Slow boat on the Mekong to Luang Prabang

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Asia » Laos » West » Luang Prabang
January 21st 2020
Published: July 1st 2020
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At high tide the fish eat ants; at low tide the ants eat fish… ~ Lao Proverb

Today we were travelling northeast, then east, then south from Pak Beng to Luang Prabang.

After a restless night (thanks to the Happy Smoking and Happy Balloons on offer at a nearby bar that lured every young backpacker in the village), we woke early in preparation for our second day on the Mekong. It was 5:30am and still dark outside. We organised our packs and then headed down to BKC Villa’s dining area for breakfast. We enjoyed a selection of fresh fruit (mango, pineapple and dragon fruit), empanadas, omelettes, bread, pancakes, tea and orange cordial. It was a basic breakfast, but perfect for our long day ahead on the Mekong.

Feeling suitably refreshed, we handed our packs to the village porters who transported them to the riverbank by truck. We made our way down to the riverbank by foot, where our long wooden slow boat was waiting for us. We’d travelled on it from Chiang Khong the previous day, and we were continuing our journey towards Luang Prabang today.

We clambered down a set of concrete steps, gingerly navigated the riverbank’s sharp rocks and anchor ropes before stepping onto the hull of our slow boat. We removed our footwear and settled in the same bench seats we’d relaxed in the previous day. The captain skilfully manoeuvred the boat off the riverbank, somehow managing to avoid the handful of other slow boats berthed at Pak Beng. I was amazed how he was able to wrangle the boat in the fast flowing Mekong without colliding with anything. If I had been at the helm, we would have been careering sideways towards the nearest rocks within seconds.

It was cool on the river in the early morning. Mist shrouded the hills and mountains on either side of the Mekong, and the river breeze had a slight chill that only the sun could dispel. We donned layers of clothing to protect against the cool air, and I settled on the eastern side of the slow boat to take advantage of the sun (when it was able to break through the early morning mist).

Life continued on the Mekong as it had the previous day. A father fished from a long thin canoe while his wife nursed their young child on the rocks. Children ran and played on the sandy shoreline, while their parents tended to fishing nets and collected river weed.

Other slow boats passed us, and I was happy for our captain to cut the engines and let them through. We were in no hurry, and I didn’t see the need to be first. This wasn’t a race. The river was still very narrow – never more than a hundred metres across – so there was no room to journey side-by-side with other boats. At one point we traversed a particularly narrow section of the river, with barely three metres either side of the boat to the shoreline. The narrow channel was churning, with the weight of the Mekong suddenly compressed into the smallest of causeways. The captain did his utmost to get us through, and his boatmanship skills were exceptional. I did hear a dull thud on the bottom of the boat, which was more than likely the tip of an underwater rock.

The mist and clouds disappeared as the sun climbed further in the sky, but the river breeze was still cool, so our layers of protective clothing remained on. Signs of life on the Mekong were few and far between. Thick green foliage stretched down to the river’s edge from the surrounding hills, buffalo roamed the sandy shoreline and unmanned canoes bobbed in the water. Surprisingly, there was absolutely no birdlife on the Mekong. Not a single winged creature stood on an exposed rock, swooped on an unsuspecting fish or darted across the glistening water. Not a single bird call echoed from the forest. I can barely remember a time when I have been in a water environment and not seen or heard a single bird.

A lunch buffet was prepared by the captain’s wife at midday, and it was a fairly basic affair. We started with a clear vegetable soup that was enhanced considerably by the fiery chillies that had been finely cut and soaked in a type of vinegar. I spooned them into the soup at my own peril, and I had to endure a bout of hiccups on my first mouthful before acclimatising myself to their extreme heat and taste.

Having recovered from the soup, I helped myself to stir-fried pork and vegetables, stir-fried beans and stir-fried fish with a mountain of rice. It was very filling, and once again significantly enhanced by the fiery chillies (although I was a little more careful with them this time around).

There were a few more rapids on this part of the river, and our captain navigated them with ease. At times he would slow down and ease through them, but mostly he would increase the throttle and hit them with speed. The prevalence of pollution in the Mekong didn’t wane, and I often saw plastic and other rubbish spinning aimlessly in the river eddies.

I spotted a butterfly in the early afternoon. It was the first sign of airborne life I’d noticed over the past few days. I also noticed that the surrounding mountains (through which the river cut) seemed to be getting higher the further downstream we travelled from Pak Beng.

