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Two days on the Mekong

When we originally wanted to head to Laos, we wanted to see another part of the country as we had been previously. Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to head to the south of Laos as it would take about 2 days to get to the 4,000 island area if we took the bus, and bus travel is what we would have done.

We knew there was a slow boat heading from Huay Xai, on the Laos Border to Luang Prabang, so we researched and found there are a couple of tours which do the same route, each stopping at some local villages, and Pak Ou Caves near Luang Prabang. After a few discussions we booked Luang Say, as this was over our budget we opted to throw the budget our (just in this instance) and do the tour. We are so glad we did this, as we later learned the Chinese are assisting the Laotians in building a road and then dam, and within 5 years this type of trip will no longer exist.

After going through the formalities of leaving Thailand and entering Laos, we were greeted by the Luang Say representative, who put us in the van which took us to the pier, approximately 20 minutes later.

There were 13 of us on the 2 day trip, and during high season, the boat which accommodates up to 40, who have roughly 30 tourists on board. The boat has comfortable booths where you can settle in enjoying the stunning scenery, chat with the other tourists, or just catch up on your reading.

May is low season, and not too hot, so a perfect time to take the trip. When we arrived in Luang Prabang, we found the cruise was offering big discounts for booking the trip upstream towards Thailand.

They also have Eckbank, in English a nice corner seat, located at the back of the boat which Mark found, and we occupied on the first day. Once settled in we enjoyed the scenery, and read until lunch was served, and the a tour of a local village.

There are different tribes depending on what area of the mountain they live. The two villages we saw over the two days were mid-level tribes, one we saw was the Khmu people who believe in spirits rather than Buddhism. After a 30 minute stay meandering through the village under some watchful eyes, mostly roosters, we departed for our overnight in Luang Say lodge in Pak Beng.

View from our room with the shutters open

The lodge itself was very lovely, and we had a bit of time to walk to the small town of Pak Beng. Not much per se, but got to practice our hellos in Laotian. Hello is Sabadee, and as you walk through this small one street town you end up saying it to everyone that you see. After dinner, we made our way back to the room where, luckily we put our mosquito nets down, were greeted by a lot of hard shelled bugs hanging on the outside of the mosquito netting. There were ants and other various insects but my focus was more on the hard shelled ones. Mark thankfully killed them before we ended up entering the bed with the net.

The rooms have open slots on the shutters and no screens, and the hotel offered turn down service, but they left the lights on, hence the numerous bugs. Slept fitfully, and at one point thought I would get up to go to the bathroom, and glad I didn’t. In the morning, turned on the lights to see a bunch of bugs on the floor. After a quick shower, breakfast and then we were back on the boat.

Morning view from our room in Pak Beng

Day two provided us with more tranquility, and the opportunity to go to another village where they have handicrafts one can purchase to help out the village. They also have local rice wine for a mere $1USD. Guess who needed to buy it?

The best support is to buy something from the local market

After visiting the village, lunch was provided, and again an opportunity to relax and take in the scenery.

Relaxing on the boat, with book, journal, budget, and a bottle of rice whisky

Prior to arriving Luang Prabang, we stopped to go to the Pak Ou caves. Coming up to the caves Mark and I realized we had been here before, or had we, as we have gone to so many they are becoming a blur.

As we arrived into the cave a major thunder and lightning storm hit us. We stayed longer than originally planned due to the weather, but it allowed us to spend more time looking around at all of the old Buddha statues .

Getting back to the boat, Mark pulls out the computer to see if we actually visited this cave, and we cannot find any photos. Apparently we didn’t visit this last time we were here. An hour later, we were disembarking in Luang Prabang, making our way to the Villa Maydou, home for the next 6 days.

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