Sunday 18th April
When travel goes wrong, a nice 9 hour journey turned into a 21 hour debacle. We’ve arrived in Luang Prabang, Laos – but the journey wasn’t quite straight forward.
We left Chiang Mai around midday on Saturday 17th April, a 6 hour minivan ride later we were in a village on the Thai border called Chiang Khong. We had a night here, got our papers ready for the Laos border and went out for a few beers with Gary and Steve a couple of UK lads who were also on the way to Luang Prabang.
Sunday morning and we’re on the banks of the Mekong in Chiang Khong, looking across the river to the other side we see Laos for the first time. We jump on a boat and 2 mins later we’re in laos – so far so good. We get our Laos Visa and get booked onto a minivan to Luang Prabang – 9 hour journey on a road that is being built by the Chinese to connect Laos, Thailand Vietnam and China; the pre-cursor was “the road is only about 70% complete”, ok we said we’ll take our chances. The road was pretty rough in places but it didn’t stop our driver from flying through the Laos countryside.
6pm, BANG, the suspension on the back right of the van blows. Bugger. So we slowly amble back to a village we’d been through 15 mins before – however at 5kmph it took us about 1.5 hours to get back to the village…darkness sets in. We arrive in the village and manage to find a mechanic that is open (8pm on a public holiday – these guys never stop working). While the repairs are started the group set out to find food, walking along a small village road….then the sequence of events kick in:
– Power Cut
– Tropical Storm
– No food
The group take shelter in a disco/kareoke bar while Jono, Gary and I walk 30 mins back to the garage, in the tropical storm with some epic fork lightning, to tell Tiger (our driver) where we were. Turns out power cuts effect being able to fix the car – so no work is being done.
The power comes back on and Tiger get the mechanic to work, he welds and bangs while we sleep in the minivan. Midnight comes and the suspension is back on the van and we’re on the move; it only cost $30NZD to fix – 4 hours labour on a public holiday….cheap! We pick up the rest of the group who we find straggling along the road after being kicked out of the karoke bar because it was closing. We start our trip forward to Luang Prabang. An hour later we make a pit stop for Tiger to have 10 mins sleep. Back on the road and 30 mins later we make a second pit stop for another sleep. Back on the road again and we make another pit stop, this time we park on the side of the road in a tiny village and stay there until daybreak – all the while Tigers wife has given birth to their frist child in Luang Prabang – poor guy!
7am we wake up, grab a hot coffee from a roadside stall and make the final 3 hours through to Luang Prabang…21 hours later; the crew are in luang Prabang, Tiger is happy and we set off to get a fresh baguette and coffee!
“Epic” is the only word to use.