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Slow boat – day 2

Day two on the Mekong trip started early once again with the boat leaving with a late start around 10am. The hills were covered in low hanging clouds and it made for a serene walk down to the river. I recognized other travelers from the boat making their way down as well. While stopping for some supplies as one of the local vendors I ran into the Swiss, Sascha. We walked to the boat and chatted along the way. Once near the boat we realized that our seat assignments from yesterday no longer mattered. It was a free for all and all of the families and locals decided they want to ride on the bigger boat with more headroom. They also arrived early and claimed all of the good seats so we were left with the only option, hard wooded church-like pew seats near the back of the boat….for “9-10 hrs” – as we were told.

Other people from our “group” appeared on the hillside and walked down to the boat only to be guided to the 2nd boat as ours was full. This split our group up and effectively put an end to the party boat that we experienced the day before.

Sascha and I began chatting for several hours and had much in common. His degree is in agriculture and recently accepted a job in the Boston Mass area starting this April and lasting for 7 months.

The boat had one other area which I called the “Den”. This was a compartment in the back that was basically the engine room which stored the backpacks from the passengers in the boat. Travelers were strewn about laying on the floor and on the backpacks in what looked like a comfortable place to be. It was so noisy and vibrated more than I preferred so I stayed up in the main cabin area. The day remained cloudy and even rained a bit. The 2nd day on the river was definitely more of a chill tone. By the time it reached Noon, Sascha and I decided to grab a couple beers. We were the only ones sitting there with our Beerlao, but we didn’t care much. A beer on the river makes perfect sense.

It gave me time to finish the book I started in Thailand, The Light Behind Blue Circles. It was a fantastic read and now I plan to leave it behind in Bangkok for another traveler to discover.

We landed in Luang Prabang around 4:30pm, much earlier than the times we were being quoted.  I’m sure at times it is possible that the boat could take that long – but I also suspect it is a clever marketing technique to sell us more goods. With the rest of our group still in the 2nd boat on the river up stream, Sascha and I began to hang together and walked along the river walk in search of a nice guesthouse which were plentiful. It seemed like every building had a guesthouse. We had several locals trying to get us in their place as we were easy targets with our backpacks and a ‘fresh off the boat’ look. We settled on a place that appeared to be a nice and clean family run house. They only had a handful of rooms and we were able to secure the last two which were up on the 2nd level. They were very clean with comfy beds and a nice street view. A/C, hot water and a TV. 100,000 Kip per night which was about $12US. Pretty cheap.

Later that night we went out for a nice meal and called it a early night. I did stop at a bar called Utopia which turned out to be the nightly spot for the travelers of the town to end up at. It had a volleyball court tucked in the corner and like the majority of the bars in SE Asia is open air. It also has amazing views of the river from the back bamboo deck which has a quite precarious edge with a nasty drop. I had a chance to chat with some of the other members from our group.  Antwan was a french kid traveling with his mother. He had just spent 4 months in Australia and she flew down from France to meet up for a couple weeks. She was an interesting person from the Bordeaux region who did not drink wine. In fact, she did not drink at all. One of the German girls in our group didn’t drink beer, so I guess I can’t stereotype everyone. 🙂

Laos is a bit more strict with it’s nightlife so by 11:30 the DJ music stopped and the lights came on. The bar owners rushed everyone out to be sure to be closed by midnight as this is the law. I did hear of a place called the Bowling Center which remained open for a couple more hours, but would save that for another night. I chatted with some of the German members from our group and made some light plans to rent a motor scooter and check out the waterfall tomorrow.

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