The Mekong and Luang Prabang (guest entry by Blake)

7 Jun

We had heard various feedback about the two day slow boat ride down the Mekong River (pronounced Mae-Kong in these parts). In general everyone indicated that it was a beautiful trip, but the majority quickly followed it up by saying that it was an extremely long trip on hard seats, and that they wouldn’t do it again, if they were given the chance. In spite of this, we arrived with a sense of excitement and were primed for a memorable trip. We arrived early as recommended to get ourselves some front row seats (away from the noisy/smelly diesel engine). With time to burn, we were the first people to pick up our books while we waited for the boat to fill. Another good tactic we learned, as we were ignored when the scramble took place to see who had to share their narrow seats. In this case we were the winners – and what a prize to win – a roomy seat on an 7 hour boat ride. And the scenery was beautiful. Green hills, small villages, minor rapids, swimming lizards… all of this viewed at a serene pace, and in calming quiet.

In a continuum of emotions, ‘contentedness’ can be viewed somewhere above ‘calm’ but below ‘happiness’, yet I consider that day to be one of my most ‘content’ and I view that as a remarkable achievement. Particularly memorable ‘happy’ days usually centre around events that are not easily repeated, where as part of the joy of the river cruise was knowing that the contentedness could remain for life. I know that I will always have that calm, beautiful day, and that I have the opportunity for many more of these in the coming months. The overnight stay was in a small village that fed off the river traffic, and this too was magical in its own secluded way. The main street filled with wafting smells, the touts were a friendlier variety than those employed in Thailand, and a spectacular river view completed the town.
On arrival at the boat launch for day two we found that our boat had been upgraded and our new one had a selection of van style padded, reclining seats (literally, these things looked like they’d been ripped out of a mini-van – Ros). We dubbed these First Class (van seats facing the view with extra leg room), Business Class (forward facing van seats with less leg room) and then cattle class (the same upright wodden bench-seats). By arriving early we secured First Class seats. Another magical trip down the river concluded with our arrival at one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited; Luang Prabang.

Listed as a ‘world heritage city’ about half a decade ago by UNESCO, Luang Prabang is situated at the intersection of two rivers, and displays its colonial French heritage in its architecture, baguettes and strong coffee. Influences from other neighbouring countries are also visible such as Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese. Perhaps to match the beauty of the city, the Laos people are welcoming and polite, and these elements combine to make this a very homely place to visit.
Whilst here we’ve tried some local delicacies such as Mekong Seaweed with Sesame Seeds, Spicy Chicken Laap (salad), Stuffed Bamboo, Buffalo BBQ and of course combines these tastes with many bottles of the revered Beer Lao. All have been tasty, with the Buffalo BBQ the most amazing. Buffalo is like a sweeter version of beef, and it was well suited to a cook at the table BBQ in the style of Korean or Japanese BBQ

After soaking up the city, we headed off a local waterfall with some friends from the boat ride, and discovered new shades of turquoise and jade in the water that cascaded down the many levels of this amazing waterfall. This is an umissable stop on any asian travel itinerary.

So it will be that we shall buck the trend – tomorrow we will take another 7 hour boat ride to a smallish northern Laos town from some more relaxation and fine food…

One Response to “The Mekong and Luang Prabang (guest entry by Blake)”

  1. Dee July 11, 2007 at 1:07 pm #

    Nice one! So the early bird does actually catch the proverbial worm. Noted. Lookin’ good Blake.

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