Sunday, November 15, 2009

Why does the thatched roof smell like cat poop?

After a two-day boat ride up the Mekong River, we made it to the city of Houay Xai, Laos. The guidebooks all say you should take the trip once in your lifetime, so we signed on (for quite a ride). The boat was about 60ft long, sat low in the water (you could drag your fingertips if you wanted) and had wooden bench seats that would make any church pew look absolutely deeee-luxe. We picked our seats (of course on the sunny side...again. Colin isn't allowed to select our seats anymore) and made ourselves comfortable (HA!). The scenery along the river is gorgeous; we saw tiny, isolated villages and long stretches with no signs of human habitation. If not for the discomfort felt in our ischial tuberosities (ie. butt bones), the sweltering heat, the fuel fumes, and the excessive decibels of the motor, it would have been a pleasant nine-hour trip. Plus, as an added bonus, I did not drink enough water (against Colin's sage advice) and found myself really sick when we stopped in Pakbeng for the night. While I was throwing up (and I didn't even realize I'd eaten all the ingredients of vomit), Colin found us the WORST guesthouse we've stayed in so far (and he swears it was the best of the four he looked at). They shut off the generators (there is no electricity in town otherwise), and thus, the fans, at midnight. Between the sounds of drunkards dry-heaving, wood furniture being rearranged overhead, and roosters crowing at all hours, we both had the worst night sleep of the trip. The morning of day two I found myself feeling much improved- it's amazing what a combination of focused, seething hatred of roosters and sufficient fluid consumption will do for the spirit! Things looked even brighter when we slid down the sand hill to see a different boat would carry us the rest of the way; this one had...VAN SEATS!!!!!!!!! Yes, we promptly laid claim to the last two cushioned seats and had much more comfortable journey: talking with several European travelers, taking pictures of the scenery, and staying adequately hydrated.
We got to Houay Xai on Thursday evening, found a much nicer guesthouse and some dinner, and relaxed. Friday, we wandered around town, ate ice cream, and I got a massage at the Lao Red Cross (gotta do my part to support a good cause). Saturday morning we packed and prepared to cross into Thailand. The border crossing was uneventful, although the Lao border agents seemed quite amused when the saw where we entered the country. Apparently we were correct in our assumption that they don''t see many westerners at that particular station.
We are now in Chiang Rai, after spending one day in Chiang Khong, which is the Thai city across the Mekong from Houay Xai. Our initial impression is that Thailand is a much more affluent country than Vietnam or especially, Laos. Colin commented that not only do people have cars here, but they have rims on their cars. I noticed for the first time in Asia, there are pet stores, with pet food. I take it for granted that we have enough money to actually buy special food for our animals and can get preventative and necessary veterinary care for them, but when you can hardly afford to feed your children and live in a boat under a tarp roof, animals' comforts are probably a pretty low priority. Colin and I both realize how truly fortunate we are to have been born where we were.
Our current plan is to stay in Chiang Rai for the next few days to see the sights in and around town (maybe rent a motorbike for a day). The food is spectacular, and our guesthouse's garden is a comfortable place to read, so we're in no hurry to move. Plus, the guesthouse has wifi, so I'm back to being an iPhone widow, sigh... (although I must admit, it is really nice to have it to call home). Colin is putting my elephant adventure photos on smugmug as I write this. After that, we'll be adding pictures to our previous blog posts, so scroll through them again for pics.

PS- About the blog title: while sitting at an outdoor cafe, we noticed a cat scamper across from a metal roof to the thatched roof directly across the street from us. We thought at first it was chasing something when it started scratching in the thatch, but then,...oh.


  1. Oh sooo glad that you're able to blog again..remember the saying that somebody famous used to share at appropriate times?? You can.....on my head but don't tell me it's raining?I guess the same goes for poop! me

  2. Please tell us all that the flatboat pictured had nothing to do with your transport!! Loved the pics, tho'

  3. Yup, that flat boat looks just like the one we were sitting on.