Monday, 23 June 2008

Monday 2nd June

Day 2 river boat Pak Beng to Luang Prabang (450bhat)
After a continental breakfast of croissant, jam, fruit, tea and the like Sarah, Heather and I headed back to our hotel to pack. We strolled down to the water front, it was only 8:45am but the sun was already beating down and the air temperature rising to a very close 90 degrees. There was a line of boats all parked nose-in to the river bank. Ther must have been 15 or so long boats of various dimensions all lined up and ready to roll. So which boat was ours? Ahh, it'd be the one that was only half as wide as the boat we had yesterday.

Mutiny on the Boaties
Despte being up at 7am we were pretty much the last to board the long boat and there was no room at all but they wanted to squeeze eight more bodies on. People were sat next to each other interlocked bodies, no room to move at all. Me, Sarah and Heather just refused to get on the boat (they were going to throw our luggage on the tin roof and we'd sit up there (it was a baking 95 degrees and later it thunderstorm threw it down for 3 hours non stop!). We refused and a Canadian couple began working the sheep on the boat into a mutiny. Otherwise it was 9 hours on a boat with no room to move (absolutely no chance of getting to the onboard 'toilet'). Aside from the sheer discomfort (even a battery hen would have complained), if the boat toppled over which was quite likely and has happened in the past when over loaded, I reckon a good half the people on board would have drowned. Now I'm not into safety but this was daft - I wasn't getting on the boat. Anyways, after 15 minutes of standoff we started a 'Bigger Boat, bigger boat, bibber boat' chant. A minute a couple of people jumped ship from the very narrow long boat to the boat we had yesterday which was considerably wider and just about adequate. We legged it onto the bigger boat and suddenly a swarm of bodies an bags began moving from one boat to another - we had triumphed! Better still, the boat organisers had exeeded expectations and gave us BOTH boats so all could travel in relative comfort.

Later on that journey the thunderstorms struck and we had to dock along the river banks several times because visibility was down to zero. On one occasion visibility was so bad that the skipper accidentally parked a little too close to the rocky river bank, infact he parked on the rocks and beached the boat. It took quite a bit of manpower to lever the front of the vessel of the rocks, all in the pouring rain. An adventure! I have subsequently bumped into my two fellow mutineers Canadian Brian and his good lady Dion. We made a good team. My grandad Joe always liked Canadians, he shared many missions over Germany as a rear gunner in a Halifax bomber guided by a Canadian navigator, so big up the Canadians.

Arriving in Luang Prabang
Eventually we arrived in Luang Prabang (LPG), it was bucketing it down. Sarah, Heather and I jumped ship and dived into a tuk tuk just to get out of the rain, we were joined by Ian (originally from Lancashire but now based in Tasmania) and his good lady Miranda from Auckland. What followed next was rather annoying. We asked to be taken to a couple of the guesthouses recommended by non-other than The Lonely Planet. Instead of complying with our request the tuk tuk driver basically took us to all his mates guesthouses. The girls inspected the rooms (getting thoroughly soaked each time) but the rooms were either too grotty or the last one had just been taken. This annoying chirade went on for nearly two hours as the tuk tuk man ignored our requests. By now it was dark and still persisting it down. The Dude had abided long enough. The official pointing finger was brought out to play. Two minutes later we were at our requested destination, which was about 50 yards from where we were picked up in the first place! Grrrrrr. In the end we stayed at The Luang Prabang Lodge for US$20 a night per room. The rooms were excellent, the showers hot and powerful and best of all Liverpool's top 100 Premiership games was showing on the TV. From that point on I vowed never to jump in a tuk tuk again unless it was absolutely neccessary, I'd rather walk.

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