Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mekong River, Laos

October 8 - 9

We left Pai on October 7th on a night bus to Chiang Khong which is a town in Thailand in the Chiang Rai providence (northern Thailand) located directly on the Mekong River which serves as the boarder between Thailand and Laos.  The 10-person mini-bus left Pai at 6:30 pm filled with young backpackers, mostly from England and France.  We arrived in Chiang Khong at 1 am after a very scary 6.5 hours of driving along windy mountain roads at very high speeds (our bus driver must have had a death wish!).  At one point, we all were scared the bus might flip as we turned a sharp mountain curve / switchback at what seemed like 60 mph.

We stayed at a small guesthouse on the Mekong River in Chiang Khong that evening.  When we woke up, we were all in awe at the beauty and tranquility of the Mekong river.  After a quick breakfast, we headed down the road to the Thai customs/immigration office, checked out of Thailand, and hopped on a small longboat that took us across the river to Huay Xai, Laos.  After checking into Laos, we hauled our luggage down the street to the pier where we boarded the "slow-boat" that would take us on a 2-day journey down the Mekong river from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, stopped over night in Phakbeng.  The boat ride both days was very long (~6 - 8 hours each day), but the scenery along the Mekong River was beautiful and we met some fun people along the journey. 

Morning view of Mekong River looking over at Laos
(from our guesthouse in Chiang Khong)

 Checking out of Thai Immigration with the young backpackers from our bus ride

Crossing the boarder to Laos

Checking into Laos in Houay Xai

 This was the inside of our slow boat that would take us down the river to Luang Prabang over the next 2 days.  Very tight quarters!  The boats hold about 80 people but only wide enough to hold two people on either side of the middle isle. 

 And we're off - here's our last shot of Houay Xai and the other slow boats.

 We stopped several times throughout the 2-day journey to drop off locals that jumped on in Houay Xai.  At this particular stop, we spotted a family of ducks.

 We arrive in Phakbeng our first night just as the sun was setting.

 Early morning in Phakbeng as we prepare to reboard the boat.

 This is one of the fast-boats that travel down the river from Houay Xai and Phakbeng.  They are supposedly really dangerous with terrible accidents occurring every couple weeks.


Leaving Phakbeng, on our way to Luang Prabang

 We noticed many animal traps set up along the riverside as we cruised along.  Here are a few, one of which seems to either have fallen down or caught something (middle trap).

 Buffalo grazing by the river in the sand

We stopped by this one village to drop off some locals and a bunch of little kids ran out to greet us.  This one girl appears to be carrying her baby brother on her back.

  We passed a few waterfalls along the way.

 The geography started to change as we got closer to Luang Prabang.  Large granite rock formations were becoming more common.  They seem to just rise right out of the river.

 Temple build within the caves of this mountain

 Finally we arrive in Luang Prabang!

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