We pulled into a tiny river village in the mid-afternoon. After disembarking from our slow boat and negotiating the sandy river bank, we wandered around the virtually deserted village, sampling some home-distilled rice whiskey and purchasing some local woven scarves along the way. The rice whiskey packed a punch – to the point that it set my throat on fire – so I picked up a small bottle for $10,000 kip (or about AUD$1.50). It came in a small soft-drink bottle (re-used and unsealed), so there was no chance of getting it out of the country. Not to worry. I was looking forward to a small glass of rice whiskey as I caught up on my travel notes over the next few nights… 😊

We clambered back into the slow boat and drifted towards Pak Ou Caves, which were only about a kilometre downstream from the village. After disembarking onto a makeshift jetty, we climbed some very steeps stairs to an overhanging section of rock where thousands of Buddha (and other religious) icons have been plonked haphazardly over the years – and continue to be plonked by visiting pilgrims. This is a revered religious site for many Laotians, so I will be careful with my words. It just felt a little gaudy and disrespectful to Buddha, but that’s a very subjective viewpoint on my part. We also walked to another cave a little higher up the riverbank. This wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the lower cave, but it still resembled a dumping ground for people’s private Buddha icons.

It also didn’t help that local kids, under the watchful eye of their parents, were selling birds in cages. Well-meaning tourists are meant to buy these birds and set them free, unaware that the kids simply recapture them and sell them to the next well-meaning tourist. It’s a very enterprising scheme, but a cruel one all the same, and we didn’t buy into it.

We made our way back to the makeshift jetty, settled in our slow boat and continued downstream until we arrived at a berthing area just outside Luang Prabang. We clambered onto the riverbank, struggled up a particularly steep set of stairs to the roadside and jumped into a waiting minibus – we were heading to Legend Hotel, our comfortable accommodation in Luang Prabang for the next three nights.

I woke feeling rather groggy and gritty eyed after a broken night’s sleep in Pak Beng. However, I didn’t worry too much about it, as I knew we had another very calm and restful day on the slow boat as we made our way to Luang Prabang.

When we’d docked at Pak Beng the day before, we’d seen a large sign for the Mekong Elephant Park (a non-riding eco-tourism venture) on the opposite river bank. We’d later been told that the elephants are usually walked down to the river early in the morning for their bath. Our room was on the third floor of the building and faced the river, so as were getting ready that morning, we would dart out to the balcony every few minutes to check on the elephant situation. Finally, a lone elephant walked down to the river, but it was still too dark to make out any clear details. I thought I saw the elephant lying in the water, but on looking through Andrew’s 30x zoom I realised it was a rock! So we gave up and went down for breakfast.

Breakfast at the guesthouse began with a lovely spread of tropical fruit – delicious mango, pineapple, dragon fruit and pawpaw. I then moved on to an omelette with toasted baguette, a Lao curry puff pastry with spiced potato, and pancakes with strawberry jam. And it was all very tasty. However, the tea was still weak, and we realised the fluoro-orange cordial was popular on this side of the border too.

We checked out and walked down to the river to re-board our slow boat. We settled in for another relaxing day on the water, which would end in Luang Prabang later that afternoon. It was surprisingly cold on the river, and a mist hung low on the water. Even with our jackets on, we all found ourselves rugging up with the provided Hello Kitty fleece blankets. We warmed up with cups of tea and chocolate biscuits as we watched the sun eventually rise and burn through the grey mist around us.

The landscape was very similar to the day before, but with slightly heavier forested hills on either side. There were much the same herds of buffaloes, cows and goats, but noticeably fewer villages. There was also less shore activity, like gold panning, fishing and river weed gathering. The river was choppier and the ride bumpier, and the rocks in the water were smaller and less dramatic than the day before.

While watching our captain expertly skirt around a spectacular whirlpool on one side and unmanned fishing rods on the other, I realised that the low water level in this part of the Mekong had kept away those hideously large tourist boats we’d seen on the Mekong in Cambodia. Every cloud has a silver lining I suppose! 😊

I’d been trying to describe the colours of the river and surrounds in my notes, but the words I desired had been alluding me. And then it struck me – everything looked like my Dad’s old colour photos where the photographic paper had started to fade. The yellow sand was bleached, the green foliage sometimes too bright but sometimes too washed-out, the villages in layers of dull browns, the shadowy water and rocks of nondescript greys, and the sky a featureless background. I’m not sure if this was because I was seeing everything through light that was bouncing off the murky water, or if these were indeed the true colours of the place. I know this may sound unappealing, but it wasn’t. It gave everything a wistful and almost ethereal quality. I was mesmerised!

