We evaluated our health in the morning and determined that we were okay to take the slow-boat from Houay Xai today. It's a 2-day journey, with a night in Pak Beng, to Luang Prabang (maybe around 7 hours on the boat each day). We decided to save 40,000 kip (which is only $5) by heading to the dock ourselves rather than booking through our guesthouse. It was easy enough-- a song-thaew to the pier and then we bought our tickets. We had been told the boat was to leave at 10:30 or 11, and we got there by shortly after 10. But the boat didn't start to fill up until around 11:30 and it wasn't until 12:45 that we were on our way. Before then, some entertainment...
There were 2 boats at the dock, both supposedly to leave for Pak Beng. Our boat appeared full, and it was past the scheduled departure time, but we just kept sitting there. Passengers began to complain, and the complaining increased exponentially when they told the people on the 2nd boat to move onto ours.
A man who had given a "safety talk", mainly about precautions to take in Pak Beng (and mostly common sense), was the recipient of the bulk of the outrage. "You are a bad Lao man!" was repeated loudly by angry travelers. The French woman in the seat in front of us on the boat was particularly outspoken, and was frustrated with our lack of emotion. But really, it's not as if they were making the boat unsafe, or asking us to shift our seats... "Mai ben rai", "Baw pen nyam", "hakuna matata"
Other entertaining points of the day:
1) The number of people who were willing to pay in advance to a man in Houay Xai for a slip of paper saying they had a reservation in a guesthouse supposedly existing in Pak Beng-- Blaire and I claimed our money was in our packs and made a "reservation" without handing over any bills, which kept me much happier. It turned out the place really did exist, and we had a room, which we paid for when we checked out the next morning.
2) Locals on the boat took pictures of us as we knit (funny because we take pictures of them as they weave).
3) Arrival in Pak Beng-- pretty much everything about this was entertaining. That, or extremely frustrating, but I'd rather be amused than annoyed. The dock was swarming with people trying to sell rooms, food, and drugs (pot and opium). It was dark, and it was really hard to get our bags (which were under where people were standing in the boat). People weren't really moving though, because they too wanted their packs. It all worked out eventually.
We had Indian food for dinner tonight, our most expensive meal yet at nearly $9. But Blaire had an appetite, and the food was very good-- garlic naan, a veggie curry, and chicken in yogurt. Delicious!