Day 66 / Day 25 of ATID – Mekong Cruise & Village Homestay
Very early in the morning, as in it was still basically dark, we took a private bus to somewhere – I’m sorry, by this point of the tour my brain was melting from exhaustion (this’ll be evident from the lack of lengthy essays for each day once the tour posts end), a good sort of exhaustion but an exhaustion nonetheless, so I’ve no idea where it was. We boarded a long boat, anyway, at this location in order to commence a 10 hour cruise down the scenic Mekong river.
The first part of the cruise was spent trying to sleep. The chairs were non-reclining and upright but comfy and there were a few sofa-style seats some of us girls stretched out on. Then when it was a reasonable (daylight) hour, we were woken for breakfast on board the boat, which wasn’t bad – fruit, bread and boiled eggs plus a hot drink.
I spent a lot of the time on the cruise reading, and everyone else seemed pretty quiet too (again, tired I am guessing). Lunch was also on board, and again was pretty yummy, with one of the main dishes being fried rice.
We disembarked at a little Laotian tribal village where we would be spending the night. We had a local guide with us throughout the cruise and he showed us around the village (which we reached after a steepish climb up the sand onshore), which was full of friendly children and a whole lot of farmyard animals!
Much of our time was spent learning about village life from the local guide and interacting with the kids whilst standing outside the village school.
Dave joined in with some of the local village boys and our guide in playing the game of rattan ball, like volleyball but involving headbutting and kicking (in a certain way), acquiring a bit of a bruise to his forehead in the enthusiastic process.
In terms of overall impressions of the village – homes were basic and the people had little to no electricity. There was a school, which was great, but minimal healthcare facilities – I was told that the nearest hospital was an hour away and only accessibly by boat. In fact, pretty much anywhere significant beyond the village was only accessible by boat. There are many such not-easily-accessible villages along the Mekong in Laos. The people were happy despite a basic standard of living, the children were cared for, and the village had its own elected chief as well, who we got to meet!
Once we had had a look round, given the lack of running water, and the anyways-always-present lure of swimming in the heat, the group headed back down to the river for a sunset swim. I didn’t really fancy a swim but took lots of nice photos of the scenery and animals whilst trying to avoid the notice of an over-affectionate dog that was bothering someone else in the group. We acquired quite an audience of local kids who all sat at the top of the beach watching us all! (Note – girls kept tops on over bikinis to be respectable whilst in the water!)
The sunset views were beautiful.
After heading back we crowded under a single bare lightbulb (one of very few in the village) to eat our delicious home cooked dinner. I suspected, from seeing several laden plastic bags suspiciously pass hands from the boat (whilst we were swimming) to someone from the village, that it had been cooked on the boat by the captain’s wife (like our lunch earlier) and I was correct. The village essentially just had enough food for themselves and could not spare any for us – though I am sure they would have, from the interactions we had with people, if we had been desperate.
After dinner, boys and girls separated into different buildings for sleeping. A bunch of us girls shared the upper floor of one of the family’s homes, sleeping on side-by-side mattresses under mosquito nets. One of the most enjoyable parts of the whole time we’d been abroad until then occurred in the hour before we went off to sleep – two of the girls, aged 10 and 14 (though they looked younger), from our hosting family can and had a chat to us. They had a few words of English and this time I was prepared with a post-it pad and a pen (I’m an okay drawer!). We ended up teaching them lots of random English words (mostly animals!) via drawing and learning a few phrases from them also. It was so much fun interacting with those two, and I’ll always remember them when thinking back on the trip.
We were up before dawn, again, the next day to get back on the boat for the next part of our trip, and sleepily left the village with the aid of torches.
I had been and stayed in ‘villages’ before, on this trip and in India, but each had time running water and a good amount of electricity. I personally learnt a lot about myself, despite always thinking myself as relatively unspoilt and generous, from reflecting on the evening and night we spent at this rather more basic village along the Mekong.
Day 67 / Day 26 of ATID – border crossing to Chiang Khong, Thailand
We had another ten hours on our long boat, complete with a similar breakfast and lunch as the day before, before we disembarked in order to cross the border into Thailand. It is a bit odd, this crossing – we actually pass it on the boat but aren’t allowed to get off nearer, meaning that we had private vehicles to convey us sort of ‘back the way we came’ via road to reach the border…
Anyway, the crossing was straightforward. I had a rather enthusiastic and friendly border official who informed me I should stay longer than my intended 3 weeks because apparently my visa, a re-entry one I had applied for and obtained before leaving the UK, was valid for much longer (!).
We took the public (shock, gasp!!!!) shuttle bus on the other side to to Chiang Khong, the town where we would spend one night. There really isn’t a lot to say about the town – it’s small, a border crossing town, but the restaurant we ate at was pretty good, and the hotel we stayed at was nice. It rained quite a bit whilst we were eating at the restaurant – heralding that 0ne of the rainy seasons of Thailand would soon commence (and that Dave and I would later get to experience in earnest in Phuket!)
The next post will cover Chiang Mai, our destination after Chiang Khong, and how we chose to spend our time there 🙂
Thanks for stopping by!