Hi everyone!!! just pasting it here as well as your e-mail is over quota dod!

Well, the last mail was about my ailments and general puffiness. All is well now and after many anti-hystamines i am doing great.

Our next stop after the Chang Mai was to head into laos. WE were sorry to leave the north of thailand as it had been great fun. The options were to take the slow boat of the fast boat. We opted for slow as the fast boat apparently, according to geoff’s morbid stats, has about two accidents per week. The did look pretty dangerous actually. They would zoom past us at a huge speed, even the locals wearing helmets, which has to be telling us something!

Well, we booked the bus/boat three day boarder crossing trip with Robert and Monica. The bus to Chang Kong was uneventful. The only thing was that it rained all the way there, so it was a cool journey. Our hostess for the day had most definately not always been a women!!! The hands gave it away, being a little on the large side, and also the voice, which every now and then would break from it’s falsetto tones! Robers kept making comments such as ‘ladies first’ and ‘what a nice blouse’ which geoff found most amusing! Anyway, we headed through customs without being asked for extra money, which was impressive as everyone else we have spoken to has.

After a lot of waiting around in the heat we headed donw to the slow boat on the river. IT was not much to look at i can tell you. Long and thin, with two rows of small plank benches along the sides and a small alley in the middle. We settle in. Luckily for us we pick a seat in the middle which gives us a little more leg room. All the other poor inmates have to squash up against the next bench. Definatelly not made for anyone above two foot tall!!!

About fourty people settle in, and we wait for the of. Just as we are getting twitchy about sitting in the sweltering heat, another 40 turn up and are crammed on!!!! Some are evn sitting in the aisles!!!! The wooden seat is already doing it’s wok on my posteriour, and i can tell that the next 7hrs are going to be painful! WE are all about to complain about the complete lack of any space to move around when an official bloke steps on and havds out -insurence-sheets to be filled out, with a fee of 15 dollars. Whasssa???? we all chorus, having understood from our trusty booking agents that it was all inclueded. No no, we say. Yes yes he insists, government insurence. By this time the sheet is being passed back along the sweating and scowling line, but no one is filling it in. Everybody fill in, he squeaks, gesturing feably with one hand. We all glower at him, and a couple of us mutter about how we will not part with a penny (geoff was one of them i think!). He makes another feeble attempt to lure us into parting with our hard earnt dollers, but you can tell his heart is not in it, and he slinks of the boat without too much fuss.

The journey is painful. It turns into 8 hours of butt numbing pain, everyone smoking into my face, the engin making such a racket i can’t hear geoff speak. The scenary is beautiful for the first coupl of hours and then our interest beginns to flag. To top ot all the sun is on my side the whole way, and a more unpleasent journey i have not had, apart from the one to kashmir and back, which is being blanked from the memn\ory as we speak. The only eximent about the stayover in pakbank was when we were just nodding of to sleep, and the generator went of. It was quite cool, so we were’nt bothered. Not so this english girl downstairs!!! She layed into the owner, demanding electricity and stating that if he did not provide any she would camp by his door hitting it at intervals all night!!! The sensibel man, noting the firy temper and opting for the safe choice switched it back on. G and I were cringing in our room at the embarassment of being english. You are not supposed to lose your temper here. It is seen as losibng respect and also the locals are so gentle and unagressive that ity just seems wrong!!!

The 2nd day on the beat was pai again, broken up bny a very avarage cave (extra cost!)

Luang Probang was lovely and the nicest town in laos. We found a really nice guest house on the bank of the river, and spent our first evening wondering round the night market. Loads of things made by the local hill tribes. WE had noodle soup at one of the streets stalls and went happily to bed.
The next day we did one of geoff’s walking tour specials to take in the temples. It really is a beautiful, unspoilt town. The temples wre much as any others in thias part of south east asia. Lots of gold and very clean and well cered for. On temple was on top of a hill in the middle of the town, and you got a beatiful viwn from the top. WE met up with monica and robert later on, they being pertial to a lie in!! We were walking along by the river when robert decides e wants a go in one of the local boats! He heads down to the water front with geoff in tow and acosts one of the locals who smilingly agrees. They get in the boat and head of down stream. Geoff forgot to give me the camersa and money, so he looks a little stiff in the back!!! Monica and i have much fun watching them try to paddle and fall in!!!! We spend the evning at the night market. Noodles this time, and I try some tapioca sort of thing. They have many bowls of lurid coloured wobbly stuff that makes geoff feel sick, but is catually really tast with coconut milk!
Our next stop is the waterfall. We meet up with the english girl again when looking for a tuk tuk to take us there. It’s cheaper with a big group, so we head of with them. She is originaly from taiwon, ans is actualy really nice, if a little brusk with bargaining for things. The water fall was amazing, the best i have ever been to. The water was a cloude pale blue. Beautiful. WE climbed up to the second pool. This involved scrambling through the waterfall at some points which was great fun!!! The pool was like something built for a film about the water babies. A big pool with waterfall all around it. There was omething in the water theat stopped the rocks being slippery, so there was no green slim. A rope swing competed the picture, abd we had a great time there. You could sit on the lip pf the pool and look over the water fall on the other side! Dod wouldn’t have likes that!! Last evening at the market. I get a couple of bumps during the night, so geoff gets worried and decides to head out in the morning to vang vien.

