Thursday, April 28, 2005

'Slow Boat' To Pakbeng

Laos; April 21, 2005
I signed up for a two day 'Slow Boat' trip down the famous 'Mekong' River (Nam Mekong) that runs through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Burma.

First thing in the morning of the 21st we took a short boat ride across the river from the Thailand side to Laos where we got our passports stamped.Then we headed to the dock again to get on a 'Slow Boat' to begin our two day journey downstream on the Mekong river.

Now about the mutiny... We started out in this boat which was not tall enough to stand up in and was so cramped we couldn't all fit in it. In fact, this hombre was the guy sitting next to me on my bench seat. He's not really as big as he seems in this picture. He's much much bigger...

After waiting in the sweltering sun for an hour, we were suddenly taken off this boat and put onto the one next to it which had a lot more room. The people in the front here are: Heinrich (Hina)(Australia), Marina (Italy), Heather (also from Australia. She and Hina have been travelling together for two years.) And the other man here is Michael from Chicago.

This is a Lao mother and baby who travelled with us.

The shoreline varies a lot as we travel along.

You see these sedimentary rock formations all along the river.

Lonely planet refers to these high speed boats that also do the river trips. In 1992 someone died when one boat hit a rock. Now the occupants have to wear helmets. We take twenty hours to make the voyage. These boats do it in 4 hours and man do they ever move!
We stopped at this sandy cliff for half an hour. I don't know why. The sand was filled with tiny golden flakes that really did look like they could be that mineral.

Why was Michael so excited? This was the first chance all day he had to have a wiz. I knew just how he felt.

Our captain is an unassuming man who sits in front of our pile of backpacks and quietly navigates around the rocks of this long long river.

Every so often the boat simply stops by a shore. We never know when. This Laos girl sold us Ice Cream bars for 5000 Kip. She made three sales and made $1.50 Canadian for her time in that incredible heat.

This is typical terrain on the Mekong River; muddy water and rocks on the banks.

As the day went on, the boat would turn in to places along the river that seemed uninhabited, and drop off passengers. Our boat is the Ferry service for the Mekong.

Other boats glide past us as we go; fishermen and sightseers.

The sun is about to go down when we finally dock at Pakbeng for the night. The light in my room is a candle and my shower is cold water only. Finally, the generator is turned on so that my fan works but they tell me it is only on until 11pm. I feel out of place here in Laos, not like Thailand. It feels like a place that has been left behind by history. So many of the buildings look the same as they did in 1975 when the Vietnam war ended.

Having said that, I should add, I had dinner at a very nice restaurant just down from my Guesthouse. This place is very new and very well built.

Ruth, from Wyoming USA and her friend

Misuk from Korea ask to sit down with me. We have a good conversation over mutton curry and rice. I have my first Lao Beer. This beer is sold everywhere and the signs seem like the national flag because you see them more than anything else. A large Lao Beer costs eighty cents Canadian (7000 kip).
By the way Ruth, sorry to get carried away talking American Politics. I don't know what came over me. I do think that George Bush is a war criminal and I am very concerned about the state of the Educational system in the States, but I think it tends to make for very poor dinner conversation.

I told Ruth about a girl I think of as a daughter; Rachael. Rachael has lived in Canada her whole life. Then last year she went to San Antonio Texas for a year of University. Rachael took American History and got the highest grade in her class. I told Ruth that it concerns me that a Canadian seemed to be better informed about America than Americans.
I am always very happy to meet Americans travelling because I think it's so important for the most powerful county in the world to have intelligent ambassadors.


Anonymous said...

One word Steve...


Anonymous said...

hey steve,
I actaully ate raw octopus and ginza. I thought I was going to be sick.

Anonymous said...

You should have seen it Steve I offered her 8.00$ to eat it and it took her half an hour I have never laughed so hard $8.00 well worth it


pmelissa said...

Is there such a thing as lifejackets there?

I love the picture of the mom with the baby. The mom is radiant.

Steven said...

R: Okay, I have to admit I brag about you and Sarah anytime I have a you!

Steven said...

Sarah: I would have liked to have seen that too. Especially the way her lips form into that quivery growl as her eyes go wild. I miss you!, love Steve

Steven said...

Pmelissa: The other day I went 'tubing' down the Mekong River. Before I left, the owner of the Tube place wrote a number on my arm. I think he just wanted a way to know where his tube went in case a body washed up later.

I should do a Post on safety in Thailand. I've been taking a lot of pictures about it lately.