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Slow boat to Nong Khiaw

overcast 16 °C

Both Charlie and I were really enthralled by river travel before we came away, particularly within SE Asia, so this first experience of a long river boat journey was really a very exciting prospect. Our 14 seater boat, skipper and oarsmen, picked us up from the main pier in Luang Prabang early Thursday morning for the daily slow boat ride to Nong Khiaw. The boat was a very narrow, rickety, wooden vessel that had a rather basic cabin for the skipper, a handful of car seats bolted to the front of the passenger section, two rather crude wooden benches in the rear, and a sectioned off eastern squat toilet behind that. Unfortunately for Charlie and I we were the last on board so we were left with the low slung bench seating option next to the squat toilet rather than the relatively luxurious Ford Orion reject seats at the front!

Needless to say though; the journey along the Mekong, and then the River Nam Ou, was breathtaking. Meandering at a very slow speed we traversed the waters of both rivers to a constantly breathtaking backdrop of jagged mountain ranges and blue and green karst's. Lush green trees, jungle, fields and rice paddy's were interwoven into this backdrop and the only visual diversion to this scenery was the odd local fisherman or herd of water buffalo drinking from the banks of the rivers.

The journey was taken at typical Laos speed - very slow - and included two pit stops. The first was a rather unexpected break that entailed our rather weather beaten looking skipper stripping to his BHS Y-fronts, getting in the river - fag in mouth, and replacing a broken propeller. Great entertainment for all of us passengers, if not a scary at first! The second pit stop was around 4 hours into the trip where we stopped off at a small village. Whilst there is nothing too unusual about this it was a little disconcerting when the skipper started the empty boat back up and left with us all waving goodbye to him, along with our bags, wallets and passports from the bank of the river! As it turned out we had a minibus drive us a few miles along the banks past rather treacherous waters before we re-embarked our journey back on the river.

The journey finally came to an end eight hours later at a tiny village called Nong Khiaw where Charlie and I are currently residing. The boat ride was fantastic, if a little cold at times, and certainly gave us a really good view of the country from this traditional transportation means. We just have to work out now how we get back to Luang Prabang when we finally return!

Ross and Charlie

Posted by charlieandross 05:42 Archived in Laos

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