16-17 September 2011
We had an earlier than usual start the next morning. Our guide had told us that the local monks walk through the streets of Luang Prabang, past our hotel, first thing each day as they collected food donated to them by the local people, so we went to see them for ourselves. Soon enough, a line of monks clad in orange robes walked past, whilst villagers sat at the roadside offering them something to eat.
After the monks were out of sight, we ate our egg breakfast and set off to meet the boat that would take us along the Mekong River to Thailand – a journey that would take us a couple of days. We went via the Joma Bakery to pick up some lunch for the ride. I went with a tuna, cheese, cucumber and mayo sandwich, which was rather amazing.
The boat had more than enough seats for our small group and after not too long we stopped off at a cave along the river, which was full of Buddha statues that visitors had brought and left behind. The first day’s journey lasted until about 6.30pm – it was a long one – when we reached the village where we were to stay that night. It felt remote but was full of tourists, probably all on the same route as us.
We stayed at guesthouse which was the first place we had been to that charged for air-conditioning, which we refused to pay for as we needed our remaining cash for food. Thankfully there was a fan. We all went for a dinner at a nearby restaurant called Sabadee (or something similar). We all ordered water buffalo-based dishes. My curry was good but my travel buddy’s steak was amazing – so I ate quite a lot of that. We then moved on to the Hive Bar – the only bar in town – for one last Beer Lao.
One of our group wanted to buy some Lao Lao whiskey as a souvenir for her family. It came in nice bottles so seemed like a good gift. It was relatively late but we spotted one shop which still seemed to be open so wandered in to ask if they had some. The man behind the counter said that they did indeed and disappeared into the back to fetch a bottle. We suddenly heard the sound of pouring liquid and the man came back with a water bottle filled with some amber liquid. It wasn’t quite the bottle my friend had in mind – and potentially not the same contents either – so she politely declined and we left.
The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn and on a tuk tuk that took us back to our boat. Today’s stop was a visit to a hill-tribe village. We walked through an array of little wooden/bambo houses (most of which unexpectedly had satellite dishes), past a woman pounding rice and another cutting tobacco, whilst being followed by the village children. One of whom fired a toy bow-and-arrow at us. He obviously didn’t want us hanging around. At the time, I was happy that we went: I had wanted to see a local village. In hindsight, it seems like a bizarre concept: nosing in on other people’s lives and homes and taking photos like we were at a museum exhibition. It felt a bit intrusive.
We didn’t stay long before returning to our boat for a lovely lunch of potato curry, noodles, soup, rice and watermelon. Sometime after 3pm, we finally made it to the Laos border. We disembarked from our slow-boat and were taken to the immigration office by tuk tuk, after loading our bags onto the roof. As the vehicle started to climb the hill, the driver stopped and told us that we were too heavy to make it to the top – charming. Some of the boys hopped off, offering to walk instead. The driver then started to reverse back down the hill, edging ever closer to the water. As the locals started laughing at us, pointing and even taking photos, we were all confused as to what he was actually doing. Was he about to chuck us all off and make us hike as punishment for being too heavy? Was he about to dump us in the river? Thankfully neither was not the case – he was just taking a run up.
Finally we made it to the boarder office, had our passports stamped and were taken on a rather unstable feeling longboat across the river, from which we could glimpse Burma, to Thailand.