CHIANG KOHONG THAILAND TO LAO

 The trip up to Chiang Kohong was long . The mini van was full.  A husband and wife with
two children from Melbourne. She was a former elementary school teacher.


 
Their eighteen year old son we traveling also but left him to meet his older brother in Hong
Kong.  They were worried as this was his first venture on his own.  He was traveling around
China.  There was a sheep farmer and saxophone player with his wife who was a Mathematics
teacher.  A well traveled American.  Two young men from Jerusalem, another from Maui and
another from Santa Rosa California.  The others I haven’t met or couldn’t hear them to carry
on a conversation so I shied away.
We arrived at the Guesthouse late afternoon


and were assigned our rooms.  
I walked into town and on the way back, joined the family from Melbourne for a beer.  We had
dinner another beer and was in bed around 11 pm.  I woke an hour later and shivered
throughout the night.  I had blankets and doubled them up but if you are in a freezer blankets
don’t help much.  Then I had to get up to walk to the toilet.  Never did get back to sleep or
warm.Well I am in an internet cafe in Chiang Kohong at the Guesthouse NamKaHong.  I froze
my bloody ass off last night and finally decided to go take a hot shower to warm up.  I waited
and waited until the teacher from Australia finally relinquished her shower with a big smile.
Oh that hot shower was wonderful as she left.  I couldn’t wait but after I got in the stall I
realized I left my soap in the room.  Oh well I will have a hot shower but no …she used all
the hot water so I had  cold shower on my cold body and returned to my cold room. Then I
went to the cafeteria and had a cold breakfast.  I am wearing a coat!  Well we leave this cold
part of the world shortly for the boat down the river…Wow…A day that will be one of my worst
and best stories.  It started in Laos when we crossed to get our Visa’s  We had given the
 Hostel our passports along with the applications for the Visa and were to pick them up on
the Laos side of the border along with the passports.  
We did. It took all morning.  We had to have everything stamped with each department of
 immigration and I did.  Then I left to go find out where the 37 people were that were part
of my group.  I had a tag I wore that identified me as part of that group and  as I left
immigration a man saw that and directed me to a Taxi that was to take me to  the “Slow boat”
to Luang Prabang.  I saw my Aussie friends so joined them while the Taxi driver loaded my
bags  on the roof of the Taxi.  We all jumped on and drove 10 Km to the debarkation point.
 
We were all waiting around a restaurant /bar and ordering sandwiches to go for the trip and
buying up bottled water when after an hour someone drove up and dumped all these
passports on the table for distribution with the TICKET for the journey.  I went over to the
man in charge and explained that NO ONE had taken my passport and …I had NO ticket.  He
took my passport and ran off to get my ticket.
 I joined everyone….over 140 people …my group was 37…and stood in line to board the boat
 while waiting for the man to return with my passport and ticket.  He returned as the one boat
was leaving. He had my passport but explained that I did not have a ticket.  There were only
36 tickets.  What actually happened was that I was part of 37 that had prepaid but when they
only received 36 passports…they only issued 36 tickets and sold mine to one of the other
passengers and pocketed the money.   He said they only had 36 tickets.  There was no list with
our names only the tickets and the passports.  Understandable that some underpaid and civil
servant decided to take advantage..but now I am waving goodbye along with the guy from
Santa Rosa California…they misplaced his passport.  The two of us are stuck. 
 I asked about a  “Fast Boat ” …he said it would be 40000 Baht or $120.  I already paid for the
slow boat and my only other choice was to get a room there and they would arrange the slow
boat the following day.  This was not an option.  Then they said there might be a possibility
that his missing passport might be on the  boat and we could split the cost of a fast boat taxi
that would catch the slow boat and take us there.  I said I am ready but how much…he said
that would be $75….I asked the guy from California and he said that the tour company should
pay.  I said I agree so sue them after we get on the boat.  He argued with the guide and the
guide  had to call his boss to request payment and I am thinking the slow boat is getting
further away. It is going to cost even more …so I told the California guy that I was sorry he doesn’t have  a passport but I want out of here .   He understood and I ordered the guide to book the fast boat to the slow boat and I would pay the whole amount of $75…I had already made an advance payment for the Guest House on the overnight stop.  

