Wow! That is the most descriptive word that comes to mind when I think about the cruise on the Mekong River I was on for the past couple of days.
Joan and I made our way to Chiang Khong from Chiang Rai by car. There’s not much to say about Chiang Khong, and it’s probably not a place to visit except for the fact that it is a jumping off point for visiting Lao where we are now. Here’s a couple of the most interesting things in and around Chiang Khong.
Crossing into this country is not the simplest procedure and our river cruise was to depart early in the morning so we made a trial run the day before to test what would be involved. It’s complicated, but not impossible. Our tuk-tuk met us at 7:15 am for the 10 kilometer ride to the bridge. We had to exit Thailand: Stamp stamp. Buy a bus ticket to cross the bridge: Stamp. Arrive in Lao. Pay for a visa: stamp, stamp, stamp. Wait (no stamping). Receive visa and passport. Proceed to immigration: stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp. Wait. Board another tuk-tuk. Drive 10 kilometers on the other side of the river to end up about 300 yards from where we left. It’s the Lao way.
We finally arrived to our riverboat at about 9:30 am destined for a two-day cruise downstream on the Mekong River. The boat is wonderful and the scenery is magnificent. The first day we stopped at the village of Pak Tha. The people there live quite primitively but I was surprised to find a few satellite dishes on top of the bamboo houses. The children were picturesque and I couldn’t resist snapping some photos of them. The following series of photos will give a sense of what life is like in the small villages along the river.
Back on the boat we were served a very nice lunch and then spent a lazy afternoon watching the world go by, napping, meeting fellow passengers from points far flung. It was a great afternoon culminating with our arrival at Pakbeng where we spent the night in a beautiful lodge with one of the most scenic views imaginable.
At about 4:00pm we stopped for an overnight stay in the larger village of Pak Beng. Joan and I took the option of staying a Pak Beng Lodge where we had beautiful room, panoramic views, a nice dinner, and cool showers.
The next morning we re-boarded the boat to continue our way down stream toward Luang Prabang. Most of the day was at the boat but late in the afternoon we made two stops, one at another village and the second at the Pak Ou caves that are famous for housing thousands of Buddha images some of which date from the 1600s. Since it was dark inside, sorry, now photos. My highlight of the day (other than arriving in Luang Prabang and lunch) was watching the beehive of activity at the pier in Pak Beng before our morning departure.