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After the multiple steps needed to cross the border from Northern Thailand to Laos, I finally reached Huay Xai's slow boat dock. I was quite proud of having done it all by myself, although many people had advised against it. Apparently, it's a complicated process... First, you have a few steps to do just to get out of Thailand from Chiang Mai, then you have to cross the Laos border (through very crowded and slow customs) so you better get up at dawn and hope that you won't miss the slow boat leaving at 11am.

Some people suggested that I get a "package deal": it includes all expenses for every step from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai, the ticket for the ride along the Mekong and the first night in Laos. Like everywhere in the world, everybody's always trying to make money and sell you some "deals"... I decided to organize everything by myself: I saved money and arrived without any trouble at Huay Xai almost 1.5 hour before the boat was leaving... Yay!

There was just enough time to sit down at a café next to the dock and enjoy a REAL coffee (no more 3-in-1 instant coffee!) and a CINNAMON ROLL!!! What's the big deal? Well, in Thailand, "Viennoiseries" are rare to come across and usually unappetizing. After several months of eating rice porridge and noodle soup for breakfast, I got very excited at the sight of a (still warm!) cinnamon roll! (The funniest thing is that I hardly ever eat this at home in Québec!!) I vaguely recalled being told that Laos used to be a French colony and that I would find bread, wine, butter and cheese... I was happily savoring the moment and I wasn't alone. The young French couple I had just met at the customs were ecstatic: "la vache, putain, trop bon!" ... while I was laughing with my mouth full like a child!

Then it was time to board and start the 2-day ride along the Mekong...

It's not called a slow boat for nothing! Sitting down and looking at the riverbanks for 2 days gets quite boring to be honest, but I figured it was probably a smoother ride than the legendary bus rides on Laos' bumpy roads (which I tried later during my stay: it's far worse than Québec's potholes in the spring!). My friend Maria, a Spanish girl I had previously met in Thailand and who had been to Laos before, insisted on giving me the rest of her medication against motion sickness, insisting it was essential in Laos!

At the beginning of the ride, I was observing the changing landscapes and terrains. We had just crossed the border and already, the scenery was rapidly changing. Hours went by, mountains got bigger and steeper, and beautiful rocky cliffs were everywhere...

Then, we started seeing cabins along the Mekong: people who live here are almost totally self-sufficient. I saw how this river fills the riverfront inhabitants' needs: it's their place to swim and go fishing, they eat meat from water buffalos and hunt (I heard that many tribes hunt everything that moves in the surrounding jungle!) and they cultivate their gardens near the silty shores.

I also felt the inhabitants' isolation and their struggle to survive. There I was, like a voyeur, sitting in a boat with tourists from all over the world... Suddenly I started to question my purpose here... I didn't expect such a drastic difference between Thai and Laos lifestyles and was surprised to notice the gap between these 2 realities (at least that's how I saw it during my short one-month stay)...


In the next blog post, Véro reaches Luang Prabang and continues her journey in Laos. Stay tuned! 


<< Read Part 7   Read Part 9 >>



Many of you have met Véronique Laplante during her 3 years and more as Lotus Palm administrator and massage therapist. She is a dear member of the Lotus Palm family and we follow her journey with great pride and love.

She has graciously agreed to share with us her thoughts, experiences and photos while she is traveling through Southeast Asia.

We will publish her story over the next few months. Follow the guide!