A night on the border
Chiang Khong Travel Blog› entry 4 of 10 › view all entries
What was it they said about 'the best laid plans....'? Mine went fairly astray today because a number of factors involving rogue bus drivers, language barriers, and the thai way of life in general. After being reassured multiple times by the Chiang Mai hotel concierge that there would be at least hourly airconditioned buses to Chiang Khong taking only six hours I took a leisurely approach to breakfast and checkout, arriving at the bus depot at 0915, only to be told that the only bus to Chiang Khong (Laos border) was at 0830!
Helpfully she did suggest that I take the bus first to Chiang Rai (two hours away) and try to get to the border from there. Having boarded the bus I settled in for the two hour journey and was just starting to doze off when I woke to a heavily armed guard in my face demanding to see my passport...no problem, did that, bus continued on... after another 50kms or so the same thing happened and it was all becoming quite routine until the third time the (government-run) bus was pulled over and each of the five westerners on board (including me) got a bit of a grilling. They merely rifled through my small carry-on bag but there were a bunch of three western guys who got taken off the bus and didn't come back...I later read that it's a bit of a drug route so I guess that's why the searches.
Having made it to Chiang Rai I then established that there were indeed several buses leaving for the border but none were airconditioned, had seatbelts, or looked like they would survive the trip. I wish I had a photo because they're actually quite comical and look like something from a junkyard (albeit painted in bright colours as if to somehow mask the fact that they're seventy years old). There was no option however so I paid my fair and got on in the sweltering heat for what was promised to be a two hour journey "we go straight there lady, straight ahead there, no stoppage". By that rate I should have been at the border with an hour to spare to cross before immigration closed.
Six and a half hours later with 30mls water remaining after having visted most of northern Thailands smallest ever villages and gone three times around a place called Thoeng I arrived at the border well after closing time. Spent the night in a decent guesthouse with the by-now usual cold shower and squat toilet... Cross the border tomorrow...