Day 16: All aboard the Mekong
07:30 — SO MANY EARLY STARTS
Claire: We’re given a big bag of homegrown fruits from the hotel gardens and we say goodbye to John and his wife (we never did get her name). It’s like we’ve been their adopted children for a few nights so I can’t help but feel a bit emosh as we wave goodbye!
We’ve booked our 2 day river cruise to Luang Prabang through a private company called Mekong Smile. It’s about 3 times more expensive than the public one but it’s door to door service between hotels, across the border, and you travel in comfort with cooked lunches. If you’re going to be on a boat for 2 days you definitely want comfort and cooked lunches! Plus, we saw it as more of an experience thing to do, as opposed to just a means to get from A > B.
Stamped out of Thailand and into Laos we board our boat! There's only 7 of us aboard so plenty of space (it holds 26!). We are the youngest by about 20 years, I guess all the other backpackers take the cheapo one ;)
The Mekong is reaaally brown. I did Google it and apparently it's the eroding hillsides just making it muddy. The views are incredible though — we pass local farmers, buffalo, mountains, and many other boats. We get lunch on board, cooked by the captains wife which was mega yum! Also a taste for our first BeerLao (I think we'll like it here).
Excited to visit a traditional Hmong hill tribe village we stop mid afternoon to stretch the legs. A short climb up the riverbank and we are greeted by many, many adorable children! They each have a selection of friendship bracelets they try to sell you (of course I gave in!).
The visit was was an insightful experience but I'm not convinced the village enjoy having the daily tourists intrude so I leave with mixed feelings (not to put a dampener on the blog!)
Good news is I now have a friendship bracelet with this cutie which means a new BFF ❤
Back on the boat, we headed for Pakbeng where we spent the night on land with a beautiful sunset over the river.
Gav day 16 takeaway
- If you're forced to get up and out before 7:30, is there an unwritten rule that says you don't have time to shower?
- The good thing about getting to the Laos border is that it feels like you're the first one on the rides at Alton Towers.
- You have to pay to get a bus about 50m over the bridge into Laos from Thailand. The Canadian couple got charged literally double what we did cos they had big suitcases! Ryanair could learn a thing from these guys.
- Really long, comfy, hazy, lazy days on the Mekong in the sunshine with a Beer Laos and a gentle warm breeze are kinda what life's all about for me :)
- Pakbeng is a sad little town that seems really poor despite an influx of daily visitors with little or no other choice than to book a room and get some nourishment. My worry is that there's a small handful of business owners that are scooping all the money away from the local community. And unfortunately once you're at Alton Towers you have no choice but to pay double without you feeling like they really deserve it.