Cathy and Jason's Travel Journal
About Us (1)
USA - California (1)
USA - Mid-Atlantic (1)
USA - South (2)
USA - Southwest (1)
* Cameron Highlands
* Kuala Lumpur
* What we did in Georgetown
* Georgetown, Penang
* Scuba divin'
* Ko Tao and diving!
* Laos wrapup
* Slow boat to Luang Prabrang, or Ship o' Fools
* What we've been up to
* Thailand photos 1
* Burma photos 3
* Burma photos 2
* Burma photos 1
* India photos 5
* India photos 4
* India photos 3
* India photos 2
* India photos 1
* Photos, continued
* The many uses of...
March 28, 2005
Slow boat to Luang Prabrang, or Ship o' Fools
I didn't think two days on a boat sounded too fun, and this trip did not disappoint! Imagine seventy backpackers on a boat that comfortably fits fifty. Add a boat crew that speaks no English, a boat of folks whose first language is not English and you have the slow boat to Luang Prabang!
Euro-packer #1: "[strong European accent] Where is my bag? Where is MY BAG??? I would like TO SEE MY BAG!".
Lao boat man: [smiles] bag?
Euro-packer #2: "When does the boat arrive in Luang Prabang? Boat - Luang Prabang???!!"
Lao boat man: [smiles]
Euro-packer #2: "WHEN DOES THE BOAT ARRIVE??? ARRIVE??"
Lao boat man: Beerlao? Beerlao? ("Beerlao" is the name of Laotian beer)
We crossed into Laos from Chiang Khong. We took a little boat over the Mekong and got a visa on arrival for $30 each.
Jason wanted to go to a guesthouse recommended in our guidebook as being a "good place to find information about what boats to take to Luang Prabang". The only information the guesthouse owner was prepared to give out was: "Booking me now a ticket to Luang Prabang, very cheap, only 650 baht!".
She seemed most interested in exchanging kip, Laotian currency, for baht and dollars. (Inflation is quite high here. In 1998, the exchange rate was something like 1000 kip = 1 dollar. Currently, the rate is 10,000 kip = 1 dollar.) "Scrooge" seemed to spend most of her time counting stacks of kip and tapping away on her calculator. Anytime anyone had to check in, she seemed too busy with her money. In the end, I got a few questions answered and since I was too tired to argue further with Scrooge, I bought the tickets. She did say something that worried me - "Many, many people on the boat".
The next morning, her helper got us to the docks at 10:15. The boat was about halfway filled. The seats were pretty cramped wooden benches. In the next hour, we filled up to what I thought was full capacity. No! The boat guys brought in some plastic stools and set them in the aisle.
After we got started, the poor fools in the back of the boat were treated to the sounds of the boat engine. I went to the back just to go to the bathroom and was deafened by that short visit.
About an hour into the boat ride, I was introduced to a major theme in our time in Laos: drugs! Some idiot decided to make himself more comfortable by lighting up. This is a major attraction for many visitors, apparently. If you've ever wanted to travel halfway around the world to smoke some cheap grass or experiment with opium, this is THE PLACE.
Despite these funny things, Jason and I were relatively comfortable. The scenery was beautiful along the Mekong -- the most beautiful scenery we have seen on our trip. Laos is sparsely populated and there were so few signs of civilization, like electricity, pumps, boats, people, that I felt like we were traveling through a national park.
Posted by Cathy on March 28, 2005 02:03 AM
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