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September 7th

I entered Laos at Huay Xai, across the river from Chiang Khong in northern Thailand. The visa had been obtained in Bangkok but was also available in Chiang Khong. There were no problems entering Laos, just needed to fill in the correct form. A paid a quick visit to the Duty Free Shop at the border to get a bottle of gin and then went up the road to a hotel to change some money. I changed $40 and in exchange got a massive wad of Lao Kip. In this town there only had 1000 and 2000 kip notes and at 7500 to the dollar that gives you quite a lot. I was in fact lucky because they soon run out of these 'high' value notes and other people in the group got a fistful of 500 kip notes.

The next part of our tour was a 2 day slow boat trip down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang. You can also get a fast boat to Luang Prabang which gets there in about 6 hours but the safety of these boats is questionable. We split into two groups for the first day of the 'cruise'. The day was spent reading, sunbathing on the deck and watching the scenery go by.

Mekong Hillside

On top of the boat going down the Mekong

We stayed overnight in the delightful little town of Pak Beng which consists of a single road winding up a hill side with houses on either side. Tourists have been coming here for a couple of years now and a number of simple guesthouses have opened. However we stayed in the town's hotel, which although the best in town was still one of the worst places that I stayed in on my trip.

The hotel in Pak Beng. Moored on the right are the dragon boats


The food and beer in the restaurant opposite were however quite acceptable. As a side point BeerLao is in my opinion the best beer in any of South East Asia.

The ladies from the restaurant


8th September

I was awoken very early (possibly 4:00) by what sounded at first like a police raid but turned out to be the town's dragon boat team practising by running up and down the street. Luckily they then went to do some paddling so I did get back to sleep. After reloading the boats we continued on our way down the Mekong

Pak Beng Wharf

A short distance before Luang Prabang we stopped at the Pak Ou caves which are packed with Buddha images. There are two caves but we were unable to reach the upper one because the entry path was some way under water due to the high level of the Mekong



Lower Pak Ou Cave

A fine collection of Buddha Images (Pak Ou Cave)


One hour later we docked in Luang Prabang

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