Up for early breakfast. 8am pickup didn't turn up till 8.30 to whisk us off to the border. Cleared out through Thai Immigration & then paid 20 bahts each for the bus ride across the Friendship bridge into Laos. Yet another palaver getting the Lao Visas but just a case of being patient & paying $35 each. Then another wait till all our group had cleared immigration & we could get on another minibus to take us to the riverside village to board the boat to take us down the river.
Another extended wait before we finally got to go aboard our "luxury" boat, along with Hordes of other people. How they packed them & all the luggage in was a minor miracle, but they did. Apparently there are about 150/160 people on two boats for the two day downriver trip. Our first stop will be at a little village called Pak Beng where we have booked in at a local guest house for the overnight stop.
We finally set off late in the morning in reasonable comfort. The main accommodation area consisted of two rows of old double or triple car or minibus seats facing forward. We were quite close to the front & only about a foot or so above the water level. There are a couple of Western toilets & a mini bar on board so some sort of comfort at least. We had been forewarned so had bought a couple of rolls, crisps & water with us as there would be no stops till the evening.
The scenery was great & it would have been a nice relaxing ride down the river if it hadn't been marred by the smokers & two rowdy groups of white youngsters, one lot at the front & the other at the stern. Lots of drinking, smoking & bad language, especially from one English girl, makes one ashamed to be British.
We got to Pak Beng just as the sun was beginning to set & then a mass exodus of the boats got under way with all passengers & luggage unloaded onto the rickety jetty. Fortunately our guest house had a pick-up truck waiting & loaded stacks of cases & people on the back before heading off up the hill into the little village.
Having survived the ride we eventually grabbed our cases & found our allotted room. A bit of a dump this one but at least we had a bathroom of sorts & an overhead fan. We did get a wifi connection so it could have been worse.
Nothing to do in the evening although we did get a nice steak & chips meal at a little local restaurant. We're back into funny money territory again with about 11,500 Yips to the pound sterling, although they will take dollars or Bahts as well. We found an ATM in the village & drew 500,000 Yips for now. Yips, Bahts, Dongs, Ringgits, Rialls, Dollars, Euros & Pounds, I am well confused by now.