it to Pak Beng for the night. Pak Beng serves one purpose only, holding tourists to ransom for the night when they arrive off the slow boat. With accomodation at a premium we managed to find one of the better hostels for the night. We met a couple fo guys who had checked into a hostel and had the misfortune to share a room with rats and cockroaches, mind you, they only payed 30 baht(40p) for the privilege. Suddenly we were happier with our no-eletricity option!
Next day and early start to make sure we got a seat on the boat ....shock horror the nasty boat people had done a boat switch on us and changed us onto a smaller far more compact number. After hanging around waiting for a couple of hours we finally set of again. The starting signal seemed to be when everyone started pacing up and down trying to regain circulaiton after sitting waiting for so long. The second day on the boat was a demorilising affair - highlighted only by the sporadic occurances of passing fast boats (can make you smile even at your lowest point) However things got so bad towards the end of the day that in a state of boat delarium Mr P was heard to mumble "we should have taken the fast boat".
Finally we made it to Laung Prabang which was a little haven. Stayed a couple of days before heading down to Vang Vieng.