Stray Laos: Nong Kihaw to Luang Prabang

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Cold. Very Cold. The night was freezing and the morning was not any better. Today we were taking a boat down Nam Ou river to Luang Probang so it would only get colder. For the first time since Frankfurt, I got all my cold gear out to cover myself with four layers of shirts and a wind breaker as well as my Mizuno heat generating running hat and gloves. It was still miserable for the good portion of the trip until the sun finally came out.

The Riverboat Ride To Luang Prabang

The wooden boat we were taking was long and very narrow one seating 6-8 people with a large engine room at the back. They looked very unstable, and were pretty shaky during boarding but once we got on the way they seemed fine. As there were 12 of us in the group plus two guides, we split into two boats and left more or less on (Lao) time.

After going down the river for a kilometer or so, our engine started sputtering and we turned to shore. As soon as we got there, the captain's wife jumped out with an empty gas canister in hand and ran up the hill. As all we could see there was sand and some vegetable gardens, we could not help but wonder where exactly she will be getting gas from. Was she going to tap a secret petrol tree that Shell does not know about? In the mean time, the captain grabbed a riffle he had sitting upfront and put it back into the engine room, next to another gun. It sure was an interesting start to our ride.

The entire 'cruise' took about five hours with a quick stop at the pee-pee beach to shoot the rabbits after an hour and a half and another stop at the 1000 Buddahs cave once we joined up with Mekong river. For the first couple of hours there was no sun in sight, which made for the miserable ride experience. At the same time, the lack of sunshine made everything look very mystical with mountain silhouettes appearing and disappearing in the mist. The banks of the river were covered with vegetable gardens and corn fields. During the rain season, they all get washed away by the raging waters but in the dry season time, those banks provide a rich soil for farming.

The 1000 Buddahs Cave

Once the Nam Ou river joines with the mighty Mekong, we arrived at our next stop, the Pak Ou Cave. We could tell that we are getting close to Luang Prabang as there we a ton of boats already loading and unloading hordes of falangs. The 'cave' itself is actually a complex made up of two caves, cleverly named 'Upper' and 'Lower' cave. Each cave is actually fairly small, containing lots of Buddha statues all over the place, but mostly very small ones, so while it sounds like it would have been an interesting sight, it really was a very average 'attraction', especially given the 20,000 kip/$2.50 entry charge. It was sure nice to have a stop there to stretch out and get a break from the boat, but I would of been really disappointed if we would of came from Luang Prabang (an hour away) just to see that, which is apparently one of the must-do things in town.

Luang Prabang

After another hour or so cruising down Mekong, we arrived to Luang Prabang. The town appeared quite small from the river, yet very welcoming. Everyone that was hopping off here for a few days agreed that it was a good decision, even before we docked and headed up into town. Once there, we met up with another group of Stray mates that hopped off the previous bus and we all went out for a quick game of football with the local Stray office staff.

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