December 15th, 2007 – by: pauric_doherty
Pak Beng in the morning
In waking up in Pak Beng and looking out over the Meekong, the mist was still very visible in the hills. On looking out I found out why people love this country. Laos really is the sleepy country of South Eastern Asia. The locals were going about their daily lives. Some of the tourists were already making their way to the boat but no one was being hassled or harried to buy things or visit things. This for me is what really sets Laos apart from Thailand. I know its really only learning to walk in terms of tourism but it is this that makes Laos so special. Unfortunately Laos will eventually grow up to be similar to Thailand, so anyone thinking of visiting Laos, get here soon!
Anyway, after a really strong awakening coffee we bought a few nibbles and made our way to the dock/slipway.
We make our way to the boat we were on previously, boat no 33, but there was no one on it. Thankfully one of the locals pointed us to a half full boat that was going the rest of the way to Luang Prabong. Here we found some of the previous days travel crew and on we got. This boat was actually quite well finished. It had cushioned bus type seats down the back, curtains down the side and what looked to be a bar/shop down the back.
The view down to the Meekong in the morning
Again, we were about an hour late leaving but we were more used to the pace of Laos now so it didn't really bother us.
The boat set off again, passing some of the amazing Laos scenery again and as the mist lifted it really was amazing.
Just like yesterday we stopped several times going down the river to pick up locals that were standing on the beach with sacks of fruit and other things, looking for a lift to the next village or beach ... These gave us the time to actually see some of the local Laos villagers. They are not rich people, they live in huts scattered along the Meekong and make their living either on the river fishing or growing fruit and vegetables along the river banks. The looks on these locals faces were ones of happiness and curiosity! Compared to first world countries you would say these people are poor and unfortunate but seeing the looks on their faces, they seemed to tell me something different. They were happy, happy with what they were, what they had, and thankful for what they had. These looks on their faces, I have never really seen on people from home or anyone else I’ve met in the developed world.
The 'helm' of our boat
The journey seemed to pass by. I also got chatting to 2 women from Ireland, one of them from Galway and one from Roscommon. The girl from Galway knew people from my neighboring village from home .
.. another surreal moment. Gently cruising down the Meekong chatting about life at home!
Everyone trying to get down the sandy steps!
We arrived in Luang Prabong about 5.30 and met a little more tourist orientated people at the port, vying for our guesthouse accommodation. We eventually choose one that cost about $10 and the deciding factor for both myself and Caroline as well as Linda and Phil was that it would give us a free tuk-tuk to the guesthouse.
The Guesthouse, called Sieng Khaen Lao, turned out to be lovely. The room was spacious, clean, tidy and it came with cable TV, air-con and a hot shower.
Ourselves and Phil and Linda then headed out for dinner and a look around the town of Luang Prabang.
We were all quite hungry and we had a mixed longing for both western and local food we eventually choose a restaurant called 'The Pizza' where we got some fabulous pizza's and garlic bread. I had felt it really rewarding after a very strenuous day slow boating ... lol !!
A local smoking a hell of a big pipe!!
After dinner we took a stroll around the local night market. The market was very easy going with no-one torturing you to but anything. The locals would always greet you with an hello to be polite, but they would never start pushing goods on you. I did see some fabulous hand made crafts, things that would look lovely in any house but things that are just too awkward to carry on a 12 month trip. Maybe I'll come over again on purely a shopping trip. Hopefully, Laos will have international flights at that stage! After a relaxing stroll around the markets it was off back to the guesthouse again for more sleep which was required after a very relaxed day in Laos .... lol.