Very early start – setting a precedent for the rest of the tour – to get us back to Bangkok airport for an domestic flight to Chiang Rai. At Chiang Rai we boarded minivans to take us to the Thai/Lao border. Rice paddies, palm trees, cows, egrets.
At the border we had our passports stamped and handed over our departure cards then took the first and shortest of many boat rides, across the river to Lao.
heading towards Lao
On the left is the restaurant at which we stopped to fill in our visa applications, and opposite it the border control office that processed the visas while we ate lunch and drank our first beer of the trip (as Thailand had, inconsiderately, declared dry days to coincide with our stay). They weren’t just our first beers, though, they were our first Beer Lao – the state run brewery that seems to sponsor the entire country – a beer made with rice and therefore gluten free.
Once we’d been allowed into the country and then checked into our fairly basic hotel, we went for a walk back through town. We went up the hill to what was a relatively new monastery.
under the tree
layers of roof
There were lots of murals, some depicting gruesome scenes of death and destruction, some showing diaphanously-clad, buxom women who were clearly having a lovely time. The latter offended one of our fellow travellers – she found it disgusting and inappropriate, condemning it as a modern corruption of buddhist tradition. I don’t think she’d take kindly to the buddhist traditions of Bhutan with hairy willies painted on the walls and innumerable knob jokes at the festivals.
My personal buddhist tradition is photographing the laundry of monks. I’m hoping that there’s a publisher out there willing to pay me to travel the world photographing monks’ robes on washing lines.
none more colourful
clothesline with a view
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a bar in the middle of nowhere to have more beer. Below the bar there was some excruciatingly bad karaoke going on, so bad that (a) I recorded a snippet and (b) we laughed ’til we cried.
Fortified with beer and laughter we walked the rest of the way through town in drizzle that turned to torrential rain and soaked us to the skin.
Dinner was at a riverfront restaurant.
— words & pictures by Elizabeth