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The journey without destination "We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment." -Hilaire Belloc

The journey down the Mekong river

LAOS | Thursday, 14 February 2008 | Views [3132]

Once you enter Laos you can immediately feel what would be the heart of the country-> it is the mighty MEKONG river! Starting from Tibetan plateau, down through China’s Yunnan province, running shortly through Myanmar (Burma) and most of its length through Laos and then entering Cambodia and ending in South Vietnam by entering into ocean, Mekong river is the heart vein of this part of Asia.

Since Mekong is flowing throughout most of the Laos (even creating natural border with Thailand), Laos is sometimes referred to as “the jewel of the Mekong”. Mekong, together with many other nams (nam = river in Lao), was used as the “highway”, to travel from city to city, village to village and as main trading path between the neighboring countries. That explains also the fact that there are not so many good land roads in Laos, although now due to the more demand for the road traveling (shorter and cheaper), Laos government is working on making roads better.

 

Knowing that, one can not visit Laos without taking at least once the slow boat or any other boat on the Mekong river. Therefore, I decided to enter Laos by its most important “road” (Mekong) as the best way for Laos to introduce itself to the visitor.

Traveling from North Thailand border down to Luang Prabang by boat takes 2 days with overnight sleeping at Pakbeng (small village on Mekong). This journey enabled me to enjoy in the beautiful scenery of Mekong life – river shores with water buffalos quenching their thirst, fishermen throwing the net from small wooden boat to catch meal for the family and villagers, children playing and splashing in the shallow waters, women and men bathing on the sunset light, some washing laundry and some washing vegetables and dishes… And the scenery… limestone rocks erecting from the green valleys, sandy shores, villages, vegetable gardens, fishermen nets… What a beautiful journey!!!

 

The only thing disturbing a bit the experience was the fact that it was the boat almost mainly for the “falangs” (name for foreigner, which means “big nose”) and it was overloaded. Usually, that kind of boat can take up to 70 passengers, but as it is usual in this part of the world, they filled about over 100 people. Only when it would be really packed out (e.g. over 120 people), they would (hopefully) take another boat. But even this would not be a guarantee that you will not be stuck on crammed boat, since the experience of some other people was that there were over 150 people once and after fighting for some time with the boatmen, they managed to have another boat. The problem was that they put on the second boat those people who did not manage to fit in the first boat and the rest (over 120 people) were still stuck on the fist one…so, not much hope that the 2-day journey would be romantic and relaxing.

Nevertheless, being for 2 days on the boat with so many different nationalities (Dutch, German, French, Americans, Italians, Belgium, Canadian, Spanish, Japanese, Czech, Slovenes… and only one Croat) was very interesting, especially the second day (after getting to know each other), when the atmosphere was very relaxed and cheerful (might be also ‘cause we changed into a bigger boat so we had even space to walk a bit).

 

It was an honor to experience once more the mighty Mekong and you can not but to admire this beautiful and powerful river that feels like a wise and powerful women that can be very kind, comforting and source of life as she provides with food and water, she offers shelter for weary traveler, she is connecting distant places…But in the same time, with her rapids and waterfalls, she is forceful and life taking …This impressive and dignified lady called Mekong holds in her depths, flows and currants the secret of our past, present and our future…If I listen harder…if I come more closer…can she tell me what the future will bring?

Tags: On the Road

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