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Theme Park Ride: Longtail Ride Down the Nam Ou River

LAOS | Wednesday, 13 June 2007 | Views [1622]

Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys... line up here for the ride of your lives.  Our journey is about to begin.  We situate ourselves on our wooden plank seats at the back of the small long-tail boat.  A man enters the boat with his 4 bamboo purses full of chickens.  Another man loads on his motorcycle for safe passage.  Two women  with children slung on their backs in papoose wraps, grab the seats in the front of the boat, after piling in sacks of rice and vegetables procured from the local market.  A man steps in with three large live catfish (fresh dinner) he just pulled from the river, and lays them flopping around on the floor by his feet.  Three more men squeeze onto the wood plank in-front of us, with plastic baggies full of Lao Lao (local rice wine), already drunk as a skunks at 8:00 in the morning. The boat stays docked until it reaches full capacity.  The driver had a picture of buddha near the steering wheel at the front of the boat, and a billboard at the entrance to the dock pictures a Lao woman and reads "Good Luck for your Safe Journey."  Our driver fires up the motor, and we're cruising down the Nam Ou River.  We stop every few kilometers at passing villages to drop off passengers and take on new ones.  A small child and his parents board the boat.  The little boy is visibly ill, and sweat beads cover his face.  Every hour or so he leans over the side of the boat to vomit, which sprays in the wind across all of us passengers in the back of the boat.  Darrin and I have our green plastic tarp from our Nepal trip held up to block not just the spraying puke, but the spit that all these Lao folks seem to feel the need to expel out the side of the boat every few minutes.  

While the local Lao passengers did not speak English, we had fun communicating through our game of charades.  One man was so fascinated with the hair on Darrin's legs, he had to reach out and feel it.  He then raised his pant leg to compare his smooth, hairless skin to Darrin's hairy leg... and then compared faces to Darrin's full beard (after 10 days of no shaving or clean up).  

We must admit, however, that the boat ride was much more enjoyable than the bus ride.  Despite the hard, narrow plank seats, overcrowded conditions, water occasionally leaking in the sides through thin cracks in the wood, and periodic downpours that coated us in a cool, much needed shower, there was a constant breeze when the boat was moving, and the air was free from diesel bus fumes and breakdowns non-existent.  Our 5 hour ride between Muang Khua and Nong Kio was entertaining and the views spectacular.  The Nam Ou river is quite narrow in comparison to the Mekong, and it's daily river life is easily seen on the shores.  We passed by bamboo hut villages, water buffalo lounging in the shallow riverbanks, children swimming & playing, and fisherman catching the days meal.  Steep, majestic limestone cliffs, covered in dense green foliage lined the banks halfway down, and the visuals were surreal.  It was a magical ride.

Tags: Adventures

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