Thursday, January 22, 2009

Slow Boat to Laos

The border town of Huay Xui didn’t have much to offer. I did some well needed laudry, got some Indian food and read my book. It was fantastic. From there the next day I took a large slow boat down the Mekong to Luang Prabang stopping for a night since the ride takes 14 hours. Parentals: you’ll be proud to know that I did not take the speedboat down because deadly accidents happen quite often. The slow boat turned out to be fun anyway. A bunch of farangs piled into this long narrow wooden boat. I got there early to get a good seat and sat there for 3 hours. The boat was half full and we all thought we’d be on our way soon, when bus loads of people come walking on. Once the boat was packed and it was now noon, we took off.(more pics to come)
The ride was beautiful. We passed water buffalo on the banks and fishermen casting their nets. Kids waved from shore as we leisurely motored down. The group of us sitting in the front started to make friends. A guy from Miami got everyone to introduce themselves and eventually entertained us with his opera singing. Amazing stuff. This energetic laughable American was traveling with his grumpy cynical Italian friend and they made a hilarious pair. I met a photographer from Argentina, a girl from Hawaii, a guy from Wales and many more. The ride was long and my butt hurt after hours on the wood seat, but it was a great experience. Getting off the boat with my bag was another story. Once we arrived at our overnight stay in a tiny village called Pak Beng, it was a free for all to get your bag. I scrambled on and off to trying not to get pushed into the water from the precarious wood planks. Once off, I was bombarded by people selling their guesthouses. Ashley (from Hawaii) and I decided on a place and split a room. We were exhausted after the long boat ride and went to bed after dinner. Not that there would have been much to do- the whole town runs on a generator which turns off at midnight, leaving it pitch black.

In the morning we tried to get our same seats. The same group met at the front of the boat, but it was a different boat with more hard benches and less leg room. They squeezed two boat loads of people onto one boat for the second day. We managed to get a corner spot with a guy from Wales and another from the Ile of White. The four of us talked and played cards and watched the scenery go by. A group of Argentineans sang songs in the back and another group got drunk in the front. At one point the guy from Miami convinced Ashley and I to help him sing the American national anthem since other nationalities were singing theirs. I felt a little silly, but seeing as it was January 20th, I did have something to be proud of. Too bad there wasn’t a TV for miles to watch the inauguration. The boat was an amazing experience and Laos is a beautiful country!
We arrived in Luang Prabang in the evening and the four of us went in search for a guesthouse. Splitting a room makes things more affordable and we found a nice place along the river. Luang Prabang is a peaceful and beautiful city. It’s an old French colonial town with beautiful architecture and brightly painted shutters. It’s a bit touristy and resorty, but nice. The four of us had a great dinner with wine (!) -I’d been craving wine since you can’t find it Thailand. Then we walked through the market and tried to find a bar. The town is so quiet that there are only a couple bars and they close at midnight. We got a drink, but were happy to go to bed without loud music, crowing roosters or noisy traffic. It was a great night’s sleep.

Today Ashley and I had a cup of coffee and a croissant and then walked around. We climbed the Phousi Mt to a temple that overlooks the city. It was a beautiful view of the river and mountains beyond.
Then we got spicy papaya salad at a street stand and headed for a massage. Luang Prabang is known for good massages and I needed one after trekking and sitting on a boat for 14 hours. Tonight we’re hitting up the only (literally) late night place, which is a bowling alley. First I want a street vendor veggie buffet for dinner and a crepe for dessert. The best part about this town is the French food!!! Baguettes sandwiches, mmmm good. I’m enjoying this sleepy town and my new travel partner. Tomorrow we’re heading south. Sabadi.

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