Slloooooooooowwwwwww Boat

Trip Start Sep 09, 2011
Trip End Jun 29, 2012

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Where I stayed
Slow Boat!
What I did
Mekong River
The Hive Bar, Pak Beng
Random Guest House in Pak Beng

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Bokèo,
Sunday, October 23, 2011

After going through passport control, which was just a small building down by the river, we caught a little boat over to Laos, and went to get our new Laos Vias's. Because it was a Saturday they charged an extra dollar (!) so we handed over our first US dollars of the trip - $36... the first of many to be spent!

A lady who was a friend of 'Whats-her-chops-wifey' met us there to organise our slow boat tickets, and we were taken to a little kind of cafe/shop/waiting room. It was here that we met Winta again! She and I had chatted for hours about theology in Bangkok at the WE Bangkok hostel, and it was really cool to see her again. It's funny how you often seem to meet people on the same trail as you.

The boat was not what I expected at all! It was long, fairly narrow and covered. Although I had expected it to be made of wood, I had sort of envisioned more of a sort of Seine cruise type boat. The seats on this looked like they had been removed from a coach and then nailed to chunks of wood before being positioned on the floor. They even still had the reclining function.

We had numbered seats, but the boat was not totally full, so we were able to spread out a bit. Behind me was a lady from Northampton called Tracey, and we started chatting straight away... and didn't really stop. She had joined up with Myles and Dave, two friends from Stockport who she had 'adopted' on the coach into Chiang Khong the previous day.

The boat ride was relaxed, but very long, and we passed the time playing 'Who wants to be a millionaire' on Myles' phone and suggesting 'would you rather' questions to answer. Also got to read OK magazine for the first time in months courtesy of Tracey... I can't believe that Chantelle from BB and Alex Reid are getting married!!

The scenery was very beautiful, but once Tracey had pointed out that it looked a bit like the Lake District, we couldn't take it very seriously anymore.

Our overnight stop was in Pak Beng which has clearly just been established as a stop off point for tourists on the slow boat. They were waiting for us like pack dogs when we arrived with flyers for guest houses and bars. We hadn't arranged accommodation, but went with Myles, Dave and Tracey to their guest house and managed to get a room. The electrical fittings were hanging off the walls, there was gaffa tape holding the ceiling fan on, and the taps in the bathroom didn't work... but hey! At least the bathroom was inside!

After dinner (buffalo! actually very nice) we went to a bar called 'Hive' which has been touted as 'the only bar' in town. Tracey, Becca and I were a little concerned as we seemed to just be walking into a darker and darker part of the street, and wondered whether the 'free shots' we had been promised might have been of the firearms variety. When we actually got there it was a cool little bar, and we relaxed a bit. Tracey and I ordered a local cocktail called 'Pussy Food'... classy... and then others from the slow boat arrived which was cool.

Next day, getting back on the slow boat, we sort of mixed up seats a bit more, allowing us to sit and chat to some other lovely people. (In fact there were about 12 of us from the boat that seemed to end up hanging out throughout our time in Laos which was really nice.)

The scenery was amazing, but if I'm really honest, all looked very similar after a while. One really interesting thing though, was that Bec noticed a logging ship on the side of the river with 3 large elephants tethered in the water next to it. Turns out using elephants for logging is not illegal in Laos yet. After the videos we had seen at the elephant nature park, it was kind of upsetting to see them just chained up like that.

Before we knew it we were in Luang Prabang and disembarking as the sun was going down. We all arranged to meet at another bar, also called 'Hive' and then went to our different hostels.
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