Paddling (and paddling, and paddling some more) the Nam Kahn River.

Luang Prabang Travel Blog

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Loading up the boats.
Today we kayaked down the Nam Kahn River. Banish any thoughts of white water thrills -- it was a slow day for the Nam Kahn, similar to paddling on a very large, long lake. The scenery was spectacular though, and we got to see some elephants along the way, so it was a good day of hard work and paddling.

After a bit of confusion with our guide (Tiger Trails told him 8am, but told us 9am), we headed off to get our boats. Confusion there as well: the boat building was locked up, so we had to wait for someone to come unlock it. Then the boats were loaded up, and we were off again, driving up river about an hour to our put-in spot.

The day was searing hot and sunny, but the water felt nice and cool. The river appeared to be made of solid silt -- there was absolutely no visibility at all.
Ready to go!
On both sides we had lush vegetation and rolling hills.

Did I mention the river was slow? It required constant paddling to move forward. After about 90 minutes, we stopped to visit an elephant camp. We had to walk up a steep bank to get to them, and my flip flops were pretty poorly suited for that task! In the camp, there were five elephants chained to trees. They had wooden people carriers strapped to their backs, but no customers. The mahouts (elephant handlers) were hanging out in their rough lodge. It looked like no one was having much fun there.

There were bananas for sale, so we bought five bunches to feed to the elephants (25,000 kip. Sound like a lot but I think it’s about $3). It was a sad offering though, compared to the HUGE bushel basket of fruit and vegetables I fed to Max back at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai.
Steve has a new friend!
Steve took a liking to one of the elephants…when he came near, she would open her mouth kind of sideways (I got a photo of it), begging for food. It worked … I am pretty sure Steve slipped her some extra bananas.

When feeding was over, we crossed the river for our own lunch. There was a resort there in the midst of all the trees, right on the river bank -- talk about a remote location! The bungalows seemed nice, and our lunch was good (but cold…I guess we were late for the buffet). It was hot though, and sheltered from the breeze, so we didn’t linger.

After that, we had 3-4 more hours of paddling. Along the way, we saw bathing water buffalos, many men casting fishing nets, children playing in mud, and people from various villages enjoying the cool water.
Aaah, a rare spot of shade on the river.
These sightings were few and far between though… for the most part it was just us, the river, and the incredible scenery.

Along the way, we had a respite from the sun as it passed behind a huge slow-moving cloud. We also passed through some rain (it felt great), and we heard thunder in the distance. At one point we were padding against a strong wind, which disappeared when we rounded the bend. We even saw lightening. All sorts of weather out there. Our guide, Lu, sang some Laotian songs, so our scenery had a nice soundtrack when we were close enough to hear him.  

About 90 minutes after lunch, we came to an area with a bit of current, and some light rapids. Fun! From there, the water flowed faster and we ran into rapids (I think I even saw white water at one point!) several times.
Mother and baby, crossing the river.


Steve was quite miserable for about the last two hours on the river, and frequently reminded me of that fact. By the time we pulled out of the river, our arms were very tired, and my lower back was very sore from sitting (it’s still messed up from that massage in Chiang Mai). I was very much DONE for the day, and so happy to be off that boat!

It seemed to take forever to get back to the hotel. Steve had apparently forgotten to drink water all day, and was consequently feeling very, very sick. We made it back to the hotel and had our free massages in our room and then rested a bit. Hunger carried us back to town for dinner, and Steve was still sick and feeling cold (cold! This has never happened, he is ALWAYS hot) at the restaurant. We finished our two-liter bottle of water in no time, plus I had a margarita because I think I needed a salt replenishment :^). Our meals were fair … I ordered a Laotion dish (modified…tofu instead of meat) which was chopped tofu fried with herbs and onions. Very good. Steve has an OK pizza.

Back at the room, and out by 9pm. Too much river, too much sun…we need sleep!  

Joz76 says:
Thanks! that is something I won't do tomorrow :-) I need my arms! Great blog!
Posted on: Sep 01, 2009
stabber911 says:
Ah! I never try this when I was there. I will remember for the next time
Posted on: May 24, 2008
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Loading up the boats.
Loading up the boats.
Ready to go!
Ready to go!
Steve has a new friend!
Steve has a new friend!
Aaah, a rare spot of shade on the …
Aaah, a rare spot of shade on the…
Mother and baby, crossing the rive…
Mother and baby, crossing the riv…
Our guide. The river is so still...
Our guide. The river is so still...
What form!
What form!
Water buffalos, cooling off.
Water buffalos, cooling off.
Dont worry buffaloes, were just …
Don't worry buffaloes, we're just…
Some signs of deforestation.
Some signs of deforestation.
More water buffaloes.
More water buffaloes.
Alone with nature.
Alone with nature.
A stop at an elephant camp.
A stop at an elephant camp.
Our guide called them the lucky e…
Our guide called them "the lucky …
She really liked the bananas!
She really liked the bananas!
Dont take my hand!
Don't take my hand!
Mahout lodge.
Mahout lodge.
The, er, trail to lunch.
The, er, "trail" to lunch.
View from our table at lunch.
View from our table at lunch.
View from our table at lunch.
View from our table at lunch.
Fisherman casting a net.
Fisherman casting a net.
It looks like that tree has had an…
It looks like that tree has had a…
Self portrait. Stiiiiiilll paddlin…
Self portrait. Stiiiiiilll paddli…
She had taken off her flip-flops a…
She had taken off her flip-flops …
More river, more scenery.
More river, more scenery.
Finally, the rapids. Well, kind of.
Finally, the rapids. Well, kind of.
Luang Prabang
photo by: oxangu2