We’re becoming experts on getting around Luang Prabang (not difficult – there are so few ways to do it, and so few places to go!).
Slow boat up the Mekong
One of the ways to enter or leave Laos for Thailand is to take the slow boats which ply the Mekong river. Although we’ve declined the 2 day trip, we did take a slow boat up the river today for an hour, watching the world drift by. The boats, which are designed to be cheap to run, have absolutely no headroom at all – I couldn’t imagine sitting on a rock hard wooden seat, with my knees on my chin, listening to a howling engine, for 2 whole days. Although you see lots of life on the river bank, its becomes very ‘samey’ after a short while. Everyone on the banks is either fishing, bathing, doing their laundry, or collecting sea weed for the market. And with the smokey haze, everything beyond the immediate banks is out of sight. After 2 hours, I think we’re glad we only took the short trip ($5 an hour, if you’re interested).
Emily decided to wear a sarong-skirt for cycling around Luang Prabang, and therefore spent the whole day side saddle.
And because we couldn’t get a child’s bike, Charlotte was again on the back of mine, which made it even more hard work than normal, especially as Laos bikes don’t have gears, and normally the saddle is set at the ideal height for a genetically-vertically-challenged-person (dwarf). But with so few cars around, it wasn’t a dangerous undertaking, and it meant we could get right out of the city and into the straw-hut suburbs.(Bikes are $1 a day)
Don’t ask me why they’re called ‘jumbos’, because they’re anything but. Basically, a jumbo is a minivan with bench seats in the back and a roof. (Similar to a tuk tuk, but with four wheels not three, but with the same engine – lifted straight from a Travelodge hair dryer). At first we thought they were great, because they seemed to get from A to B okay. But then we made the mistake of going out to the waterfall in one (“Hey Mista! I do you a good price Mista! You come me to waterfall Mista!“). The first 2 miles were good. But then the road ran out, or at least the tarmac did, and we drifted over the top of mud and stones, kicking up a huge dustcloud behind us. What a hoot! Couldn’t see a thing behind us, and every bike we passed got immersed in a dust bowl. And then the first lorry passed us, and we started to breathe road-dust. By the time we’d arrived at the waterfall, we all looked like we’d been one of Rommel’s tank commanders racing to El Alamein. Our skin had taken on a lovely shade of mud-brown. (The Jumbo cost us $10 to take us, wait and bring us back – a 4 hour round trip)
Turned out to be a pretty good option in Luang Prabang, because there was always something new around every corner, and the lack of heavy traffic meant that even the fact that pavements stop in a big hole with regularity everywhere in Asia wasn’t a problem. (Travelling by foot costs ice creams and fizzy drinks at regular intervals!)