“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin
The first four weeks of this adventure have seemed to fly by and at the same time, it feels like it has been ages. I continue daily to learn more about myself. I allow myself more time to dream, more freedom to do what I want and more time to learn from all the interesting souls I have met. Just like the Mekong River, my journey has been wide and adventurous.
Boarding the bus to make our way to Chiang Kong, Thailand, I had no idea how the next three days would go. We were taking a “slow boat” to Luang Prabang, Laos. Chuck had wanted to do this ever since his buddies did it last year. I was not so sure, but I needed to add a week somewhere to make my travel dates all work. Fear is the enemy I am out to defeat on this trip and this led me to say yes. And off we went.
I had seen the Gold Temple and the Silver Temple and so I was excited to see the White Temple, Wat Rong Khun. It is located in Chiang Rai, Thailand, and was on the route we were on. Our bus stopped and we had a short 20 minutes to check it out. The lines were long and it had an admission fee, so we just explored around the outside. It was very different than the other temples I have ventured to, but was just as stunning in it is individuality. If I ever return to the area, I will visit again and I will not miss the Black Temple I have heard so much about.
Six hours in a minibus is never a blast, but it was uneventful and my motion sickness pills kept me in good shape. We arrived in Chiang Kong and our guesthouse on the river. This place was NOTHING fancy and the bed was concrete hard. Overheard many other guests saying they just slept on the floor. But it did the job and we received a decent dinner, breakfast, and lunch to take on the boat.
The following morning we got our lunches, new passport photos done and checked out. We got to the border, went through Thai immigration, hopped on another bus, checked into the Laos immigration and awaited our turn for a ride. Our Tuk Tuk made its way to the banks of the Mekong River. This one is a six-hour boat day to Pak Beng, Laos, for an overnight stay. While awaiting boarding, we made some new friends, Nat and Pat, and chatted with several others. I had read several blogs that mentioned you just had to try and find a place in Pek Bang. Luckily, the tour we were on offered a deal at one. It would be just $5 a person. It was a double room with an ensuite and so we took them up on it. Then the boarding process began and it was SLOW. Eventually, we were shoving off.
We sat in a row with Nat and Pat and got to know them. It was lovely to exchange travel stories and learn more about their lives before an adventure like this. The scenery down the Mekong River is just beautiful. It was a lovely and crowded ride. And time really did go by at a decent speed and before I knew, just as the sun was setting, we had arrived in Pak Beng, Laos. As we were exiting the boat and I looked up, my heart dropped. I had all this luggage and the “steps” were broken and nonexistent in spots. Two guys offered to grab my bags and carry them up. At that moment he could have asked for every penny I had and I would have paid it. It was only 100 baht and totally worth it. We checked into our room and then went to dinner at a local dive bar, called Hive Bar. The food was yummy and they served a free shot of banana whiskey as you entered. I had the Laos lop and was not disappointed.
After a decently restful night and a much better bed, it was time to board another boat to our final destination. Nat and Pat had arrived before us and saved us seats which was super kind of them. I decided since I was in the middle this time to just listen to Dolly’s America podcast again. (I highly recommend taking a listen.) So, the majority of this day was spent in silence, observing the scenery and just taking some time to myself while in the company of 150 strangers.
It was very interesting to see the locals and how they use the slow boats to get to and from the market. The way the boats just pull up to random rocks in the middle of seemingly nowhere to drop and pick up locals. The whizzing by of speed boats with 5-8 people crammed on them was slightly scary. All of this to say, I would 100% recommend doing this if you are in the area. It was a fantastic two days, even if exhausting. We made new friends, saw new places and new ways of living. Just as the river flows, so do the memories we make.