Lao Peoples Dem Rep Oct 26, 2001
| Laos, Lao Peoples
Oct 26, 2001 01:27
Pros: interesting and adventurous
place, friendly and hospitable locals
Upon leaving Chiang Mai a non inspiring few days in transit. Public
bus from Chiang Mai to Tha Ton taking the fastboat along the river
to Chiang Rai which was quite disappointing with extortionate prices
for day trips. From there to the Golden triangle and opium museum.
Then the following day to cross the border to Laos and catch the
boat along the Mekong River to Luang Prabeng where fortunately things
As the only option to travel to Luang Prabeng, Laos from Northern
Thailand was along the muddy Mekong River thought it would be sensible
to take the slowboat. Perhaps because every other traveller I've
met knew a horror story of the speedboats flipping over and killing
all its passengers. But due to the efficient Thai public bus or
more correctly open top pickup truck being delayed by 2 hours we
missed the last slowboat for the week. Decision time...wait 2 days
and have only 2 days to explore Laos before catching the flight
to Vietnam or take a deathwish and chance the speedboat. We none
so wisely chose the latter for the most petrifying ride of my life!
We set off in the tiny low sided 6 man boat,without lifejackets
with my knees shoved firmly to my chest along the mighty Mekong.
Naively thought this won't be too painfull as there were 4 other
locals on the boat who obviously wouldn't be there if it truly was
a hazard. Then full throttle, bouncing along the top of the water
dodging rocks,trees, whirlpools and other boats with the most craziest,
amphetemined up driver who I had foolishly left full responsibility
of my life!!!Worse still the locals we passed on the other speedboats
had not only lifejackets but crash helmets too! We were in trouble.
After 1hour we caught up with the slowboat that we'd missed at one
of the restbite stops. My negotiaitng skills let me down dramatically
as I pegged it over to the driver and begged he let us join the
boat to escape our fate. Communication failed and we continued on.
However after a few more pitstops the other locals left the boat
too and only Andrea and I remained with an off his head Laos muppet
who had switched off the engine and was babbling on in between frenzied
laughter and over energetic sign language. Between us we managed
to figure out that the possibility of being stranded at the side
of the river was quite high and the boat was unsafe to continue
with so little weight as it would certainly flip over! He then beckoned
some nearby Laos village women to climb aboard and began racing
after the slowboat which had at this point now overtaken us. We
drew up next to it and madhead shoved a fistful of kip notes to
the slowboat driver and to my relief we were told to get aboard
the slowboat. I sat shellshocked for the next few hours relieved
to be with fellow farangs and travelling at a meandering pace.
At the overnight stop at Pakbeng joined a couple from London and
some Swedish boys who were all quite entertaining and spent the
next few days in Laos with them. The second day of the boat trip
was great. Managed to take in the scenery, play a few card games
with the gang and some New Zealanders with a few coldplay and Nirvarna
tracks being played on one guys guitars. Now this is travelling!
Arrived in Luang Prabeng finding a very accomodating family run
guest house. They were incredibly hospitable and friendly and despite
the signpost stating an 11pm curfew they had no problem with us
returning later also inviting us to a wedding and offering us to
join them for dinner. After visiting the Pak Ou Caves which were
an absolute waste of time made our way to the wedding in the central
town hall. After greeting the bride,groom and family with the traditional
bowing of heads and Sabadii joined what must be the entire village
to indulge in a few rounds of straight Laos whisky. The Laos loved
us falangs and found it quite humourous to ensure we were priority
in all the rounds and also found the urge to put more food from
their plate to ours.....rule number one dont accept food or drink
of the locals! So abandoned the food and as safety in numbers stuck
together with the London couple and Swedish boys for quite a late
night and very early start to head for Vang Vieng.
Yip we missed the bus and fantasies of being able to snooze on the
7hr journey were soon quashed when we were flung around corners
at frightening speeds as we climbed up and down the mountains. But
great views a few sing songs to the Grease CD which was gladily
supplied by Peter and humourous statments from Danny who thought
it was the best 7 hours of his life in front of his girlfriend Nikki
of 6 years!
Vang Vieng was beautiful and I wish that I hadn't been restricted
by my badly timed flight to leave so soon. Also a very sociable
time as most travellers knew each other from the boat trip and we
would meet up in the probably only bar before being flung out at
11 to chill and chat on the guest house balcony. We hired bikes
yesterday to explore the nearby caves. Absolutely fantastic day
cycling through villages and mountains and walking along dried up
river beds. Managed to find a real cave which put Pak Ou to shame.
We were led by a guide armed with torches along some pitch black
wet caverns which in itself was satisfying. But on the route out
of the cave were forced to firstly crawl on hands and knees through
long narrow neverending passages and eventually having to lie flat
commando style to enable us to crawl through very narrow low caverns.
Then found a nearbly lagoon to swim and clean ourselves up before
saying farewell that evening to some very partied up backpackers.Perhaps
a good thing that I'm moving on but it would have been nice to spend
more time exploring and visiting some nearby villages. Yet another
place I would like to return to.