Slow Boat Down The Mekong
Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
144Trip End Ongoing
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We wobbled our way on to the small canoe which took us from the Thai side of the Mekong to the Laos side where we quickly obtained our visas (Cdn visas are apparently the most expensive to obtain because we charge so much for people from Laos to visit Canada- not sure that's a fair trade!!). After losing another page and a half in our passports we found the floating slow boat parking lot and piled aboard along with 6 Aussies, 4 Dutch, and 4 Americans. The boat was less of a boat and more of a series of trailers (AT: after tornado) glued together with cut out sides and removable seating- when you pay a little more, you get seating that looks to have had a former happy life in the back of a Chevy minivan- if you're a cheapie, the comfortable seating is stored on the roof and benches are installed (there were 16 passengers on our boat but with the wooden benches 120 people could be squeezed in!!). True to form, I was more than happy to throw thousands of Kips (Lao money) at the problem to make sure DH traveled in style.
People went to great lengths to distinguish the slow boats from the fast boats (those speed demons could do our 2 day adventure in 6 hours apparently). The designated guide on our boat was on one of the rocket ships once and lost two teeth for his trouble- first and last time for that
Our trip was one of those slow, meandering trips that gives you plenty of time to daydream (oops- did I say "daydream"- I meant to say "listen intently to the storytelling of DH"). We also got to know our fellow passengers including honeymooners from Chicago, a couple from Florida that seemed to be, unknowingly, living in Bangkok illegally, and a couple from a place near Sydney, Australia who foolishly offered us a place to stay when we were in the area. By the time we made Pak Beng (boat travel at night is inadvisable), we had bonded sufficiently to include a drinking game in our dining experience. I'm not sure I've done the drinking game thing since some best-forgotten evenings of Passout back in University days but the Lao version of Passout was something altogether different. Apparently we were drinking some local Snake Whiskey (which I think/hope is regular whiskey with a snake, among other things, marinating inside the bottle), and instead of dice, a recently decapitated chicken head was shaken between two plates and the direction of the beak determined the shot glass victim. DH was happy to play but I had to drink her portions as well as my own- needless to say I had enough SW to start seeing two chicken heads- both pointing their little beaks at me.
The next day was more of the same meandering with the breathtaking scenery of the Mekong all around us. We did stop at a couple of villages which made for a nice break- the locals were very used to drop-ins but made us feel very welcome nonetheless. If all Lao people have a similar demeanor, we going to have a great time here. We also stopped at the Pak Ou Cave which was filled with Budda statues of all shapes and description and was still an active place of worship. The cave and villages were nice distractions and a good opportunity to stretch the legs, but the star of the show was the Mekong River itself (even if we didn't see any of the legendary/endangered Giant Catfish- up to 9 ft long and over 400 lbs). I really hope that this river doesn't turn into another of our many lost treasures of the world but I fear that it is already well down that path.