Taking the Slow Boat Down the Mekong River

Lies. You will be told many of them on your travels. You’ll be told that things are closed, that it’s two minutes away, that it’s a special price or that you don’t look fat. Bullshit. You’ll hear it all the time but the biggest one has to be that you shouldn’t do the two day slow boat down the Mekong River in Laos.

I left idle Pai to its own devices and made my way by bus to the border. As the door slid open I prayed for someone to talk to. No more Hebrew or German, please let the guys in here speak English! I didn’t get someone to talk to, it was even better; great friends and one hell of a brilliant time.

I was apprehensive about crossing the border, had some drug cartel stashed drugs in my backpack while I was sleeping? It all played on my mind. Unfortunately it was rather ordinary. Especially the part where the passport control officers didn’t smile. Is it in their job description that they can’t smile or is stamping passports and looking at terrible mug shots all day really that depressing?

Our arrival guide wanted to have a talk with us in his office which consisted of a plastic table set up right next to this shiny minivan with its air con blasting away. This friendly chap told us all kinds of stories. You can’t stand up on the boat, there is no food or drink, hotels are expensive and captain jack sparrow might come and get us. The list went on, but there was however hope. The shiny minivan could get us to Luang Prabang in one day rather than two and of course was a much better prospect. I didn’t care if I had to sit on the roof, with a rooster for company. I was getting on that boat no matter what he said. It turned out to be the best thing I ever did.

Fearing the worst we stocked up for our hellish journey. Supplies included Oreo’s, copious amounts of Whiskey, an acoustic guitar, nine plastic cups, iPod with speakers and a sense of humour. Nine plastic cups? There were eight of us. It’s a mystery, it really is…

I’ve never had so much fun on a boat. Although saying that I don’t think it had much to compete with as the ferry between Dover and Calais isn’t much to write home about. However, sitting on a bag of rice for nine hours is. The sky was always blue with puffy white clouds that looked like candy floss. If the captain (aka captain pug wash) was in a good mood you could lie outside and top up the tan. There was no shortage of embarrassing music to be pumped from my mp3 player (read: Peter Andre, Steps, Savage Garden etc) and everyone seemed to be able to play the guitar and sing. I’m considering buying myself a guitar now. Although I realise this won’t help me with the singing.

I’ve so far only noticed two differences between Laos and Thailand. This being the 11.30 curfew and having to take your shoes off before you go into places. Taking your shoes off with a backpack on is more of a challenge then you might think. Was a bit strange getting kicked out of a bar at 11 and we were told the only place left open after this time is bowling. Late night bowling it is then. Very strange!

There is a must see in Luang Prabang. I couldn’t tell you the name of the waterfall but any tuk tuk driver will know what you are talking about. There’s rope swings to play on and a fantastic view!

This amazing bar in Luang Prabang, Utopia, also has a volleyball court in the middle of it. As you do. After a rather heated and undecided game, a re-match is in order. After pulling off my shirt, beating my chest and doing the Haka, I’m going to have to put my money where my mouth is. Don’t worry those guys are going down…