Monday, December 10, 2012

The majesty of the Mekong

Dramatic mountains rising sharply from the sometimes-calm, sometimes-turbulent flow of the Mekong signal that you have left Thailand, and entered Laos. A million kinds of lush, green trees cover these mountains. Some look like gargantuan fiddlehead ferns unfurling. Some have jagged, silvery trunks that stand out among the greenery like lightning bolts. Others, palm tree-esque green fireworks atop a long, slender trunk. And amid this thick forest, small villages perch, while below, in the river, locals set their fishing nets.

Every bend in the river leads to a new unimaginable landscape. Giant sandbanks (leftovers from higher waters during monsoon season?) line the river and create sand-islands. Some with herds of water buffalo and goats grazing. Others dotted with evenly spaced rows of plants.

Our boat, equipped with old car and airplane seats, already filled to maximum capacity, stopped frequently to take on more passengers, children lining up at the banks to wave to the foreigners, and us to them. The roof of the boat is piled high with cases of empty Beer Lao bottles, market wares, sandbags, and food.

All slowboats enroute from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang stop about halfway at Pakbeng, who's sole business seems to be offering guesthouses for weary travelers, and sandwiches for the next day's 8-hour trip. We were luckily, the first ones off the boat at dusk, and we dashed into town, looking for accommodation, trying to avoid the same 0-star debaucle of the previous night. After finding guesthouse after guesthouse full, we forked over $35 bucks for a very nice bungalow right on the river. Cheap by western standards, but totally overpriced, and totally out of our budget. The all-night wedding celebrations next door were a bit loud til the wee hours, but it was worth it, as we found out the following early morning, when two elephants came down to have a drink on the other side of the river! It was awesome! I could have watched them all morning.


  1. Happy New Year Amberlea and Mark! Time to catch up with the blog posts! I tried to enjoy the landscape pictures as I scrolled down, but I have to admit I rushed so I could see the elephants! haha I went back and looked at them again. I love the sunset pictures!