Battle at the Pier and Cramped on the Mekong
Trip Start Sep 15, 2012
129Trip End May 01, 2013
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As soon as we boarded the Tuk-Tuk to the jetty with five Canadian guys we knew that the promise of max. 6 in a boat was about to be broken and, surely enough, when we arrived at the push-off point several Laos men were shouting at us to all just get in the boat. Well, they picked the wrong crowd to mess with. Without hesitation Vikki and the alpha male silver back from the Canadian group were putting the record straight and insisting on getting what we had signed-up for.
Several heated discussions and some hustle and bustle later the boys got into a boat with one local passenger and Vikki and I climbed aboard the next one which was then promptly filled with five more Asian tourists
How to describe the boat experience - words are not enough! Vikki and I sat together a row back from the luggage in a space just wide enough to fit our arses and with our legs tucked up against a wooden board in front. The Chinese guys has taken all of the crash helmets and there were no life jackets on our boat (barely a better specification than the dugout we crossed the border in) so when the engine started up and we roared down the river we just tried to settle in and enjoy the ride! We also had the addition of one of the shouty men from the jetty who sat in front of us like Yoda - it was obvious he carried some sway with the boat people and in a way that helped us get more efficiently to where we were going - him barking orders periodically and helping moor the boat at various stops along the way.
When we reached the first pit-stop we had already overtaken the boys - our bums had just started to tingle and our knees lock so it was a welcome break. We soon realised that the engine on the other boat had died so we thanked our lucky stars that we hadn't bit the bullet and got in with the Canadian guys.
Underway again we took in the marvellous scenery of the Mekong Valley, the lush mountains and riverside communities
And so this went on for six hours, until we finally rounded a bend to be greeted by a beautiful early evening sunset and the towering mountains surrounding Luang Prabang. Vikki had needed the toilet in a quite urgent way for the last hour of the trip but a sense of urgency and a language barrier meant that she had to clench her cheeks and hope for the best! As we pulled in to the jetty, she didn't even wait for the boat to fully stop before she was jumping onto the shore and running up the very steep steps to find the facilities - just in the nick of time as it happened!
Paula surveyed the steps and the two heavy backpacks left on the boat and promptly agreed to pay two young lads to carry the heavy burden up to the top (this was definitely a contrived money making scheme but you have to love their industrious approach) - when we finally got to the top one lad looked like he was about to have a heart attack so God knows what Paula would have been like if she had attempted a similar feat!
We jumped into a waiting Tuk-Tuk (another money making scheme with a very captive audience...) and negotiated a price to take us several kilometres into the centre of town where we hoped to find some last minute accommodation. We made the mistake of walking through the busy and cramped night market with our heavy backpacks and all our gear and arrived at a guesthouse panting for breath and no personal space invasion
With only dorm rooms available Paula left Vikki with a beer and some free Wi-Fi connection and went in search of something a little more luxurious. She returned very quickly having discovered a lovely place just around the corner which, although a little (a lot...) over budget, was close by and very comfortable - exactly what we needed after six hours on a speed boat with our legs wrapped round our necks!
We were dismayed to find that breakfast wasn't included for the price but dumped our stuff and relaxed over a couple of beers enjoying the solid ground and making our plans for the following couple of days.