Travelers Beware: when taking the slow boat to Luang Prabang -once you cross the border and get shuttled to the last waiting point the man that runs the show there gives a great big speech on how he wants you to love Laos and that at the over night stop on the slow boat their are only 4 guest houses with 11 rooms and that you need to book with him in advance. He is lying. There are plenty of rooms at a third of the price when you get to the stop over. He will also tell everyone there is no ATM at the stop over (which is true) and then that the closest ATM is back at the border he just shuttled you from but he will offer to help you out and exchange your money ( but does it at 1035 Kip per dollar less then the going rate).
I walked half a block and found a western union that doesn’t even charge a fee for exchanging cash (go right and right and stay to the left of the fork) — I waited and got a room at the stop over for 100 baht–but people that booked with him paid 500 baht for the same room. About 75% of the people in our group exchanged money and booked accommodation with him through his scare tactics. So if you are going to Laos via the slow boat from Pai, Chiang Mai, or Chiang Rai (which is a lovely trip) and are doing your homework I hope you find this notice. Please feel free to link or copy and paste it onto other travelers.
Pai is a pretty special place. Tucked away along the river a place where people come and go and stay. Lil shops, handmade goods, lots of smiles and friendly hellos-yummy street food from lil puffed black rice tortilla s with sweet milk and sesame wrapped in a banana leaf, mooya-a pork sausage marinated in lime chilli sauce, lil custards, so many yummy treats. Waterfalls, hot springs, elephants, and every night a party and multiple Bon fires–secret farms in the jungle and sunset scooter rides.
The older Thai man that runs my guest house has been here for many many years-last night when I got home he was carving diligently on one of the beams of his bungalow-a work he says that is never finished. He told me about how his grandmother used to put out an open jar at sunrise and all the Mosquitos would fly inside she’ d then cover it and place it in the sun- once they all died she would feed them to the fish -at this point his eyes welled with tears and he sat there with me crying. It was touching. So nice for him to share his stories with me about his grandma.
I have a long journey ahead of me for the next three days. In an hour I board a bus that takes me to the Thai-Laos border and in the morning we cross over and then board a slow boat that goes down the Mekong River for a day and a half and then another bus and I’ll arrive in Luang Probang by 5pm-two days from now. I have two new books and a dress to sew by hand so I think I’ll be kept busy in the mean time* I was going to have a dress made I’m Thailand for $180 but then I found all the fabric I needed for $10 soooo I have made it my new project. All afternoon I’ve gone around town collecting beads, ribbons, needles and thread ($3)to help me along. It will be nice to have something fruitful to work on.
After Laos I was going to head to Cambodia but that really depends on how the current border dispute goes. Some tanks and soldiers are hanging around and I prefer to go no where near them. Lol. We will see.
Telah went back to NYC and we have had some good fun-but from here out I’m headed off alone but I’m sure I’ll meet some friendly people wrong the way.