  Now we are talking money and money talks…I’m on the taxi going to the Fast Boat dock 12 km away.  I had to pay for that too.  I arrived and jumped on the boat to discover there were two other passengers.  I was paying for them too!  OK.  I’m in the front with the wind in my face

…we are doing 40-50 miles an hour down the Mekong river.  John Kerry didn’t go that fast.  

My coat almost blew overboard. My hair blew off.  I finally, after an hour on the boat, pulled
up along side of the slow boat.  EVERYONE had their cameras on me.  The Slow boat matched
the speed of the fast boat and  a deck hand came aboard the fast boat to take my bag while
I struggled to get up after what was like riding a bucking bronco for over an hour and board
this  moving boat without falling into the Mekong and becoming a Be Gone.   I did and
everyone on the slow boat welcomed me.  But no one bought me a beer!  That would never
happen in Australia or Scotland.   So I did…about 3-4 of them .  All the seats were taken as
they overbooked and I thought I left the pillow on the fast boat in a frenzy to get on the slow
one.  Then my friend from New Zealand ..the sheep farmer brought it…the captain had thrown
it on.  Everyone wanted to hear the story and I was quite a celebrity.  Some said they would
email the photos because I was too busy trying to board at the time to take photos.  People
came up to me and asked to photograph me for their trip story.  Wherever I went  people gave
me the Loo or their seat or opened my beer…but still, never  bought me one. 
Finally we arrived at the stop…I don’t even know the name of it but  it was pitch black and
my bag was in the front on the way off.  My friend from Jerusalem had a flash light and
stayed to help me identify my bag.  I saw it right away and a Laotian offered to carry it off
the boat for me.  First I denied the assistance but it was dark, I was tired, and really didn’t
know where the Guest house was so finally agreed to let him “Porter” my bag. 
 It weighed at least 50 lb and he was solid muscle.  He threw it on his shoulder walked the gangplank off in front of me.  I almost fell into the Mekong.  Then it was straight uphill.  I couldn’t keep up with him.  There is no way I could have carried my bag without stopping every five feet.  He could have jogged up to the hotel.  Then  when we did get there , after I begged a couple stops along the way to catch my breath, the greeter from the hotel had my key ready and directed me up another couple flight of stairs to the first level.  The “Portor” stuck with me and dropped the bag in the room .  I was so gratefull that I asked how much I owed him he sheepishly said like $3….I gave him $5 and he turned and put his arms around me and kissed me on the neck, 
not the cheek.  That show of affection made the trip worth while even though he had his
hand in my wallet while he was doing it.
I went to a Laos restaurant and ordered Water Buffalo with Lemon and sticky…Wild rice…
a bit different.  I had a Lao Beer and after had a Lao Whiskey…which was like 5 shots for
one dollar in a glass.  Now the Buffalo dish was spicy.  I forgot to ask so I ate the dish because
is was a small portion with a small price .

