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Speed-boating the Mekong
River in Laos by Liz Saarelainen
It was early morning when
we left the village of Huay Xai in Northern Laos for the Mekong River,
planning to get to Luang Prabang the same day. The 150 km journey along
the river by speedboat would take half a day, breaks included.
|Contrary to the advice given
by our Lonely Planet guidebook we had decided to take a speedboat, because
our hostess at Chiang Mai had recommended this alternative. Traveling on
a big, slow river boat would have taken two days and required an overnight
stay at the village of Pak Peng.
There were a lot of people
at the pier when we arrived and the small speedboats set out one by one
as soon as they were full. We were among the last to board and when stepping
on the boat we saw right away that we had made the wrong choice. There
was no turning back however; the low, narrow boat was packed full of people
and off we went.
The boat flew on the surface
of the water at high speed, at times reaching 80 km/h, and we sat on the
hard benches with our chins on our knees, space for each passenger being
about 40 x 50 cm. After only half an hour's travel our muscles were cramped
and we felt miserable. We watched the passing scenery with our earplugs
on, because the noise from the motor was deafening. The Lao passengers
also wore helmets and lifejackets provided by the boat driver.
|When the river is low, as
it was then, accidents happen when speedboats bump into sandbars or sunken
logs. Those who have not survived have been mostly local people who cannot
Water splashed on our clothes
and soon we were soaked to the skin. The sun was shining and the air was
warm but I felt cold. Andy had a pained expression on his face; there was
definitely too little room for a big man, particularly for one with occasional
but severe lover back problems. I got a cramp on my left leg, but there
was nothing I could do about it.
We had been promised that
there would be a break every sixty minutes or so and after what felt like
an eternity, the boat stopped. We discovered that our feet had gone to
sleep and Andy's right foot was totally numb for at least ten minutes.
Luckily there was an additional
stop when the boat motor suddenly started to act up. After landing on a
sandbank our driver began to repair it and we hoped that he would not get
it fixed too soon.
Stepping onto the golden
sand dune and warming our sore muscles, we enjoyed our freedom. But then
we came to think that we were in the middle of nowhere, only forest on
both sides of the river. If the driver were not able to repair the motor,
when would there be other boats coming to our rescue? We had not brought
any food with us. And how long would our drinking water last?
|We then saw two hunters
walking on a ridge with guns on their shoulders. One was also carrying
what to us looked like a wild boar. He came to the shore with his dog,
threw down the boar and, unconcerned about our presence took off his clothes
and plunged into the water. The dog remained watching over the boar but
could not resist the temptation, started to bite into it greedily. When
the man got out of the water, he raised hell, and the dog moved aside with
his tail between his legs, waiting for his master to calm down. Finally
the hunter left with the boar, the dog walking close behind him.
Our trip continued. One more
hour of speeding down the Mekong and we would reach the next stop, the
village of Pak Peng. Our minds were made up; we would get off there and
rest our limbs.
When and how we would continue
our journey would remain to be seen. A traveler's tomorrow is always a
This story with pictures
on our site: http://www.farandfurther.com/mekong-river/mekong-river.htm
|About the Author: We, Liz
and Andy are two independent and adventurous travelers from Finland. We
spend all available time travelling to exotic places, often with a very
limited budget. Please visit our website for more true travel stories and
quite a few nice pictures as well ;) http://www.farandfurther.com
for Ventiane Hotels
HOTELS IN VENTIANE, LAOS
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City Boutique Hotel, Ventiane, Laos
Located in central Vientiane,
Inter City Boutique Hotel is near the airport and close to Lao National
Museum, Patuxay, and Laos National Stadium. Nearby points of interest also
include That Dam and Wat Si Saket. Recreational amenities include a lazy
river. Complimentary wireless and wired high-speed Internet access is available
in public areas. Room service is available during limited hours. A complimentary
hot and cold buffet breakfast is served daily. For a surcharge, shuttle
services include an area shuttle which runs to destinations within 50 metres
and an airport shuttle (available 24 hours). Other property amenities at
this Art Deco property include a bar/lounge, a concierge desk, and multilingual
staff. This is a smoke-free property.
The hotel offers a wide
range of excellent leisure facilities; take a dip in the pool, enjoy a
game of tennis, work out in the gym, sweat it out in the sauna or simply
unwind with a traditional Lao massage. There is also a modern business
centre with full secretarial, internet and e-mail services. Standard rooms
have all the facilities you would expect to find in a hotel of this standard.
The superior rooms are the same size as standard but these rooms are furnished
to a higher quality. There is only one restaurant in the hotel which
caters for daily hot buffet breakfast and lunch buffet. The restaurant
offers a la carte menus in the evenings. The restaurant is semi-enclosed
as it opens up on all sides for a full view of the swimming pool and surounding
potted trees and plants.
Boutique Hotel, Ventiane, Laos
Salana Boutique Hotel is
located in central Vientiane, close to Lao National Museum, Patuxay, and
Laos National Stadium. Nearby points of interest also include That Dam
and Wat Si Saket. Dining options at Salana Boutique Hotel include a restaurant.
This 3.5-star property offers a meeting/conference room, limo/town car
service, and audio-visual equipment. Complimentary wireless Internet access
is available in public areas. For a surcharge, shuttle services include
an airport shuttle (available on request) and an area shuttle. Complimentary
guest parking is limited, and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Nearby parking is also available. Additional property amenities include
- Cambodia - China -
Hong Kong - India
Indonesia & Bali - Japan
- Korea (South) - Kyrgyzstan
- Laos - Macau - Malaysia
Maldives - Nepal -
- Singapore - Sri Lanka
- Taiwan - Thailand
- Turkmenistan - Uzbekistan