We planned to be away from home for a long time, but we still wanted to see as much as we possibly could within those brief months that we had. Right now, home in Canada and still yearning for more Asia, six months is nothing. I guess that’s just a reflection of how much I miss the adventure. My heart literally aches to be trekking once more, but I still find immense joy as I fully immerse myself in detailed recollection. I sometimes forget how therapeutic simply writing out these experiences is for me, so it comes as a truly pleasant surprise every time I dive into another adventure or relive another experience.
Like I said, we wanted to see as much as possible so there were times when we bounced around from place to place, never settling down for more than two or three days. (Sometimes I feel like I should go back and do a second round, a “what you missed the first time” type thing, but that’s something I could keep doing over and over and still not see and do everything, so it’s a moot point.) From Chiang Rai, we took a small, open-doored bus further north, to the Thai-Laos border town Chiang Khong. A small community situated along the Mekong River, it was a place to chill out and relax for a couple of days on our riverside patio outside of our $12 a night guesthouse room. Finding a place to settle was pretty exhausting and the heat was blistering. Teresa and I definitely bickered about it as we allowed the scorching temperatures to worsen our attitudes about the whole thing; looking back it seems so foolish that we could have projected that kind of energy during a time that we now reminisce of with intense positivity. But our current feelings about it show that we’ve learned from it, and we certainly reconciled once we had a chance to drop the backpacks we’d been hauling with increasing strain.
Then, we just walked around, took in the town, the people, the delicious food of course. We found some of the freshest tropical fruit for as cheap as you’ll probably find it anywhere in the world. All of this cost only $5:
If you’re familiar with even one or two of these, you know that here in Canada, you’re bulking up your grocery bill nicely if you’ve got them in the cart, and that’s if you know where and when to find them. And yeah, I know one of them is just pineapple, but I have never experienced pineapple on this life-changing level. Excuse the melodrama but I swear it’s that good. Not to mention the ginormous mangos, ripe rambutans, and exotic mangosteens. My word processor doesn’t even recognize the last two as legitimate words. Sweet.
In addition to the delicious fruit, we found a little guesthouse/restaurant recommended by two friends of ours who made it that way months earlier. Apparently Malliwan’s spicy pork was beyond belief, and they were right, she’s a phenomenal cook. One of the spiciest dishes I’ve ever eaten, the salsa-like sauce was infused with peppery goodness and served with cold cucumber and lettuce on the side to balance it out. Malliwan married an American expat from Alabama named Don. Malliwan and Don, two unforgettable characters who told us stories about the first time they met, their humble business endeavors in bordering Laos, and the different kinds of people who’ve passed through their welcoming guesthouse before us.
That night, we sat on the patio of their restaurant, bearing witness to an intense lightning storm that was taking place across the river, over our next stop, Huay Xi. It lasted for hours, silent bolts ricocheting across the cloudy sky, adding new dimensions to a landscape that already looked too beautiful to be real. It was our final day in Thailand; our excitement for the next chapter was palpable, but there will always be a place in my heart for where this unforgettable adventure first began.