Two days on the mighty Mekong

Trip Start Oct 08, 2008
Trip End Dec 09, 2008

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Thursday, November 6, 2008

From Luang Prabang we traveled in a longboat for two days to Houei Xai. We left Luang Prabang early in the morning as the trip took longer since we traveled upstream. The boat we boarded was about 120 feet long and eight feet wide. There were bus seats on it, as well as recliners, two toilets, tables and chairs where we ate our packed lunch. We had the boat to ourselves and considered ourselves lucky. Well, our good fortune came to an end about four hours into the trip when the engine started leaking oil. We pulled over and waited for another boat to resume the journey. This boat was about the same size, but minus the recliners and fewer seats. After a total of ten hours on the water we reached the town of Pak Beng just at sunset and checked into a hotel for the night. Power here is supplied by generators only and shut off promptly at 10pm. That meant no AC or fans and a flashlight to find your way to the bathroom. The group had dinner at an Indian restaurant near the hotel. The meal was a memorable one because we waited two hours to get our bowl of chicken masala and rice.

On the second day we were assigned to yet another boat. This one was smaller, even less seating, with a noisy smoking engine and a squat type toilet. However, the sensation of traveling on the Mekong and enjoying the fabulous scenery is unforgettable. Most of the area we traveled through is very sparsely populated, with only a few small villages along the river bank. We stopped and walked through one settlement and took some great photos of the dwellings and the inhabitants. We were greeted by dozens of children who ran behind us as we walked through their village. Conditions here were primitive, the people essentially have nothing, and survive on what they can grow and catch in the river. No TV, no electric appliances, no internet. There were 1,000 inhabitants living in 80 huts, most measuring 10 by 10 feet. Difficult to imagine that people live in such conditions in the 21st century, that is until you see it with your own eyes. We arrived at Houei Xai late in the afternoon, hauled our backpacks through mud and debris and up a hill to the Lao Border Police office and then boarded a small boat that took us across to Thailand and the town of Chiang Khong where we spent the night.
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