Mitch and I were unsure if we could survive 2 consecutive days of 8 hour boat journeys with Freda, either she would go bonkers and topple overboard or we would go mad and throw her overboard! Pleased to report though that neither happened and the scenery was breathtaking, it was relaxing (unbelievable I know as Freda was on board) and has been one of our favourite things so far!
In order to get to the Mekong we left Chiang Rai with a small hangover (too many beers by the banks of the Kok!) and jumped on a small sweaty local bus. Mitch was lucky enough to get two seats to himself, while Freda and me shared, she took up one and a half and my bum cheek got the other half, for 2 hours! These buses were not built for massive Western bums me thinks!
We were heading to Chiang Khong, a charmless border town where we had to spend the night. We booked ourselves on a 2 day slow boat to Luang Prabang in Laos, so we were picked up early doors and then made our way across the border to Laos and to our Boat. There’s a public boat that takes the same time, but is just a floating bus with over 150 people crammed on or the other option is a speed boat that only takes 6 hours for the whole journey, but you need to wear a crash helmet because, well they crash……..but we were informed that only 2 tourists have died recently!!
We decided to pay a little more and go with Mekong Smile Cruise and we were definitely smiling when we found out that we had a whole boat to share with just 4 others and the crew.
We had a great guide, nice spacious boat, great food and all in all were all very happy. Only downside was when we stopped on the first day to look around an indigenous village…….not only was it blistering hot, you really got the feeling these people didn’t want you gawping at them which was fair enough. It was a bit like taking a tour group around a deprived area in South London so everyone can take pictures of poor people. Luckily after this awkward experience, we left the tribes-people to eat the crickets their 5 year olds had found on the riverbank and came back to our boat for a rather lovely lunch with the cool breeze blowing in our hair. (The whole thing felt a bit wrong).
Then we pushed on through to the over night stop in Pakbeng…….nothing much to report here apart from we had an amazing view over the Mekong from our hotel room and Freda saw the biggest spider she has ever seen and hasn’t stopped talking about it since!
Much of the same, admiring amazing scenery from the peaceful pace of our boat. We were a bit disheartened though when our Guide said we were going to stop at another village en-route. But luckily this time it was a different experience, the tribe that lived here were Hmong and seemed much welcoming to us Farangs. Instead of just looking at poverty and hardship, we felt privileged to have an opportunity to view the community and traditions. Freda’s was a big hit, especially with the older women, the oldest lady of the town was desperate for Freda to hold her hand. Freda was having none of it though until I bribed her with a packet of gummy bears and she leapt at the opportunity to make an old lady’s day! Anything for a shameless photo opp!
Back on the boat we slowly meandered on to Luang Prabang. Freda was amazing, with the help of the iPad, there wasn’t one moan on our very long slow boat journey down the Mekong. Although now in Loas she has been driving us completely mad!