Friday, December 09, 2005

Bangkok to Liverpool

Last day! Screaming hangover from hell from the Long Island Iced Teas. All ideas of a day trip to Ayutthaya out of the window. Eat loads of fruit and eat three muffins from Suk 11's excellent breakfast selection.

Decide to go to the KSR. Get skytrain and river taxi again. Sit in a couple of bars and watch Sesame Street for a while. KSR is one way, a policeman sits by his bike and gives tickets out every two minutes until he is bored. Bare chested english drink beer, loud israelis slsp each other on the back. Hippies sell handbags and maps. Expats rub tiger balm on themselves and inhale Vicks like its something new. Have a couple of M125's to try and come round.

Remember about the roti shop round the corner. Lovely chicken massiman and roti.

Jump back on river taxi and all the way to Nonthaburi. Wander round buy some fruit and back to Suk.

Really just killing time now and camp out at Cheap Charlis until 20:30 and get taxi to Don Muang. 'How much you want to pay?' 'Just put the the meter on' 'No' The stupid thing is the price I actually negotiated was less than the meterd fare and the tip I would have given. So he got 240baht instead of the 300 he would have got if he had been straight.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Chiang Rai to Bangkok

The extremely pleasant staff at Ben Guesthouse gave us a lift to Chiang Rai airport which is 10km from town in their pickup for the 08:20 flight to Bangkok. A quick coffee and swift boarding for the one hour fifteen minute Air Asia flight .

Arrived at Domestic Terminal and joined the taxi queue of about four people. Turn left out of domestic arrivals and 50 meters to your left is the same taxi rank as international arrivals.

Tell the person in the booth where you are going and take the ticket which you give to the driver. Taxi to Sukhumvit Soi 11 was 150 baht on meter and 70 baht expressway charges plus 50 baht airport charge.

Checked into Suk 11 about 11:00. Single room with AC 500 baht. The thing I like about Suk 11 is the age range of the peolple who stay there. It is not a preserve of the 18-25 backpackers but a good mixture of people staying for many different reasons.

Had lunch at Yeung Lee on Sukhumvit on the corner. This place was her 22 years ago when i first visited bangkok as a 22 year old. It has not changed one bit and the duck on steamed rice it still the best i have had anywhere. One plate of this and a large Singha was 140 baht. bargain.

Took the BTS Skytrain from Nana to Saphin Taskin (single journey ticket 35 baht) and then the orange flag boat (13 baht) to Ratchawongse (Pier 5) for a wander round chinatown. Walk straight on to the traffic lights turn right and then just wander around the alleys. Good Sui mai for 3 baht each and nice Har Gow (Pork dumplings) for about 6-7 baht.

Back the same way to Suk 11 for a freshen up then a few beers at Cheap Charlies and then eat at Mrs Balbirs an Indian Restaurant on Soi 11/1 which has been recommended in many guide books. I suspect it has changed hands, I found it expensive and dull.

Few long Island Iced Teas at the cocktail cart outside Suk 11 and to bed

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Houay Xai to Chiang Khong to Chiang Rai

Up early and a couple of Lao Coffees later its border crossing time. The border crossing in half way down the main street. This is probably one of the easiest (lax) crossings you could do. Hand your passport in at the window and receive it back with an exit stamp in about 30 seconds. You can themn go back into town and spend your remaining kip before jumping in one of the waiting longtail boats to take you across the Mekong to Chiang Khong (5,000 kip – pay on boat).

Thai immigration on the other side is just up the hill. Fill in the arrival card and enter visa free in about two minutes. Wainting songthiews can take you to the bus station for buses to Chiang Rai or Chiang Mai (20 baht per person).

The bus to Chiang Rai was 54 baht and took 3 hours including a stop for axle welding and the rivers lunch. We arrive at about 13:00 at the bus station and walk the ten minutes or so to Ben Guesthouse. Again this is a recommendation from Travelfish which comes up trumps. It is in the quiet area of town about 10-15 minutes walk from the night market. It is an old teak house with incredibly friendly staff. R=Rooms 150-300 baht depending on fan/AC/shared/ensuite. A very relaxing place after three days of travelling.

Houay Xai

A sleepy border town however unlike Pakbeng it does not seem a trap. Had planned to stay at the Sabaydee Guesthouse however it was full. Tried the Oudomaphone across the road that was about the best accommodation I stayed in Laos (US$5, 200 baht). The rooms were tiled, had hot water showers and were immaculately clean. Recommended.

We were all completely knackered and eat a good Chicken with holy basil and rice at the Riverside Restaurant and I was in bed by 21:30. A very long day.

Tommorow is the border crossing into Thailand and onto Chiang Rai.

Slowboat (Day 2)

Up at 07:30 and had a quick coffee or two and purchased an overpriced and underfilled sandwich from the waiters come drug dealers at Bounmy Guesthouse. Strolled down to the slowbaoat pier in Pakbeng. Bought a ticket tp Houay Xai (85,000 kip). I ws directed to a much smaller boat than the day before.