I ventured down the street to a fairly nice little Mamma and Papa place that impressed me.
 I decided to just have some “spring” rolls as they call them and a glass of red wine.  I sat
next to 3 French couples around my age.  I drank my wine and ordered another.  He explained
that he was out of the Red but had house White…no problem but I did notice the French
couples asked to pay their bill with separate checks for each couple and paid him with large
denomination bills. Trying to accommodate them ,he got on his motorcycle and took off to
get change for each of the couples.
While he was gone , one man pulled out a bottle of whiskey as an  after dinner drink from
his “purse ” and bragging, poured everyone a drink while they were waiting for their change.  
I remembered Bernard , the owner of O’Brians in Saigon telling me…(he is French Vietnamese)
about how the French would come into his bar and kiss him on both cheeks and tell him how
they loved his place and then order Coca Cola and he would see them pull a bottle of Whiskey
out of their purse and add to the Coca Cola….he remarked on what hipocrites they were. 
I got pissed and when the owner returned to pay each of the couples their change  I stood up
and introduced myself and asked the man who poured the Whiskey if he had  bought the
bottle of whiskey from this owner that worked so hard to not only present him with good food
that his wife cooked but also ran all over town to bring him his change.  They had a nervous
giggle but then SILENCE. Perhaps I was so upset because the owner had handwritten his
menus on handmade paper, he painted murals in the restroom making it the best Eastern
toilet I had seen, he decorated the place with pride and it showed, plus he was the owner
and I know what that is like. 
I told them that all of them should be ashamed of themselves for taking advantage of this man
and his wife the chef that worked so hard to give them pleasure.  I then asked the owner for
my  bill. When presented with it in front of the people , I gave him all I had in my wallet and
thanked him for such a nice evening then turned my back on the 6 Assholes and left.
I almost danced down the street.  I felt so good.  I had neven done that in my life but always
fantasized about it.  I will sleep well tonight.  I did take the owner aside on the way out and
told him I didn’t mean to offend his guests but that I was proud of what he did and they were
insulting to him and his wife.  He thanked me. I did sleep well.
The next day I boarded the boat after a wonderful breakfast.  None of the travel guides or tour
operators on the continuing trip knew about me, or what happened on the first part of the trip
and wanted my ticket…long story again.  I didn’t have a ticket and they had a list with all the
passengers but me.  I tried to explain in my best Lao but for some reason they didn’t
understand.  I gave them the phone number and name of the tour operator for NamKhong and
requested they call.  I thought I was to be escorted off the boat when a young lady that
accompanied the ticket taker, pulled a cell phone out and called Noi the in the other village.  
I was so tense while she waited and waited with no response.  She called again.  Nothing.  I told
her to keep his number and call after the boat left with me on it and he would verify my ticket.
 She refused but then got an answer.  The whole boat was waiting because I was the hold up.  
The other boat left an hour ago and everyone was getting anxious…especially me.  Then she
smiled and said…no problem and got off the boat while the captain left port.  All the passengers
wanted to know what I was going to do today to entertain them?  What new adventures do you
have in store for us?, they asked.That was it.  
We arrived in Luang Prabang on time and before dark.  I took a taxi after showing the address
and name.  He even quoted me $12 which is the most I’ve paid in a month but I agreed.  I was
tired and wanted this leg of the trip over and to be settled in.  On the way, he commented on
what a nice place I was staying at.  I knew he had the wrong place, especially when he showed
up a a palatial villa. He wanted to get paid and drop me off and run.  I wanted to check with the
front desk and insisted he join me when the desk clerk gave him directions to the real Guest
House I was staying at.  He understood then drove me to another wrong place but they insisted
I stay.  even though they only had a room for two days that was twice the price of where I had
booked.  I told them I had made reservations for 3 days and this was obviously not the place.  
Again I showed them the name and address and they explained to the driver that I was staying
the next street over.  He acted like I never explained it right to him and he knew the place all
along.  He then took me right to the front door and wanted me to pay him more.  He had also
solicited me to be my tour guide while I stayed in Luang Prabang.  I refused him everything
but the money that I agreed to pay him and then insisted he carried my bag in before paying.  
I could have walked there from where I got off the boat!!  
   I joined some others from Toronto and Seattle on the veranda for a drink.  They invited me to
