Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Mekong

Posted by Hippo Bean at 10:00 PM
The first thing that hit us once the boat started moving was the cold. In the first few hours of the float we had Thailand on our left and Laos on our right. A few villages along the river and then once Thai disappeared and both sides became Laos, the view reduced to a few vegetation and granite banks. Absolutely nothing eventful. Just the murky brown water, a few greens and rock. And the cold. Not even sight of another boat. Considered the major trade route in this part of the world, I'd have thought the river to be busier and crowded with trading vessels. The longboat consisted of a front where the driver geared the boat, an extended middle section for the guests and the family who owned the boat, lived at the back. The owner's wife cooked lunch for us every day. The food was delicious. So after the meal, we wrapped ourselves in blankets and went to sleep. After a few hours on the slow boat with uninteresting views, I had enough. But the day wasnt done yet. By sunset we finally arrived at Pakbeng. True to the online images, it was just a cluster of low buildings on a hill where all the longboats came to dock to drop off tourists for the night. We climbed up the hill to the only tourist hotel at the village. Other accommodations were simply rooms in local houses. Several expensive hotel resorts were being built further up the hill. Our hotel had a nice view of the Mekong but the rooms with teeny tiny. Although they came with en-suites, they were closet like and no curtain on the showers so after a shower the entire room was flooded. But they came with ac but we didnt need it as the night was cold. We walked down the hill and visited a local temple and then to one of the many restaurants for dinner. my rice noodle soup was so good that I horked it down entirely even though I wasnt even hungry. It tasted just like the ones back home. strange from all places, this was the best noodle soup I've ever had. We needed flash lights to illuminate our way back to the hotel as the street lights were dim and intermittent. There was nothing to do before sleeping. The one bar that was open wasnt recommended as it was discovered that locals were selling narcotics to the back packers. But our local guide managed to convince a restaurant that sold alcohol to remain open for us.

The next morning greeted us with cold and fog. We had to wake the hotel receptionist to provide us with breakfast. Boarded the longboat again and braced for another long cold float on the Mekong. 9 hrs to Luang Prabang! How were we to put up with another slow boring cold day? Nothing to do, not much to see. No wifi. I couldnt even get into my book. It was only the cold. I was cocooned in 2 blankets and still felt the cold. By the afternoon the sun finally came out, it warmed up a bit and we could finally shed our blankets and coats. Lunch was exceptionally tasty fried chicken and the usual sticky rice and curry, long green beans and veggies, with pineapple for dessert. And that was the exciting event of the day. Except I've noticed the family's son was very good looking. Big brown eyes with long lashes. Attractive smile and very courteous. At least something or someone good to look at to while the time away.

Suddenly our local guide woke us up. On our left was the cave we're supposed to visit. Everyone started up enthusiastically. Our boat docked and we climbed up to the Pak Ou caves which had a lot of buddhas inside. the climb was steep but no one complained because we welcomed the chance to walk since there's nowhere to go on the boat. There was a white mark to indicate the highest level of the mekong, just below the mouth of the cave above the steep stairs. boy, this thing can flood big! Next we visited a local traditional village by the river. Very poor, women all working and men just sitting in groups chatting and kids running around nagging the tourists. Not interesting to me. Then finally we arrived at our destination. the longboat docked, mr young good looking helped everyone out and I took one long last look at the boring Mekong and the boat, turned around and climbed up to the river bank and into our waiting minivan. She survived the Mekong!

Mekong River cruise photos:

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