Its hard to explain the craziness that was the two day Mekong river tour. After Chang Mai, we took a mini van filled to capacity to the small border town of Chiang Khong. The hotel was so dirty that we didn’t shower, figuring that we would probably get filthier instead of cleaner. The next morning, our bodies filled a small boat for the short trip to the immigration stand on the other side of the river. After the chaos that was getting our visas stamped and changing our money, we loaded into the tuk-tuks to take us down to the bigger boat that was ready to take is to Laung Prabang.
Before the boat ride though, we got a nice little presentation on how long and tortuous the boat ride is. People got scared enough to actually pay a lot more money to take a van to Luang Prabang. Fools. It was all obviously a marketing ploy to get scared white people to pay more money. Now, I know in your mind you are picturing a lovely two day cruise down a river on a nice and comfortable boat. Well, let me tell you, it definitely wasn’t as romantic as that.
The boats are all wood, with small wooden seats, cramped space, and a hole in the back that dumps in the river as the bathroom. Before the boat ride, they sell you cushions for the wooden benches and let me tell you this was one of the smartest purchases I made on this trip. That cushion, which I named Lesley, saved my ass from certain death.
The first half of the trip I sat in back with newly made BFF from Canada, Jordan, with each of us buying each other beer the whole way. This was a great idea, since it made that first day go by much quicker. It also made frequent trips the “bathroom” quite the adventure when you are trying to pee in a small hole on a long moving boat. I also became close with Grieg and Fiona, from the U.K., and a great couple from Italy. I would actually end up traveling with these peepz for almost half my whole trip.
After what seems like a bajillion hours, you finally arrive at the small town of Pak Beng. While the boats pull up, the whole town literally descends the hill trying to help you get your stuff, use their taxi, and get a hotel room. We all ended up getting rooms in the same hotel and went out to a big group dinner where we drank lots of Lao Lao, which is their rice whiskey. To us, it tasted like Kerosene since it was so potent. The drunk laughs came by quickly during that dinner. What is amazing about Pak Beng is that all electricity for the entire town is shut down at 8 pm. ALL electricity. So when we got out of our candlelight drunk fest, we realized that there were no lights to help us find our way back to the hotel. It was insanely dark, but when we looked up, I don’t think I have ever seen the stars shine so bright. They sky literally drew gasps from the whole lot of us. Then I tripped and fell because I couldn’t see a thing.
The next morning we woke up to this:
It’s this when you realize you are in the middle of a fucking jungle. We saw so many villages by the river and it definitely hits you that these people just lead a life that you can’t remotely identify with. I would literally look up and see villagers using elephants for transport.
The second day definitely seemed longer.
Still though, the scenery is indescribably breathtaking.
It was crazy how close you become to the people traveling with you on this two day journey. It could be the effects of the Lao Lao whiskey or because you are so uncomfortable that you will do anything not to think of the numbness that is your ass. But I made friends for a lifetime on this boat.
I would do it again in a heartbeat.
If you are ever in Laos, the two day boat ride down the Mekong needs to be on your “must do” list.