After our two weeks in Chiang Mai, we headed off to Chiang Rai. We decided to try a hostel this time. What a wonderful decision! It was a bit tough to leave Pim in Chiang Mai. Maritza was going to miss her, but they can keep in contact.
The hostel was full of people coming and going. I ended up enjoying it because Maritza was having so much fun. One night, each backpacker was quietly sitting and reading or working until Maritza passed around popcorn, and soon we were all talking with each other. We went to the White Temple with a French girl. She had grown up in New Caledonia, so when I said I grew up in Papua New Guinea, she didn’t even blink, which the most common reaction. It was a good day.
In Chiang Rai, the night market is small with live entertainment every night. It was a small safe place to walk around. We had no need for tuktuks or songhiews. Maritza spied a tiny puppy in a moped rental office and went in to give some cuddles, and thereafter, she had to stop when we walked by. The puppy’s owner let us borrow it for an hour the night before we left. Talk about ‘good stuff’. We filled ourselves up with puppy smell, kisses and cuddles. Was a bit hard to walk back down the hill to return him.
The decision to take a slow boat to Laos, I thought, was well-informed. It wasn’t quite as well-informed as I planned. We had two large suitcases, but I was told that this wouldn’t be a problem. It was a problem.
The boat trip was okay. Maritza had fun. It really is quite a party. It goes for two long days, wth a stop in a little village, PakBeng, about half way. The village stays awake waiting for the boat, gathers up all of the passengers and whisks them up the hill to shower, eat, and check into a guesthouse room. Of course, they are also well-prepared for those who want to party all night. It was a boat full of noisy excited backpackers on the first day, but the second day of boating was rather more quiet. I’m glad we tried, but lugging the suitcases up the hills was not much fun.
Luang Prabang is in the mountains of Laos. It was one of my favorite places so far. I don’t think we stayed long enough. It’s a bit more touristy and pricey than Vientiane, the capitol. This time we also stayed in a guesthouse/hostel, and met some great people. A French traveler, who helped most kindly with our bags, connected with Maritza. We hope to see him and his girlfriend again somewhere in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Bali. I loved the waterfall, countryside, cafes, and night market here.
A nine hour bus ride to Vientiane from Luang Prabang was a bit tough. It was a hard to find good stuff for me as the bus began to overheat and the air con was turned off. The windows didn’t open, so we were sweltering. It was beautiful to look at the mountains. A bit hard to take pictures because we were being knocked from left to right as we went around tight corners up and down the mountains. One good thing…neither of us has had motion sickness!
Given our success with hostels, we tried another one in Vientiane. This hostel was a busy one. Maritza thrived. She would tell me stories at bedtime of all the people she was meeting….their names, hometowns, where they’d been and where they were going. She learned to play pool and danced the nights away. The backpackers at this hostel liked her too and would seek her out for conversation. The people who worked at the hostel were from Vietnam. So, Maritza learned some Vietnamese, played boxing, ate at the family dinner table, and again, it was hard to leave.
The bus trip from Vientiane to Udon Thani was a breeze. It was only three hours including the border pass! You can see what Maritza did on the trip.
We were picked up by my student/friend’s parents. Mr Bajong and Mrs. Darunee Chatpaitoon. Poom, my student, arranged this visit. New, another student who is from Udon Thani has also introduced us to his parents. We’ll spend the second half of our week with them.
Primarily, people make up the good stuff. Maritza is a perpetual optimist and friend-maker. I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I would not find nearly as much good stuff if I were traveling alone.