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Tinkerbell Legacy - Living with a flying parrot

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Laos to Thailand by boat 8 Mar to 14 Mar
continued on 14 Mar , Cheng Rai Thailand.

8 Mar,

The slow boat from Luang Prabang to Huay Xoi up the Mekong River have to be the way to travel. This was so much more comfortable than by bus on the road. From time to time, the river narrowed with white water. The slow boat is slow only in comparison with the speed boats that shot passed us from time to time with incredible noise. I looked at those in the fast boat cramped in sitting positions with full face crash helment in their bids to lessen the roar from their engine driving the boats. While those fast boat will take half the time of the 10 hours taken to the first overnight stop, I rather have the slow boat where one can walk around and change positions and chat with other interesting passengers. The slow boat even had a toilet on board even though the toilet was designed for Hobbits and other short passengers. If you need to use the toilet, you need to bend the knees and walk like a penguin to keep your head low.

From time to time, huge rocks jut out of the Mekong River. Water marks on those rocks indicated that during the raining season, the Mekong River was 10 meters or more above the current water level. Now and then, huge sand banks formed along the side of the river. In some places where cobble stones lined the banks, locals were panning along the shore for gold.

Villages after villages passed us by as the boat headed steadily up river. We can see the daily life of the villages throughout that day. From repairing of their little boats along the shore, fishing with nets for fishes and coming to the end of the day, groups of villagers gathering on the water edge to bath toether.

As the light of the day came to an end, I was wondering if the pilot knew the rocks by night. At that time, we came to PakBeng, a little village which served as a halfway stop and that we all were to spend the night. After a step climb up the river bank, I picked the nearest guest house to stay in. I knew that there were nicer ones further up the road. I just did not care to move any further.

Looking at the amount of candles in readiness to be lit, I need not ask if there was any Internet cafe in town. The last of daylight went away and the roar of many generators started making me wonder why so many candles were in the guest houses and shops. Everytime I turned on the hot water, all the lights in the guest house dimmed. The water remained very cold and I gave up trying to bath.

Then at 10 pm, the generator was shut down and then the candles had to be used.

9 Mar

We had to buy another boat ticket to Huay Xoi this morning. The ticket bought in Luang Prabang covered only the trip to PakBeng. Again, you have the choice of taking the fast speed boat or another slow boat.

The boat ride was like yesterday. Slowly going our way up the Mekong river and from time to time, having to power up rapids. Like yesterday, we see the mountain sides alternating between patches of primordial forests, secondary forests and fields of crops on the mountain sides.

It was 615pm when the boat pulled in to Huay Xoi town and the immigration checkpoint to leave Laos. Perhaps the boat was slower on this stretch than the previous stretch. I came on shore to find the immigration open only from 8 am to 6 pm thus requiring all of us to stay one last night in Laos.

10 Mar.

After waking up, I went to the immigration checkpoint which was near my little hotel. I was told what I already knew, that I overstayed my time in Laos by two days. They nicely overlooked that technically, it was actually the third day. I had to pay US$ 5 a day or $10. I then walked down to the water edge where a small cross river boat was just about to set off to Thailand on the other side of Mekong.

I then got my visa for 30 days in Thailand and just behind the Thai immigration were the minibuses waiting to bring us to various places. I got up the bus for Cheng Rai, the northern most city of Thailand.

I have been into Thailand several times. Many times when I was in ChengMai, I thought of going on to ChengRai but never did so.

It was a cultural shock for me after a month in Laos. Chengrai is one of the relatively less developed town of Thailand. But in comparison to Laos, it appeared as the epitome of developement. From generator produced power to permanent electric power and Seven -Elevens.

I checked in to Lek House on the recommendation from a traveller I met in PakBeng who just started his journey into Laos.

Amazingly, I found the prices in Cheng Rai to be even cheaper than Laos. I paid 100 Baht or $2.50 for the night.

After one month in Laos, I thought of relaxing around for a few days first. The people I met were nice , warm and friendly. I also got to repair my glasses at an optician shop. There were even 4 other optician shops in that same road. In the last few days in Laos, I was desparately searching for an optician to repair my glasses. I also made a pair of reading glasses. I was not even charged for the repair to my glasses.

Chatting to one of the locals about the thai food and hearing his descriptions, I decided the best way was to invite him to join me for dinner, but he will order the food. I was taken to a local restaurant that no foreigners could have gone to as the menu were all written in Thai. Instead of eating the same bland food for foreigners, we had one of the best Thai meals ever, while watching traditional dance and songs of Northern Thailand.

I found an English book shop to exchange my books and to buy other books.

I rented a 250cc scrambler bike to explore the countryside with other travellers. Kaz from UK had a smaller 125cc scrambler taking Enya from Denmark on pillion. With the aid of a very inaccurate map, we found ourselves on dirt tracks away from Cheng Rai on 12 Mar. Since he had not been on motorbike before, I agreed to have Enya behind me. That dirt track was 30 degree and had a foot of loose soil on it as well. My bike stuck and started to keel over. I hold on to it as long as possible to allow my passenger to get off before both of us and the bike became horizontal. Nothing was hurt other than my left big toe and pride.

Then yesterday, I invited John from UK to join me on a ride to Mae Salong up on the nearby mountains about 70 km away. MS was a former Chinese camp from Chinese soldiers fighting the Communist and retreated there from Yunnan China. Those soldiers were allowed to settle there and they took local wives and made that place their home. Many of the locals there spoke Chinese and were very happy to chat with me in CHinese

We stayed in Shin Shane guest house. On the way there, we met Kaz and Enya on their way down. Not many travellers were there. I met Randy from USA who spend much time in Peru that he loved. He just got into that town after crossing from the Burma border just a few km north. Xandro from Italy was also in town after hopping from Thailand to Burma and back again to extend his visa. Chengmai was a bit too far for him to go back to in that same day.

14 mar

The four of us went to their morning market and had local breakfast. They went off to walk around MS. I excused myself from them pleading my big toe so I could spend a lazy morning.

Later on I rode the bike down with John to return it. I will be going on to Chengmai on the 15 Mar