At some point, Pete rallied the troupes and gave some of us a masterclass in playing Bridge. Pete and Beth are regular Bridge players and I think Pete sometimes played professionally too. It was only a brief lesson, but it gave me a grasp of the basics. And through absolute pure beginners luck, John and I beat Pete and Chris in one game! We played until close to lunchtime, when our rumbling tummies called us to action.

Similar to the day before, lunch consisted of steamed rice, a clear vegetable soup, fried fish, pork stir-fried with vegetables, and stir-fried green beans. The soup was the stand out dish. The stir-fries were nice but quite bland, and I had to add a generous sprinkle of prik nam pla (fresh chillies in fish sauce) to enhance the flavour.

Keo (our local guide) had been telling us about kaiphaen (green river weed) that we’d seen women collecting from the river. The algae is harvested off rocks and the river bed in the dry season, thrashed on the river bank to get rid of excess water and dried in the sun. Keo gave us a little blob of it to try… and even though it may have be a local delicacy, I intensely disliked the slimy texture and strong flavour it had absorbed by being cooked with pepper wood (sakhaan – a local vine with a chilli flavour and slightly tongue numbing sensation). I much preferred the fried version of kaiphaen which came in small crispy sheets studded with sesame seeds. It was very similar in texture and taste to Japanese nori (seaweed).

Keo mentioned the option of an unscheduled stop at a small village that was famous for making ‘Lao Lao rice whisky’, which we all agreed to. Apparently they used to have a scheduled stop at some of the villages, but irresponsible tourist behaviour encouraged kids to stay home from school and hang out waiting for the boats. As a result, we could still experience a small village, but because it was unscheduled, there was no guarantee of any villagers being around to demonstrate the distilling process.

The boat pulled into a small village that looked exactly like all the others we’d passed over the last two days. We jumped off the boat’s bow onto the muddy shore, where gorgeous ducks waded into the water to feed on the algae on the bottom of our boat. A nearby floating house had a pensive looking monk staring off into the distance, so absorbed in thought that he didn’t once look our way. A steep climb up into the village took us along a meandering path between wooden homes elevated on stilts, and others built of besser blocks. Piglets and chickens roamed freely, cats lazed on dusty tables, and sleepy dogs watched us from doorways.

It was the middle of the afternoon, and the village was very quiet. The only people we engaged with were two women selling crafts and traditional fabrics outside their homes. The second stall was owned by a lovely elderly lady who was weaving on a small wooden loom. Her stall was attached to a rice whiskey still, but as Keo suspected, no one was around to show us the distilling process. So he stepped in and gave us a brief overview of how the drink is made – sticky rice is dried and then fermented with yeast for a few weeks, after which it’s boiled and distilled.

We were given a small sample of rice whiskey each – I’ve never been a fan of it, but this one seemed particularly strong. Andrew likes it more than I do, so we bought a small bottle to support the village. I also bought a couple of scarves from the lovely old lady. Even though the scarves were good value by Australian standards, I hadn’t had the chance to get an idea of the price of things in Laos yet. However, I love supporting small businesses like this, and I was quite happy to pay the asking price. I was pretty impressed that none of the group bargained with her either. Keo assured us that it was a good price compared to the prices in the night markets in the cities. Our visit was brief, but it gave me much needed context about the region we were passing through.

A few hours prior, I’d noticed that the small hills on the river banks were starting to morph into limestone karsts. While walking back to the boat I realised that I had totally failed to notice the karsts that filled the bank of the river across from us. They were quite stunning!

Continuing on, we visited the crowd-thronged Pak Ou Caves, where over 4000 Buddha statues overlook the river from the limestone karsts. We climbed up the near-vertical cliff to the lower cave, squeezing past tourists on the narrow steps. The cave had a couple of levels, but it wasn’t very deep. Every available ledge was crammed full of Buddha statues in all shapes and sizes. The two caves have been sacred for hundreds of years, and pilgrims filled them with statues over time. Unfortunately, I just didn’t get any sense of spirituality from the space. There was a small entry fee, but it didn’t stop the shambolic overcrowding. The caves are sacred and unique, and deserved to have some form of crowd control, not to mention a good clean! I had been looking forward to the caves, but left feeling like I’d added to the desecration and deterioration of the place.

