Current Location : Probolinggo, Java, Indonesia
Just wondering how I am going to get my bike into one of these narrow body longboats across the Mekong River into Laos on the other side
Last entry date : 14/Mar/09
From 24/Jan/09 to 25/Jan/09
Late Saturday afternoon is not a good time to attempt to cross the Mekong River at Chiang Khong Thailand into Laos with a big bike. I knew I should have (months ago) read the advises posted on such crossing on the Thai bikers’ website GT Rider. Why ?? Here I am, got stamped out of Thailand (after being fined 500baht for overstaying an extra day of allowed 15 days) and finding myself on the bank of the Mekong alongside narrow body passenger only longboats !! Got a sinking feeling when I look at these boats.
The sole passenger operator or agent at the river bank yells something in Thai, and then said 3000baht (a lot of money compared to usual 500baht it takes for a car to be ferried across) to ferry me + bike on one of the longboats. She said there was no vehicle ferry boat on Saturday !! I hesitated and said the bike’s too heavy. After some shadowy conversation with others, she said she found a wider body longboat and price is better at 1500baht. And her men will lift my bike into the boat safely, she assured, no problem, they’ve done this hundreds of times !! Do I have a choice ?? Its now 1600hrs so I agreed. Off came my lugguages and my pet Coco, and the agent’s helpers quickly put them into the a wider body longboat further down the river. Suddenly I saw a real car ferry coming in from the Laos side … why, this Thai agent was lying … there is a car ferry, after all. An argument ensued as I tried to re-take my lugguages (+ my pet Coco, of course) from the boat and rush to the ferry. In brief, I managed to board the car ferry with my bike too and the price was 500baht. What a lousy agent I had to said goodbye to.
I don’t think you can call the ferry docking at the Laos side a real ferry docking. These ferry hands are so practical, and at a whistle I’m supposed to ride my bike onto wherever they point me to land. This I did, and when I realised my pet Coco was still on the ferry, it was too late, the ferry was away. Oh well … its only a Coco.
Its 1630hrs on the Laos side, and the custom’s office was closed. So I sat wondering whether I should just ride into Laos, hang around in this border town of Huay Xai and return on Monday to get my bike entry into Laos properly documented. As I sat, a dirty looking local man suddenly appeared. We could not understand each other and he kept spitting as he speaks (I’m supposed to ignore that). Finally he made a phone call and made signs that I should wait. 30 min later a custom officer appeared, saying he’s working “OT” as in “OverTime”.
I was quite happy he was on OT. Formalities for taking a foreign bike into Laos is quite simple, as in Thailand. When that was completed, my surprised was this Laos officer asked me to pay him his “OT” and give some tips for his spitting speaking friend. Oh, I hate hard bargaining on a late Saturday afternoon, but we reached a compromise and he handed back my bike documents !!
Next time, I must remember to avoid crossing any obscure border with a bike on a Saturday (and Sunday, or Friday for muslim speaking countries, or … what a headache).
Beware of vultures out there at border crossings.