BootsnAll Travel Network

Huay Xai: Payment

After returning to Huay Xai and reflecting on the madness of the Gibbon Experience with the others whilst taking a few group photos, we were returned to reality with a jolt when we once again attempted to pay for the Experience on our Visa.

The young Laos girl running the office put the card through, and we waited hopefully.


She turned to me slowly and shook her head. “We’ve put through some payments earlier today, but now it does not work.”

We discussed the situation, and agreed to try again in the morning. If it didn’t work then, our only option, well other than to skip town without paying and begin a huge cross-country manhunt through the back-roads of northern Laos, Smokey and the Bandit style (if only we had a Trans Am, damn it!), was to send one of the Gibbon Experience staff back across the Mekong into Thailand with our bank card to retrieve money from the ATM in Chiang Khong. So not the best of options then.

From Huay Xai the typical mode of transport is to take the two-day slow East to Luang Prabang. It’s what we had done a year-and-a-half ago, and whilst it was enjoyable then, we weren’t keen to repeat the trip. Instead, we hoped to charter a boat up the Nam Tha river north to Luang Nam Tha. But that evening our talks to the locals down at the pier were unsuccessful; a small boat would cost about $150 US, and we only had four of us keen to go. Too expensive for our liking. Instead we would get the bus, a peaceful three or four hour journey on Laos’ newest paved road. With such a short journey time, we figured there would be a few buses throughout the day.

And so when we finally woke the next morning and got to a travel place at 9.15am to ask what time the buses went, we were not expecting the look of panic that sprung over the travel agent’s face. She looked up at the clock. “Only one bus. 9.30am”.

Crap. “Uh, can we still make it?”

She looked over to her boss and fired off a string of Laos words. He replied ubruptly, before she turned back to us, “Ok, my friend will take you.”

“Great, we’ll just go and get our bags and check out of our guesthouse.” I replied.

“Uh, what about the Gibbon Experience?” Bec asked.

“Shit!” I’d forgotten. “Alright, I’ll run across there to the office and see if we can pay. If it doesn’t work, well, I guess we’ll be stuck here another day.” This was Huay Xai, the only thing to do here was sit in front of a fan and hope you didn’t disappear into a pool of sweat. Another day of that was not what we were hoping for.

Back into the Gibbon Experience office I trotted. I smiled at the girl and handed over my Visa card. “It should work today,” she assured me, “we have already put through two payments this morning.”

I waited nervously. The machine beeped. She shook her head. The card was denied. “Can we try one more time?” I asked. It was 9.30am by now.

Waiting, waiting. Beep. She turned to me, and smiled. The sucker worked.

I ran back across the street, giving Bec the thumbs up as I went, before we ran the fifty metres back up the road to our guesthouse, hastily stuffed our clothes into our packs and got back to the travel agent as quickly as we could.

“Ok, you go with my friend…”

We followed the Laos lady down the road a bit before she pointed us to a mini van and it’s driver. “He will take you.”

“Kwaap Jai (thank you)”

We put our bags in the back of the empty van, and then waited for forty minutes before we left. You’ve gotta love travelling in Laos!

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  1. Soph Says:

    Hey guys, randomly I came accross your blog while searching on Gibbon experience Not I’m addicted!! You sound like a lovely couple! Cn’t wait to hear what else you get up to. Does Bec have a blog too? Soph x

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