As it turned out, I arrived too late to catch a 12 hour night bus down to the Gibbon Experience, the slow boat takes 2 days, and private vans can cost 400 bucks, so I was left with the option of the speed boat down the Mekong....an experience that guide books recommend NOT to take, and of which they say that deaths are not uncommon...hmmm, not a great option. I went for it however, and survived to tell about it. The boat itself looks rather like a wooden slipper. It has no hull, just a flat bottom allowing the boat to skim right across the waves. This also means the boat has minimal depth, which means no leg room
. We had to sit on our asses on the floor of the boat for 6 hours with about 1.5 feet of leg room. Basically you had to sit in the cannonball position the entire time. Most people were also equipped with helmets and life jackets, but they ran out before they got to me, awesome! Just keeps getting better. After about 3 hours of deafening noise and harrowing travel, we got to the lunch spot where I promptly took out some ear plugs in preparation for the next leg. We had to switch boats here so that the first driver could head back to the starting point. Our second boat broke down about 4 times the rest of the way....and it had zero life jackets and only 2 helmets (8 passengers per boat). Like I said, it just kept getting better. Sadly, half the people on the boat only went with this option in order to reach the Thai border crossing before it closed at 6pm. With the boat breakdowns, they did not make it. Sucks to be them! So ya, another interesting travel story for them and myself to share...and the next day is the Gibbon Experience!
Luang Prabang sounds like a really cool city to visit and stay at for a while. Unfortunately I didn't have time to find out. I flew in one day, and had to leave the next morning to make it to the Gibbon Experience down in Huai Xay. The only part that I can really comment on was how terrifying the fast boat trip was down the Mekong from Luang Prabang to Huai Xay!