Slow Boat To the Border
Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
257Trip End Jan 31, 2012
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Where I stayed
Dokkham Guesthouse, Pakbang
Up at 8am to get ready for my pickup. Decided on the slow boat to the border since I like boats and had time to kill before I had to be there for the Gibbon experience. Also lucky to have the pickup (though nervous about whether they would show) since it was a bit of a walk around the hill to get to the waterfront.
Got in the back of a Tuk tuk for the ride to the tour agency and was thinking that in Thailand the drivers seat looks a bit like a ride on lawnmower. Ended up picking up a couple more people before making it to the boat which thankfully was not full. Had two seats to myself and happy I am travelling to rather than from the border since have been told the boat gets quite packed coming back the other way.
Not the most exciting or peaceful day but enjoyable none the less
Could basically know when the boat had hit a stronger flowing part of the river (rapids) when the planks of wood on the roof started to shake and the motor got louder. The roof shaking though was the real give away as the boat slowed and forced its way upriver.
On the river had some nice views of the mountains in the distance and the mouth of a cave you can visit on a day trip (not so great) from the town. Found that on the whole the river seemed quite lively with boats, people and animals being seen throughout the day. During the day on the river we also passed by a number of small villages on the banks of the river but this didnt happen all that often. Did see some people bathing at the end of the day though near in the river.
Lots and lots of bamboo poles were also sticking out from the shore to hold fishing nets. This was especially true when the boat was passing through the rapids were I guess fish find it harder to avoid getting caught in the nets due to the fast flowing water
While taking the slow boat takes a couple of days it is possible to take a fast boat that can do the trip in a day. While accidents are possible the speed of them is probably a thrill for some people. During the day saw a number of these come wizzing past in both directions with people on the boats in many cases wearing safety helmets. Guest if the boat flips the water is probably going to feel like concrete so the helmet is probably a good idea.
Until well into the afternoon found the wind hitting the boat to be chilly. While I had my polar top the thin t-shirt underneath was defiantely not enough to keep the chill off. While I dont think that the weather was that cold it was more the fact of the boat moving creating a wind with a high chill factor that made things cold. Cant image how cold it must be going at the speeds the boats were going. Definately would want a warm had and windproof jacket.
As for myself didnt do a lot during the day besides nap a bit and stare as the shore drifted by. Did spend some of my time productively though thinking about the rest of my trip
In the end the trip ended up being a bit over an hour longer than expected and so ended up in town a bit after dark. Had to try a couple of places before I found a bed and given you get boat load of people dumped in town I guess it should be unexpected. While the bed was not great it was only for a single night and at least I had one.
After settling in headed out for dinner in the town and went for a bit of a wander before calling it a night.
Day 2 - River Transit to Huay Xai
Up by 7:30am to grab some food (sandwiches) and head down to the place where to the boat had dropped me off in town to find my next ride further up the river. Given the number of shops and guesthouses this is definately a town that fills with tourists crossing to/from Thailand
At the river saw the boat heading back the other way and while it was fuller than mine it still wasnt packed. Got the impression from my walk in town that some people only do the boat for 1 day drom the border then bus it from Pakbang.
Had a sandwich and some cake as the boat started to pull out to the river and once again spent the day watching the river pass by. This time saw locals doing what looked like panning in the river though no idea what they were looking for.
Once again saw the speed boats cruising the river throughout the day. As I had noticed the day before a lot of these were filled with Thais (probably tourists and locals). Unlike the day before I saw a couple of these pull into shore along the way and so am assuming that the boats dont just make the run between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang but rather provided fast transport to different points along the river.
Was finding that a common type of boat on the river today were ones full of sacks and the site of sacks on the shore and people moving these sacks between boat and truck to be common
During the two days didnt see any bridges crossing over the river which was a bit of a surprise. Also didnt see any roads though there must have been some nearby since there were trucks picking/dropping off sacks on both sides of river. Given roads arent a big thing in Laos and the river must flood on a yearly basis during the monsoon season guessing it mustnt be cost effective to build a bridge over the river. Guess that with the flooding a permenant bridge design would be expensive to build and no guarantee it wont be washed away and need to be rebuilt.
The fact I didnt see any bridges also helps to explain the loading and unloading of sacks to get things across the river though I have no idea what was in them.
Unlike the day before found that the boat stopped a number of times by the shore to pick up and drop off locals along the way. Am guessing that this must be a more populated area than the area I had passed through the day before.
Once again on the river for sunset and passing by locals spending the evening bathing in the river
Arrived in Huay Xai after dark and had no idea what the town looked like so followed the road away from the river. Along the way passed a couple of guesthouses and ended up settling for one that had some bungaloos at a reasonable enough price. Nice room, nice bed. After settling in continued up the road and found myself in the main part of town which had lots of guesthouses. Ended up having something for dinner, playing on the laptop and then calling it a night.
Probably a good thing I didnt try rocking up the day before teh gibbon experience since the boat hadnt gotten into town until a bit after 6pm and am not sure I would have found the office and registered before 7pm.
Day 3 - Huay Xai
Didnt want to do much today since I would be ziplining and walking the following day and had no idea what there was to do in town anyway. First things first though was to go and register for my trip. Felt more like a reception than a tour agency with not much info forthcoming and basically given a form to sign and told to come back the next morning
Interesting thing here was the form. As can be seen in the phot a risk is failing equipment and misjudgment/mistakes made by volunteers. On the following page it says you wont hold them responsible for any risks which suggests that if they push you (misjudment) or dont get you to strap in properly (mistake) they are not responsible. While at home I am sure you could argue negligence not so sure you could do the same thing in Laos.
From here wandered up the street by the river to check out the town and views and then headed back. On the way back found a information center and managed to get a map. Seems like there is a temple on a hill 4Km out of town and so decided to wandered back along the riverside road to check it out.
Had a pleasant walk past some bars, restuarants and guesthouse all with their own yellow beer Lao signage. Also saw a guy roasting have a pig on a spit.
Made it to the temple in pretty good time and after wandering around for a look at the temple and surrounding area I decided to just relax on the bench that had a nice view of the river
On the way back saw another temple up a road and decided to go up the hill to see if it had any views. Seems the temple was on a hill with a valleysand hill on each side. Unfortunatley to many trees to get a view. Kept heading up the road but got to an official looking gate and sign. Was considering turning back but saw some non-military people head in on a bike and so wandered into the beginning of the grounds. If I wasnt suppose to be there I am sure someone would tell me soon enough. Especially since some huys were sitting near the gate.
No one said anything so wandered to a part of the hill that had some views. Was possible to go further up the hill but decided not to push my luck so turned around and headed back into town where I got some dinner before heading back to the guesthouse.