Day 11. On the Mekong River heading to Pak Beng in Laos

An early start this morning, TMM (remember him?) has had a rough night, so I leave him with panadol and go downstairs to the open air bar area looking over the Mekong for breakfast. Its warm and humid, the instant coffee and sweet toast with a fried egg revive me enough to head up and do a quick repack of my bag.

Sunset over the Mekong at Chiang Khong

8.00am and we’re on the bus to the border crossing, first we exit Thailand with stamped passports (love to have them stamped), then onto a bus that crosses a huge bridge financed by the Chinese to the Laos side. The process on the Laos side is a bit slow and laborious but after handing over visa applications with passports, getting temp checks, showing the Vaccination Certificate (they are very thorough with that – in Thailand nobody looked), then getting our passports back with the visa pasted in stamped, initialed, rechecked, photgraphed, fingerprinted, everything except having a strip search, we’re finally in Laos. We meet Sak our Laos guide, we still have the tour leader Naa running the show.

The inside of our boat from the kitchen at the back

A short bus ride up to where the boat is moored on the Mekong, looks a little rough on the outside but inside its open, all nicely laquered, clean toilet and kitchen, sitting under cover on the river is like the air conditioner is set on the perfect temperature. Its so relaxing, as we wind our way slowly down the Mekong, through the whirlpools, dodging the occassional rock rapids. Small pointy boats with outboard motors piled with fishing nets scream past us, the river is like a highway and clearly drives the life of people who live on its banks.

Life on the Mekong today

Everyone has settled in, and chatting, I’ve all spread out over one cubicle by myself sorting out my camera gear when Naa comes up and says its time to do the memorial for Tim. She has split all the flowers up into petals, put them in a beautiful silver bowl with the little container of Tim’s ashes sitting in the middle of them. She lights some insence and says a Buddhist prayer then invites everyonedoen the front of the boat where she says some lovely words about Tim being here with us and then asks me to put the ashes (I keep the container with a few ashes for other things) into the flowers and put them into the river. I put his ashes and flowers into the flowing river and see them float away, Dale puts some in then everyone on the boat comes and throws some of the flowers and ash into the river. Very moving little ceremony. Naa is such a gem, so thoughtful and so genuine. I say a few words beacuse it was so nice that everyone helped with it. I decide to read a poem that I had written called “Nothing Lasts Forever”, almost bring me undone, not sure what happened but I promise not to repeat it. The are no photos of the service, only videos

Nothing Lasts Forever

Don't waste time wondering is my little tip,
Nothing lasts forever so just appreciate the trip,
Get on the road or start whatever it is
That pushes your buttons and makes your brain fizz.

Me, I like many things but to travel to places far away,
Gets me excited to leave my home and garden of clay,
Go to mountains in Laos, land of the green paddy field,
And to the hills of Cortona where Tuscan secrets stay sealed.

Nothing lasts forever, so I put my thinking hat on,
I need a coffee to stimulate and move my thoughts along,
As I sit in the cafe sheltering from rain and frozen air,
My thoughts drift to far away places as I rock back in my chair.

To Switzerland, Scotland, England, Croatia and Wales,
Be a tourist, a traveller, soak cuture, eat their food, drink their ales,
Talk to locals, smile with them and laugh at their jokes not so clever,
Do it now while you can because nothing lasts forever.

And think about where you live, adventure home grown,
So much to see from beaches to deserts, together or alone,
Pack the bags, mortgage the house to finance the cost,
Because nothing lasts forever, there's no time to be lost.

Paul Reid – July 2022

It’s very chilled, you can buy a beer (Beerlao brand now) or a soft drink, there is jungle and some crops on both side of the river, children swimming on the banks waving to us from shade of the family boats, water buffalo grazing on the banks. We stop for the boat owner to check in with officials at one point and a guy comes on selling bunches of lychees for 10,000 kip (Laos currency 10,400kip = $1AUD), we buy some but we mostly only got 100,000 kip notes from the ATM’s at the border.

Lunch is a gourmet delight, about 4-5 main dishes with rice, stir fry veggies, fillets of fried Mekong fish,a mildly spicy noodle dish, 2 curries like a mussaman curry, and juicy ripe paw paw for afterwards. After lucnh the boat goes quiet, its siesta time. And, I think that this is exactly the experience that we were thinking about when we signed up for this trip and the key word in the name of the trip was “Adventure”.

The afternoon goes slowly, its hot and humid and the only breeze is because of the boat moving, so we’re all a bit sweaty and weary by the time we pull into Pak Beng. Our guest house is nice but very basic rooms with a strange setup for the bathroom BUT the air con works a treat.

We walk around the village, its very poor and covid has knocked their business community around significantly. A hill tribe market is a subsistence market, no tourism about it, its trading food for food basically.

Dinner tonight is at the guest house, most of us go for the local Laos food, either buffalo or pork larb with sticky rice, TMM has fried chicken with rice, but it is very tasty.

Tomorrow we’re on the boat again at 8am heading for Luang Prabang, time to hit the sack and catch up on some rest time.

Ciao from Pauolo in Laos

Praying spot at the front of the boat
Life in the village of Pak Beng – Laos today

One thought on “Day 11. On the Mekong River heading to Pak Beng in Laos

  1. Alison says:

    It sounds like a perfect day. There’ll be lots of time for day dreaming and observation of life on the Mekong during the trip. What a beautiful experience to be able to have the ceremony for Tim … very special.


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