With new passenger Franz now onboard, we departed Chiang Mai for the border town of Chiang Khong and on the way stopped at Chiang Rai’s contemporary Wat Rong Khun. (That’s a lot of Chiangs. Do you know how confused I was?!) The wat (wat = temple) was designed all in white to reflect Buddha’s purity & wisdom. Lovely architecture and thought-provoking sculptures notwithstanding, the best part of the temple was the mural on the interior, which depicts many of the world’s evils, from Darth Vader to Spiderman to Keanu Reaves in the Matrix. I totally get it. Who doesn’t lie awake at night thinking about the terror Keanu has inflicted on our society? Did you see Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure? I rest my case.
Chiang Rai’s Wat Rong Khun
We arrived at the border just in time to watch the sunset across the Mekong River and over the hills of Laos. Amber kindly stomped her way into our simple but pleasant accommodations at Sabaidee Guest House, which was only about 200 meters from the customs house and border crossing we’d attempt the next morning (after a yummy breakfast of banana waffles made by the owner). There was a chorus of geckos up all night, and without the security blanket protection of a mosquito net to keep the you-know-whats away, so was I.
I haven’t made many border crossings by land, so I was moderately excited to get my latest passport stamps at the border crossing area across the river. After clearing the Thai side, we chucked our luggage in a long tail boat and made the five minute crossing. Apparently the immigration process can take several hours, but we were through in 15 minutes and on to meet our big orange Stray bus and local guide Mr. Pon.
All our transportation up to this point had been decent and relatively without nausea. That all stopped when we met with the Stray bus and began the scenic drive through Bokeo Province on the border of Burma and China, toward the dusty, sleepy town of Luang Namtha. It felt like the bus was taking corners on two wheels the entire ride. Those of you who’ve been with me for years know I don’t do curvy mountain roads very well, and nearly every day in Laos was filled with at least six hours of hurtling around them at breakneck speed. Oh the things we suffer for travel experiences!
I am happy to note that despite the never-ending motion sickness, we made the best of it. More about that next time!
Up next… Happy New Year, Laos Style!