It's not the destination that counts, but the journey.
At least that was my mantra for the last three days.
After a night in Chiang Khong on the Thailand side of the border with Laos on the bank of the Mekong River, we all piled into a mini van and went through the border crossing.
Turns out I was one day past my visa end date. I had researched online and the first day past the expiration is supposed to be without penalty, but when I tried explaining this to the border guard he simply replied 'that in airport, this is border crossing: you pay now'.
I was taken out of line to another office to pay. All the employees were laughing at me. It would have been funny if I didn't have to pay 500 baht ($15) and get a slip naming me an 'offender'.
I got one of the guards to bring me back to the front of the line, since there were a couple of bus loads of tourists lined up at that point, and the guard explained that I 'stay too long in Thailand, must kick her out now' with a huge belly laugh. They were pretty understanding about me budding the line after that ;)
Anywho, everyone from my group at the hotel got crammed on another tuktuk and brought to a rest stop where they were selling 'cheap food, not like boat' and pillows.
Note: You do NOT need to buy a pillow for the slow boat!
I guess the seats used to be just wooden benches, but ours were comfy van seats.
After a pause, we were taken to yet another rest stop with even more 'cheap food and beer - no available on boat' to get our boat tickets.
We were finally taken to the long boats, which have rows of seats and fit just over 100 people. I got a great window seat and my seat buddy was an Asian lady from NYC. It's amazing how much you will learn about a person after sitting beside them for 8 hours ;)
The views were pretty spectacular.
It was surprisingly lush along the banks, considering it is dry season. It's also the time when farmers burn their crops, so there was a misty haze on the mountains. Pretty beautiful.
There were little villages nestled among banana trees in some of the valleys, barely evident except for the signature slow boat that was typically moored nearby.
I was a bit antsy at first, but I decided to just take a deep breath and enjoy the ride. We left at about 11am and arrived in Pengbak at around 5pm.