There was great excitement (especially from me) as we crossed the river border between Thailand and Laos and arrived in the quiet town of Huay Xai. Believe it or not this rural village, is actually the capital of the Bokeo province, but for me it represented something more. This was a communist country (my first) and stirred all sorts of visions in my mind of childhood stories of the world behind the Iron Curtain.
The reality was something much closer to the wild west. So much so that I could imagine tumbleweed rolling down the street.
After the hustle and bustle of Thailand, Laos immediately felt quiet, a lot less touristy, and the dusty dirt streets made it feel like we were in the middle of nowhere.
I’d read and heard good things about Laos, and one of my first goals was to get myself a sample of their local drop, Beer Lao. This has a reputation as being one of Asia’s finest beers, and like it’s Thai neighbour Chang, it didn’t disappoint!
After an evening meal, a few of us stuck around at a local bar for a few (quite a few in fact) post dinner drinks. As others began to drift off back to our accommodation the night wore on until it was only myself and Alan (one of our tour group, after Sarah and his partner Lou had retired) left going strong. A beer or so later, the owner of the small bar starting getting more and more anxious which we couldn’t quite understand.
After a bit of broken English back and forth (I’m sure ours was also a bit broken by this stage) we slowly realised that Laos still has an enforced curfew, and yet here we were drinking away well after this had passed!
As understanding finally dawned, the friendly barkeep offered us one last drink, this time some of the local rice whiskey. Well this really knocked what was left of our legs off at the knees and I’m sure we looked a fine pair as we stumbled our way back to bed… almost.
We did eventually find our way back to our lodgings, but were met with one final hurdle, a locked gate! After initially trying our hand at climbing this new obstruction, we copped one final surprise when a small boy who had been perched (and gone unnoticed by us) on a stool by the front door, trotted across the courtyard and promptly opened the gate for us. It would seem we were not the first tourists they’d had stumble home after curfew.