The bus left Chiang Mai at 8AM and we were headed to Chiang Khong (the Thai border city). So we arrive about 1PM at Chiang Khong with little to no idea of how exactly to cross an international border. Turns out you take a tuk-tuk!
It also turns out that you need way more US dollars than 3 students from Malaysia carry on them.
We get to the Thailand side of the border, fill out forms easy enough and then are informed that we need $35. Well, we knew that we needed to pay for the visa, but of course we didn’t have any dollars. “ATM?” We asked. “No.
Well, for the time being they were letting us get through, apparently there was a point somewhere else where we would have to pay. So, seeing no other option we just went through and hoped there would be a point where we could get money or something. We’re just pushing forward with wallets full of various amounts of baht, USD, and ringitt. Travelling.
Then we learn we need photos, so we shell out even more of our precious baht for visa pictures (yes of course mine turned out terrible. I hadn’t done anything all day, but ride on a bus). Then we get on a bus and make it across the Lao border!
Also, I had recently learned that it is not pronounced LaoS but actually like Lao. No ‘s’ sound. So apparently I had been embarrassingly butchering the name of the country for a while. Thank god a very surly English girl corrected us.
Then on the Lao side we find and ATM! No ATM my butt, custom guy. Of course, we get money from the ATM in kip (the currency of Lao). This shit is confusing as sin. 1USD is about 8,500kip. That means that we all essentially took out 700,000kip. Then we had to go and exchange all of that into USD to pay for the visa.
Sarah couldn’t get anything out of the ATM for a while, neither could Lenny. We were having real issues and I really had to pee (that was unrelated, kinda). Finally after much confusing ATM work and talking with the exchange guy, we had enough money to pay for the visa and the bus ride into Huay Xai (the Laos border city)
This town is super small. And we had to stay here because Austin and I had picked a place and time for him to meet us all the next day. We show the name of the hostel we’re supposed to meet to the driver and he informs us that it no longer exists. Fuck. So, we’re SOL on that front, and so we follow these two girls from Holland to another hostel.
This turns out to be little bunglows in the woods (look back to previous post about writing this blog in one). They are adorable, and they have family dinner every night. We have some shit to get done so we trek to the only place in town that has wifi, and soon learn that the language barrier is much greater in Lao.
“What fruit is in the mixed fruit plate?”
“Yes, what kind of fruit?”
“No! Mangos? Papaya? Banana?”
“Alright, we’ll have 3”
But the kicker of the night, is that after that we hopped into a restaurant to get some food (we were starving and needed a little snack to get us through to family dinner). We’re sitting at the table when suddenly this person just comes sprinting at the table and before I can even grasp what is going on, he is hugging Lenny, and that’s when I realize it’s Austin!
He found us! Which is pretty spectacular, but not super difficult considering the town is pretty much one street that’s only half a mile long probably.
So Austin got to come back with us for family dinner. Then us and the Canadians who were working at the place and the Holland girls who found it all say with us around a fire and we played the guitar, and it was pretty amazing.
On a side note: I also ran into some girls from California who were going to LMU and knew about Chapman. It was very exciting for me.