The moment the slow boat anchored at the Mekong River river bank, my perspective about Pakbeng was crushed completely. Pakbeng wasn’t how I imagined it would be. The village/downtown turned out to be a commercially active center. It has all the facilities that are needed by travelers. Most of the promoters for the hotels were teenagers and children. They were well trained to communicate in English and some even speak French fluently. Later, I got to know that schools in Laos teach French as an additional language. Their soft skill in convincing travelers to pull them to their hotel was fruitful (can be seen in video at bottom).
Hasan Indian Restaurant
My taste buds were ‘very sleepy’ for a long time without tasting any Massala and spicy food. The moment I saw Hasan Indian Restaurant banner in Pakbeng, my total physiological system started to reactivate. My cells in the body were jumping happily as though a missing child found its mother. The digestive enzymes in my body released lavishly and running happily into my blood streams. I got very ecstatic as I have not eaten Indian food for weeks. plus, Julien was very interested to taste Indian food as well.
Hasan Indian Restaurant
Sincerely, the food in Hasan Indian Restaurant was delicious but less spicy for my taste buds. Hasan himself admitted that the taste of the food has been modified to meet the spice toleration limit of westerners and that is why it wasn’t spicy enough. Hasan, Indian Restaurant and my French friend Julien kept reminding me of the movie ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ where Hassan Kadam, who is an Indian culinary novice that settles in a French village and decides to open an Indian eatery.
According to Hasan, Pakbeng bussiness activity is only from 6.30pm to 11pm until the travelers goes to bed and they have to wait for the next group of travelers that the boat brings the following day. On next day morning, Julien and I continued the journey by the same boat to Luang Prabang. Additional eight hours journey with uncomfortable seats……
Don’t miss video below
Part-4 will begins with super hilarious and very unusual video scene. Don’t miss
Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong
The journey from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong was simply amazing. The rotating fan in the bus, manual ticketing, bumpy road, frequent stops to pick and drop, cramped goods, free natural air to ‘massage my face’and weird/surprised look from locals made the journey more meaningful and joyful. The journey really brought my younger age moments back to life. The frequent way I travel from downtown Rantau to Linsum Estate which I had lived 30 years back.
Interestingly the one travelling with me was a French gentleman, Julien. He sounded like a very passionate travel photographer and he astounded me with the breathtaking pictures that he had taken. He also guided me on many advance photographing techniques. Thank you Julien (picture below) . Additionally, there were two other travelers from Germany, Benjamin and his friend.
To Houay Xai (border town in Laos)
Foreigners are not allowed to cross to Houay Xai (border town at Laos) through the Mekong River. They will have to cross through the Friendship Bridge. Therefore, four of us were dropped by the bus driver at a junction to Friendship Bridge before reaching Chiang Khong town. The Only Choice available to reach Laos Immigration from there was by Tuk Tuk (100BAHT/5 minutes). Once I exited from Thailand immigration, there was a bus waiting to bring us to Laos Immigration (50BAHT/ 5 minutes).
Laos is very ‘rich’ in many ways even economically not boosted. The hospitality expressed by the immigration officer with her greetings and welcoming face really impressed me first of all, which hardly can be seen in any other country. What media and news portray about a country could be based on very poorly justified facts. So, I always prefer to keep the facts to be inconclusive until experience it first.
The journey to Luang Prabang via Mekong river (down stream) took two days. The boat was cramped with travelers from around the globe and also with local people. The boat seats were customized by using recycled van seats and it was not comfortable at all as the pain can clearly been seen on many faces after a couple of hours of the journey. Most of the helpers in the boat were children and teenagers.
The back side of the boat has been ‘designated and declared’ unofficially for smokers. So, the space was fully booked all the time by some travelers to smoke and drink. Some permanently stayed there until the end of the journey. Due to some safety reasons, slow boats were not allowed to sail at night. Therefore, the boat departed from Houay Xai at 9am and anchored for a night stay at a small town called Pakbeng.
Even though Pakbeng is a very passive village, BUT …………….( some random dramatic horror music playing from some random house up on that hill)
TO BE CONTINUED! thun…thun…..thun! ( again some random dramatic and tense music from a random and tense horror movie)
Since the road to Nepal from Tibet has not been repaired after the earthquake in 2015, I have been forced to switch from plan A to plan B which is from Malaysia to South Korea overland. The journey took nearly a month for me to reach Seoul by crossing Thailand, Laos and China. When the road becomes longer, the story becomes longer too. So, I will divide it into few parts and only mode of transportation to be discussed.
Seremban to Kuala Lumpur by Komuter train
My journey to South Korea started from Seremban to Kuala Lumpur by Komuter train on 18th March 2017 around 7am. (RM8.70/45min). I was feeling quite under the weather as I fell sick three days prior to the journey. Since my mind was strongly ‘seduced and hijacked’ by my travel itinerary, I had no issue in convincing my body to work harder even at hard times. The good news was, I was in the recovery phase. Surprisingly, two of my friends, Faiz Mongol and Zaza NGanu were travelling with me up to Bangkok.
Kuala Lumpur to Padang Besar
Kuala Lumpur to Padang Besar, Perlis (border town) via ETS train is one of the fastest option available to travel overland (RM100/6hours). This was the reason why the train service from Butterworth to Bangkok was discontinued in 2016. Before 2016, it was very convenient to purchase the ticket to Bangkok from any KTMB stations in Malaysia. Now it has been discontinued. The ticket only can be purchased from Padang Besar Thai Railway Station or from Hatyai. My special thanks to Vishnu Dev from Hatyai who helped me to purchase the ticket in advance. The convenient way to reach Hatyai fast is, after you cross the Thai immigration and custom, there is a Van service (RM5/1hour). After staying a day in Hatyai, we traveled to Bangkok by train 945BAHT/18hours/lower berth/AC. Since I’ve traveled on this route six times before this, I was indulging myself only by eating and sleeping and nothing else.
Farewell to Faiz Mongol and Zaza nganu
After saying farewell to Faiz Mongol and Zaza nganu,(they were travelling to Aranyaprathet, border town near Cambodia) I continued my Solo travelling to Chiang Mai from Bangkok via train (541BAHT/16hours/lower berth/no AC). This journey was very memorable and it will hold a better place in my heart. The train that I traveled in broke down in the middle of the journey after a few hours I departed from Bangkok. It was the first time for me to witness and experience such an uncommon situation where few hundred passengers was stranded on rail road. This was a very irritating moment for the locals. But for me, It was an excellent opportunity to mingle with locals and other travelers. It took approximately 3 hours to rectify.
Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai
After few days in Chiang Mai, my journey continued to Houay Xai, a border town in Laos. In order to cross the border early, I had to move early. I took the 8.15am bus (Green Bus) from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai (258BAHT/3hours). There was cheaper class available for 169BAHT but unfortunately, it was fully booked. Complementary mineral water and some snacks pacified me well. After a quick lunch in Chiang Rai, the journey continued by bus to Chiang Kong which is the border town in Thailand. 65BAHT/2hours.