Now the yanks were getting twitchy. The planned to get to Chiang mai in Thailand that day. i kept my mouth firmly closed. When asked El Capitane said he did not know when we would arrive at Houay Xai, maybe four or five. I had heard before that the slowboats deliberately dilly dally so everyone misses the border closing at 18:00. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Everything went fine until about three thirty when the crew decided to stop at every village on the banks of the Mekong for a Beer Lao or two

By 17:00 tempers were becoming frayed and he finally admitted that due to the currents we wouldnt make Hoay Xai until 18:30. However he could drop anyone who wanted to make the crossing off at the speed boat pier and then they could get a tuk tuk at a cost of 5,000 kip each which would get them to lao's immigration in time. The Tuk tuks packed with irrate Americans reached the border at 18:05 - it was shut.

It didn't bother me but this is an obvious ply that fills up guest houses in Houay Xai and andds to the governments coffers in visa overstay charges.

We were not bothered anyhow but its worth knowing if you time poor and have no days left on your visa. They do the trip every day and could easily start at 08:00 or 07:30 and be in plenty of time. The trip took about 10hours

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I have to say that Pakbeng was one of the worst places I have ever satyed in my life. Not the place itself nor the place I stayed (Bounmy Guest House - 150 baht a night and no rats with an excellent restaurant), but just the attitude. If one place gives an indication of what Laos might become, like many other South East Asian countries, this is it.

They have quickly learnt that you are either fresh off he boat from Chiang Khong and like a startled rabbit in a car's headlights or you have come from Luang Prabang and realise you are trapped for the night.

Everything is overpriced and of poor quality. You will be gone in the morning. The waiters and cooks double up as opium and dope dealers. End of Pakbeng rant.

Slowboat (Day 1)

Left Heritage Guest House at about 06:30 to watch the monks walking through town for alms.

It was a sight you probably dont see on such a scale anywhere elsein the world. Cool. Had a couple of black coffees and bought a tuna baguette and some water for the slowboat journey.

Arrived at the pier at about 08:00 and checked in at the ticket booth. Boat left at 09:00. The boat was only about half full and I was glad to see had cushions and a large supply of Beer Laos.

Some people were asking how long in would take from Louang Prabang to Pakbeng. Six hours? Seven hours? Don't believe a word, upstream it takes nine and a half hours. Yes nine and a half hours to Pakbeng.

The journey however was pleasant with great scenery, water buffalo and elephants along the banks. We arrived at Pakbeng in near darkness at 18:15. Not a bad day and had met some interesting people and some complete bores to.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Louang Prabang (Part 2)

A very lazy day just wandering around the old city and walking along the banks of the Mekong. This really is beautiful place, very quiet and relaxed. The type of place thats make you think "I could live here"

I went to the Royal Palace Museum a shrine to the moarchy which was overthrown in the late 60's by the new regime. It is s fascinating insight into the royal era of Louang Prabangs history in an amazing building decorated with japanese glass murals.

Visited a couple of Wats.

Took a boat to the other side of the mekong (10,000 kip) and had fried rice with beef at avery nice no-name restairant for 8,000 kip. Great views over the mekong back to Louang Prabang.

Met up with a couple of people early evening and went to one of the oudoor restaurants at the junction of the night clothes and food market. They have a large assortment of vegetarian stuff with rice and noodles for 5,000 kip a plate (add 10,000 for a barbecued chicken breast or a whole fish).

Ended up in a bar by the Palace (Naos Place) with a couple of guys one Japenese one English had a few beers and a Lao Lao and back to Heritage House for a sleep. The whole of Louang Prabang is asleep by 22:30 so its not exacltly a party town but in some ways thats what makes it so pleasant.

Plan to go to Hmong village, organise slowboat and visit waterfalls today.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Louang Prabang

The day started of at the bus station on the old airstrip. Bought a ticket from the station for the VIP bus to Louang Prabang. Big coach type bus so plenty of legroom. Cost $7. Better than the minibus I reckon and takes about 1 hour longer. Left at 10:30. It is the only bus I have been on where the driver was crippled and appeared to be paralysed donw his left hand side. Oh well!

Stopped several time for toulet and sick stops and for lunch. We had chickens under our table. vian Flu eat your heart out.

Arrived at bus staion about 3km outside town. Tul Tuk into town 5,000 kip per person (they want 10,000 but take 5,000 without much hassle.

Drops of by post office on main drag. Checked into Heritage House in centre on old city and paid ten dollars for location more than anything else. It is quaint with little green shuttered windows.

Was just about to take a wander and met Phil who I bumped into in Nong Khai. We went to a barbecue place on the mekong with some of his friends from Vang Vieng.

The barbecue was great buffalo, beef and pork that you gook yourself over charcoal on your table on a grill surrounded by a moat that you fill with garlic flavoued stock and cook your vegetable s, noodles, eggs etc in. Whole thing for two 25,000 kip recommended.

Had a couple of beers and decidedto go to a local lao disco miles out of town. My oh my what a ball. The musidwas a sort of Thai technopop and everyone looked about 10 years old but boy was it rocking. Unfortunately it closed at 11.30 because of National Day today. Back home and tucked upby 12:00.

Going to take a walk around Louang Prabang today.