Travel Adventure: Chiang Mai to Vientiane

Travel Adventure: Chiang Mai to Vientiane

Today (May 2nd 2016, Yes I am posting this super late!!) I left my awesome apartment in the Santitham neighborhood in Chiang Mai. I’m sad to give it up, but also looking forward to exploring Laos. And so the trip began.

The entire time in Chiang Mai I never had reason to take any of the Red Truck taxi’s. Instead I rented a scooter and rode it everywhere I needed to go. The only reason I needed to take a Red Truck taxi was after I dropped off my scooter and made my way to the Airport. The ride cost $100 Baht. I was hoping to only pay 50 but I ended up the only one in the cab so I had to pay the entire amount. I was able to get the following shot of one of the super cool Chiang Mai Tuk Tuk’s. Without a doubt these are the most hot rodded Tuk Tuk’s of any I have seen.

Chiang Mai Tuk Tuk

Chiang Mai Tuk Tuk

Flight

The Flight to Udon Thanai was 1769 Baht or about $64 USD. I flew on Nok Air, one of Thailand’s low budget airlines. the plane looked and felt brand new. Excellent service and a very smooth flight. At one point as we were coming in to land there was so little vibration and movement it felt like we already landed. The only minor issue, we took off 20 minutes ate, and landed 20 minutes late.

My flight was scheduled to land at 5:10 and my bus to the border was scheduled to leave at 6pm. That left 50 minutes to get to the bus station. Assuming the plane landed on time. The plane did not land on time, it was 20 minutes late. I was still waiting for my luggage at 5:48. My bag was literally the last one off the plane. I took a cab from the Udon Thanai airport to the Old Bus station 1. The fare was 200 Baht. I was annoyed at the high price because it should only be 100, but I guess prices are going up everywhere. I told the driver I needed to get the 6pm bus. He drove as fast as a Lao taxi driver seems to be able to drive. In other words no where near as crazy as an Indian cab driver.

 

Bus

Just as we pulled into the bus station I could see my bus leaving the station. That was a 90 Baht bus ride that I never took. BUT the good thing was the minivan going to the border ,and it was only 50 baht. I was warned to never get into a minivan. The drivers all drive crazy fast and dangerous.

I didn’t find this driver to be very crazy at all and the road seemed to be perfectly straight the whole way. As we got closer to Nong Khai people started getting off. The driver asked where I was going, I told him the border. He said extra 50 baht because of the extra time required to get there. Meanwhile Im looking at google maps and the border is looking pretty close already.

The Driver let a guy off at one of the regular stops. Drives literally 50 meters down the road to let me off at the border. And he is expecting 50 baht for the “extra time” to drive me there? I just flatly refused to pay the guy. He was not too happy about it. I told him I could easily have gotten off where the last guy did, and he didn’t have to pay an extra 50 baht. He started yelling at me. But he was yelling at me as he walked back to his drivers seat, so I just picked up my bags and started walking towards the border. Saved myself 50 Baht. 🙂

Border

Crossing the Lao border was relatively simple. I was actually surprised at how relaxed and easy the whole process was. Leaving the Thai side of the border the crossing guard mumbled something about going to the Laos border then returning to see him after. Considering there was a bus ride to get from the Thai exit point to the Lau entry port, I figured I would just keep going forward. The bus cost 20 Baht.

I made the decision to visit Laos only a few days before I started the trip. My late decision meant I needed to get the Visa on Arrival. This required that I download, print and fill out a form, stick on a passport photo, and sign it. While standing in line to get my visa I filled out an Entry and Exit form. The Visa guy got off his break and opened the little window. $43 USD for Canadians, thank you. I’m so glad I still had some USD on me. This is the highest amount they charge any nationality to enter the country. I guess Canada treats them like a dick so they return the favour.

Breakfast in Laos

Breakfast in Laos

Laos

Once I got the Visa on Arrival I stood in a line for about 10 minutes and met a French dude named Paul. He was just getting an extension to his visa. We found out that with a VOA we could bypass this line, and after that it was a couple more people who looked at my passport and I was through. All that was left was the cab ride into Vientiane. I shared it with two girls I met at the border. My share of the fare was 130 Baht.

The Numbers

Total time in transit: 7 hours
number of vehicles: 6

Total Costs
Item: Cost:
Red Cab to Airport  100 Baht
 Flight to Udon Thanai  1769 Baht
 Cab to Bus Station  200 Baht
 Minivan to Border  50 Baht
 Bus to Lau Border  20 Baht
 Visa On Arrival  $43 USD
 Cab to Hostel  130 Baht
 Total costs converted to USD:  $107.74
Millions of Kip

I feel like a million Kip. Two million actually!

