The slow boat on The Mekong is one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in the last 18 or so months of travel.
You take it early in the morning from Huay Xai, a sleepy town across from Chiang Dao, it’s counterpart in Thailand. You spend the day on the boat, slowly drifting down the majestic Mekong. Even if you’re an introvert (which I’m clearly not), you’re forced to make friends with your fellow travellers.
As evening approaches, the boat docks in a the tiniest of towns called Pak Beng. The sole existence of the town depends on the many slow boats that stop here overnight. To my surprise, there was an excellent Indian restaurant in this middle-of-nowhere town.
The next morning as we approached the boat, we noticed that there were at least 30-40 new faces. Which means we didn’t have a seat. The ‘captain’ of the boat tried to get a whole bunch of us to sit in the engine room. The boat had barely started moving and the engine room was already stifling with the smell of petrol. Surely, we would not have survived the journey.
So as I had read on Wikitravel, I decided to protest. But a protest by yourself is just a complain. So I tried to rally the troops. Initially, only a Frenchman joined my protest and the boat operators just laughed us off. But soon enough, a Canadian girl joined us. She brought her friends over to the dark side too and suddenly this protest was looking legitimate. After 40 odd minutes of refusing to get on the overflowing boat, we had about 30 people on our side and the boat operators caved.
We got a whole boat to ourselves and it even had mattresses for us to have a nap on.
For someone like me, who always likes to be ‘plugged-in’, it was actually a refreshing change to just let myself get lost in the beauty of one of the world’s most amazing rivers.
The captain of our boat is pictured below.
This picture is #5 in my #365k photo series