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 DAY NINETEEN - Mekong River, Laos

Previous Blogs: Day 1 Tokyo | Day 2 Tokyo | Day 3 & 4 Singapore | Day 5 Singapore | Day 6 Ho Chi Minh City | Day 7 Ho Chi Minh City & Tunnels

Day 8 Can Tho | Day 9 Floating Market | Day 10 Flower Market | Day 11 Hoi An | Day 12 My Son Temple | Day 13 Hanoi | Day 14-16 Halong Bay

Day 17 Luang Prabang | Day 18 Temples-Waterfalls | Day 19 Mekong River | Day 20-21 Bagan | Day 22 Bagan | Day 23 Inle | Day24-25 Inle

Click photos for a larger image...

Day 19 dawned without rain, so we can at last do our boat trip, however the temperature plummeted with a feels like in the lower 40s. Chilly!! So strange to think that just 2 days ago when we arrived it was 85 with high humidity.

<<<< This is the boat we went on, they are called "Slow Boats" as they chug away at about 4-5 kts with a single diesel engine.

They are very narrow (8 feet) and extremely long - ranging from 50-100 feet. The reason for this is because the current in the Mekong river is so strong that a narrow boat cuts through it with a lot less drag than a wider boat.

The front section is open for passengers to sit in a double row of coach type comfortable seats plus two chaise lounges, while the back is the living quarters of the live-a-board captain - note the satellite dish on the roof!

They have a primitive toilet and roll down plastic windows in case of rain.

We had the entire 20 seater boat to ourselves with just tour guide and captain - it's a private charter.

It was COLD! Here's Wendy using socks for gloves. They did provide blankets which helped with the wind chill.

Our first stop was at a pottery village.

10 families live here to make the pottery. Was 15 but the others moved to the city to get "easy job, make more money".

Yip, we had to walk through that to get to the pottery makers! They mostly live in traditional housing.

This is a 40 seater racing boat about 80 feet long. Once a year all the different villages have a race against each other. All people in the village help carry this monster to the water.  It's a huge festival!

We when you live in a remote village and own a scooter, this is the gas station you come to in order to gas up! Just like any gas station in the USA they sell eggs and snacks too!

There are no stores or infrastructure on this side of the river. You take a ferry to buy your groceries and then carry them home like this.

If you are rich enough to own a car, this is how you get across. Only rich people own cars, as the government levies a 100% import duty on cars.

Each destination had a LOT of stairs - so I put my cane to good use. The reason is that right now it is dry season and the river is low. In rainy season the water level typically rises 50 FEET (or more)!!!!

Time to shove off for our next destination. Damn captain doesn't look old enough to drive a car never mind a boat! He also has no crew.

This is a cargo ship traveling to the South China Sea carrying timber.

Channel marker, and you certainly need them, the river is littered with rocks and rapids.

The Mekong river flows through China, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The Mekong begins in the plateaus of Tibet and is 2,703 miles long.

Our next stop was at the Buddhist Caves - a 400 year old temple built in a cave in the mountain. It is a very holy place, people come to leave a Buddha statue behind as they believe it will bring them good luck. So the cave is jammed with Buddha statues!

The view from above was not too shabby either! We are going to the restaurant on the other side of the river for lunch.

Lunch was included: soup, fish, chicken, vegetables and rice.

The view from our lunch table...

The local docks, probably not approved by the coast guard, but you work with what you got!

Our docks were a tad steadier - gotta look after those tourists!

On our way to our final stop - after 4 hours on the river it started getting REALLY cold. The cold that creeps in and shivers your timbers.

My fingers and hands were numb. Too numb to even press the button on my camera. So the thing to do, as we all know, is to shove your hands down your pants to warm them up. But instead of the family jewels warming my hands, my fingers just froze the family jewels instead!

This is a no win situation!

Our guide, who was fairing no better than us in the cold, decided that we would not take the boat back to the city as planned. Instead he called our driver to meet us at our last stop so we can drive home in a heated SUV instead.

Good man!!

Our final stop was at a village that specializes in making rice whisky. Here is Wendy sampling the stuff directly out of the still!

We arrived back safe and sound after a very exciting, if chilly day, to a hot shower to warm us up.

Which reminds me, this is the first time I have ever seen a hand basin actually INSIDE the shower. Go figure?

Note the shower contraption on the wall - this building was only plumbed for cold water, so in order to install hot water for us tourists, these used a heater on demand system, splicing the existing cold water line through the heater.

So what is interesting is that when tourism opened up all these guesthouses were private homes back then. The owners not knowing how to run a hotel then hired Thai and Vietnamese people to run the places for them.

Finding dinner here is easy, there are many, many restaurants and you don't even need to check the menu - they have have huge menus with every kind of food from Hamburgers to Pizza to Vienna Schnitzel to local rice and noodle dishes.

On the way to dinner this evening we were walking down the street looking for a restaurant and then it started raining. It was still very cold. We were right outside a massage parlor at the time and the masseuse girls were hanging out in front of the store around a fire they had built in a clay pot, checking their FaceBook on their phones.

They invited us to join them. None of them spoke a lick of English, Spanish, French, German or Dutch, so we were screwed. But we had fun sharing their fire and all taking selfies anyway. We are now on several Laotian Facebook pages I am sure!


Tomorrow we leave Laos and head for Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

For some unknown reason, there is no direct flight, so we are flying via Bangkok, so most of the day will be spent traveling.


and finally...

I have finally found the perfect scotch made right here in Laos...

... it matches my real inner self!!