We were in Chiang Rai and we wanted to get to the UNESCO Hertitage Site of Luang Prabang. We could take a long and windy bus journey, race there on a dangerous speedboat or spend two days drifting down the Mekong on the ‘slow boat’.
There was no contest; we chose the latter option.
We crossed the border to the small Laos town of Huay Xai, ordered our packed lunch for the next day and tried to get to grips with the millions of Laos Kip in our wallets. And of course when we realised how cheap the Beer Lao was we ordered a few of those in to celebrate being in a new country!
The boat wasn’t due to leave until 11am but we got to the pier early to buy our tickers and secure our seats. Of course, the boat was late leaving so we enjoyed a coffee overlooking the Mekong while we waited and finally set off around midday. The boat, or our part of it, was buzzing with excited travellers of all distinctions. Needless to say, the guitars were out.
We passed tiny villages on both sides of the river and every now and then someone would get on or off, armed with huge bags and once even a motorbike! We were struck by how remote and isolated these villages must be - for many of them the river seems to be their sole or main means of transport.
We arrived at Pakbeng just as the sun was setting, plenty of people were waiting to take us to their guesthouse so we picked one and ordered our breakfast and lunch for the next day. We took a wander around the tiny town and settled on an Indian restaurant for dinner.
The next day was much the same; same boat, same travellers, same kind of scenery on the banks as we floated down the choppy river. We read, and snoozed, and watched the villagers on the river banks.
There is nothing very spectacular about this journey but I thought it was a wonderful way to travel. Armed with a good book, peanut butter baguettes and snacks, it was a much more relaxing two days than being squashed into a speeding minivan. The boats are comfortable enough and the scenery is very pretty in places.