Saturday, January 29, 2011

Slowboatin' the Mekong

The sun has broken through the clouds, brightening the already perfect temperature and charm of Luang Prabang. This morning was welcomed by the bustling street outside the guesthouse. After a customary morning routine, Robyn and I strolled up the block to Utopia Restaurant where we met David and I indulged in a Ginger-Carrot-Apple smoothie and a large breakfast of two eggs, bacon, local sausage, wild mushrooms, roasted cherry tomatoes, mango-pear chutney and homemade bread. Full and content with the sun rising beyond the scenic mountains I delved into a new novel, "The Dharma Bums" by Jack Kerouac. We have succumbed to a leisure pace of existence in the everyday life of Laos.

Yesterday we stretched our legs and cycled around the old capital, exploring side streets and playing cards over fruit smoothies and sticky rice with mango at a riverside cafe. After winning a round of Rummy and drunk with excitement I encouraged participation in local Laos massage. With rubber arms Robyn soothed into a facial as David and I were pounded by the tiny fists of our young Laotian masseurs. What could have been a wonderful massage was continuously interrupted by the constant chatter and one-handed-texting of the girl performing my treatment.

In leaving Chang Mai, we rode a bus for five hours to a boarder town with Laos. Along the way we took breaks at a fruit dehydrating facility and visited the glimmering mirror studded, white plastered, Buddhist fantasy styled Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai. Our final stop in Thailand was, in contrast to our previous experience, a dreary experience. The woman who was in charge of receiving our bus, as well as a few others, was greatly disorganised and had a miserable personality to accompany the chaos of the situation. Guesthouses were not prepared in advance and the town was pretty dungy. Happy to leave the following day for Laos, we crossed the river two hours after schedule and on the other side we were greeted by a very friendly man. This man told the horrors of the boat trip to come and dissuaded many travellers from partaking in the journey and instead recommended a quick bus ride. Those who agreed with him received half their payment back and in addition paid an extra fee to take the bus. We were very pleased with our decision to stay with the boat as it was a beautiful and calm trip up the Mekong. The boats were clean and we found cheap rooms at our overnight stop without any trouble.

Along the Mekong, the vast jungle and mountainous landscape was easily embraced in the open air of the long boat and there was ample room to wander up and down the length of the craft to converse with our fellow travellers. The slow and steady ride was dotted with small villages, children playing waterside in the soft sand, fishermen, and the occasional farm. It was a worthwhile journey and we are happy to be settled in a clean and comfortable guesthouse here in Luang Prabang for a few days. We are planning a three day kayak trip in the near future and look forward to exploring more of this beautiful country.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to have heard from all of you. It was -44 degrees including windchill last night.