PROGRAM UP RIVER : Luang Prabang -> Houei Say:
Day 2: PAKBENG - Houei Say
Full breakfast at the Luang Say Lodge. At 7.00am board the boat for the second leg of the cruise. En route one stop is made to observe rural life along the Mekong and observe minorities at the Ban Houy Pha Lam Village.
Buffet lunch on board and then continue to Houei Sai where you will arrive around 5.00pm. Spending the night at Nakaraj princess Hotel in Huai Xai
Christmas Eve December 2014 and the knocked on my door a few minutes after 6 o'clock. I started to turn a cartwheel out of bed but I was back under the quilt in a blik of an eye. DARN! IT IS COLD! This was not what i had expected and it took me 15 minutes to get out of bed and in to a hot shower. The gas burner stopped to work in the middle of the shoer and it was pure ice water coming out from the shower.
I was lucky to get the heater back on again so I could rinse the soap. I got dressed and I took my bags and I walked back to the restaurant on the wooden cat walk. I was not warm, but i was not freezing anymore. A wee bit chilli, but this will be OK as soon as the sun shows up, I hope.
This is the firs time I use my new luggage from South Africa and they passed the test walking across the wooden cat walk and I grow to like the bags by the day. OK, when we left the Luang Prabang Oasis - Villa Namnuea the nitwit was going to drag the luggage over the gravel, and he would have foocked up my new luggage if I had not told him. Imagine me beeing in the reception or whereever. He would have pulled my bag across the parking lot and I would have luggage without any wheels.
A misty morning in Pakbeng - Our boat waiting for us
Early morning traffic on Mekong River
It looks cold and yes, it is cold
No baguette for breakfast, toast and some Lao food. Very good, but I got an omelette with bacon & French fries to top it up just to prepare for a long exciting day on the Mekong River
I felt like a million after the breakfast and it was time to leave, we walked down to the boat and we were soon on our way towards Houei Say again.
Our Guide had brought tea bags from the Luang Say Lodge. They had excellent tea onboard, tasted like a dream, but it was loose leafes and no strainer. I asked if they had bags and they only had the loose tea. I asked our Guide if they had bagged tea at the Luang Say lodge and he would ask. They had and today we have bagged tea on board.
As soon as we were on the Mekong river it become cold, very cold and one of the crew members brought a blanket for me. They have some capes the rest of the passengers are wearing. I had one, but it was way too small. Thye found a bigger one and it helped a wee bit.
We expect to cover some 140 km today with 2 stop. First stop at a vilahe and the second stop is just a quickie to pay some tax. So it promise to be an exciting day. Now, where is the foocking sun? I will freeze to death before reaching the excitements in the village!
We were cruising North on Mekong River and when I looked at my wrist watch it was 10 o'clock. We left Luang Say at 7 o'clock and it felt like 30 minutes ago. Where did this 3 hours disappear? Unbelievable how quick the time had passed. We had seen many nice things. And we had also seen how the deforestation have put scars in the nature.
At a first glance it is green and it looks nice, but when you look closer you see that the trees are missing. Well, tree is money and who am I to tell them what to do. They like to sit in Sweden and tell us how important the forest are. How we need to save the forest.
Of course, it is easy to sit in Sweden and give good advice, especially since we have cut down all the forest in Sweden. Then it is easy to give advice and tell other countries how to behave.
- Whoa whoa, are you a complete idiot? Sweden export plenty wood and paper!
There are plenty forests in Sweden. Yes, but this is farmed wood, we have cut down almost all the primeval forest. The trees growing in Sweden today are a modified type that grows very fast.
The tree is rot while growing. And they have to fill the plank with chemicals before they sell the planks. And even then you will have to change the wood after a few years. If you want to buy wood you should buy an old house, 100 years old or so.
These old houses are built with wood from trees that was hundred years old and the wood will last forever. Well, anyway, we had our lunch at 11 thirty as we expect to arrive to Ban Houy Pha Lam Village around 12 o'clock. We will stop there to go have a look at the village.
We spent an hour or so in the Ban Houy Pha Lam Village. And as I told our Guide, looked pretty much like a Thai village. 2 main differences though, there were less garbage laying around in the Lao village. And I told my guide that this was most likely only because the Thais had more money and could buy more garbage to throw on the ground
My Guide agreed with me and I told him that the other difference was that here was no one sitting around drinking Beer Leo playing cards all day long. I told our Guide that this could easily be a heaven on earth, clean up the place. Instead of buying all the satellite dishes and the latest mobile phones they could have repaired and painted their houses.
It was quite nice to leave the village behind and by now it was very nice weather and no more need for any blankets. We needed to make a quick stop to pay tax when we passed a province border.
So we stopped again and the TAX place looked a little like a truck stop, but with boats. Most of the boats were just stopping to pay the tax, but we had one boat next to us and the boat was full of stuff. They had been shopping in Thailand and they were discharging their stuff here. Mostly groceries, but also a fridge and cup boards.
We left the TAX MAN behind and no we didn't had any more stops before Houei Say. We will soon pass the Thai border and then we will have Thailand on our left hand side and Laos on our right hand side. We will also pass under the “friendship” bridge just before we arrive to Houei Say.
