Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The infamous Slow Boat

There are so many stories about the slow boat online and in the guidebooks and the majority of them say how bad it is - overcrowded, ancient boats, unsafe drivers, scams, unpredictable schedules, etc, etc.  Faced with the prospect of another long and bumpy ride on a crowded bus on dodgy roads, we decided the boat would be the way to go.  Besides, we'd also heard that the boat afforded riders with views of some great scenery along the way and a glimpse of many Laos villages that are scattered along the river.

Most of what we heard about the boat was true.  The boat was decrepit, it didn't leave anywhere near on time, and it was crowded.  In fact, crowded is an understatement.  It was bursting at the seams.  From the time got on and the time we finally departed, the boat dropped about a foot or more in the water.  Luckily we were among the first people on so we had our choice of places to sit.  We chose to spread out on the floor in the front of the boat, away from the noise and fumes of the engine and more spacious than the rickety wooden benches that were crammed together in the middle section.  This was probably our best decision of the trip so far.

Just when we thought the boat was full, another tuk tuk would pull up and unload a bunch more backpackers.  Then another...and another.  They just kept coming.  Along with a few others, we attempted to protest to the driver that the boat was too full and a second boat was needed to accommodate everyone but we were completely ignored and soon after the engine was fired up and we were off.

Despite all that, we had great time!  We met a fun group of people on the boat and together we created a bit of a party atmosphere in the front section (the people stuck in the back hated us).  Day 1 of the boat trip was also Lee's birthday which Courtney wasted no time in telling everyone.  Midway through the day Lee went to the bathroom and when he returned he was surprised with a full rendition of Happy Birthday from half of the boat which concluded with Lee performing a keg stand on a can of Beerlao (orchestrated by a hilarious Belgian guy called "T-Bone" who ended up being the unofficial Entertainment Director for the duration of the trip).  At 6pm we finally arrived in Pak Beng, the midway point of the trip and the place we would be staying for the night before continuing on in the morning.

Day 2 was a little more subdued as the boaters recovered fromthe Day 1 festivities but we still enjoyed a pleasant meander down the river to Luang Prabang.

1 comment:

  1. I would have loved to see the happy birthday scene! Sounds like T-bone knows what's up.