Ciarán & Elaine's Travelog

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Slow boat to Laos

Laos is not the most developed country in the world, so much so that it doesn't even have roads to a lot of areas which is why we ended up on a two day slow boat....

We left Chiang Khong and took a 'ferry' across the river to the Laos side where we got our visas. We were then shepherded around the town, stopping in the most random places where we had to show the most random people our passports. It was all just a big ploy to get us into these people's shops, I mean, why on earth must we get out of our tuk tuk to show the newsagent our passport?!! Still, it was an interesting experience and it just made us laugh.

We boarded our boat along with about 200 other people for the two day trip to Luang Prabang in Laos. The boat was so crowded and uncomfortable with most people sitting on the floor, we managed to get a space on a wooden bench but when we were told that the first day on the boat would take 9 hours to get to the town of Pakbeng we were a little worried. We had purchased a package deal from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang and hadn't really asked any questions so we felt a bit like what it must feel like to be a refugee as we crammed onto this uncomfortable boat, unsure of where we were going, with nobody to ask and being unable to speak the language.....

It turned out to be a really good day though, we got chatting to lots of people all round us. With everyone literally 'in the same boat' we were all happy to have any kind of distraction possible. The scenery along the Mekong river into Laos was beautiful. And as we passed little settlements we could see the men out in their boats fishing with huge nets, wearing those pointy hats. The women sitting along the banks washing clothes in the river.

Our boat was a fairly rickety old thing and when we reached Pakbeng, where we would stay the night we all had to stand on the left hand side of the boat as it was tipping so much into the water on the right. It took nearly an hour for everyone to get off because it all had to happen so slowly.

Pakbeng is a really poor little village where the electricity is switched off at 11 o'clock each night. We met 2 Canadian couples on the boat; Mark & Megan and Matt & Erin who we got on really well with so we all went for dinner. Dinner was cooked by a girl who couldn't have been any older than 11! It's like a different world over here. We had our first sample of Beer Lao and Lao Lao (Lao whisky) neither of which were very nice although Ciaran seemed happy enough with them.

The next day we boarded a different boat to take us the rest of the way to Luang Prabang. Amazingly enough, this boat was even smaller and more uncomfortable than the last one! I ended up sleeping for a while on a black plastic bag underneath our bench, anything just to pass an hour or two as we were told that today's boat journey would take 11 hours....

The time on the boat passed a lot quicker than we expected, some of the scenery we passed was spectacular; tiny bamboo villages dotted along the waters edge, huge limestone escarpments. The boat even stopped so that the 'captain' could buy some fish from a fisherman on the river. It was a definite 'experience' but we were delighted when we arrived in Luang Prabang 3 hours ahead of schedule. We checked into a really nice guesthouse and went out for a delicious Italian (such a nice change from rice & noodles) dinner with the Canadians.


  • Hi this is a good blog
    My company also run Mekong River Cruise on the Mekong River from Huay Xai ,Pakbeng to Luang Prabang.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:53 AM  

  • Hi this is a good blog
    My company also run Mekong River Cruise on the Mekong River from Huay Xai ,Pakbeng to Luang Prabang.

    By Blogger Mekong Smile Cruise, at 12:54 AM  

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