Summary

So that’s the story of my entry into Laos. I got some of it on video. Next adventure I will try to get more video $107.74 USD Not including the iced Latte I bought at the airport for 80 Baht ($2.28 USD)

 

My Travel Plans For The Next Few Months

My Travel Plans For The Next Few Months

Monsoon season is in full force here in Thailand. While I really enjoy living here in Chiang Mai i’m looking forward to the next few months of travel I have coming up. So this is my first post where I get to tell everyone my travel plans for the next few months.

Canada!

On July 23rd I start heading back to Victoria, British Columbia. I plan to spend a couple weeks there getting caught up with friends, checking my pile of mail, and generally enjoying the beautiful city of Victoria in the middle of summertime, the best time to be on the West Coast. I have a couple projects planned for when I am there. I don’t want to say too much right now but one of them involves all the local neighbourhood pubs… And no its not an epic pub crawl, tempting as that would be.

Chicago!

Near the beginning of August i’ll be heading to Chicago for a few weeks. My plans there are to eat all the food. So you will be seeing me in Portillo’s, Fuji Grill, or Bad Apple. Or anywhere that I miss eating in Chicago. There’s a lot of places on that list.

Burning Man!

At the end of August i’m heading down for my first ever Burning Man! Oh, man i’m pretty excited about this. It’s costing me a relative fortune to be able to attend the event, but it is going to be so worth it. I only hope I am able to do justice with the photos that I take while I am there.

Cuba!

After Burning Man my plans get a bit more vague. My original thought was to head to the UK, Either Ireland or Scotland. But just the other day I had the thought that while I am on the North American continent I should make an effort to go to Cuba. I think I was this Casey Neistat Vlog that put the Cuba idea into my head.

Its actually been a dream of mine since I did my road trip around the US in March-April of 2015. Then the tentative plan was to cross into Canada near Toronto and fly down to Cuba. Unfortunately at the time I was pretty stressed with my mom just having passed, and with planning my move back to Canada, so I decided to push off the Cuba plans. But now I really have no excuse not to go! I’m thinking I’ll stay there somewhere between a week or two. I guess I should start doing some research into this part of it…

Ireland & Scotland!

Once I have finished with Cuba I will continue on to my original plan of going to the UK. While in Laos I met an awesome couple of friends who live in Dublin and i’m really looking forward to getting to see them again, and maybe going for a pint or two?

Bamboo Railway Battambang Video Post

Bamboo Railway

I took a crazy trip on the bamboo railway in Battambang.

If you make it there I totally suggest you take this for a ride. Actually there is not a whole lot else to do while you are in battambang. There are the Killing Caves, and the Bat Caves. And of course there are a bunch of temples to visit as well. But other than that Battambang is more of a working city.

The railway is a short tuk tuk ride away from just about anywhere in the city. In my case I rented a scooter as I like having the freedom a scooter provides. I also hate haggling with the tuk tuk drivers and being charged an outrageous amount simply because I am a man and white.

Check the video out. Don’t forget to go to Youtube and like and subscribe to my channel. Or heck even SHARE the video!

Random Update: Vang Vieng, Laos 2016_05_11

I’m camped out in the restaurant of the (Agoda Ad) Pan’s Place guesthouse in Vang Vieng, Laos. I plan to be here for a while so I thought to write some notes of whats gone on lately. There may be photos, or videos added but I just don’t know yet.

Thailand is such an easy place to live. Internet is everywhere and it’s fast. The street food is delicious and cheap, and many restaurants are open after midnight. They have western malls and 7 eleven’s are everywhere. The traffic, while slightly chaotic, is respectful. Chiang Mai was so easy to live in that after a while I felt I was not really traveling.

Vang Vieng, Laos

Keir on the Road to Vang Vieng

I started saying that when I left Thailand I wanted to experience something a little more tough and raw. Laos seemed to be the perfect place for this kind of hands-on travel. They do not have the long history of tourism that Thailand does and much of the country is remote.

So far I have not been disappointed. Which is to say that I have been disappointed. The roads here are rough, the bus drivers crazy, and the internet is slow.

In Luang Prabang the shops and restaurants seem to be more willing to try and take advantage of tourists. The food is less spectacular than Thailand and both food and beer are more expensive here. I have had all my shoes stolen, and the staff at the guest house in Luang Prabang spoke such little english that they could not tell me where to find a place to get new shoes. The tuktuk drivers all overcharge and I have had one who outright lied; leaving me a good half hour walk from where I was supposed to go.

