Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rat Race to Snails Pace

Day: 166
Chiang Mai, Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos
Time: 1 hour
Distance: far
Avg Speed: Turbo prop

We had our last morning in Thailand before heading off to the calmer pastures of Laos. Leslie ran out to check some emails, and download blogs and pictures while I caught up on my BBC and Aljazeera news and got the bikes taped up. We coasted through our check out and ran across the street for a little lunch at our favorite café. Leslie loved the place so much she got her picture taken with her boys, who kept her fed and caffeinated the day I was at cooking school.
We grabbed a red truck to the airport (a red truck is called a songthaew in Thai and is a truck with two benches in the back) and got our day’s goal underway. The flight was less than an hour, but they managed to squeeze in a meal service of a pork sandwich, an orange and a little cake dessert. It was much appreciated, even though I had to eat it with my chin resting on my knees (OK the seats weren’t that small, but it felt like it).
We sat up front on the flight and ended up getting off last and got in the back of the visa line. A photo and $72 later we had our visas and went for our luggage. The customs man tried to get us to declare our bikes, but Leslie told him that these were our bikes and we didn’t have to claim them. I smiled and nodded, and we got out of there without having to grease an extra palm. The taxi to the guesthouse was a Lao version of the red truck (smaller, slower and older) and it dropped us off in straight order. We had wanted to join up with an Australian couple whom we had met in Chiang Mai, but the taxi delivered us to a different ‘Merry Guesthouse’ and we found a cheaper rate so we stayed. I think that there are several ‘Merry Guesthouses’ in Luang Prabang and it just worked out that we got a nice clean and inexpensive one. If we miss the Aussie couple it will be ok, I think we may have been stalking them. We got our bags unpacked, our bikes put together and healthy dose of bug juice before heading out for dinner. We settled on a little pub down the road since it looked clean and we didn’t feel like anything too exciting. I managed to get excited and got a steak with mash potatoes and a salad. I will keep you posted on how that treats me. We also had our first taste of beerlao. It is the national beer and mighty fine one at that. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into when we ordered so we got a bomber with 5% alcohol. Dinner never tasted so good and we are now fighting to stay awake.
Luang Prabang is on the opposite end of the action spectrum to that of Bangkok. With a population of only 26,000 in a city deemed a Unesco World Heritage Sight, Luang Prabang is ‘tonic for the soul’. Now, if we can get used to riding on the right side of the road again, we should be ok.

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