The Mekong River and Luang Prabang

Traveling from Chang Khong Thailand to Luang Prabang is a river trip on the Mekong. There are two choices: a leisurely journey of two days spent enjoying the quiet serenity of the Mekong River and wishing there was a bathroom onboard the “slow boat” or six hours spent on a

“fast boat” enjoying the very loud serenity of the Mekong River while crammed into a very small space with seven other cadets going 70 km per hour wishing that the strap on your helmet wasn’t broken so you didn’t have to hold it onto your head the whole time. You can imagine which one I chose.

Take a look at who and what is driving these things. It’s an engine and standard transmission on a mount that allows it to be rotate side to side or tilted up or down. There’s a long drive shaft coming out the back with a propeller on the end, and there’s a long shaft coming out the front which allows the whole setup to be manuevered and has a throttle and shifter linkage on it. It’s brilliant. It’s even almost stable at 70 km per hour.

At some point I gave up on the helmet and put on the hat. Adam, I’m very ashamed of what happened a few hours later, but I can only laugh when I think of some sixty-year-old Lao fisherman working his nets in the hot sun with a bright green John Deere hat on his head. It all happened so fast. I just turned my head the wrong way and…

I arrived in Luang Prabang and immediately got price-gouged by some guys with a truck, but after being crammed into that boat for six hours, I didn’t think my legs were up to the 12 km hike into town. They wanted 100 Baht (US$2.50) each for eight of us for the ride. We got them down to 80 baht, but it was a rip-off because it was the only truck and everybody knew it. I later talked to some other tourists who sure were sore that they paid the whole 100 Baht.

Luang Prabang is fantastic, but don’t tell anybody. It isn’t big enough for the tour buses. At first I thought it was crammed with tourists, but I realized it the same tourists I was seeing over and over. This place is growing on me. There are some wats and a couple of waterfalls to see, but the people here are the best part. There are night markets where you can buy all kinds of crafts and a whole street of food vendors. There’s even a beer delivery service.

With all the pictures I’ve taken there were some great ones that got away. There was the obligatory young monk smoking a cigarrette, but better was the monk standing in the Mekong up to his knees smiling back at me as he brushes his teeth with bright yellow toothbrush. There was the video I should have of the three year old boygrabbing oranges as they fell off the pile and tossing them back on top. I do however have some video of some young kids racing each other as they roll bike tires in front of them by hitting them with sticks. I’ll figure out how to post it somewhere, but maybe not before I’m home.

These are the things that make this sort of trip absolutely worth the (actually very small) risks. If I had been at the beach when that tsunami hit, I would probably still be alive. I would probably also have been able to help other people who were injured or didn’t have a clean water supply. Yesterday I was writing in my notebook and I came across my notes from the day before the earthquake. I was talking with Nuii (a fantastic tour guide from Chang Mai) and asking a bunch of questions as to where I should go. Compare this with the newspaper reports.

In any case, I’m very glad to be here and I’m having a good time. I do wish that one of these days some of you might come with me.

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12 responses to “The Mekong River and Luang Prabang”

  1. Hey Man,

    Glad to here that you are OK. A friend of mine who has family it Sri Lanka lost 25 of her relatives. Very Sad!!!

    Take Care!!!

  2. After hearing about the quake, I remembered you were planning a trip to that area. I logged on to make sure you were ok and read the journal to this point. Sounds like an awesome trip, Im sure Ill be a daily reader now.

  3. hey don’t worry about the hat i can always got you some more john deere stuff…be careful.. moe , chrissy, and robbie say hi. and wish you luck…oh yeah i like the fast boats…

  4. Jason,

    It didn’t hit me until today that you were in the vicinity of the earthquake (for some reason I thought you would be further north). It’s good to hear you’re okay, even if the scope of the tragedy is unreal.
    On a lighter note, your blog is making me wish I was over there too. Great pictures, and I look forward to reading more.


  5. Jason,
    Steven gave me your blog. Very glad you’re safe. Should be an interesting trip home given all the fractured travel arrangements. Travel safe.

  6. Jason, So glad to hear that you are ok! Can’t wait to hear all these stories in person! Stay safe and Happy New Year 2005!

  7. Every time I pick up the paper or hear a news update… Words fail me, if you can believe that. It’s incredible that you weren’t there, considering your plans. People from work are all asking about you. You have many more BLOG readers than you can imagine. Stay safe.

  8. I’m really relieved about the lasagne. Wouldn’t want you moving that far away for a real Italian meal. Puppet theatre looked really cool. Mom

  9. Jason,
    We were very worried about you down here in Tennessee. I called your Mom to see where you were because I didn’t know about this site. She said you were fine and had missed the whole earthquake and tidal wave, which I might add is a good thing!!! Glad you are having a good time and please stay safe.
    Have fun!!
    Anne Louise

  10. My family and I just got back from Western PA (they don’t have internet access in that part of the world), and the first thing I checked was your blog.

    It’s beyond words the situation in Asia, but I’m truely glad it was an non-event for you.

    Here’s some local the Pittsburgh Steelers thumped the Ravens 20-7.

  11. Hey Jason,
    I’ve enjoyed reading about your travels. Do you think you could rig one of those engines on the back of your Kayak? I guess it’ll be 2005 in a few hours over there – you had to go half way around the globe – just so you could celebrate the New Year before us. Enjoy. lời chúc tết

  12. Hey Jason,

    Glad to hear you are ok! I was wondering if you had made out ok. The first thing I asked was, had anyone heard from Youngers. Glad I heard laughter when they spoke your name while reading your blog. Can’t wait to hear more about your trip when you return. Stay safe

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