Slow Boat to Laos
Getting the slow boat down the Mekong sounded long but we heard it was fun! Being the Pair of Plodders it seemed quite fitting that we were to use the slowest form of transportation, a slow boat which took 2 days to get us from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang. We had a 1 night stop over in a very strange town called Pakbeng (which we will go into shortly).
We crossed the friendship bridge border early in the morning via a bus that took us from Chiang Khong, Thailand to Laos. When arriving at the Laos immigration we had to quickly grab our stuff and fill out our arrival cards so that we could get our visas for our time in Laos. If you're from the UK you get a 30-day visa in Laos at a cost of 35 of your finest US dollars. In the immigration hall, there were a few locals running around trying to sell you tickets to use their slow boat. The first one came up to us and said it would cost 1250THB, you can defiantly get them cheaper so we refused. The next person came up offering his services for 1100THB so for the sake of saving £3.39 we went with them (traveller issues, £3 is a lot out here).
We actually travelled into Laos with our two new friends Sam and Maz. We have been with them since meeting them in Chiang Mai bus station (looking as lost as we were) and have been inseparable since.
We arrived at Pakbeng… it was probably the worst/strangest place we have ever come across. So to start with you can't book accommodation before you arrive in Pakbeng for the night (unless you book a package through an agency, it's normally a lot more expensive that way though). So you get off the boat with about 30 hotel/hostel owners shouting at you with false features of their hotels for us to chose them.
Whilst you have the adults trying to rein you into their hotels, children… ok, I'm gunna repeat myself here as I feel it's needed… CHILDREN (ages about 3 to 12/13) try to steal all of your stuff! I'm talking crisps that you are about to eat, water, gadgets, phones, anything you have in your hand or easy access too they will try to pinch. I had the pleasure of slapping one of them for trying to steal our water, while Sam poisoned another with very hot tamarind sweets mwahahaha. It was the most f*cked up thing we have ever come across. No doubt their parents were watching or encouraging them. (Please note, these children are not going without. They have homes, access to plenty of food and water, they were literally just being thieves). We even saw the captain of our boat, yank one of them by the arm and throw them a good 5ft away whilst shouting “f*ck off you little shit” (we have no idea what he actually said but it was probably similar). We're still in shock & it didn't end there either!
We decided to walk through and past the mayhem of Pakbeng as we heard you can find half-decent hotels that don't hassle you, so we walked through and found one which turned out to be one of the main hasslers!! They all connect some way or another! Anyway, the one we went to promised 100THB a room with air con, which was obviously a massive lie. Bear in mind there was 12 of us that stuck together from the boat so this guy was getting most of the town's custom so you would've thought he would have behaved himself… pfft how wrong were we…
So we had to fill in a form each to sign and say we're happy with the price etc, then he decided to tell us it's 100THB per person so (200THB per room) and that doesn't include air con! If you turn the air con on in your room you will get charged 320THB!!! It was an absolute rip from beginning to end. Okay, this might sound completely stupid because 100THB is £2.26 but it's not even about that it's the whole principle of how far they are willing to go just to get your custom.
There was one Japanese lady who had no one to share with so had to have her own room and the same guy who originally said it would be 100THB per person made her pay 200THB and when the lady challenged him he started yelling at her and said that he would make sure she will be stranded in Pakbeng if she doesn't pay the extra 100THB. It was sickening. I told him to stop shouting at her as he was being disrespectful and everyone else also had their say as he was a manipulative liar from beginning to end. I feel like he was probably the type you hear about that would kill you without any emotion.
The only good thing about Pakbeng was that the people we met on the boat. They were so lovely and made our very peculiar time there a laugh.
We should probably let you know about the actual boat journey itself. The boat started off quiet for the first 5 minutes, then everyone got the BeerLaos out and the giddiness had begun! Literally turned into a party boat within the first hour and continued for 5 hours after. The scenery was just beautiful, the view was incredible and the boat was worth going on just for that. We had such a laugh and made friends that we keep bumping into on our journey throughout Laos.
On the second day, we had a different boat with tables on so it was a lot nicer than the first one. The first one was literally benches and seats that had been taken out of cars, it was very strange. Most of us were asleep for the majority of the second day as we were slightly hungover from the day before.
We met this lovely lady on the boat who knew how to read tarot cards and palms so we all had our own reading done, which was very interesting. We have seen her 4 times since the boat and are planning to meet her in the next town as well! We met a Scottish couple which we spent Lozza's birthday with, and we also met a few different group of friends which we have seen a couple of times since as well.
Would we do that trip again without stopping at Pakbeng? Yes without a doubt, it was a wicked journey, the views were great and so was the company.
Would we do that trip again having to stay at Pakbeng? I'd rather shove wasps up my arse.
Thanks for reading!
(apologies for swearing)
Pair of Plodders