Saturday, December 22, 2007

I completed the Huay Xai 3k Fun Run and all I got was this stupid visa...

Last time I posted, we just arrived back in Chiang Mai from Pai, and were about to make our way further north to the border town Chiang Kong.

In my head, the plan was to arrive in Chiang Kong, spend the night, and cross the border to Huay Xai in the morning. Then we'd spend one night there, and grab a bus the next day to Luang Nam Tha.

However, we met a couple other travelers that were going to cross the border that evening (the crossing is open until 6pm; we arrived at 3:30 or so), so we decided to be ambitious and join them. There were two small problems with this plan.

1. You need a passport-sized photo of yourself (in addition to your actual passport) to gain admittance to Laos.

2. I needed to stop at an ATM before we crossed. Apparently ATMs are rare in Laos and they usually only let you withdraw 700,000 kip (or about $70).

It was easy enough to get passport-sized photos; they had a service set up right at the border and it took 5 minutes. But all the ATMs were 1,000 meters or so back into the town. We had about an hour left until customs closed, but you have to leave yourself enough time between getting your exit stamp from Thailand and catching a ferry across the river to Laos. The last thing you want to have happen is to officially exit Thailand without a way to get to Laos.

So I ran the 1,000 meters back into town to the first ATM. It was only 80 degrees or so by this time so the heat wasn't too bad... but the pollution was pretty awful. And the first ATM didn't work. Some guy told me that there were more another 500 meters down the road... so off I went. After waiting 5 minutes for the person in front of me to finish (the longest 5 minutes ever), I quickly grabbed some cash and started off on the 2nd half of my unexpected 3k fun run.

Long story short, we made the crossing just fine (although I was purple and dripping with sweat at the Thai customs office) and spent the night in Huay Xai.

The next day we took another long bumpy bus to Luang Nam Tha, where we spent 3 nights. We did a day-long kayak trip one of the days; I'll write more about that later. Then we caught another long bus (8.5 hours) to Luang Prabang, where we'll stay through Christmas.

Gotta run for now, but since we'll be in one place for a few days I should get a chance to update again with more photos and details. Hope everyone is having a good time back home. Hard to believe that tomorrow is Christmas Eve... given that it's probably 93 degrees outside right now.

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