Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Upstream on the Mekong

On the boat
Please see previous post, Luang Prabang, if you want to read about this trip in chronological order.  If not, have at it!  At 6:45am a tuk-tuk transported us to the charter dock in Luang Prabang to board our Luang Say long boat up the Mekong.  We hustled on board, trying to find the best place to camp out on the large "slow" boat, which could hold up to 40 tourists..... and found out that we were the only customers for that trip.  It's good to travel in the off-season!  So, this was a commercial-sized Mekong touring boat outfitted with comfy wicker chairs and sofa, and a dining table where our meals were served to us.  REALLY GOOD meals.  Probably haven't mentioned that I gained about 5 pounds on this trip...  A short distance upstream were the Pak Ou Caves, a centuries-old repository of hundreds of buddha statues that are too damaged or disfigured to warrant a temple altar.  It was an amazing vision, climbing up ladders inside limestone walls with black streaks of oxidation to find rock shelves lined with hundreds of tiny buddhas and some larger standing buddhas as well.  Further upstream, we visited a village where they made textiles from cotton and silk, and whiskey from rice.  That night, we stayed at the Luang Say Lodge, a beautiful open structure with about 16 bungalows set on the river bank.  It was a lovely spot that we had to ourselves - a glass of wine on the veranda and an incredible Laotian meal in the open-air dining room.  It seemed criminal to spend so little time there, as we arrived at dinner time on the first day and left after an early breakfast the next morning.  The next day we visited another village and then passed the point where the left bank of the Mekong became Thailand (previously, we were wholly in Laos).  We arrived at Houei Sai on the Laos side, went through Laos customs, took a ferry across to Thailand - the "ferry" was a small long boat for the four of us plus the pilot - then were processed through Thai customs on the other side, in Chiang Khong.  After a harrowing ride in a mini-van, we arrived at our hotel in Chiang Rai - stay tuned for the next posting...

Pak Ou Caves
View from Luang Say Lodge

Pak Ou Caves

Village and rice paddy

Textiles woven in the village
The Luang Say boat

Luang Say Lodge
Who's on first?
Storm brewing

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