The mighty ‘kong. We spent a night in a lovely guesthouse overlooking the Mekong River, which happened to house two particularly helpful travellers – an English man who had retired three years ago and, since then established a foundation and school teaching young adults in Laos to speak English; and another who was just overly keen to stuff us with as much advice on travelling in Laos as we could possibly pack into our tired and sore heads. The border crossing the next morning however, might I say, was seamless. So big thanks to Don and Alan.
The two day cruise down the Mekong was very pleasant. While it offered a few stop-offs, it was mostly used as time to catch up on sleep, or to hone our card playing skills. Visiting a local tribe was also interesting, especially getting the chance to compare it to the lifestyle of the previous tribe we’d been fortunate enough to encounter. The most interesting thing I found about this community was that they still had a charm doctor (a career path I wish was offered back home!)
An overnight in Pakbeng allowed for many boxes on my Laos to-do list to be crossed. We tried the traditional dish of ‘lab’ for dinner at a gorgeous restaurant that advertised the skills of the cook: “My wife is very good cook – lovely jubbly”. A great recommendation by our guide (most of our cruise was there!) In the morning we also got to see the monks chanting and receiving alms, but I think we have plans to see that more authentically later on. The biggest thing for me in Pakbeng was the elephants though. I’ve developed a bit of a madness to the good old elephant while I’ve been away, so seeing them in the flesh, though still at a distance, was awesome. Nothing cooler than looking out your window in the morning, across the Mekong, to see elephants bathing.
Two short stops on the second day of the cruise were a nice chance to stretch our legs. The Pak Ou caves were awesome with over four thousand Buddha statues. Seeing the cave where elders hid in when Laos was invaded by China, and Buddha statutes that had survived the second war was also incredible. We also got to see, and taste, local Laos whiskey from the village that is renowned for brewing it. All in all, the cruise was a great way of getting for Thailand to Luang Prabang!
First impressions of Laos are very good! Much prettier, cleaner and more organised than Thailand. The city of Luang Prabang is actually a world heritage site, and has a curfew at 11:30pm. We did however, stumble across a buffet style dinner in the markets and for Jack, if you are reading, eat your heart out. We got given a plate of which we could fill with as much of the plentiful buffet as we wanted, plus a bottle of beer, for just over $4 AUS! I felt like I’d died and gone to boy heaven. Definitely going back tomorrow before we hit the night markets and some drinks. Hopefully by then we will have worked out the ‘two for one’ deals so we don’t end up with 16 drinks like tonight! Whoops! When in Rome I guess….haha!