To the capital of Laos and on to Thailand.
Friday 1 December 2006 - Tuesday 5 December 2006
Friday 1 December - Yet another early start for the boat ride down the Mekong towards Pak Lay and then on to Vientiane. We were not able to drive as the FCO had red flagged the road, thus invalidating our insurances. Andy therefore drove the truck down whilst we sat on a boat for two days.
The boat was a standard river boat with not enough seats or life jackets. The trip was very scenic with lots of other boats, jungle, villages and so on, but was kind of tedious due to the uncomfortable seats. Lunch was on a sand bank, but given that I was still not feeling very well, dry bread and a banana was the order of the day.
The first boat, before the accident.
After a while the sun started going down and we wondered if we were going to get to Pak Lay in time. The sunset on the river was nice.
Then it got dark and thankfully there was a full moon out so that the driver could see where he was going. The level of concern was rising as the boat had no navigation lights at all as we couldn't see a thing.
Then we hit the rock and sand bar. Pandemonium as one crew member went overboard along with bottles, seats, life jackets and so on. We managed to get him back in and there were a lot of upset people on board. After calming everyone down we managed to limp into Pak Lay about an hour later.
Paul found us places to stay and we had a big meeting over dinner and beers to express our concern about a number of issues. We had no option but to use the river the next day as there are no roads anywhere. The issues included:
- the boat was too small and very uncomfortable.
- the boat was not fast enough, although this depends on the speed of the current. The same boat the previous year had arrived in Pak Lay just on dusk.
- not enough life jackets, bearing in mind that it complied with locals laws which are usually a lot less stringent that western laws.
- a lack of leadership by Paul.
- the role played by our Lao guide and fixer.
Saturday 2 December - For the second day we used a public ferry from Pak Lay to Vientiene. The old boat was still being repaired and we refused to use it. It was a much better boat, both larger and faster. Being a public boat we stopped a couple of times to pick up and drop off passengers. We arrived into Vientiane about 4:30pm and checked into a reasonable guest house opposite the river. Andy held a meeting with a delegation to discuss what had happened the previous day. Nice dinner by river.
The left hand boat our first boat, now damaged.
House boats on the Mekong.
They carry everything by boat around here.
Paul taking advantage of the seating arrangements.
The second, much larger boat.
Scenery from the river.
Lunch on board.
Sunday 3 December - Another of those lazy days wandering around the various temples in the city.
Yet another temple.
A lion standing guard at a temple.
A garuda at a temple.
Entrance way to a temple.
The drum tower at one of the many temples in the city.
Detail of one of the many temples in the city.
A Citroen 2CV. Find them everywhere!
Monday 4 December - Back on the truck again heading towards Thailand. Our first stop was the Buddha Park, a very strange place with loads of statues of Buddha and other deities. Crossed over the border to Thailand and barrelled down Route 2. We stopped for a rough camp near Khon Kaen.
The reclining Buddha.
The Buddha Park.
Wouldn't want to meet that in a dark alley!
The reclining Buddha.
Tuesday 5 December - Overnight someone stole the chilly bin with some beer in it and two pairs of shoes. Thailand is the last place you would expect that to happen. All day drive through Thailand to Aranya Prathet and the border with Cambodia. On dinner duty again (bbq pork steaks, baked spuds, vegetable kebabs).
Howl!!! Yep, its a full moon.