1 January 2013
Our trusty minibuses took us further north via Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong border post. En route we passed through prime agricultural countryside with trees and fields of everything imaginable growing in both small plots and large fields. I was disappointed to discover that the elaborate black cauldrons on stands that marked the entrance to every house in the villages we passed on the way were in fact part of the pagan custom of rubbish collection.
We saw cashew nut plantations and learnt the time consuming process of extracting the nut – all done by hand and even just the final part was painstakingly slow with one person able to process just 10 kilos a day. We showed our appreciation by buying many bags of cashews of every description: with white sesame seeds, black sesame, coconut, caramel. …
Lunch was local style and we feasted on yellow noodle curry soup overlooking a bizarre temple (Wat Rong Khun) built by a modern artist who has the king’s favour. It indulges his fantasies and manifests as a white sparkly frilly temple with matching bridges and fanciful figures contrasting with bizarre skulls hanging from trees and even atop road bollards.
At the border we exited Thailand walking across with all our bags and then down to cross the Mekong by boat to Laos on the other side. Seeing the elaborate ‘welcome to Thailand’ sign, I lined up my camera on the corresponding sign on the Laos side only to discover as we got closer that it read ‘Food Court’.
We extracted our bags and carried them up the steep path to Passport Control to get our visas and then to currency exchange where I felt like a millionaire as I exchanged US$50 for 400,000 Kip.
Further up the hill we loaded our bags precariously onto the top of tuk-tuks and piled inside hoping that it wouldn’t all come crashing down on top of us. Weaving at the usual crazy speeds (although somewhat slowed by excess weight) we sped off in convoy to our guesthouse: Arimid Guesthouse run by Mr Singkham and his wife.
Mr Singkham laughs and jokes with us in almost perfect English. He has travelled widely and was a French professor. We settle in to our little bungalows and sit on the terrace each with an enormous bottle of Lao beer for a princely sum of 10,000 kip (US$1.25).
Later we giggled our way into town (Huay Xai) and sat at a table looking over the river and across to Thailand and sampled local fare. Mine was pork laab (a mince salad) served with sticky rice that you eat with your fingers. You take big fingersful of the rice and use it to add some meat before stuffing it all in your mouth – no utensils required (although hand sanitizer is definitely recommended).
Sabai dii Hello; hello how are you?; I’m fine
Kowp jai lai lai Thank you very much
Sok dii Good luck (cheers)
Exchange rate: 6500 Lao kip = $1NZ
For this and other similar tours see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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