27/12/2012 - 28/12/2012 30 °C
The coaches I've been on so far have been surprisingly comfortable; reclining seats, air con and sufficient legroom. Even so it is always just a means to an end - getting from A to B.
When I saw the opportunity to go from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang by slow boat I nearly baulked at the price but I'm so glad I didn't. Considering the ticket incudes food and accommodation it really isn't much more than the bus. The (huge) advantage is being able to lap up the beautiful Laos landscape as you cruise downstream.
The whole journey is 3 days/2 nights. The first day was on a coach and we stopped at definitely the most bizarre temple I've seen so far. Dazzlingly white and decorated in a way to give kids nightmares for weeks.
Journeying down the Mekong River was a brilliant way to travel. I met a great bunch of people who I would later spend my time in Luang Prabang with. The boat journey was a combination of chatting, reading, dozing and admiring the view. It was really fascinating to see the people of the tiny riverside villages as our boat dropped off supplies, I can't imagine living in such a remote place.
Being a bit further north and with the added river breeze I got out my hoodie for the first time since packing my bag back in the UK. It was also the last time as I managed to leave it on the first boat and then couldn't find it again!
It was a strange experience staying in Bak Beng village, really just a stop-over village for the slow boaters. Before the boat ride our guide gave us a 10 minute talk on what to expect from the village and problems we might have with finding accommodation. Thankfully he just so happened to have a contact who owns an apparantly average price guesthouse. Not knowing any better you really don't have much else to go on and we were happy with the price so why not? At the guesthouse we met a true salesman. Someone who plays the friendly host to a new crowd of people on a daily basis but must also get us to spend as much as possible. It was easy to see the determination under the surface but he was enough entertainment in itself to be excused. You have to consider how many people are being supported by this work in a society where there is little social welfare and you can't just sit in cruise control, picking up a paycheck at the end of the month.