Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lao Trip 4.1a - To Chiang Rai

Leaving the village and especially leaving my wife is always a mixed bag. I look forward to the vacation, but I worry about how Thip will do when I’m not around. She plays on this a bit, too, so it always makes leaving a little harder.

Thip has helped me a lot, though, in learning how to safely solo travel through Thailand. Of course, her advice is always a little paranoid and negative, but that compliments me very well, as I am overly friendly and naive, despite my many years of occasional burn.

My first day on my fourth trip to Laos, June 2013, was all Thailand. Thip and I waited at the Nong Bua Lamphu baw kasaw (bus station) for a private 1st class bus that would take me overnight to Chiang Rai. It came a half hour late and then I was on my way.

This wasn't my bus, but it looked a lot like it:

Bus travel in Thailand is such a great value. It’s one of the reasons I have not invested in a car or truck. For local transport, we have bicycles, Thip’s motosai and my samlor (tuk-tuk, aka “skylab”). For long distances, a First Class bus ticket (meaning I had air-conditioning and the bus didn’t stop at every possible stop), I paid about $40 USD. That’s a trip that began at 5pm and ended at 6am the following morning. Try to get that kind of mileage in the United States!

Anyway, to be entirely truthful, I was so far in the back of the bus that I often got a whiff of the restroom and later, I nearly froze my ass off in the overnight air-conditioning. To top it off, the bus was late – a critical issue if I was going to make it to the Lao border and get on that day’s slow boat to Luang Prabang.

I was on my fouth “visa run” since retirement; the first one of this year. As usual, I was headed for Lao (Laos), the closest country to the Isaan and a place that I grow more and more enchanted with.

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