Speeding Down the Mighty Mekong

Trip Start Oct 22, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
whisky inn

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Thursday, December 1, 2005

We set off to Chiang Khong from the Whisky Inn at 12pm after sending yet another box of stuff home from the post office. As we were the second people on the bus we quickly bagged the best seats. The Aussie guy already on the bus was in the front passenger seat so we got the ones with lots of leg room and a place to put our day packs. We settled in for the 6 hour bus ride to the Thailand-Laos border.

The roads in Thailand are much better than India and the trip was pretty smooth. Unfortunately the very large old lady sitting behind us commenced chatting to her friend the minute she got on the bus. She was talking really loud and pretty much continuously. We timed her longest pause for breath at 12 seconds! At one stage this was interrupted by a very guttural coughing fit (we both hoped she would cark it but no luck there) but she recovered and got straight back into chat mode again. It would have been alright if we could understand her as you can block it out but it was in another language and getting annoying. Finally, as it got later in the afternoon and probably past her bed time, she stopped and we got some peace.

Chiang Khong (on the Thai border side) was a quiet town with not much to do in the evening. Our room had a hot shower and with dinner included in the bus ticket we were happy. After wandering up and down the main street we watched the tail end of the movie "The Island" while having a beer and ice creams. The movie skipped a big section so we retired early to get a good night sleep.

Early the next morning we headed to the Mekong River and the immigration point to depart Thailand. Getting to customs we found out we needed 10 Baht as departure tax (luckily this is all the Baht we had left). A quick ferry boat ride across the river to Huay Xai (on the Laos border side) where we got our Laos VISA and a heap of the local currency, the Kip. Walking to the fast boat desk we ended up waiting for ages before being bundled into tuk tuk's and being taken to the speed boat departure point. Ironically the slow boat had departed hours ago.

In the fast boat it was like being in a sardine can. This was going to be a very long 6 hour journey. The boat sits seven people very tightly with all the luggage stored in the front. It was a very basic speed boat, seats, a thumping big engine at the back and a driver. That's about it. We knew we were in for a wild ride when they handed us crash helmets and life jackets to put on before we left. Unfortunately 20 minutes down river at the first stop, getting out of the boat Meg managed to fall onto her helmet breaking the visor in half! Whoops. She spent the ride with half her face being blasted by the wind.

The trip down the Mekong was amazing, even at the rapid pace we were setting. It was such a beautiful landscape. The boat stopped every hour to hour and a half and we quickly piled out to stretch or aching (and sometimes numb) limbs, eat and refuel. There was only one unplanned stop when another boat was coming upstream and its wake was to much for the speed boat. We pulled to the side and waited for the water to calm down before heading off. At the final refueling stop there were some local kids having a great time in the mud. Where the river had subsided there was a huge pool of mud and they were running and jumping naked into it, squirming around while giggling then running back to the river to wash it off. It was then back to the mud for more fun. It looked like so much fun and we wanted to join in but alas we had to move on.

When we finally made it to Luang Prabang we jumped into a tuk tuk, wandered around town and found a guest house for the night. After some dinner (Megs had spaghetti and Rick tried the local Beef Laap) we were ready for some sleep and then on to explore the town the next day.
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