The Mekong is the World’s 14th longest river, which I guess means it’s not all that long. But starting high in Tibet and ending at the southern tip of Vietnam, its waters do flow down through, and between, quite a number of disparate areas and countries. So on this trip through Yunnan and northern Southeast Asia, we have crossed / will cross it once each at Jinghong, Jingha, Houay Xai, and somewhere near Baoshan. That’s been the plan, anyway. That is, we sure didn’t plan to cross it more than once at Houay Xai, the border crossing from Laos into Thailand. Certainly not three times, each with our two big bags and one small toddler stacked precariously on a low-riding bamboo boat with a sputtering outboard. But thanks to the fact that we inattentively walked right past the dozing officials who were supposed to give us our Laos exit stamps, and the fact that the Thailand immigration official on the other side of the river cared, for some reason, whether his Lao counterparts on the other side were doing their job, we were directed to go back, wake up the exit-stampers, and thus make two extra crossings of that stinkin’ river. So while some parts of our trip have felt like we’re just rushing through, this little stretch of smelly water was one place we really savored. Any longer and we might have been able to figure what cut of our extra ferry tolls those border officials collected. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Laos 老撾
For Chinese New Year, we once again escaped to the hinterland. Last year, it was to that mostly-deserted little island of Hong Kong. This year, we found ourselves in Muang Sing, a busy market town and administrative center for an area of Laos abutting the Chinese border. Same holiday, different place: here the Chinese farmer’s calendar is also observed by the Yao, an ethnic group located in pockets across southwest China and this part of Laos. And as we discovered, they have their own variation on the tradition of doling out the hongbao-wrapped yasuiqian: red-dyed eggs, tied up in colorful strings and—you guessed it—given to kids on New Year’s Day. Owen got given two—so for all involved, it is an auspicious new year indeed. Continue reading
Lao, we only briefly knew you, but it’s been real. Thanks for the $11/night bungalow in a garden, thanks for the coffee and foreign backpackers to chat with, thanks for the blue skies (under which your waterfalls, jungles, and mountains gleamed) and star-filled skies (under which our city-raised toddler swooned). Thanks, above all, for your population density, so vastly low compared to China’s, which has made these 4 days seem like an island vacation from the cruise ship we are accustomed to.