SCENES IN PAKBENG AND DAY 3,
That night we docked at Pak Beng, a village in the middle of nowhere and checked into a guesthouse, basic as you get so you wont be surprised to understand the electric in the whole village went out about 5times. It must happen fairly often because as soon as we left the hostel the whole town was lit up with candles.
Surprisingly the town had a bit of life about it, probably due to it being a stopover for tourists taking the boat. Went for a bite to eat and heard some noise coming from outside so decided to investigate. We walked outside the restaurant to be greeted with absolute mayhem!! All of a sudden there were bangers and fireworks being thrown across the street and a parade of jeeps and vans going down towards the river with anything up to 20 people crammed into them.
There was obviously some event on and the restaurant owner was off his head on I don’t know what but he gave us lot 4 or 5 free shots of the stuff. He claimed it was banana whiskey but I wasn’t so sure. Later he explained it was a Buddhist holiday that celebrates the life of Sisavang Vong, the King of Laos until his death on 29th October 1959. Doesn’t seem much of a celebration more of a riot on the street followed by letting off a few candle boats at the river. I think their Buddhists seem as religious as some of the folk we have at home.
Anyway we gathered a few bangers ourselves and headed down the street. I swear I haven’t had such a good buzz, it felt like home. People were literally throwing bangers into groups of people, onto cars and just in the air. I had a few scares myself, I have a hole in my swimmers from a random Mike found and couldn’t get rid of, it was unbelievable anything goes.
They don’t have much sense of danger here. It reminded me of something between the 12th of July and Halloween. There was a little kid, probably about 5 who joined us, crazy he was trusted to walk away with some strangers or so we thought. He ended up getting a banger to the ankle but he was enjoying it too much to want to go home, until his dad found him that was and had a go at Mike for taking his son.
BACK ON THE BOAT
The next morning was a bit of a struggle but didn’t fancy taking any chances of getting a good seat for the next boat run down stream so thought we’d be smart and head down to the boat early doors. Better seats at the front this time but will have to take turns doing the beer run.
Another day was spent drinking, chatting and staring at the scenery. But it wasn’t long until our boat had an issue. We were too close to the shore when dropping off a package and the propeller shaft bent. While beached there was a little family who came from the banks and the kids were all out trying to sell stuff. Wasn’t nice to see, you could tell their parents really put pressure on them to sell. Sometimes the kids would tell their siblings off for getting distracted or having a play with some of the tourists and not selling. It isn’t really helped by people giving them money and food. It was as close to a zoo as I’ve seen – people coming to the windows taking pictures of giving out goodies to them.
It was at this stage we seen the speed boat fly up the river. Thankfully it appeared that the right decision has been made when I seen everyone sitting in the fettle position wearing helmets and bumping along on their hard wooden seats. not long after I met someone who had taken the fast boat and said it was one of their worst experiences, 8 hours of that doesn’t sound appealing!
We eventually made it to Luang Prabang (laos 2nd biggest city) and everyone just thought it was another stop for the locals. There was nothing to the place and it wasn’t until the captain got up and said “This is Luang Prabang” that everyone got off.
In the end it turned out to be the right decision after all I met 3 great friends who I went onto travel the rest of SE Asia with. If anyone is considering heading to Laos I would have to say that the Slow Boat would only add to the experience!
The following day was spent exploring the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen, something I did not expect to come across in Laos.
SAFE TRAVELS, DS x
This episode is part of The South East Asia Series, click to see episode 1.