We’d booked our 2 day river cruise to Luang Prabang through a private company called Mekong Smile. It’s about 3 times more expensive than the public one but it’s door to door service between hotels, across the border, and you travel in comfort with cooked lunches. If you’re going to be on a boat for 2 days you definitely want comfort and cooked lunches! Plus, we saw it as more of an experience thing to do, as opposed to just a means to get from A > B.
Stamped out of Thailand and into Laos we boarded our boat! There was only 7 of us on board so plenty of space (it holds 26!). We are the youngest by about 20 years, I guess all the other backpackers take the cheapo one 😉
The Mekong is reaaally brown. I did Google it and apparently it’s the eroding hillsides just making it muddy. The views were incredible though — we passed local farmers, buffalo, mountains, and many other boats. We got lunch on board, cooked by the captains wife which was mega yum! Also a taste for our first BeerLao (I think we’ll like it here).
Excited to visit a traditional Hmong hill tribe village we stopped mid afternoon to stretch the legs. A short climb up the riverbank and we were greeted by many adorable children!
Back on the boat, we headed for Pakbeng where we spent the night on land with a beautiful sunset over the river. Pakbeng is a sad little town but it was just one night.
Another early start we were back on the boat for 7:30am. It was super misty and really cold too, especially with the wind through the boat. We snuggled under blankets with coffee admiring the views. It was bloody freezing but we still loved it.
Our first stop of the day was another Hmong hill tribe village. This one totally geared up for visitors as the women lay their wares for sale. It’s also a traditional weaving community so we watch as the older generations hand make their colourful creations. The ladies in our group bought lots of pretty scarves but alas my rucksack is already SO full… I had to resist temptation.
The children are so happy — running free and playing. There’s puppies and piglets and chicks and billy goats… who needs video games?!
We also stopped at Pak Ou Caves, a collection of limestone caves on the Mekong that have been a place of worship for yonks. We climbed the first lot of steps into the lower cave and admired all the buddhas with the rest of our group. Then Gav and I thought it was a great idea to climb the hundreds of steep steps to the upper caves in blistering heat!! At least we can say we did it, even if we did return to the boat a shadow of our former selves.