After a wild 'last night' in Chiang Mai, Toni and I got into a minivan for the border. Armed with one bag each and absolutely no idea what we were doing, we braved the 3 hours to the first rest-stop, which happened to be the White Temple in Chiang Rai. I wish wish wish I had been allowed to take pictures inside because the murals on the inside included not only traditional Buddhist figures, but also The Terminator, Harry Potter, Aliens, Predators, etc. and it was so confusing and incredible all at once.
We were allotted no more than 15 minutes to see the temple and the surrounding grounds (this expediency is part of a wider phenomenon that we later dubbed 'ThaiTourguideTime', or TTT) before getting back on the road. We stopped again in a bordertown called Chiang Khong where we would spend the night before heading to the Laos immigration office in the morning. Because it's been built up from hosting border-crossers like us, Chiang Khong was sort of a strange place to visit. But the residents really make the most of its riverside location and put all the parks/bars/sketchy teenage hangouts right by the water - so it seems like a great place to live.
After sleeping in probably the worst hotel room in Thailand, we got into a van, got through the border and were thrown onto a boat for the next 2 days. The boat itself was like a giant gondola with a roof that had been outfitted with old cloth bus seats and a homemade 2-stroke engine. Almost immediately we met the guys who brought mini kegs and a cooler on the boat and posted up in their vicinity. Once loaded up, we set off into the Mekong. It was BEAUTIFUL. Only pictures can express: