Helen and Randall on the road

A bit about our adventures 2011-2012

Thursday 1sts – Friday 2nd December: Slowly down the Mekong

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There are two options for travelling by river from Houay Xai to Luang Prabang: the fast boat and the slow boat.

The fast boat zips down to Luang Prabang in 7 hours including an hour’s lunch break at Pak Beng – however by all accounts it’s a fairly unpleasant, not to mention potentially fatal, experience; the operators pack you in, and non-asian (or non-constantly yoga-ed) knee and other joints don’t fare so well under such conditions. Also hitting a rock or standing wave at 50mph and the boat disintegrating is a genuine risk – lonely planet reckon there are fatalities every year and frankly looking at the way they drive it’s not surprising.
The slow boat is a different prospect – long boats with more space that take 2 days to do the trip, with a stopover at Pak Beng village overnight.

What a slow boat looks like – they all crowd up to the jetty to punt for passengers.

They are usually family businesses – the family lives aboard.

We saw a woman cooking on an open fire on the back of this slow boat. Erk!

We opted for neither of these, instead ‘going private’ with the semi-luxury, fully catered, forest-lodge-overnight trip. Well after all that trekking and zipping we deserved it!

After an evening of recovery on Wednesday night, we had an 8am pick up from our hotel by the Luang Say Songthaew.

The porters boarded our bags and we boarded ourselves – as everyone else was faffing around with chairs an tables deciding on the best spot, Randall and I investigated and found a cushioned area at the back which we bagsied as our private cabin – we were later joined by a Swiss couple who were very jolly and amenable to sharing a couple of bottles of wine with us; we definitely had the VIP area!

Our boat. Note the uniformed minions and the bar.

Randall in our VIP area

Me in our VIP Cabin

As well as the tourist boats the port  jetty was packed with cargo ships, mainly transporting trucks to and from Thailand across the river – it was pretty chaotic:

This slow boat is about to have a prang with a truck ferry.

Trucks boarding the truck ferry

Truck ferry across the Mekong

Assorted traffic to be avoided.

Riverside scenery

More scenery

More scenery

Day 1 was broken up by a trip to a village to see how local people live:

Arriving at the village

Beastie-proof village food store

Village piggies

Village ducks

Then after another couple of hours on the river we arrived a beautiful Luang Say Lodge at Pak Beng:

Gateway to the lodge

Welcome drink on the terrace

Terrace of the lodge

Our bungalow overlooking the river

Our bungalow

The gorgeous view from our bungalow across the river

Civilised dinner at the lodge.

After a lovely evening and night we had an early breakfast and were back on the boat by 8am.

First stop for day 2 was a village that depends on the river for everything as there is no road nearby. The boat company has a deal with the village in that they maintain the village school and contribute in other ways in return for being able to troop groups of tourists through. The villagers also obviously get the chance to flog stuff – the speciality of this village being silk weaving:

Typical Laotian village house on stilts

Village children

Randall tries the local rice ‘whisky’. Brave man.

Silk weaving in progress

Very good salesperson.

Confused small child

Village temple

Then it was back on the boat for lunch and another couple of hours motoring, before arriving at the Pak Ou caves

Entrance to Pak Ou caves

A few of the 4000+ Buddha images

We got back on the boat just in time for beautiful sunshine to accompany the last hours of our trip to Luang Prabang:

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Written by helenbcn

December 2, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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