WE get to the bus station in time for the 10am only to find it has been cancelled and the next one is at 12! Yi-jing (english/taiwonese) is there with her friend jamie. The time pases quickly as we chat over sweet tea. We get an armed guard as the strech of road had a few shootings on it a couple of month ago!! Great!!! No problems though, and though we see lots of armes men along the way, the journet is uneventful.

We arrive in vang vien and find a bed with a view of the mountains. As we come into town i spot ed and nikki (in a restaurent, where else!!).WE interupt x-men 2 and chat away. It’s great to see them and catch up. The next day we go tubing down the river for about five hours! This involves taking a tractor inner tube and floating down the river. There are many little beer sellers along the side which e and n availed themselves of! we, being olfd farts, stuck to water. We stopped of and did another cave. This one was very deap, and there was loads of red mud at the nottom which i managed to fall into!!!! That was the exitment for that day!! Oh yes, watched Gangs of NY. Not hugely impressed. The next day we wernt to a lagoon, and ed and geoff enjoyed much fun jumping from high trees and playing around on the roap swing! To get there we had to hire a wierd contraption. Looked like it was being pulled by a rotorvator with weels. This was in order to get us over the river! All our days here seem to involve water. The naxt day we went to a canmve pool with crystal clear water flowwing out of it. It went a long way back into the cliff, but without our torches:( we couldn’t explore. WE had an indian meal. Very tasty,. and it goes to show how very different thins tasy over here. They use such different spices.
WE are going to do the kayaking down the river and then see a deal for kayaking to viantian!!!! Ed and nikki head up to luang probang with an order from me for a few bags as have not seem them here, and they said there were none in vientien. The kayaking is great fun. G and i are on a single one and everyone else (jamie and yi-jing and three guides) are on doulbe ones.Most of it is just cruising down the iver looking at the scenery and pushing each other in (you would have loved it ed). The two high lights are the ‘rapids’ which are short but exiting. Our guide dowsn’t want nme to go on my own as there was a girl who died three month ago. another group go first and a girl goes down on hre own so he relents. I cruise down with much style!!! We then have fun going down without the canoe!!!! Great fun. The next fun is a huge jump (10mtrs/30=40ft) I jibber at the top, watching everone else jumping. In the end i have to be pushed as i want to jump but the old bod is not so keen. The same thing happened in viernam. I held geoff hand, fully intending to jump, but my legs won’t go. A kindly hand helped my along my way both times!!

We arrive in vientien by bus from the river, and yi-jing finds a cheap place (she thinks she gets quoted less because she looks like a local!!!!) This is the least pleasent town, and we plan to head out pretty soon. The one good thing we did here was to get a massage and herbal saune! The massage was much better than in thailand, and the herbal sauna was the perfect thing to do afterwards! There were loads of locals there, and it seemed like is was aregular thing to do here. We also went for a french meal in a restaurent owned by french people. I had steak and it was most tasty!!! The next day we head of on the local bus to the border, and then into thailand, waving goodbye to jamie and yi-jing. WE get accress with no problems. The guard did mutter something about border charge, but we didn’t have enough kip, so he waved us through. We had to weait for a while on the thailand side of the border for the later bus to bangkok (we didn’t want to arrive at 1 in the morning).

WE have just come of that bus. It was ok, and then we got a local bus from the bus station. Laos was one of our favourit place, if not the number one. We are going to the death railway and then onto the islands!!!!

Hope you are all fine,
Lots of love