Poco's great adventure 2009 - 2010 travel blog

Our journey to Luang Prabang begins this morning at 8:00 when we are picked up in the mini van for the 8 hour drive to Chong Kiang. This is not an entirely all-inclusive journey, but for tonight our accommodation, and meals are paid for. We met Jack on the trip. Jack is a very fit, young looking 60 something year old from Hawaii. We enjoyed dinner with him and a young Korean couple on their honeymoon. The Korean immediately recognized their connection to Canada through their Olympic hopeful figure skater Yunha Kim who is coached by Canadian Brian Orser. There is a Yunha Kim in Hope and when they asked if we knew Yunha it blew my mind, to think they knew somebody from our town. Kim seems to be a very common Korean name. All one needs to do is check out the list of Korean businessmen in Hope, and you will find many with the last name of Kim.

Our guesthouse is quite simple, and I have no doubt does extremely well with the tourists travelling from Thailand to Laos. Elaine was silly, and sent her fleece home in the last package. That was a big mistake because it is cold here. The mercury dipped to 8 or 9 degrees. Now I know that everyone back home in Canada who is coping with negative degrees doesn’t have a lot of sympathy but the only other time we had single digit numbers was when we were on top of Mt. Sinai in Egypt. The rest of our trip has been in the comfortable high 20’s to high 30’s. When we got up the next morning, the sky was a hazy grey, and Elaine and Cory were entertaining me by blowing out and I could see their breath.

From here we were taken by van to the ferry across the river to the immigration office. Let me tell you, these boats did not inspire confidence. Once across we endured the most frustrating customs and immigration we’ve encountered to date. It was almost as if this was something new and the staff had zero experience. This is something they do everyday. At the guesthouse the night before, they were so organized and had everybody fill out their paperwork, and lined everything up, including taking our passports to immigration ahead of time. It was mass confusion and chaos as the officers used a lottery type system, as they randomly picked passports to process. Even though everyone was lined up, it did not matter, and if your name was called you shuffled and bumped your way through the crowd to get to the front. It was amazing to watch, as the frustration level rose, people kept inching closer and closer. This was not helping the situation. When Elaine’s name was called the customs officer questioned whether it was really her passport. See, Canadians should be allowed to wear their glasses and smile in their photos. Here is a bit of trivial information for you. For Canadians entering Laos, they pay the highest visa free out of all the countries in the world that are required to pay for a visa. It is normally $42.00 US dollars, but if you enter on a weekend it is raised by $1.00 to pay for the staff overtime.

From here we were taken to the port to get on our slow boat to begin our journey down the Mekong river.

Cory checked out the boat, and just before boarding handed Elaine a gift – a cushion. Oh, it has to be right up there as one of the best gifts ever, because the small short wooden bench was harder than rock and quite uncomfortable. After the sun set on the Mekong, and the breeze from the water came up, everybody on board started bundling up. There were people that would not have been overdressed if they were in Canada right now. Elaine and Cory gladly would have donned a good old Canadian toque and Elaine would have been thrilled with some gloves. They did the best they could with layering. We spent a good 8 hours on the boat today and it was dark when we arrived at Pak Ben, our home for the night. We found our accommodation and had a bite to eat.

It was an early night to bed. In the morning I was so amazed. The air was a dark hazy grey, and everywhere I saw people, I could see their breath. Elaine and Cory were a little bit more prepared and were quite thankful that they had their merino wool ice breaker t-shirts. They were definitely into the layered look this morning, and Elaine, just get over it, your fleece is on the way home to Canada, there is nothing you can do about it. Just let it go…please!

We headed down to the boat early, and how very fortunate for us, we had a different boat today, and this one had about 16 bucket seats that appeared to be taken out of automobiles. We grabbed the last two of the reserved ones. Some people were jealous of us, but it did make for a much more comfortable ride. Cory and Elaine struck up a conversation with two very well travelled older Canadian ladies. One is from Victoria, and the other from Vancouver. Everybody was able to exchange travel ideas and stories, and it made the journey pass by very quickly.

We arrived in Luang Prabang, just as daylight was ending, and easily found a guesthouse to stay in.

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