Down the Mekong

Trip Start Nov 01, 2006
Trip End Mar 07, 2007

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Monday, December 4, 2006

First off, apologies for taking so long on this latest entry.  It's been a busy two weeks, I inadvertantly developed a social life out here.  After the Golden Triangle, I made my way to Chiang Kong and crossed into Laos at Huay Xai.  The following morning I boarded a slow boat with about sixty others for a two day trip down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang.  The trip has been one of the highlights of my travels so far, so much more relaxed than bus travel.  There was plenty of room to move around, beautiful scenery, and the opportunity to meet lots of other travelers.

We stayed overnight in Pak Beng, a tiny village that seemed to more than double in population when our boat pulled in.  I shared a room with a German guy (Sven, who made me look short with his 6'5" dreadlocked head), and the two of us ended up rooming together for over a week.  Cuts those massive $5 guesthouse costs in half.  The second day on the river was more of the same.  Every now and then we'd see a speedboat roar by with a few passengers holding on for their lives, and feel even better about taking the slow boat.  Over the course of the trip, in addition to Sven, I met people from Canada (Gina, Peter, Ki, and Jeremy), Portugal (Ana, Ze), America (Chris), Holland (Edith), and Ireland (Miriam).  Hope I didn't leave anybody out.  We all ended up sticking together to varying degrees in Luang Prabang, which made the whole experience so much better.

Speaking of Luang Prabang, what a great city.  It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the only entire city in SE Asia with that distinction I believe.  Lots of French colonial architecture, french food, but still feels a lot like Laos.  Speak of food, we found a couple of places where for 5000 kip (about 50 cents) you could heap as much food from a vegetarian buffet as possible into a big bowl.  Really good food too.  Wish every town had something like it.  The city also has a great night market, bookstore (with nightly film screenings) and a place (like Pai) where you can rent a room and a DVD, which we took advantage of one lazy evening.  As you can tell I miss movies.

We climbed up Phu Si, the hill in the center of town which, like most hills in SE Asian towns, has a temple on top and a great view.  We also checked out Wat Xieng Thong, which was nice enough to make me temporarily forget how tired I am of wats.  Other events included bicycling around town and an excursion to a beautiful group of waterfalls and bright turquoise pools where we all climbed and swam for a day.  Enough fun to make me temporarily forget that I was tiring of waterfalls too.  Can't forget to mention our trip to the Lao disco on the edge of town, which closed down about ten minutes after we arrived (much of Laos has a loosely enforced curfew of 11pm or midnight).  Quite a sight.  Luang Prabang is one of those places I could have spent a lot longer in if I didn't feel compelled to keep moving and see more.
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