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life's adventures This is the story of my wanderings through Asia

2 days on the Mekong

LAOS | Thursday, 28 October 2010 | Views [783]

The morning was rushed but relaxed and pretty laid back running to and fro trying to sort ourselves out, turns out the 8.30 delivery to the boat showed us the boat is fully stocked – though expensive – and that we had plenty of time to wait. Me thinking the boat was leaving rushed us off the sandy banks of houay xay  onto a slow 100 person long boat floating on the Mekong, We were of course incredibly early, and claimed the first seats. The boat over two hours filled up with pairs or groups of travelers, all quiet with faint smiles and little open conversation amongst.

 

As the ride began, the passengers interacted and some drinking, our small conglomeration included, snacking and chatting, playing cards headphones on or just staring at the magnificent riverbanks, heavy green draped vines amongst the giant limbs of trees and jungle massive of Laos and on the other side, Thailand.

 

We departed the boat into the riverside village of Pakbeng, the boat passengers packed toward the entrance, we had expected to arrive at night, but here we had a near sunset small cluster of tourist hotels and guesthouses and resorts. We chose the guesthouse of one of the guys at the riverside telling us prices, just because he was smiley and seemed nice. Following Mirim; a local Lao girl, up the hill, her smile and gait infectious, her English learned from the tourists flooding there for the trip down the river. We sat and looked out at the view, admiring the serene setting.

 

As the small bunch of us stared in surprised enjoyment the guy we’d met earlier at the bar came to assist the Spanish guy who had locked his door as he was coming out to ask about the key, Mr. Mani, with a knife, and theatrics of stabbing the door, actually clicked it open after one big haaaayahhh. we all cracked up,, including josh who had at that second walked out of the door right beside the burglars entry demonstration. Our mission for tonight is to play some Lao sound rhythms, drum and bass at the bar downstairs.

At the moment we are thinking of the safety of our doors and belongings stashed behind them.

 

Pakbeng has delicious chocolate croissants, but terrible coffee. Our dinner was local Lao curry, chicken and bamboo fried, with sticky rice – Asia’s Naan. So far prices are no cheaper than China, but its ok, sharing makes things a lot easier and cheaper too. We both felt drawn to linger in Pakbeng, but it would just be to chill out in the mellow vibes emanating from the place. But alas, time schedule making us rush, we still do appreciate each stop and are sure we will pass through Laos again someday.

 

Mekong Day 2.

 

As we drifted along on this cloudy overcast day on the brown waters of the Mekong, I scribbled notes of what I was seeing, a useful told when all you are taking in seems exaggerated in its vibrancy, and you fear forgetfulness and memory loss, meanwhile trying to breathe it all in.

Every so often landslides carved out a red, orange gouge off sharp angled banks. The force from the ever spiraling, turbulent torrent racing past jagged grey rocks piled up near white untouched sandy islets. Patches of vegetation surround the towering ancient and unrelenting jungle that stretches into Laos and Thailand, both countries from this point of view aesthetically similar until you spot the buildings of small modern villages, and raw cut roads winding along the Thai side, where on Laos land the huts dotting the hillsides and small clusters of straw shacks speak of untouched traditional rural life. Drifts of wood, foam and rubbish spoil the glassy surface bordering river towns. Every now and then long speared bamboo poles jut out holding fast onto nets dragging in the river off rocks bunched along the shoreline. Faded boats, pointy and sleek, line the deserted white sand bays, their owners nowhere in sight. Small herds of milky pink or earthy grey blue oxen, and patchworks of goats appear lazily at intervals on both river banks, chickens transported on the roof of our boat and dogs sunning themselves on the banks of every village we pass make up the animal life around us constantly.

As we cruised along the pulsating continuous flow, the sun emerged briefly to warm our faces, occasionally sprayed by the boats wake through the course surface of the river. Our boat narrowly passing by choppy rapid like currents as passengers admire the beautiful corrugated sandbanks, rivulets appearing from densely forested clefts in the jungle that borders the puckered swirling river massive. Ominous clouds cloaked our sky rendering the vista a rather dull hue, but all the while spectacular.

We met a few more people that day on the boat, but also enjoyed the ride for what it was and both went for long stretches of comfortable silence. An Ausie guy who on the first day had on a pink polo, wide brimmed canvas hat, two buckets of ice and a few bottles with him, told us that Laos is Thailand 20 years ago, explained to us in only a few words how fast the country is being overrun. We can see this in each place we stop at, finding the town designed and functioning for a specific targeted tourist group.

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