Mitch and I love long, slow travel, as some backpackers call it. We’ve only taken one flight this trip so far (US to SEA), and since then, we’ve taken boats, buses, and trains to get to each new destination. So instead of flying from Thailand to Luang Prabang in Laos, we wanted to spend some time taking a two-day slow boat journey on the Mekong River, enjoying the scenery along the way.
Day One: A Mekong Day
We left Huay Xai (the Lao border town we’d just crossed into) early in the morning for our first day of the river journey.
Our first day on the boat was uneventful and actually a bit overcast and rainy. At the end of the six hour day, we stopped in Pak Beng, a tiny little transfer town whose main road was just completed in 2005. As soon as we stepped off the boat, Mitch was offered yaba (meth). Apparently, this is part of a scheme: you are offered illicit drugs of some sort, and if you accept, the dealer notifies a police officer who threatens to punish you unless pay him off. Lovely. Luckily, Mitch is not interested in meth.
We finally found a guest house that wasn’t full, and if I said the Chiang Khong guest house was bad, let me tell you: this one was worse. After feeling out of my element because the electricity in the town went out, I actually wished it had stayed out after seeing the condition of the room. Mitch and I slept tightly packaged in our sleep sacks that night, not wanting to sleep between the sheets. One good thing about the town was the random, delicious Indian food we had there.
Day Two: A Great Escape
Day two of the slow boat journey welcomed us with open arms. I was so relieved to be out of Pak Beng. Passengers from the original boat were split into two smaller groups on two separate boats, each with more space. The day was beautifully sunny, and Mitch and I enjoyed the scenery while catching up on our podcasts (Serial, anyone!?).
About halfway through the day, we heard a commotion on the boat over a pig swimming around in the Mekong. Passengers were so amused, gathering to our side of the boat for photos, and we almost tipped over. Turns out, this little piglet was originally on the boat and had made a Houdini-like grand escape! He belonged to the Hmong boat drivers who were distraught over losing him. Once the piglet made it to shore, they pulled the boat over, ran onto land, chased, and caught that little pig. Animals are worth a lot if you are a farmer and livestock is your livelihood! An interesting detour for the day, haha!
Finally, at the end of the day, we arrived at the destination I’d been waiting for since we left Chiang Rai: Luang Prabang, Laos! After about a week filled with food poisoning followed by not-so-great guest houses, I couldn’t have been happier.