Andrew and Dave walked up to check the higher cave, while Carole and I wandered back down to the boat. The steps and the wooden pier were full of kids trying to sell birds in small cages to gullible tourists. They were trying to pitch a vague Buddhist philosophy by yelling ‘good karma’ at us. It’s a cruel practice of capturing birds so idiot people can feel good about releasing the birds. I just wish they would stop and think about the whole process before supporting such a ruthless trade. Someone once told me that most of the birds used are homing birds, so at worst it was deceiving the tourists, but it wasn’t as cruel as capturing wild birds every time. Errr… I think they’d missed the point if they had to make an argument about something being less cruel than another option! 😞

We were nearing Luang Prabang, which meant the end of our blissful journey on the slow boat. That well-worn cliché that travelling is more about the journey than the destination was true in this case. To get from the Laos border to Luang Prabang by road would have been a journey of more than 12 hours in a cramped bus. Time permitting, I’d take this glorious slow boat any day!

The journey on the Mekong River allowed us to ease into Laos in an amazingly relaxing way, while watching beautiful scenery float past from our comfortable boat. It’s one of those travel highlights that will stay with me for a long time. 😊

Next we explore Luang Prabang, also known as the ‘Jewel in Laos’ Crown’.


1st July 2020

Reliving fond memories ...
Hi Ren & Andrew, Reading through your last couple of blogs on the Mekong, brings back very fond memories of our very similar trip back in 2016. Something that will remain with us for a lifetime and enjoyed it equally as well as you did. Interesting to see how some things have changed in the 4 years since our visit. Pak Ou Caves - our group had the caves almost to ourselves the day we visited so, no crowds of people, which was nice. Felt a bit uncomfortable though, being there as tourists ourselves with a couple of locals coming to pay homage, even though Kit, our local guide, assured us it was quite all right for us to be there as we made our floral offerings as a mark of respect. However, no matter how many times we have visited sacred places throughout the world during our travels over the years, I am never very comfortable with it and often feel as though we may be encroaching. Also, there were no bird sellers at the caves either. Sign of the times, perhaps, with a greater influx of tourists and seen as another source of income for the locals? Like you, I wouldn't have been happy with it either and wouldn't have participated. Thank you, have loved our trip down memory lane. :) Jan xx
2nd July 2020

Re: Reliving fond memories ...
Hi Jan. Nice to hear from you. I remember reading your blogs about this trip but can't remember the details, so I'm looking forward to re-reading them! I absolutely agree with you about being mindful when visiting sacred places, and I quite like the strict rules in some places that put worshippers before tourists. When we were at the caves, the only people 'praying' were tourists doing it for a photo opportunity! It seems a lot has changed in four years... however we were there close to the Chinese New Year holiday, which increases visitor numbers quite a lot. Thanks for your lovely comment :)
2nd July 2020

On another note ...
Hi Ren & Andrew, Had followed you through Morocco, etc with great interest awhile back, picking up hints and tips and ready to contact you with some questions when the time was right. This was whilst we were in the planning stages for our holiday there. After months of planning, all finally sorted, booked and paid for, for 5 weeks throughout Spain, Portugal AND Morocco - due to leave on 17 April just gone. Guess that won't be happening for awhile now Now all on hold indefinitely. However, there is always a plus side to everything, in that, thankfully, everything was cancelled by our tour operator BEFORE we left home as the pandemic rapidly spread. We count ourselves very lucky in that respect, as we could very easily have already arrived over there or, been in transit. We would have been in real trouble. Hope you enjoy a re-read of our Mekong blogs - very similar experiences as yours. :) Jxx
2nd July 2020

Re: On another note ...
Oh no Jan, what a disappointment to have that trip cancelled. But like you said, so lucky that you didn't get caught out while travelling or in transit. We are yet to make it to Portugal so I'll be eagerly reading your blogs when you eventually get there. I've just been totally distracted from work and have binge-read your Thailand/Laos blogs! That asthma attack on the steps of the caves sounded awful, so glad you recovered well. It sounds like we did the same trip, but a few activities and hotels had changed over the years. Hope your week is going well, and you are both keeping safe and well. Cheers, Ren x
2nd July 2020

