After staying in Pai for four nights, I ran into two girls I'd met in Chiang Mai and we all agreed to head to Laos together on the slow boat. I was so happy to have someone to travel with, as I was a bit apprehensive about taking the slow boat on my own.
The slow boat is.....an interesting experience. It's a great, inexpensive way to get from Thailand to Laos down the Mekong River, but it takes two solid days, is cramped and hot, and the drivers have been known to steal from the luggage. The first day was all right, but by the second day we'd had enough. At one point we even got caught in a rapid and almost capsized, for real -- the locals were putting on life jackets. We all brought some beers and snacks on board though, listened to music, made new friends, and really made the most of it. It ended up being pretty fun, but definitely an experience I only want once in my life!
Once in Luang Prabang, a bunch of us stuck together and it was really fun. Luang Prabang is such a fun place, but is really expensive. And also maybe one of the hottest places I've ever been! Each day you just dripped with sweat from the moment you woke up -- it was really intense. But we survived it!
There's also a government curfew in Laos, so everything shuts down at 11pm. Everyone seems to go to a really fun bar by the river called Utopia, and then once it closes at 11, everyone jumps into tuk tuks and heads to the bowling alley. Yes, a bowling alley in Laos. It was so bizarre, and who knows who they paid off to be the only place that stayed open past 11, but it was so fun. Some of the most fun nights we had!
We also saw more beautiful waterfalls, visited a bear refuge, and I made good friends with the sweetest minibus driver who taught me words in Laos as we drove through the countryside. Not to mention Laos is just pure beauty....
I fell in love fast!