From Koh Phi Phi, we arrived in Krabi via ferry, which was just a tad over-packed. Upon arrival, everyone had to dig through the pile of luggage to find their belongings. What a mess!
We spent 2 nights in Krabi, waiting for the next available flight to Chiang Mai, using our time wisely trying out the nightly food market cuisine.
We decided to go back to Chiang Mai, partly because we loved it, and partly because it was a good base to set off to Laos via ground transportation. The bus ride from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong was a bit cramped as we opted for the cheap seats instead of the “VIP” seats, which started looking real good about 2 hours into the 6-hour trip. The Thais do a bus trip right though ,with, believe it or not, an attendant that handed out water, snacks, and packaged towelettes, as well as checking on the bathroom status.
The road was fairly smooth and the scenery nice, if not a little hazy due to all the burning of rice fields, forests, and deforested hillsides. Unfortunately, we hit the burning season at its peak, making for poor photo opportunities and major allergy problems. Once in Chiang Khong, we got on a tuk tuk and headed to the Laos border. We got our visas and crossed the border without a hitch.
Above: Tuk tuk to the Laos border
Above: At the Laos border. Below: Bus into Laos
We spent 2 nights in characterless Huay Xai, a small town by the Laos border on the Mekong river, having missed the one and only early bus to Luang Namtha as well as the other more expensive mini van options also having departed for the day. We strolled the streets a bit, but Huay Xai is just a stop-over for most people moving onto a northern or Mekong river routes to Luang Prabang. So nothing spectacular to see.
Above: Huay Xai, some reminiscence of Thailand with offering of “Thai massage”. Dog must have just had a massage.
We got on the next day’s mini bus/van to Luang Namtha for a cramped 4-hour ride. We arrived 10 kilometres outside of town at a bus station we think is controlled by the tuk tuk mafia – temperatures in the upper 80’s with high humidity and a very long walk – what are you going to do? You can pay the tuk tuk extortion prices to get you to the center of town or try to negotiate. Five of us tourists ganged up and tried the latter and lost…so we walked.
Above: our minivan/bus to Luang Namtha. Below: Kids selling fish to bus riders, fortunately no one on the bus bought any!
Above: Starting to walk towards downtown refusing to pay the crazy tuk tuk prices
About 4 kilometres down the road and profusely sweating, we gave in and flagged down a Chinese bus and paid them the exorbitant fare to take us downtown (at least the tuk tuk mafia didn’t benefit). After searching a bit, we got a decent room for $9 a night and went to the night market for a cheap but satisfying meal.
The next day, we took a very hot walk to a village near by where the Lanten people make paper out of bamboo. We passed nice scenery on the way and ended our walk at a small waterfall, barely flowing at all since it is the peak of the dry season but nevertheless it was nice dipping our feet in and cooling off a bit.
Above: Luang Namtha street on the way to our village walk
Above: Drying clothes and sausage!
Above and below: paper making out of bamboo and water