Binge-read ...
Hi Ren, Oh, my goodness! I hope I wasn't responsible for your distraction from work this afternoon but, thank you for going back over our blogs. :) I was a bit out in my timing, as it's actually 5 years since we were last there. Time does fly. Yes, my asthma attack was distressing and it can be quite frightening when you are struggling for breath. I had never been an asthma sufferer before this and thankfully, I haven't had any more attacks since then but, always travel with some medication when we go away overseas, "just in case," It does seem as though we may have both done the same trip. Did you also travel with Intrepid? We have done a lot of trips with them over the years and have always found them very good and really enjoy their "grass roots" method of travel - using local transport, eating where the locals eat, etc and getting a bit off the beaten track a bit sometimes and really immersing ourselves in the culture of the country. Spain, Portugal and Morocco was also going to be with them and, hopefully, still will be at some future date. Hope that you and Andrew are also keeping safe and well in these crazy times and planning another trip. Keep the dream alive. :) Cheers. Jan xx
3rd July 2020

Re: Binge-read ...
Haha Jan it really didn't take much to distract me! Your blogs were far more enjoyable than sorting out end of financial year paperwork :) Yes this was an Intrepid trip and we enjoy travelling with them for exactly the same reasons you mentioned. I used to know the team at Intrepid when they were a small Melbourne outfit in the '90s, but didn't start travelling with them until 2009. We were concerned when they expanded rapidly and started attracting a mainstream crowd who didn't echo the sustainable travel ethos we value; however they seem to be doubling down on their responsible travel marketing recently, so we will continue to travel with them (when we can). We have previously eyed off that Spain, Portugal and Morocco trip, and it's a very interesting sounding adventure! Fingers crossed that we'll be able to travel again soon. However for now, I'm happy to be safely tucked away in COVID free Tasmania :)
3rd July 2020

Sailing away
An enthralling travel tale of slow travel. I enjoyed this virtual reality experience at a time when all else is about lock down and social distance, and welcome a reminder to us all that the world is a wonderous place.
3rd July 2020

Re: Sailing away
Hi Chris. Thank you for your nice comment. It's nice to know that you are enjoying following our trip. Hope you are keeping well :)
3rd July 2020

Intrepid ...
Hi Ren and Andrew, Thank goodness, for that! and, happy to hear that you found our blogs enjoyable and yes, can understand the end-of-year ho-hum. :) Yes, we also, were a bit concerned when Intrepid expanded rapidly a few years back and, wondered if they would be able to maintain their market-place niche but, things do seem to have balanced out. We first traveled with them back in 2002 - Vietnam & Cambodia, back-to-back - and, after that, we were hooked. Since then, many places throughout the world. One of our most memorable being the Trans-Siberian/Mongolian Railway. As a result of that trip, our Intrepid tour leader became a very good friend and has since visited Australia several times. However, like you, at present, we are more than happy to remain at home here in Oz. Have no desire to be anywhere else for now. We will travel again, but probably not for at least a couple of years after international travel finally becomes available to all of us again. Our holiday to Spain, Portugal & Morocco will remain on hold indefinitely but, we are quite relaxed about it all and are treating it very much as a wait-and-see scenario :) Jxx
5th July 2020

Re: Intrepid ...
Hi Jan. It's a coincidence that our first Intrepid trip was also to Vietnam, and it was fabulous! Andrew is very keen to do the Trans-Siberian/Mongolian trip too, but it will have to be when we have a long enough break to spend a few weeks in Russia and China before and after the train journey. At the moment our thinking seems to be the same as you regarding overseas travel, although who knows how bad our wanderlust will get in the next six months! :) Hope you and Ted are enjoying a lovely weekend x
4th July 2020

Gently down the stream 2...
The caves sound amhazingggg, even with the crowds! Was the whiskey any good? The rice wine in Vietnam was so lethal! But that’s a story for another time ;-)
5th July 2020

Re: Gently down the stream 2...
Hi Josie, yes the caves were amazing, we just wish they had been managed better. The Lao rice whiskey tasted the same as the rice wine I've had in southeast and east Asia (to my untrained taste buds anyway!)… but given it's distilled, 'whiskey' is probably a better term than 'wine'. Andrew liked the whiskey as a nightcap while writing his notes :)
6th July 2020

