As usually happens when I return from a trip, I find myself itching to go somewhere new, fast. I'd been contemplating a little border run to Laos, so Emily told me to keep her in the loop on it. Before long, I was booking our room at a guesthouse and looking up bus timetables to the border.
We bought tickets the morning of our departure (risky) and left for Chiang Khong, the Thai-side border town, in the early afternoon. We traveled via Greenbus, and arrived at the town bus station at 8pm. We took a songtaew/tuk-tuk hybrid to Baan Fai Guesthouse, the place I'd booked a few days before. Turns out, there wasn't room, but the owner had a room for us at a neighboring hotel. Less than ideal, but we got free breakfast out of the mix up. Part of me wants to travel to Chiang Khong again just to stay at Baan Fai, the buildings and rooms look idyllic, the place doubles as a textiles shop, and the breakfast wasn't bad.
At immigration we had some fun documenting Emily's first out-of-country trip since arriving in Thailand, mounted a bus that drove us across the river-border, and planted our feet down in Laos. The entry process took a little longer than 45 minutes, and soon we were marching up to a songtaew driver to drive us into Houayxay.
We immediately noticed the spread out feel of the land. It seemed much less cramped than Thailand, and the colors seemed more muted and a little dustier. Every now and then we would find a sunshiny yellow wall or a bright blue building, but for the most part, the overcast sky complemented the colors of the town. We paid our songtaew driver in Lao kip, but he would have taken baht too.
It was a sight to be able to look back across the river and know that the other banks were the edge of another country. We loved being by the water, the breeze picked up pretty quickly, though, sending us back up the road to a gaggle of Golden Retrievers, only the best welcoming committee possible.
Lunch by the river at an adorable little unassuming place included selfies with girls who never see westerners, fried rice and mixed veggies. We also ordered the Lao version of khao soi, this time rather than a spicy curry soup we got a soup made with rice noodles, chopped pork, tomatoes and fermented soy beans. It was amazing, but a little more bland than the type we were used to.
I grabbed a cheapo cardigan on our way to Wat Chom Khao Manilat since the weather was so cold and windy. The snake-lined steps up to the temple barred homes on either side from the traffic of wat-goers, but offered easy perches for dogs to sit and watch said wat-goers.
With only a couple hours left until our bus left for Chiang Mai, we hurried back across the border. This time around we hopped on a "chicken bus," or one of the Thai buses with no AC (It was freezing, so all we needed was an open window, anyway) and a lot of rattling. We landed in Chiang Rai that night before finding out the bus home was full. Thankfully some college students had two extra tickets to sell us. Would ya look at that! Here's to traveling like the Thais do.