Friday, February 13, 2009

Speedboats down the Mekong, Laos and Luang Prabang

Hello chums! Tiring of the daily beatings I finished up in Thailand last week. I traveled north to Chiang kong, a border crossing into Laos. I quite liked Chiang Kong. It was a lot nicer and more fun than Mae Sai the crossing into Burma, which has all the charm of Basildon. Chiang kong is a traveler hub and is thronged with farang's waiting to get the Slow boat down the Mekong. Basically people get a ferry to Laos, get through the chaos of immigration in Huay Xai then make for the slow boat.

Huay Xai visaThe slow boat takes two days stopping off overnight at some tiny and apparently grim village.

I decided to pass and fueled mainly by a lack of patience rather than a sense of adventure I opted for the speedboat. Well known to be lethal and cramped with a least a few traveler fatalities a year I felt this was a better option. Virtually to a man, upon hearing my mode of transport all shook their heads in "You're rightly boned my friend" nuance. We were given badges naming our chosen boat type and herded over the river. Just outside Huay Xai was the speedboat dock and looking at the tiny boats I got a rush of nervous excitement.

I was first on and tried to sit in the middle to get away from the noisy engine but the driver was having none of it and despite my dumb whitey routine harangued me into sitting in the back seat by the engine. My spirits dropped, I was going to have 7 hours of this shagging thing in my ears. Then across the floating bamboo dock came my salvation. A tiny old Laotian woman was to be my traveling partner. I was delighted I would now have some degree of leg space. Believe me it made a difference.


We hit the river and it was fantastic. It was brilliant. The river was very low as it was February. All around us you could see the actual level of the river on the rocks. It was about three metres lower than the wet season. Don't just imagine...peep the clip!

It was seven hours and was doper than dope. But being cramped up for that long was akin to some kind of medieval torture Once I got to Luang Prabang I looked for a guesthouse. At this stage it was pretty clear to me that anywhere listed in the Lonely planet never costs the same once you get there. The city itself is beautiful, a mix of colonial french style with Laos temples and teak houses. Le pics.

Wat Xieng Thong

I volunteered to teach at the one of the Temples. Basically this involved me pronouncing words in English for the novice monks to repeat. It was a good laugh and I am delighted to announce that there are about thirty or so monks that now pronounce a sizable about of their English vocabulary with an Irish accent.

Monks and Parasols

Nikkon Novices

Post teaching the Laotian teachers took me out to the street vendors for dinner and taught me the fine art of balling sticky rice. They really are lovely people here, and outside of the dead-eyed tourist touts, they are delighted you've come to Laos. Its clearly poorer than Thailand and has retained more of its innocence. Probably not for much longer mind. On Friday I'm off to the Plain of Jars in Phonsavan.

I'm flying as I'm a flash packer and that's how I roll. But I'm flying with the wonderfully unsafe Lao Air! This area was part of the Ho Chi Man trail and during the Vietnam war was the most bombed place on earth. Apparently its still covered with live ordanance... great!

Smiling Novice

Chickens for sale

Wat Mai door

Finally for no particular reason other than its a great picture. Some tropical fish being sold in milk bottles
Fish in milk bottles #6


  1. D - amazing pics. Keep them coming. I'm sitting in frozen New England (something akin to the Arctic Tundra in Feb/March) so your blog is keeping me going! Coincidentally, just watched a programme on Laos and the jars in Phonsavan last night. Freaky.

  2. Ace! How funny is that. Not so cold here, in fact it feels like its about two miles from the surface of the Sun.

  3. What a cool experience! I'd love to hear more about your volunteer work. If you're interested in answering a few questions for, email me at katie at Thanks, Katie

  4. What a cool experience! I'd love to hear more about your volunteer work. If you're interested in answering a few questions for, email me at katie at Thanks, Katie