So, it was finally time to leave Laos and make our way across to the Thai border.
In our last adventure together, Rahel and I had decided to forego the boring ‘VIP bus’ experience in favour of local transport, so woke at 5am to catch a longboat to shore, waving goodbye to the lovely family that runs the ‘Mekong Dream’. It was the first of many goodbyes of the day. Next came a big farewell hug for Tim, our fantastic ‘Loop-buddy’, as he was heading off into Cambodia.
Weighed down with our heavy backpacks (that seem to double in size every week these days) we clambered off the boat and found a sawngthaew (a big tuktuk with benches and open sides) which was heading to Pakse. We heaved our bags up to the roof and grabbed good seats, stretching our legs and waiting for the driver to set off. We had some waiting to do. More and more locals arrived, armed with shopping bags, children, breakfast, bags of fish and frogs… the usual chaos. These sawngthaews seem to accomodate around 12 people in relative comfort, but when I counted 20 people on board I thought it must be time to leave. Nope. We didn’t drive off down the bumpy road until there were 36 people, tangled together in a mass of dust, arms and legs.
Five minutes into the journey, a frog decided to escape from one of the plastic bags under my seat and began hopping from person to person in a desperate bid to escape his fate as the contents of someone’s dinner. Eventually someone grabbed him and threw him out onto the road. Let’s hope he made it.
Rahel and I laughed the whole journey and sung each other childrens’ songs in our own language to pass the time. The Lao people politely ignored such immaturity.
Just before we lost all feeling in our poor cramped legs we arrived at a bustling market place on the outskirts of Pakse and found another driver willing to squeeze us into his car going to the border (6 bums on a 3 seater means sitting on one buttock each…. painful after a while). We made it though, passed through to Thailand and eventually to Ubon Ratchachani. It was hard to say my goodbyes here to my fantastic travel companion of the past few weeks. Rahel has not only been wonderful company, but also a perfect mosquito distraction device. Always share a room with someone who is well-loved by mosquitos – they leave you alone and go after the nicer-tasting alternative. I’m going to miss her!
I spent the night in Ubon (an underwhelming experience) in a hotel that looked and smelled exactly like a hospital, but enjoyed my return to sleeping on a Thai mattress (goodbye nasty hard Laos beds!). The next day I flew off to Phuket en route to Khao Lak and another exciting dive trip.
I was dreaming of a return to fishes, kisses, sun-soaked beaches and blue skies, but as my bus pulled into town it was looking decidedly grey and soggy. It’s been a freakishly wet season in peninsular Thailand and Khao Lak was being bashed with monsoon-style weather. I trundled my case through the rain, holed myself up in my guesthouse and waited for a gap in the clouds.
Luckily the sun appeared the next day along with those fishes and kisses. Life is GOOD!