eat with them but I still had a sandwich so declined.  I did go for a brief walk into town.  It was
packed and busy with music coming from everywhere as well as a night market that made
Chiang Mai’s look small.   Everything closes early here so I was in bed by 10 pm..I slept well
and was afraid I might oversleep and miss part of the short time I have in this World Heritage
City. My clock said 7am but I didn’t believe it. I had my coffee at JAMA Coffee house where I
saw some of the same people from my trip. 
A older man with a suitcase and a Bob Marley Tshirt was looking for a place to sit.  I was
sitting at a table of 4 and there were no seats left so I offered him a seat to join my table.  Later
we talked…he was leaving that morning .  He used to live there 5 years ago and was visiting a
friend. He was French and started explaining that we put money into Laos and cleaned it up
and then they gave their country to the Chinese.  The Europeans come here and expect the
same as in Europe so they get it at a cheaper price and think it is wonderful.  But the Chinese
only pay the Lao the cheap wages so make enormous profits and take the money to China. 
I set out with a map to explore the town.  I first visited one of 37 Temples that make this a
World Heritage Site.  I wandered from one to another and another…and another but noticed
one on top of Phousie Hill overlooking the whole city as well as where two major rivers merge.
 I decided to climb the one million steps to the top.  One at a time. I rested and drank a bottle
of water to replace all mine that I sweated out climbing the first 100,000 steps. I finally reached
the temple at the top and fell down on my knees and paid homage to the Buddha for not having
a heart attack on the way up …or for not falling off the edge of the mountain.
I visited a few shops along the way through town and ran into one of my fellow travelers.  He
said he saw the guy who lost his passport.  I guess he took a fast boat and arrived today. I hope
to see him.  I stopped into a Scandinavian Bakery I saw advertised.  A Swedish Pastry Chef got
the King and Queen of Sweden to donate $50000 for him to open this bakery-restaurant and
employ all orphaned young girls.  They showed up for the opening and I decided to try his bread
pudding.  I have one of the best recipes in Phoenix so thought I would try his.  It was fantastic
as was the Latte.
 Then I saw a Wine shop with Merlot from Italy for $3 a glass and stopped for that.  Then I
noticed one of many shops that had an oriental hanger to mount my wall hanging I bought.  
It was hand carved wood for $3 so I bought that when I noticed a framed photo from the turn
of the century and bought that.  It is impossible not to buy these things that you will never find
in the US…at least not for that price and quality.  I stopped by the post office and the ATM
machine with the intentions of sending another package from Asia to the USA. I got 2,100,000
Kip.  Yep…over 2 million…about $240 in American …probably what our money will be worth
in a few years. Now to figure out what I’m going to buy.  I am going to get another wall hanging
and hanger to go with the one I have.  Maybe some more shirts, pants  and a scarf. .  A
Tablecloth…I don’t know but shipping goes by the kilo so have to keep the weight down.  I
thought an Opium pipe might be a nice conversation piece.  I can tip the waiters 1000 kip and
feel important…even though that is about 13 cents. There doesn’t seem to be a problem with
customs in any of these countries …only bringing things into the US. 
I completed my walk , paid my hotel bill, then asked to stay another two days.  She said OK
without hesitation.  I asked if she wanted me to pay for the extra days now.  She was disciplining
her children and didn’t want to be bothered. 
I read in the Vientiane Times that the Muong that the USA recruited to assist us during the
Vietnam war were being sent back to Lao.  They were in refugee camps in Thailand for years
trying to join their families that were living in the USA and elsewhere.  Brig Gen Bouasieng
said Lao officials will educate the returnees to make sure they are not tricked into leaving the
country again and to prevent them falling victim to human trafficking.  What if they want to
leave? Oh well be thankful you have you freedom.
I’m in the Joma Coffee shop and going back to spend some money on the market.  
I ended up going the other direction toward the river where I ran into two old…younger than
me Aussies sharing Snake Wine at 10 am. Later I went to the Museum, bought some music
then took the back neighborhood home for siesta. 




  
New Year’s Eve Day I went shopping and spent a Million…literally.  They have no coins here.
Great idea really.  Everything costs 8000 or 210,000, etc.  I bought a purse that I carry my
computer around in as well as all the junk I bought.  I may ship some out tomorrow or wait
until I get to Saigon.  I spent the evening treating myself to a really nice dinner then wandering
around the downtown festivities.  It was loud , busy, and tiring so I returned home with a
bottle of Hanoi Vodka , had a couple New Year’s Eve drinks, and played poker.  Fireworks
could be heard in the distance and after checking the clock I retired at about 12:05 am.


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