Our next stop in Southeast Asia was Laos. It took five modes of transportation, but we crossed the land border into Laos from the Thai town of Chiang Khong.
We arrived at the boat a half hour before schedulued departure, placed our shoes in a plastic bag, and took a seat on the cushioned seat which came right out of an automobile. In the past, people would bring pillows to sit on the floor, but the seats have been recently upgraded due to the growing tourism. The boat departed an hour late. The captain tried to stuff the boat to capacity, but eventually a convincing Italian tourist pleaded with the captain to get moving and off we were.
The boat ride is slow and peaceful. It passes through different Lao ethnic tribes villages along the river.
The driver makes stops along the way to pick up passengers from their villages. These passengers have no schedules to rely on so they must wait and wave a flag when a boat passes. Each stop, village children run up to the boat waving in excitement.
There were two mothers seated on a step next to us holding their toddler sons and feeding them balls of rice with a small piece of chicken. They observed the tourists as much as we observed them, both groups curious about each other’s differences and way of life.
After a long eight hour ride, we stopped in Pak Beng, a town built around the two day slow boat ride to accommodate riders for only one night. There is not much to do in the town except eat and rest up for the next day. The second day was more or less the same, maybe we saw more water buffalo, and seven hours later we reached Luang Prabang.
Although the views along the river are quite beautiful and interesting to observe, the boat ride is too long to just look out. Everyone on the boat ends up bonding on the journey, sharing travel stories and exchanging recommendations.