So we have a lot of excitements to look forward to. By now the mist was gone leaving a haze behind. But the sun was shining and I really enjoyed the cruise going North on the Mekong River
We expect to arrive to Houei Say around 16 thirty so it is about 3 hours from the TAX MAN. When the couple from UK left the fo'c's'le I went forward and I spent the rest of the trip up front sitting on the bench watching the sight.
And seriously, if you get a few days over with nothing to do you can take a cruise on the Mekong River.
Mekong Cruises is a company I can recommend and I have really enjoyed my cruise. But it is not over, I have 3 days on board when we go back South again. It is Mekong Cruises arranging both my cruises but they are called Luang Say Cruises in the Northern Mekong.
My cruise down at Pakse is arranged by Mekong Cruises, but they call them self Vat Phou. I haven’t had a dull moment, just relaxing while watching the landscape passing by. Maybe it is because of me getting old, but I haven't had a boring moment since we left Luang Prabang. And believe me, I'm getting bored very easily.
We approached our end station in Houei Say and there were plenty slow boats. There was not much space for us and they had to remove a canoe before we could run ashore. We went ashore and as there were no walk path we had to walk on a grass slope.
Lucky it was not raining because then it would have been slippery and me and my luggage would most likely have ended up in the Mekong River.
We reached the concrete stars leading up to the road and a waiting van. My new friends were going to Thailand and I was going to the Nakaraj Princess Hotel, the best hotel in the area according to my Guide. I could not wait to get to the restaurant at the hotel and I was delirious with anticipation.
I was a little disappointed to learn that the hotel was outside the city, but as we drove through Houei Say I realised that it was never mind, there wasn't much to do or see.
The hotel was just next to the Friendship bridge between Laos and Thailand and we started by dropping off my new friends, the French and UK couple at the Lao Immigration. My hotel was a big building on the slope and it was a golden building. Everything was gold coloured except the windows. Well, as long as the food in the restaurant are OK it can be any colour.
Took us a few minutes from Immigration to the hotel and as soon as we turned off the road, well, I don’t want to call it a dust road leading up to the hotel. It was worse than a dust road, almost like driving up the rock. The parking lot was not much better. But I'm not going to park any car. I will be dropped off and picked up.
Well, never mind the road and parking lot. Just give me my room and a nice diner and I'm satisfied.
I looked out of the car and at first I thought that hey had delivered me to the wrong place. But there was a guy greeting me and he took me to the reception. And yes, everything was in gold colour.
I asked for the restaurant and he told me the restaurant was located on the bottom floor with a view over the immigration and the river. Well, there was not much of the river to see.
There was a sign saying that they provided free SHUTTLE bus to town, but as there wasn't much to see I had decided to stay at my room all night long. Except for the visit to the restaurant.
I got my key and the guy followed me to the room and I had have a few alarms going off on me since I discovered all the gold paint. And I had more alarms going off when I saw my room, more gold. But it was a nice room and it is for one night only.
I was happy with the room, there was what I needed. Cheap furniture painted in gold colour and the price, I guess it is because of the location.
I went down to the restaurant and I was alarmed as soon as I saw the place. Chair painted to look very expensive and I wasn't very surprised when I got the home made menu. Pretty much the same kind of menu you get at a 50 Baht per meal restaurants in Thailand. The prices were stated in Thai Baht.
Pictures out of proportion and a print of very low quality, Thai food only. Yeah, best hotel in Houei Say. I asked for toast and tea. I would just have made a tit out of myself trying to ask for fresh baguette at this place. I would be happy if the toast was good.
They had spaghetti Carbonara on the menu, for sure nothing I wanted to experience but I asked them for spaghetti and bacon
- We don't have bacon
I grabbed the menu and I told them that they had Spaghetti Carbonara on the menu and one of the ingredients was bacon. She went to the kitchen to ask if they had bacon and she was soon back to tell me they had bacon.
- Good, please fry bacon and onion
- Mix with the spaghetti
- No, and don't add any oil!
They brought me my third cup of tea and I was waiting for the food. I asked for an English newspaper. They didn't had any English newspapers, they had magazines.
- OK, please
They came back with magazines in Lao and Korean. And a Lao newspaper and the guy pointed out that there were English in some of the “wanted” adds.
The food came, ice cold, and they had not fried the onion. But I was hungry and I asked for a second plate, this time with hot food. The second plate tasted like, well, I don't know. But it was strange to have a hotel like this and to hire a Cook that could not make bacon.
As I suspected, all the gold was not exactly any sign of high standard and quality. The place looked like, well, I would not be surprised to learn that the owner was Thai, or Chinese. I asked for dessert and they brought me a tray of Kit Kat and snack packs of Oreo cookies. I brought them to my room with a stop in the reception to pick up some water. 5 small bottles of water, 100 Baht, and the spaghetti adventure set me back by 980 Baht.
908 Baht, that would have been a nice dinner in Bangkok and I was not looking forward to the breakfast tomorrow morning. I was in bed at 11 and they had promised to wake me up at 6 o'clock tomorrow morning. Pick up at 9 o'clock for transportation back to the boat and the return trip to Luang Prabang. You just have to click HERE to find yourself in the middle of that adventure.
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