In Vientiane I stayed at a hostel that had great AC, but the staff was uninterested in doing any work and the place had no soul. That made it very difficult to meet people to hang out with. The city itself didn’t have much to offer either. I did find a nice coffee shop however.

Vang Vieng, Laos

View from the Earth Bar in Vang Vieng

My current guesthouse in Vang Vieng has no AC and only small fans. This morning I woke up with my clothes soaked with the same sweat I went to bed in last night.

Not all things have been bad in Laos. I have met some great people in the various hostels I stayed. Just today I met a Mexican/Turkish guy who lives in Germany named Roberto. Later today i plan to sit down with him and do an interview. The other night he was “arrested” by what he thinks is the Laos mafia. He was smoking weed in the open so he has no one to blame but himself. I plan to get the story directly from him though.

I have also met a couple from Ireland/Scotland who are traveling with a German girl. I ran into them in both Luang Prabang, and in Vang Vieng. Now I’m planning on meeting up with them again further in the south. They are so much fun to hang out with, and it’s not often I make such a good connection to other travelers. I’m really happy about this.

Vang Vieng, Laos

Shane and Amy toasting with some mini Guinness

So, I’m getting exactly what I wanted. A rougher travel experience. I am slowly starting to get used to it and even enjoy it a bit. I am most definitely not as comfortable as I was in Chiang Mai and I do miss that level of comfort. But I’m also looking for even more uncomfortable adventures. My next plan is to find a slow boat that I can take further south.

The slow boat’s have no internet or any other modern convenience. They stop at small towns along the river and I will have to find my accommodations for the night every time I stop, no prebooking on Hostels.com or Agoda. What the slowboat will offer is a time to relax and unplug. It will give me time to take some photos of the river and surrounding areas, meet new people, both travelers and locals. I will get to see a side of travel that I have never had before.

Phousi Mountain Flowers

Phousi Mountain Flowers

Its taken me 9 days of being in Laos, and a lot of discomfort before I started to appreciate what Laos really has to offer. If you are a traveler looking for a nice “vacation” then this is likely not the place you want to visit. However if you are up for more of an adventure I recommend including Laos in your plans.

Have you ever had a problem relaxing into the location you were traveling through?

I’m living in a Parallel Universe

I have only been to three countries in my travels so far. Every place has its differences. Right now, here in Thailand I feel I am living in a parallel universe.

In New Zealand things are different but most things are totally normal. The biggest differences are they drive on the left, Light switches get pushed down to turn on, and the toilet’s flush so hard I swear they have developed some kind of ultra tiny black hole toilet flushing technology.

Traveling in India I knew I was in a different country. Life there is blatantly foreign to living in Canada. Even attempting to accomplish seemingly simple tasks can take extraordinary amounts of effort. For instance I tried to find a 1/4 inch NC bolt in an attempt to fix my camera’s tripod. Even with the help of a friend who lived in the neighbourhood I was unable to accomplish the task. We tried several “hardware” stores. Or should I say hardware stalls. Because using the description of “store” has too many western associations that come along with it. In india a store could literally be a section of sidewalk that someone uses every day to sell some product.

Do you ever get the feeling like things you knew to be true are no longer that way? This is the feeling that I get in Thailand. Here things are somewhere between New Zealand and India, though it definitely leans more toward the normal side of things.

Yesterday I continued my quest to repair my tripod. I ended up at a location of Big Box Stores that were so similar to the ones in North America, yet slightly different. If you are interested in watching my adventure of trying to repair my tripod the video is below.

 

The feeling I got reminded me of the Berenstain/Berenstein debate that has recently made the rounds of Internets. I felt I had walked into a parallel world where everything was almost exactly like I remembered it, but not quite. Sort of like the book (Ad: This is a link to Amazon so you can buy a copy of the book ->) 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, although not nearly as cool and sexy.

parallel universe. Bed Bath & Beyond

In Thai Baan means the Home. So the name is different, but the implied meaning is the same.

First I ran into the Baan and Beyond store. Inside it was almost exactly like a Bed Bath & Beyond store except this one also had a hardware and paint section,as well as a general merchandise like Canadian Tire would have.

The next store was Power Buy. Inside this resembled a Best Buy.

parallel universe. Best Buy

Power Buy or Best Buy? The logo is different but the interior and products are so similar.

 

The third store was the Office Mate. Almost a clone of Office Max

parallel universe. Office Max

Office Mate or Office Max. Hmmmmm

And then the craziest part is they are all connected on the inside. Like they are all one big store.

So have you ever had the feeling that you were transported into a parallel world? And if so can you think of any sort of test to figure it out? Because I still don’t know if I need to find a way back…