Trans-Siberian ...
Hi Ren and Andrew, How funny is that? That for both of us, our first trip with Intrepid was to Vietnam? Although our trip was quite awhile ago now, we still have great memories of that holiday. Our tour leader at the time was an ex-pat Aussie from Mackay in Qld. :) We have been back since but, only briefly, on our way through to London. If you do get the opportunity to travel on the Trans-Siberian, etc, I'm sure you will find it one of the greatest experiences you will ever have. We were 3 weeks across China, Mongolia and Russia but, the longest time we actually spent on the train itself, was 3 days in a row, because we stopped at many places along the route which gave us ample time to immerse ourselves in the culture of communities in each country. We ended our journey in St Petersburg, which is an amazing city. We traveled in May/June which was the time of year for White Nights meaning, it never actually got dark, just a twilight between about midnight and 3am when the sun would start coming up again on another day. Unreal! In St Petersburg, often, we would still be sightseeing at 1-30am! :) Once in Russia,and because the train crosses so many different time zones, for ease of operation, all trains run on Moscow time. Because it was always daylight (more or less) we gave up trying to work out what real time was or, keep to a regular eating and sleeping pattern, time-wise, and developed the routine of just eating when we were hungry and sleeping when we were tired, which seemed to work just fine. :) Unless things have changed in 6 years, travelling independently in Russia can be difficult, unless you can speak and understand Russian or have an understanding of the Cyrillic alphabet, because almost everything is written in Russian, with no English translations - signs, road and street maps, menus, etc. but, don't let that discourage you from the trip of a lifetime - there are always local guides available :) Hope you both also had a great weekend. :) Jan xx
7th July 2020

Re: Trans-Siberian ...
Thanks for the Trans-Siberian trip details Jan. When we eventually book it I'll have to read through your blogs about it. I love the idea of travelling during the White Nights time of year too - it's something neither of us has experienced yet. For a minute there, I thought you may have had Jimmy Pham as your group leader in Vietnam (who went on to start KOTO), but I think he's from Sydney. We've had a couple of expat group leaders who have been great, but I think I prefer a local for their greater insights into the culture and traditions. We are about to post our first Luang Prabang blog... can I tempt you to finish blogging about your Laos trip too? ;) I'm only kidding, but it would've been interesting to have a comparison from five years ago. Ren x
7th July 2020

Vietnam ...
Hi Ren, We were very lucky with our our tour leader, Adam, whose last name, after 18 years, escapes me for the moment. :) He had lived in Vietnam for 10 years at that stage. Went there for a holiday, fell in love with the country and the people, and never came back home - well, only briefly, to sort out some things, and then went back, and stayed. He was very knowledgeable about Vietnam and, he, combined with our local tour guides, gave us the best of both worlds. :) He was very highly regarded throughout the Vietnamese community wherever we went and, everyone knew him - and, affectionately called, Mr. Adam ... :) Jx
8th July 2020

Re: Vietnam ...
Hi Jan, Adam sounds like one of the expat group leaders we had too - fell in love with the country (well, a girl and then the country), and had lived there for many years. He spoke the language fluently and had a lot of love and respect for the culture. Even though on the whole I prefer a local group leader, when someone is genuinely passionate about a place, you can't help but be excited by that passion too :)
7th July 2020

Slow Boat to Luang Prabang
The more I read about your journey on the Mekong by slow boat, the more I appreciated the fact that you could absorb the surroundings in a non-rushed way. I really liked the way you show support for the locals by purchasing scarves from the lovely older lady. Great photos too, the long boats on the river, karst mountains, and the animals.
8th July 2020

Re: Slow Boat to Luang Prabang
Thanks Sylvia! As you may know from reading our blogs, like you, we usually like filling our travel days to bursting! :D So it really was a welcome change to have two 'down' days in the middle of a trip... it's usually something we do at the end of the trip if we have time. I loved that old lady in the village, and in hindsight I wish I'd bought a few more scarves from her. We like supporting local skills, and also very much prefer to buy directly from the artisan when we can :)
9th July 2020

Slow boat to the Jewel
Laos is still one of my favorite countries. I like the lack of infrastructure that so much of Asia has in place. We loved being there to enjoy the annual boat races. Festivals always bring the locals out. We took that miserable bus ride and it was painful as they had a music video blasting at volumes beyond comprehension for the entire ride. You made the smart move.
10th July 2020

Re: Slow boat to the Jewel
Merry we mostly seem to have a similar assessment of places given we both like Morocco and Laos. Ah yes, those ear splitting music videos on public transport... they can be quite hideous! I don't remember reading your blogs on Laos, I'll have to go back and have a look :)

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