Sunday, January 31, 2010
Down the Mekong River
We have traveled to the north of Thailand, through Chaing Mai and into Chang Rai. Get your atlas out if you are unsure. From here we wanted to take a trip into Loas as we were told it was a place not to be missed. So we signed up for the slow boat to Luang Pra Bang down the Mekong River. We left Chiang Rai early in the morning to travel to the Loas border. We arrived around 11 and started a long process of getting into Loas across the Mekong which divides the two countries. This was a two hour process, involving at least 6 people and paying the highest visa fee of any country in the world! After we visited the royal palace in Luang Pra Bang we figured out why. There were displays of treasures that countries had given as gifts to the King of Loas. Most countries had given shelves of interesting things, from Canada, a single gift plate, no wonder they charge us so much!
We finally boarded the slow boat in the early afternoon. It was a little mad trying to find a seat. The seats were just two seat wooden benches that were made for Thai bottoms, the start of our worries. The trip for the first day was awful, and I only complain a little. The boat seemed over crowded and there were a few people that thought the best way to make this trip was to be completely intoxicated. About ten people thought that the top of the boat was the best way to see things but this made the boat very unstable. The captain asked them several times to keep off the roof but they were determined to be there and snuck back up each time. About 4 hours into the trip it all came undone. We made a hard turn in strong current and the boat came over too far. Water rushed over the side almost capsizing the boat, people began screaming and everything on the roof, including the people, toppled into the river. The boat righted itself but our semi quiet cruise had to be turned into a rescue operation as 6 people went drifting down the river. Another boat joined us and all 6 were finally rescued with no death or serious injury, except to some peoples laptops. We shook for a while afterward but managed to make it to our first stop. The test was getting on the boat the next day to complete or trip. We managed to talk it over with a few people and build the courage to make the second part of the journey.
I don't want to leave a bad taste in your mouth about this trip. The scenery was breath taking, the people on the boat and who we met along the way, were amazing and the final destination was worth all the effort. We put the whole near tragedy down to a life experience. Lets just hope the clowns on the roof learned something! Wes