general travel

relaxing in nong khai, thailand

Night buses always seem a good idea at the time. After spending the first three hours sitting in front of a Japanese girl who is throwing up constantly, I begin to regret things (when they went around handing out bags at the start of the ride, I’d vaguely assumed it was a rubbish bag, silly me). Sleep doesn’t come, and when we stumble off a tuk-tuk into the middle of Vientiane at 4.30am, exhaustion levels are high. We find benches by the river, and I douse myself in Deet and fall asleep, ignoring the hovering swarm of mossies and other insecty things. Woken at 6am by Laos women doing vigorous aerobics in the street to energetic dance music. A jogging man stops nearby and follows the aerobics from a distance.

By midday we’re back in Nong Khai, Thailand, with a painless border crossing over the Friendship Bridge. Back to the land of ATMs and driving on the left side of the road.

Bamboo hammocks, Nong Khai, Thailand


We find the Mut Mee Guesthouse, and collapse. The next day we utilise the bamboo hammocks, and mostly laze around reading and sleeping. They have enormous rum balls for sale at the counter, and a self service system which is conducive to me eating far too many of them. The guesthouse sits beside the Mekong River, all shady and relaxing, and the man managing the place is vaguely reminiscent of a Kiwi John Malkovich.

general travel

downriver on the mekong

Sleeping lightly, I’m woken by the roosters. They start at 4am – apparently they haven’t heard that they’re supposed to crow at dawn. Later, on the boat, I overhear a couple of English guys: “Were we camped next to a bloody farm or something? The bloody roosters didn’t shut up all night!”

We pile onto the boat at 8am, along with a hoard of others, mainly coming down the river from the Thai border. As we sit for a couple of hours, waiting for all of the idiots with no temporal awareness to finally show up, I am amused by a group of German cyclists – they get their bicycles safely loaded onto our boat, use their bags to reserve lots of spare seats for themselves and get settled. Twenty minutes later, one of them decides to ask us where the boat is going. “Luang Prabang… downriver”. Ah, they want to head up river. Queue another twenty minutes of them getting themselves and their luggage unloaded, and with all parties concerned having only minimal English, trying to use sign language to convey to the Laos boat guys that they want their bicycles off the roof of this boat, and onto the roof of the other boat.

Riverboat on the Mekong, Pak Beng, Laos


The boat finally heads off down river. And the scenery stays the same. Muddy river, rocks, some trees. People fishing. Occasionally people washing and swimming. Crops grown on the sandy shoreline. Meanwhile on the boat, the English, US, and one Scottish guy all band together drinking Beer Laos.

Finally, as the sun has just set, we arrive back in Luang Prabang. Fighting all the touts offering guest houses and tuk tuks and god knows what else, we make our way up to the street, and collapse at the guesthouse.

Sunset over the Mekong from the slow boat, Laos


general travel

crossing into laos – vientiane

As we cross the Friendship Bridge, we switch from the left side of the road to the right (damned French), and the well-paved highway turns into potholed ragged asphalt, which turns into dirt road, which turns into a new road… and we’re in Vientiane. Fed up with the place quite quickly, we jump on the bus to Luang Prabang that night.

Mekong River at dawn