Thailand travel 17. Life and death in Chiang Khong by the Mekong
Swimming pool sign at Namkhong Guesthouse and Resort: “Swimming is not allowed after 9:00pm. The water was treatment by chlorine and chemicals. Offender will be fine 2,000 THB. Any effect or death occur, the owner will not be held responsible.” — Security Deparment
Booked during brekker in Chiang Rai on bookings.com. Site makes me feel like cliched kid in candy store. Pay Thb250 for my room with double bed, mozzie net and — it is fine. Seems like a student / backpacker block. Shoes outside doors. People cavorting in swimming pool.
Note in journal: Chiang Khong is a cool place to spend a couple of nights. Especially for people who want a party atmosphere as well as to trek and do the Mekong boat trip. Lots of young people in the lodge’s “free pool” — which is exceptionally clear and clean, thanks, perhaps, to those nocturnal chemicals.
Straight from dropping bags, go to find EasyTrip. EasyTrip is referenced in Lonely Planet for the two-day Mekong slow boat journey. Whatsapped and emailed from Chiangmai to book on slow boat. Contact with one, Noi, who has me booked, including overnighter. I pay the extra Bht400 “single” supplement that they would have dropped had I foregone bagged brek and lunch for boat.
Ticket says: Slow boat to Luang Prabang on 27-28 July 2016, pick up hotel 8:00am. Transfer from hotel to border and border to pier. Shuttle buss cross to Lao. Slow boat ticket from HoungXai to Luang Prabang 2 days. Lunch box Day 1. Monsavah Guest House in Pakbeng https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pakbeng (overnight) + breakfast + lunch box. Thb2,350 cash.
Pay the young women representative at the office. A local woman. Never left Chiang Khong from what I can understand. Takes my money. Tells me to Whatsapp Noi for advice on travel from Luang Prabang back to Thailand. Says Noi is in LP.
The gives me A Sticker. Capitalized. Says The Sticker is Important. I must keep my sticker safe. I must stick it on in the morning.
Do I remember? Not a chance.
The Sticker is Important
Is it important? Yes.
Do I find it? Luckily.
Only when, in the morning, an old guy is walking around the reception area at the Namkhong Guesthouse saying “Thticker, Thiicker.” Points at my chest. He’s looking for the thticker before he will let me on the vehicle. On my second go through all my stuff from passport to Lonely Planet and notebook, he spots the Thticker folded in my passport. I thtick it in place and I’m on.
It is my access it turns out also to the bus at the border post, my lunch package (the EasyTrip woman has told me to take extra snacks from the 7/11 and to exchange money at the ATM at the border post. Important points).
It also means my visa application is filled in. Payment varies country to country and US$ are requested. In my case, $30. As luck would have it, and having read very little prior to traveling to Thailand, I scanned something on the two-day slow boat trip after Steve from St Clements suggested it and saw to bring a passport picture. About 30 years old but the don’t care. Saves paying for a new one there.
EasyTrip, as in the organization, is organized. Once at the border, however, we are handed over to collaborators who are hustling for other customers. It’s a hurry up and wait game going forward.
By the time we get on the tuc-tuc buses, backpacks on the roof, a little group of three French women journos, a Japanese man who will join me for buffalo for dinner at the Pakbeng overnight stop, a French pair, a Dutch pair, an Australian couple, a Mexican man and myself have all done some bonding.
Meanwhile, dinner in Chiang Khong has been at Yim Restaurant. Down the main (only) street and across from Ping Bank. Recommended by the young Easy Trip woman I pay my money to. She says it’s got local food, is unpretentious and I won’t do better. Eat the Massaman chicken. Recommended by the chef. Good down-home tasty. Drink Leo beer. Send a “Hello” picture via Whatsapp to a couple of beer-swilling friends. Watch a couple at my next table look bored with each other. People-watching and journaling feels preferable. And chatting with the chef about the specialties.
© Wanda Hennig 2016, story and photos.
Coming up — Thailand travel 18. Laos and the Mekong slow boat trip to Pakbeng.