The Postcard: Luang Prabang, Chiang Mai, Pai
That last minute trip to Macau and Hong Kong distracted me from doing these posts for awhile, but I’m back on it now. The originating post for this series can be found here. And here are parts two, three and four.
So, where were we? Oh yes, in China. Or rather, leaving China.
Techically, this isn’t a photo from a country we visited. But we spent such a long time in between China and Laos, that it feels like a whole other destination. After traveling for 24 hours on an overnight sleeper bus from Kunming, (and if you haven’t traveled by sleeper bus in China, count yourself lucky) we were forced to spend a few hours on the Chinese side of the border, waiting for it to open. Because of our early arrival, we were lucky enough to witness about 100 Chinese soldiers chanting, marching and converging from 4 separate streets to raise the flag.
After the 10 minute ceremony was completed, we quickly and efficiently passed through Chinese immigration, only to be told that we would have to wait again on the Lao side of the border crossing. A German traveler who frequented the route explained that we would be waiting for at least several hours, while the officials paid each other off. For what, I don’t know. Sure enough…it was another 3 hours before we were back on the road to our final destination, Luang Prabang.
UNESCO World Heritage listed Luang Prabang is located in the central northern area of former French protectorate, Laos. Luang Prabang was the first place I visited in Southeast Asia, and also the place where I saw monks for the first time. As an ignorant westerner, I had visualized monks sitting in quiet daily meditation, not stripped down, yelling, laughing and sliding down the muddy banks of the Mekong River. Imagine my surprise when we also spied a few orange robed monks hidden behind a tree and sneaking puffs of a cigarette!
Our first destination in the magical land of Thailand was Chiang Mai. This picture pretty much sums up our feeling of shock at how cheap everything was. In this photo, we’re sitting at a street stall waiting for the delivery of a spicy noodle soup. You’ll see from the sign behind the Bear that it cost between 25-35 baht or less than $1. This was taken 3 years ago, but on our last trip to Thailand, 3 months ago, the prices remained exactly the same. And no, you don’t have to worry about disease and germs from eating at a street stall in Thailand…we’ve done it countless times and never suffered as a result. Plus it’s always delicious and satisfying.
Pai is a small town in northern Thailand, close to the Myanmar border. Getting there entails a nauseating and sometimes terrifying drive up and down hills and winding u-turns. I am not exaggerating when I say that 50% of people get sick on the drive there. Though I survived the trip without vomiting, it was a wee bit too close for my comfort. Still, Pai makes it all worthwhile. It is probably one of the most relaxed places I’ve visited. We rented a scooter for $5/day and spent our days exploring the surrounding waterfalls and hot springs, or walking around the street market. Pai had some of the freshest food I’ve eaten in Thailand. At Farmer Home, we were able to see our vegetables in the garden, before they were picked and prepared for our pad thai. At $1 per plate, you can’t go wrong!