Day 11 - late morning / late afternoon
Day 5 of Indochina Encompassed Tour
Since I was the first person to arrive at the "traditional slow longboat" tied up along the riverbank, I was told to take off my shoes prior to boarding and leave them on the mat in the open roofed area. While carrying both suitcases, Michel followed behind and did the same.
The interior of our private longboat appeared totally awesome with its reasonably comfortable and spacious look complete with mahogany floor and wood trim all around. Looking down, way down to the end of the longboat, it had booths with two old bus seats on either side of a wood table.
Best part was that there were plenty of these booths for two people to sit at on this 120 foot longboat. I immediately loved the arrangement on top of everything else that came with it such as fruits, tea, coffee, and bottled water all free of charge for us to enjoy. A toilet was also available onboard! Talk about being spoiled!
Without any hesitation, I settled in the first booth at the front of the longboat since it only had two seats instead of four around the table. While choosing one side, Michel sat on the other side of the boat and proceeded to place the luggage behind the seats.
It was almost 10:30am when we left Huay Xai for our two day journey down the Mekong River through valleys and canyons all the way to Luang Prabang with a stopover along the way in a small village called Pakbeng for an overnight sleep.
As the day went by, it didn't take long for me to realize that we were under the hands of a very skillful captain with expertise and river knowledge required to bring this 120 foot long boat through sharp turns around cliffs and rocky reefs while avoiding occasional sandbars and shallow waters.
As we travelled down the Mekong River, I slowly adjusted to the relaxed pace of life in Laos. There wasn’t much to do but sit on our comfortable seats, put our feet up and drink water while watching the moving pictures out the “window” of the open walled boat. And you know what, that was the best part of it! Watching the breathtaking scenes play before my eyes.
A predominantly mountainous country, I had unsurpassable views of the riverside villages perched high on the mountainsides, of the tropical jungles, of fields of corn planted right on the sand, of fishermen casting their nets and of endless ranges of mountains.
Once in a while, another “slow longboat” with bright neon colors would cross our path creating waves in the process. Still, nothing could change the fact that I was surrounded with peacefulness and beauty.
As for the river, it was brown in color maybe due to all the sand in the bottom of it or who knows! Still, the Mekong River wasn’t a river that I would swim in! In many areas, herds of cows and calves soaked in it while farmers worked nearby. The occasional water buffalos were also seen making me quite pleased in the process.
Seconds turned into minutes, and minutes into hours! Time went by slowly and Michel even dozed off along with a few others from the group. The fresh air from the breeze and ideal temperature made it tempting to do so but I didn’t want to miss out on anything on my first day here down the Mekong River.
Six hours later, it was 4:30pm when the first glimpse of the Pakbeng village along the Mekong River was finally seen. High above the river, Kit pointed out to our guesthouse for the night located several meters away from the pier.
I wondered how my first night in Laos would be like and what this interesting small town had to offer as the captain of the longboat slowly made his way towards the pier!Monique :-)