Goodbye Luang Prabang hello Pak Beng

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Asia » Laos » West » Pakbeng
August 17th 2016
Published: August 21st 2016
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Had to drag myself sorry carcass out of bed at 5.00am to be ready for a 6.00am pickup and 7.00am departure on the Louang say, a sort of luxury version of the slow boats that plough their way from Luang Prabang to Houay Xai about 170km to the north on the Thai border. We were a little late getting under way as we were waiting for a French couple but after 15 minutes the captain gave the call and we left without them. The Mekong river boats are long, low sleek things that seem to glide effortlessly either up or downstream. There were only half a dozen passengers on board so I found a handy banquette and sprawled out. A breakfast of croissants, baguette, bananas etc was served shortly after we left then our first stop was about an hour upstream, the Pak Ou caves. The caves were originally used for the worship of spirits but later, around 830ad, became a Buddhist shrine. At this point our French couple joined us having taken a tuktuk from Luang Prabang and a small boat across the river. A hour or so later we were served a buffet of traditional Lao dishes, chicken curry, stir fried vegetables, fried fish and roasted pork. It doesn't sound very different from most of the rest of Asia but they add their own spices to each dish giving them a unique flavour. Another hour or so upstream and our final visit of the day was to a riverside village. A mix of Khmu and Lao live there as subsistence farmers. Everything appears very hand to mouth. I dropped off a package of books at the school that I picked up from Big brother mouse yesterday, they seemed very grateful for them. The remainder of the day was somewhat surreal, lying on the boat on a thin ribbon of river, the colour of cafe au lait, in a vast ocean of green. I had Billy Joel, Bob Marley, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen and others to keep me company as I whiled away the day. There was a moment of high drama in the afternoon when we hit one of the many submerged logs that float past and damaged the prop. We pulled into the riverbank and a couple of the crew stripped to their underwear and went into the river with a large hammer to remove the prop and replace it with a spare. They've obviously done it before as the whole exercise took no more than half an hour. Just on 7.00pm we arrived at Luang say lodge in Pak Beng, where we are to overnight. A beautiful place with chalets built of teak and bamboo. We were treated to a splendid dinner of Lao specialties then headed for bed for the 6.00am start. It was a shame we were only going to spend the 1 night here, I could easily have stayed a few days.

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