My day started with the stealing of a cushion (bad credit at the bank of Karma) because i've heard the slow boats are pretty uncomfortable. Turns out was an unnecessary steal because the boat had some pretty decent ones and the journey was relatively comfortable, all 8 hours of it, twice, over 2 days. It was definitely a nice journey, most folk travel the opposite way from Houayxai (Thai/Laos border) down to Luang Prabang so our boat wasn't even half full - in a good way. The scenery was nice but what you saw in the first hour was what you saw the entire journey, like an old Scooby Doo cartoon where the background would be repeated over and over as Velma & Shaggy were being chased. It was all forested verges (I have never used that word before) and jagged rocks with no real "views", but there was some nice erm, "views" down the river as it flowed from the occasional mountainous horizon - nice at sunset all you sunset fans. I spent the majority of my time a little engrossed in 2 good books which made time flow by, but still never neglecting the fact I was on a nice boat travelling on the Mekong, otherwise I might aswell have just got the bus.
So day one was from Luang Prabang to a small hillside town called Pakbeng, the halfway stop off point for all slow boats going either way along the Mekong. Nothing there, just the usual tourist catering facilities what with them being the only source of daily income. To stay more than one day would be a waste, unless you were some sort of Opium addict, dont think i've been offered it so many times on such a short road in such a remote place before. I later found out whilst sitting with some Irish guys from the boat - because it happened to them in Vang Viang - that it's a $600 fine for having a single puff on a joint. Still, better than life imprisonment I suppose.
So day two was from Pakbeng to Houayxai and dare I say it, "same same but different". It was the first day on repeat on a less comfortable - in terms of seat stability - boat but as before, my head was in a book. I did put 2 benches together though to make a little seating trough so actually turned out alright. Journey was another 8 or so hours and we spent the night in Houayxai, just across the Mekong from Thailand. In the morning (as in yesterday) I bumped into the boat gang - 7 of us - and we passed through the most relaxed, unofficial, rustic border crossing i've crossed in Asia. Stamp, boat over to the otherside, stamp and away. Not forgetting a little temperature reading via my ear on the Thai side for suspected Swine Flu symptoms. I did leave thinking i'd missed something, another booth or whatever but no, that was it.
Hello Baht (again), you confuse me. X