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Along the Mekong River

After some very long—and not terribly comfortable—bus rides from the south of Laos up to the capital, Vientiane, we decided to take another mode of transport.

 Map of Laos
Of course, for hundreds and hundreds of years the Mekong has been the lifeline for much of Laos and neighboring countries. Even today, the Mekong makes a lot more sense than the unpaved roads that are still commonplace in Laos, especially between Luang Prabang and the northwest of the country, for those heading into or out of Thailand.

And that's just what we did: in two days, we made it from Luang Prabang to the Thai border (Chiang Khong on the Thai side), seeing some interesting things along the way...

Before we actually started, there was of course some waiting around to do—not unlike other types of transport, like buses.

Here's Karen, already comfortable and ready to go—although we ended up waiting a good hour or two before the boat was ready!

Karen on board, waiting for the boat to fill up

A rather long boat passing by on our first morning out:

Passing by a rather LONG boat...

And another boat in the fairly dense fog . . .

Another boat passing by, in the thick morning fog

And then at about 10 or 10:30 a.m., the fog began to lift, we stopped shivering, our teeth stopped chattering, and, before we knew it, we were peeling off those outer layers of clothing as things began to heat up.

A nice mountain showed us itself in the clearing clouds:

Mountain and clouds finally clearing

You are hardly the only ones on this watery lifeline, of course. Lots of people, tourists and locals alike, use the Mekong for pleasure or work, or just getting from A to B.

Here's a Lao man and woman, presumably doing the latter:

Lao man and woman in a small boat

Here's an interesting sight, though unfortunately ours wasn't a tourist boat, and so we didn't stop–we just whizzed by.

Pak Ou Caves

Oh, well, at least we had enough time to take a quick snap of the Pak Ou Caves. According to a nice website about them (click on that link if you'd like to read more), "people have been climbing into the Pak Ou caves, high above the Mekong some 25km from Luang Prabang, for maybe a couple of thousand years. They were used for the worship of the river spirit until Buddhism spread into Laos along the southern route from India. And gradually, over the 60 decades, more than 4,000 Buddha images – mostly the standing Buddha of the Luang Prabang style – have been placed in them..."

Too bad we couldn't see anything more than what you see here, although of course if you go to that site you're sure to see more.

Another shot of our boat, this time with some of the other passengers:

Other passengers on our boat

Once and a while we'd stop to let people off at a small village or tiny outpost, and the roar of the motor would temporarily be replaced by some calm—both in terms of noise and calm water:

rocks and glassy water

Here's one of those unloading places. All sorts of stuff came off our boat in those 20-30 minutes, including large sacks of food (rice and other grains, most likely) and even a large engine!

Unloading both people and goods along the way

Lastly, we spotted this speedboat alongside a houseboat, showing that some people really do live on the Mekong.

A speedboat and houseboat

That's it for this page. Hope you enjoyed these few shots of the Mekong, and that you'll have time to look at another page or two sometime soon.

Thanks for stopping by!

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