Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nam Ou cruising...

Getting the boat back to Luang Prabang was a dicey affair. The boat ticketing office resembled a cowboy trading post filled with backpackers at the mercy of the Sheriff of Nong Kiau, the stern looking controller.
Pic by CW
Chaos mixed with Laotian order was the order of the morning and by His grace, we managed to get ourselves a seat with 8 other tourists. Our transport was a wooden 5 ft narrow but 35 ft long boat just barely inches from the water line. It did not help that the boat driver had only one good hand, and he was accompanied by a weather beaten old lady who acted as Chief Stewardess.

With our 3 Surlys tied precariously at the rear of the boat, we set off nervously at 11am. Getting comfy on kindy sized wooden seats was a challenged for me and pity the much bigger Caucasian passengers. Amid the loud din of the salvaged Toyota twincam engine from a Corolla, the ride proved to be a surprisingly pleasant one.

The Nam Ou meanders through even more beautiful limestone hills and cliffs. Crusing down the river with ever changing scenery with the cool breeze in the face is magic. We passed by villagers happily fishing and planting crops, and I felt a tinge of envy at their simple Shangrila existence. A Belgium lady seated in front of me, kept her long lens Nikon SLR continously busy trying in vain to capture the amazing views unfolding before our eyes.

The river soon joined the mighty Mekong and this was obvious at the huge width of the river. No wonder huge ships can make their way nearly 4000km inland into China from Vietnam. Our one arm driver obliged a request to stop at the Tham Ting caves where a beautiful temple with many Buddas awaited beady eye tourists.

We arrived at Luang Prabang at 4pm sharp and checked in backed into our usual guesthouse. This was followed by a lovely dinner at Tom Tom Cheng. I can still feel the boat rocking as I write this, but somehow, I do not mind.

No comments: