Our travel to Luang Prabang, Laos started with suggestions that we should take the "slow boat" to our destination is an exotic adventure and one of the most beautiful boat trips in the world. The biggest issue was getting to the Laos port of Huay Xai from Chiang Mai, Thailand where we stayed for 5 days in a nice guesthouse called Charcoa. I noticed at our front desk they had information on traveling to Laos and taking the two day boat trip on the Mekong River. So I had the hotel to arrange the passage all the way to Luang Prabang via the "slow boat" which they did for about $65.00 each. The trip included being picked up at our guest house in Chiang Mai via Mini Bus to the Thailand border, a room at the Boom Guesthouse at the border town of Chiang Khong, transportation to Thai immigration, ferry boat to Lao immigration, taxi to boat station, boat to the town of Pak Bang Village (stay the night at our expense about $15.00, the boat to Luang Prabang our destination.
The above seemed all so organized, so simple and that is why we will never trust prearranged rooms or trips again because more often than not the following will happen.
|Our suite at the compound hotel|
|After 3 hours of sleep we're off to Thai immigration|
|Sharon in search of our boat number 65|
|Ready to board not knowing the yacht is full|
|A view from our seats in the luggage/engine room|
|Location has it's benefits such as this lovely family|
Keeping my eyes closed and wishing for sleep to prevent me from a cardiac arrest I was pitched back and forth and maybe lulled to sleep for a few minutes but the van pulled to a stop at 3AM in a dirt parking lot of a concrete compound to which we were order out of the bus. "Hotel" he shouted. I asked, "Is this the Boom House?" I questioned it because I looked up the hotel on the internet before we left and this didn't resemble it at all. My question was ignored and I knew I had to act fast or Sharon and I would be sharing a room with two to four strangers for the evening or should I say for about 4 hours before having to get moving again.
Fortunately with my sleep deprivation I was very forceful with my request for a single room with a single bed. They seem to honor us old married ones a bit more than the average 20 year old backpacker. The main woman who seemed to be in charge yelled out the order to her underling to give us a separate room and we were shown to our beautiful spartan suite. I'm kinda of used to this sort of raw accommodation but Sharon whispered a subtle gasp but we had no choice and both of us just needed to get prone to capture as much sleep as possible for the long day on the boat bobbing along the Mekong River.
|Full capacity and then some|
|The peaceful and spectacular Mekong River in Laos|
I shouted to Sharon next to me..."Toilet Paper". She pulled out the roll and I tore away a couple sheets, wadded it up and stuffed into my ears...ah...relative quiet to keep my sanity. During the trip I would get up and walk over to a larger window in hopes to snap some photo but mostly I sat and shot some images of the Lao family next to me. We were together in the cargo area living the life of the lower caste, an experience that makes real stories.
A cute side note Sharon told me over dinner later that evening was the two sheets of toilet paper she had each in her ears to deaden the sound of the boat engine had to be removed from her ears, unfolded, and used when she went to the head and discovered no toilet paper. I about busted a gut laughing because I remember her returning and sitting down. I looked over to her and she didn't have any toilet paper in her ears and I thought she must not be bothered by the extreme engine noise. She was genuinely happy to have those two sheets with her when she really needed it. You just can't get those stories traveling first class.
We beached the boat at Pak Bang at 7:30 that evening. Sharon and I disembarked and found our $15.00 a night suite at the Bon Amee Hotel. The manager was out front of the hotel sitting at a table with the keys lined up. He gave us room #2 and we entered the room only to be a small bit better than the compound the night before but the bed still required us using sleep sacks. We checked the shower and the water just trickled out. That was it...we left the room to confront the manager about the water issue. I was in a really really foul state of mind at that point and after hovering over Mr Manager vocalizing with tone just short of a threat I gave him one hour to get the water fixed while we found some dinner. He promised profusely and apologized while the two of us became shadows toward an Indian restaurant we saw on our walk up the steep road from the boats.
At dinner I promised Sharon things would be much different once we got to Luang Prabang. I researched it on the internet and knew they had lots and lots of nice hotels there but we just had to get there without losing our sanity. Our plan for the next day was to beat everyone to the boat and get a seat up front and live like humans for the journey to Luang Prabang.
Tomorrow...Part 2....Pak Bang to Luang Prabang
PS. The Luang Prabang internet has to be the slowest I've experienced in quite some time which can be a bit frustrating but I got this blog out, now I'll try to get part two up within a day. Currently we are in beautiful hotel overlooking the Mekong delta.