slow boat… Luang Prabang

September 25, 2008 at 8:55 pm Leave a comment

I took a ferry from Chiang Khong, Thailand to Huay Xai, Laos. Did my visa and changed some baht into kip and took the slow boat down to Luang Prabang. It took 2 days. In Chiang Khong i met a pair i had originally met in Pai, and along with several Lao women we made the back of the boat our home. Aside from the loud engine, bad air, and cigeratte smoke, boating down the Mekong river was a really nice experience. The first day of the ride i slept a lot, mostly because i was afraid of becoming sea sick. But in between naps i tried to play “bullshit” with the Lao women… and if you know the rules of the game you’ll be able to imagine how difficult it is to teach it without a common languange. It was fun. There was also a lot of drinking. Laos produces a really tasty brew called Beerlao. Although i hardly drink, it made everyone else merry and that was good for me. Lao currency is 8,660 kip to 1 US dollar. Every now and then the boat would stop along a coast or a small boat would catch up and kids or women would climb in and sell snacks. On one such visit i decided to buy some bottled tea. I didn’t understand what the kid said so i just took out bills for him to choose from and waited for my change. There was none and so i turned back to my book. But one of the Lao woman became angry and started shouting at the boy. I had paid him 100,000 kip without realizing, the equavalent of $13, almost half my days budget. I didn’t care much though. I would have felt upset had it been an adult who had cheated me, but children are allowed some foolishness and greediness. Eventually the Lao woman chased down the boy and embarressed him infront of his friends, retrieved part of the money, and returned with more snacks under her arm. I thought of what would happen to this boy when he came home tonight. Surely one of the other children would tell on him. And probably he would be punished. The possibility of it being corporal punishment made me sad.

 

Now i’m in Luang Prabang and i’ve been here for almost 4 days. I’ve visited some caves with old buddha images, waterfalls with places to jump from and swim, rented a bicycle and rode through some villages, and took numerous walks through the night market without buying anything. Surprisingly, Lao (at least in the places that travelers frequent) is more expensive than Thailand. I’m not sure why this is although i’ve heard that Laos doesn’t really produce anything and so has to rely on imports. I mean, Luang Prabang was the first place i visited where you had to pay (over a dollar!) for a map even though the map was full of ads. Didn’t these ads pay for the map i asked the seller as he mumbled something about them being made in Bangkok.

 

Tomorrow i will go to Vang Vieng which is further south, about 8 hours by bus. It is considered to be one of the best places for travelers to meet and has a range of outdoor water activities. Then i might continue to Vientiane, the capital, or i might head north instead and do a trek.

 

There is an organization here called Big Brother Mouse that creates and destributes books among Lao children in an effort to promote literacy. Yesterday and today i played with some of the children, and this morning i partook in an informal English lesson with some teenagers. It was really enjoyable!

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Entry filed under: travel. Tags: , .

the golden triangle Vang Vieng

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