The journey was pretty slow but scenery was lovely passing villages with thatched houses on stilts, kids playing in the river, fishermen, women doing their washing, etc. However by mid-afternoon we were wondering when we would get there. At about 18.30 as the sun had set we arrived in Pak Beng to be met by about 15 small boys who swiftly unloaded our rucksacks and tried to run up the hill with them (as much as a 8 year old can with a 18kg rucksack on their back)
. Fortunately we managed to stop them in our weary state and managed to make our way up hill to find a guesthouse. I was really dreading coming here as I had heard so many horror stories about this place (which was on a beautiful bit of the river where it bends) and dirty guesthouses, rats everywhere etc. In our tender states and my paranoia about rats we had tentatively booked a room at Villa Salika (one of the 'poshest' places in town) which was concrete, a few stories and clean and we were a lot less likely to have rodents as bedfellows. We decided to go ahead with this although it was $20 a room (we did feel very ostentatious particularly as the room was v overpriced. Sorry traveller's disease to justify spending anything more than 50p on anything). We virtually went to bed as soon as we got there as we were so tired but spent half the night awake thanks to some selfish git who thought singing with his guitar 'til 5am was a sociable idea!
Cement firmly in place we got a tuk tuk to the public ferry landing in LP and bought our ticket to Pakbeng (half way between LP and Huay Xai). The ferry seats about 50 people on very hard wooden benches and a few early birds managed to get the cushions. The ferry left promptly at 08.30 (or 09.15 Laos time!) and we were on our way up the Mekong river. The ferry journey was to be a long one so we tried to get comfortable and had emergency water and bread and had our fingers crossed that we would feel ok.