Along the Mekong, Laos – We had yet to do a long trip down the Mekong, and taking the two-day trip from Luang Prabang to Thailand would be our last chance. The trip starts early in the morning, and gets to Pak Beng – a village who’s sole purpose seems to be proving eats and accommodation for passengers on the boat – late after noon. Then the next evening you get to the border towns of Huay Xai on the Laos side and Chiang Khong. Because you get there at night, you have to wait until the next morning to cross over to Thailand.
As one might imagine, there wasn’t much to do along the way – you just sit on a boat. For two days. And these weren’t fancy passengers boats – they were single level, open air jobs with either wooden benches or seats that looked like they were ripped out of a van. There was a “bar” in the back that sold snacks, coffee and noodle soup. That was pretty much it for the boats.
You could take a fast boat which takes six hours to the border, but you miss out on the whole reason for the trip. Taking it slow is the point. Plus taking it slow is so Laos. Along with making a terrible noise, these fast boats have a notorious record for crashing – there isn’t time to maneuver around rocks or floating debris – especially in the dry season when the water is low.
Taking the boat is similar to taking the train – you see things you just don’t see from the highway. Little villages, farms on the riverbanks, kids riding water buffaloes down for their nightly bath, fishermen casting nets from atop boulders surrounded by rapids, even elephants. And the farther we got from Luang Prabang, the haze started to clear, washing way the constant stain from everything in site.