but thankfully there was a drop to drink.
We’re now in the beautiful Luang Prabang, Laos, after spending two days on a boat along the Mekong River! We had decided to get the more expensive slow boat trip (the mid-range one) from Thailand…flashpackers alert!
The trip was really good though, well worth paying more for…everything was easier; getting our visas, finding somewhere to sleep, and eat in the halfway point at Pak Beng.
We were picked up from our hotel in Chiang Khong at 8am, and taken down to get our exit stamps on the Thai side of the Mekong River. We eventually got our lovely triangular stamps before climbing onto a tiny long boat to sail across to the Laos side of the river. There we were met by chaos! Our boat guide took our arrival cards, passport and photograph, and handed them round to the official. We then had to ‘queue’ to pay the US$35 for our visa. The crowd was crazy, nobody really knew where to stand, everyone was pushing and shoving, and rucksacks kept on hitting people in the face! A group full of Americans pushed through us and were letting out whoops whenever their name was called for payment…annoying! Everyone in our group finally got through and we all headed up to the tuk tuks to be taken to our boat.
The two days on the boat were really nice, the scenery along the way was beautiful, we saw elephants, buffalo, cows, goats, and one unfortunate dead pig floating upside down in the river… We went passed rocks shaped like ducks, whirlpools, children playing in the river, while speedboats occasionally sped past us, its occupants wearing helmets, not fun! We sat with two English girls, and chatted to two American guys; John and Wayne (no joke!) and enjoyed cuddles from the baby on board!
We eventually came to the halfway point along the river, Pak Beng, and were taken up to our guesthouse. We’d all been expecting something ‘not so nice’, but the place was lovely, the huge terrace showed beautiful views of the river at both sunrise and sunset (sunrise was sadly hidden by mist), and our rooms were large with our own private bathroom. We all had dinner together and were given some Lao whiskey to try by our boat guide (burns your throat!). The food was really nice, we paid buttons for it, though we had ‘BeerLao’s. We had good conversations with John and Wayne, and another American couple before heading back to our nice cool room…we even found postcards in Pak Beng to add to the collection (a postcard from each place visited!).
The next morning on the boat was amazingly cool, some found it cold, but we enjoyed having goosebumps (horripilation!) that for the first time in months was a result of the weather, and not an over-zealous air conditioning unit! We stopped off a local village, which was interesting, but we felt a bit intrusive, and it felt a bit touristy as scarves were shoved in your face as you walked past. We also visited caves, not too far out from Luang Prabang…our guide pointed out marks on the rocks to show how high the river had swelled to at various years and it was completely insane, scarily high! The view from the caves was really nice too. Unfortunately, today was the day that I decided I really needed to highly embarrass myself. I’m sure you all know that it isn’t hard for me to do, and it’s something I do on a regular basis…but this was worse! I stood up after lunch to go to the bathroom, I’d only walked like 3 steps before I felt something at my feet…my shorts had fallen down! The older Swedish lady was in hysterics, as were everyone else! Lee, Sophia and Sarah also thought I was hilarious…embarrassing! You’ll all be pleased to know that I did actually have leggings on, but seeing somebody’s shorts fall down is apparently hilarious, whether they’ve flashed or not
We finally arrived at Luang Prabang, and headed off to walk to our guesthoust, on the other side of the river to the old town. The way to get to our side was by bamboo bridge, and it is the scariest bridge I’ve ever had to walk across! Every step feels like you’re about to fall in, especially while carrying an 11 kg rucksack! The steps leading to and from the bridge are ridiculous too, they’re far too high, anyone with short legs would have to scramble up them! Our guesthouse however is really nice, our room is lovely, and the included breakfast is also very nice!
We really like Luang Prabang, it’s so pretty, and so small, we walked the whole of it one day, and didn’t feel like we’d missed out on much! The food is really cheap, and we’ve already found a favourite restaurant! The Grand Palace, whilst maybe not so grand on the outside, is amazing on the inside, intricately decorated with glass mosaics depicting traditional Lao life. We keep on bumping into people from the boat which is really nice! We’d swapped emails with the English girls on the boat, and are meeting up for food and beer tonight which should be fun. The day after tomorrow we head off on a 10 hour bus journey to Vientiane…how fun!
Some of our Thailand photos are up on facebook for you all
View from the guesthouse terrace in Pak Beng
This is our lovely sunset view from the terrace of our guesthouse/hotel in Pak Beng
Standing on one of the river beaches along the Mekong River
One of the elephants we saw here, about to have some fun in the river!
Here you can see the river at the bottom, I've annotated it so you can see the water height (yes, I am a geographer...). The white line shows the water height in 1966, and the yellow line shows the water line in 2008...scarily high in comparison to what it's like at the moment!
The view from the caves
The scary bamboo bridge we walk across 4 times a day!
Sorry if the photos are the wrong way, I did rotate them, but I don't know if it worked on this!