Slow-boating up the Mekong... Day One

Pakbeng Travel Blog

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Bowling with the locals in Luang Prabang
After my stint in the hospital in Luang Prabang, I decided to sleep in and take it easy the next day. I woke up at noon, walked through the rain to grab lunch, spent some time on the internet writing the previous few posts, and found an ATM. Nothing really exciting.

In the evening after walking through the night market I bumped into the Toronto Two, and ended up going out to dinner with them and an Irish couple. After dinner we did what everyone in Luang Prabang does when it gets late - we went bowling! Seriously, the town has a bowling alley up above town in the middle of nowhere. That's right, eight questionably flat lanes of rock-rolling bliss. When we got there it was just us and a bunch of locals having a blast.
Riverside cave temples...
This isn't like western bowling where you have to wear fancy things like "shoes." Nope, in Laos you bowl in bare feet. One of the locals was tearing it up with hop-and-stop bowling technique - his best game ever was a 285, and he wasn't too far off that when we were there. After bowling, I crashed in preparation for my two-day slow-boat trip up the Mekong to the Thai border.

I arrived at the docks on the 20th around 8am, and we were all hustled onto the boat, a long, narrow contraption wide enough for two small seat benches and a walkway in between. To call these benches masochistic would be an understatement. The bottom part of the bench was literally about six inches front to back, and from there the backrest rose vertically. If you've got the world's smallest ass and best posture, they might be ok.
The Mighty Mekong
For everyone else, it was a long, long day.

The slow-boat is exactly what it sounds like, and the scenery all starts to look the same after the first hour. The intermitent rain didn't do much to brighten anyone's day either. Did I mention how uncomfortable these seats were? The German Five from Vietnam were also on the boat, though they were down to the German Three. Pretty crazy seeing them, as I haven't seen them since Ha Long Bay.

We did see some cool things, however. At one point we passed by a cave-temple that rises out of the river. While we couldn't see much behind the docked tourboat, I've heard it's a pretty neat place to explore with lots of Buddha statues and such. The river was higher than usual, and was filled with debris from recent rains. The notorious speedboats that can get you to the border in six hours are infamous for exploding/flipping when they hit anything in the water.
Most of Pak Beng was visible from our balcony
The river was also filled with whirl-pools and rapids, some of which were pretty formidable. Talking with an Austrian working for a travel company in Laos I learned that a week or two earlier the Mekong had been at its highest since 1965. Countless plastic bags hung from way, way up in the trees. Scary thought, the water being that high.

We arrived in Pak Beng, the halfway point, a bit after dark. The entire town is on one short street, with a few guesthouses and places to eat. They turn off the electricity at 10pm. This place was tiny. We ate at this Indian place that had some damn-good samosas. I shared a room with one of the Germans and got another scarily high fever. Godamnit.
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Bowling with the locals in Luang P…
Bowling with the locals in Luang …
Riverside cave temples...
Riverside cave temples...
The Mighty Mekong
The Mighty Mekong
Most of Pak Beng was visible from …
Most of Pak Beng was visible from…
photo by: borneonikieta