The only thing missing from this fabulous journey was mounted 50 caliber guns and camouflage. The scenery is literally out of a Rambo movie but the boat is not small, fast, and stealth, its long, slow, and loud. Instead of scanning the banks of the river for enemies most people are chugging lao beer and smoking cigarettes, or in my case reading a book and taking video. It’s a 2 day journey down the river from Chaing Khong, Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos. After 7 hours on the boat the first day we stopped in a small town called Pakbeng for the night.
Pakbeng is a thriving Mekong River village because every slow boat down the Mekong stops there for the night. On this particular night I would say 250 tourists crowded into the streets of Pakbeng which are full of guest houses, cute dinner spots along the river, bakeries, and make shift store fronts selling everyting from soap to chips. Mindy and I had already booked a room in a place I can’t pronounce or spell for that matter; it was a quarter mile walk up hill from the boat dock. So while those who didn’t book rooms got hasseled by the guest house owners we walked on by continually saying, “don’t need room, we have room already, thanks.” It’s crazy how badly you began to speak English when everyone else is speaking broken English. It’s contagious and we are still trying to figure out why. I think I do it because they will understand better if I use less words.
Anyways… We threw our stuff down in the room and immediatedly headed out for some dinner. All the restaurants were the (same same, but different.) A favorite saying in SE Asia. We picked a place that had a river view, ordered Lao beer, sweet and sour chicken, red curry beef, and of course rice. The boat was loud all day so it was nice to sit in the quiet restaurant drinking beer and eating delicious food that costs about $2.50 per meal. We decided the next morning we would wake up early and get seats near the front of the boat so we don’t have to hear the engine roaring all day.
We actually woke up late because Mindys’ alarm didn’t go off but we still got seats in the front of the boat. The weather was a little cooler and the sun wasn’t up yet when we headed off from Pakbeng at 8:30 am. Eventually the sun came out and we joined the others drinking Lao beer and talking about travel plans. For much of the time I hung off the side of the boat just thinking about how epic this journey is and how happy I am to be here.
When we arrived in Luang Prabang, Laos we didn’t have a room booked ahead of time so we did talk to all those guest house workers we were able to skip the night before in Pakbeng. We did some comparison shopping and ended up telling one guy we would go with him to look at the room. One thing about getting a hotel or guest room in SE Asia is you never pay money with out looking at the room, asking if it has hot water, A/C or fan, and Wi-Fi. He took us to the guest house he worked for one at a time on the back of his motor bike and the place was quite nice, especially considering it was 100,000 kip ($12).
Go to my You Tube page to see some videos from the slow boat journey.