Sunday, February 7, 2010

Slow Boat to Luang Prabang

After the Akha Hill House we crossed the border into Laos at Huay Xai. The Lonely Planet describes Huay Xai as 'brash and expensive.' It couldn't be more wrong. We found a great guesthouse, organised our ticket and some supplies for the slow boat the next day, had some shots of whiskeylao on the locals, and then spent the night sitting on the roof of the guesthouse drinking beerlao and watching probably the reddest sunset I have ever seen, over the Mekong. Our guesthouse owner was certain that we had to be down at the jetty as early as possible to get a good seat. We found out why. Slow boats are the most common method of transport along the Mekong river. They are long, skinny and...slow. The operators pack them tight, ours especially, which was obvious when they did the final headcount after we departed, all started laughing, high-fiving and then rang all their mates (I guessed) to tell them that they'd got some sort of record.

We arrived at the halfway point, Pakbeng after an agonising 6 hours. We found yet another good guesthouse and restaurant, bought some more supplies and hit the hay to mentally prepare for another gruelling trip the next day. We swapped boats the next morning to a larger boat, and had what was quite an enjoyable second half of the journey to Luang Prabang. The scenery is incredible, jungle above the sandy banks of the Mekong river, a few water buffalo, and loads of tiny villages dotted along the way. We pulled into Luang Prabang at sunset, found our way to some accommodation. I like this place already – it has a French influence from the colonial days and what looks like a great number of cool restaurants and bars to pass the time in...

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