“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes….”

CategoryThailand

But we don’t have a Lonely Planet Guide…

The alarm was set for 5.45am yesterday for our 7am check in at Haui Xai airport. When we arrived we realised that we were the only westerners on this flight and that it was quite a peculiar air port. It is an old American Air Force base, so it is painted a grey colour and is the only building in Laos that we have noticed to have guttering. Atop of a hill, with a beautiful tropical mountain range surrounding it, our jumb/tuk-tuk struggled with us and our two packs (both expander packed by now). The terminal consisted a bench to check in at, with a sign stating the bags needed to be x-rayed (though the x-ray machine was no were to be found), a wooden table with a women collecting “air-port tax”, all 50cents worth (no wonder this airport is a shambles) and a small office (looked like an interrogation room) with the police in it, completing “passport control”. We checked in and as our bags were weighed on the old style slide scales, saw other passangers filing past with their tropical plant and live stock “hand luggage”.

The food facilities consisted of a grass hut 10 metres from the terminal building, where the locals were hitting the Laos home made whisky early. So as the hours passed and our 8.25am plane had not arrived at the airfield, the locals got even drunker. At 10.30am an offical made an announcement (in person) in Lao, it was roughly translated to us that the plane would be there at 12noon. This brought us relief as we had a nice hotel booked and paid for in Vientiane which we thought that we wouldn’t see and connecting flights to Kumning tomorrow at 5am. So we sat and ate noodle soup with the locals, and consumed the last bottle of drinking water that the store had, when the offical came out to the grass hut and the locals exploded in laughter (4 hours of drinking whisky by now), a tuk-tuk driver keen to secure our business translated the message for us, the plane had been can celled for today and would run tomorrow. ANOTHER DAY IN HAUI XAI!!!!

Matt went to the terminal building to retrieve our baggage as I made a quick phone call to Laos airlines, we needed a refund on our tickets!! We were going to miss the plane to Kumning and the next one isn’t scheduled until Saturday from Vientiane and as much as we love Laos, our visas would not extend that far and we wanted some new scenery. Matt and I made the quickest decision of our trip….we were going to Thailand!

I finally got across the information to the women on the ticketing line that we needed a refund for our tickets, she was quite obliging and said this was fine and we could collect the money when we returned to Vientiane, it took a little longer for me to explain to her that we were not returning to Vientiane. Again Laos hospitality coming through, she provided me the local Laos Airlines office details and said that we could obtain a refund via them.

Meanwhile, Matt had been doing some explaining to the baggage handling people, he was able to retrieve our bags after he convinced them that we were not returning for the flight tomorrow and was also able to obtain the original voucher that had been removed from our ticket so we could obtain a refund. He had also found the man that we had to talk to about getting our refund!

So the cheepest tuk-tuk ride our entire time in Laos, along with 5 other locals and their luggage, took us to the Laos Airlines Hauy Xai office . After another 60 minutes of waiting and listening to phone call in Lao to all sorts of offical people, the man behind the desk announced that he had organised our refund and we had to make our way to the bank. At the bank he gave us crisp new USD and we felt grateful that the system had work. we quickly changed our kip to baht and the Laos airline official dropped us at the immigration office.

It was here that Matt made his first “land” border crossing, which involve climbing into thin speed boats and being taken across the Mekong. It was raining and the banks were muddy and we were filthy by the end of it, but we were in Thailand and it felt like we were moving again. As the they are famous for a Thai tuk-tuk had sorted us out within 10 minutes, we were at the bus station and on a bus to Chang Rai. In Chang Rai we had our first meal for the day at 4.30pm as we waited for our 6.30pm bus to Chang Mai.

You have gotta love the Pound Stirling!

After spending what seemed like days at Heathrow airport, we decided to have one last pub meal… No supprises what I had – Burger and chips and Philippa managed to down her last brittish pint.

Sitting there, clacking glasses together and chanting Cheers, Skol, Prost and whatever other bits of various languages we had managed to pick up, it finally dawned on me that we where heading home. I showed my dutch passport to the appropriately grumpy brit lady after joining the perfectly formed queue for the last time and boarded our plane for Bangkok (ever heard the one about the man who walked through the metal detector sideways??).

The flight, as usual was uneventful, and Bangkok was just as we remembered it – dirty, smelly, sleezy yet somehow wonderful. With only a few days in town – we spent most of our time shopping. It was rather liberating going to the markets and not having to haggle for a decent price to much as we already -kinda- knew what everything was worth. In fact, it took some of the fun out of it (for the shop-keepers and us). After just three days of shopping, we jumped on another flight down to Phuket – think Thai Gold Coast!

I’m sick of writing…off to the beach 😉

Phil the dill

Foyer at the classic Hotel Atlanta!We finished our stay at Koh Phangan zipping around on a motor bike with our very our cool crash helmets. As we were not allowed to go on dirt roads we spent a lot of time back tracking (as made roads would abruptly finish without warning or notation on the map). Having a motor bike gave us so much freedom and as the roads are fairly quiet on Koh Phangan we felt confident to venture out a bit. And that we did for a steak dinner that Matt claims is the best he has had in months.

On our last morning the concierge of the hotel abruptly burst into our room as we were packing and said that we had to catch a taxi in 10 minutes, (despite being told earlier that we had a midday taxi booked), as we don’t like being rushed when we are packing we declined the offer of the taxi, to which he stated that the midday taxi would be fine, the driver would just have to make two trips.

So there we were all packed and ready to go at midday with our boat and bus transfers. We jumped on the back on the ute and held on tight as the taxi fish tailed its way down dirt roads. We arrived at the ticket counter for the boat and bus and Phil, that’s me who was holding onto the transfers for safe keeping, discovered that the pink bits of paper were no longer in her pocket! After some panicking Matt said calmly, “Phil it only costs $12 each”! After a couple of beers on the boat, I had calmed down – really when someone says 600baht, it just feels like so much more than $24!

The train ride back to Bangkok was without killer bugs – but we did get of the train pretty red eyeds and were snapped up by a crazy tuk-tuk driver in our haze. Matt agreed to pay him 120baht for the trip because the driver called him his friend. This driver I think was trying to break land spead records while dodging traffic on the Bankok highway (while we had our packs on our knees). We arrived at our hotel paled faced…but alive!

Our hotel is amazing – in this short amount of time I will not be able to do it justice – but to get a feel for the place have a look at http://www.theatlantahotel.bizland.com/ . It doesn’t look like it has changed much since the 1950’s!

While in Bangkok we have taken in a couple of movies and visited the Grand Palace – which is the number one tourist attraction in Bangkok and rightly so – it is pretty spectacular. Matt managed to miss the “Jade Buda” which is the most renound Budda in Thailand…but I thought he was pretty cute. Matt spent some time gaining enlightenment under the Banyan tree decending from the one that Budda sat under.

The most exciting news is that my dad joined us yesterday – just in time to be taken to a few local pubs, having a kid make a grab for his watch (luckily it was on securly), go for a tuk-tuk ride and catch the sky train before being whisked away to Cambodia.

As you can probably tell I am punching this blog out at a frantic pace because we have to catch a taxi to the airport in 5 minutes – off to Cambodia.

Hope that my jibberish makes some sense, I will edit this blog when I get a chance. Please pray for a safe transfer to Cambodia!

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes….”

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