When I crossed the Thai/Lao border along the Nam Heuang bridge, I noticed a change to the procedure on the Lao side. They checked my passport number before sending me over to get my one-month visa. It makes more sense than getting the visa and then checking to see if letting me into the country was a good idea. For sure, a list of all the dates and locations in and out come up on the computer one way of the other. Of course, I checked out OK!
The Ken Thao cut-throat tuk-tuk drivers on the Lao side still hadn’t changed their ways. They charged me a ride from the border to the Ken Thao bawkawsaw (Lao: lot) that was all of 10 minutes and four times what the two hour trip from Muang Loei to Tha Li had cost me -- and over twice as much as what Lu would charge me in Pak Lai. In part, this is just part of the economy. Fuel is more expensive than in Thailand (and much of it is imported from Thailand), but I think it’s also a local thing. These guys have locked-in their trade and taken advantage of the situation. They’re all nice and friendly, but their prices definitely are not.
On the plus side, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was an afternoon sawngtheaw going to Pak Lai this day. That meant that I would not have to lay over in Ken Thao -- a delay and added expense.
While waiting for the passenger truck to Pak Lai to depart, I purchased a data sim card in the market. This gave me Internet access on my cellphone while in Lao and also solve the communication problems I’d been having the last few trips.
It was a beautiful, sunny November day for traveling; air clear and crisp. The ride from Ken Thao to Pak Lai (aka “Paklay Town”) is even more beautiful than the ride from Loei to Tha Li. I always hang by the tailgate to get the backwards view; handkerchief mandatory due to the exhaust.
We stopped at the sawmill south of Pak Lai and unloaded a bunch of slabs of thick-cut mai doo -- the same kind of wood as our steps at Bann Nah. While there, I had a good view of the new bridge being built across the Mekong. In a year or so, that ferry trip Thip and I rode back in 2012 will be a thing of the past, unfortunately for those of us who like variety and a slower pace.