Once again we were awaken by roosters crowing. A gong was calling the monks at 5:30am. By 8am we were driven to the Thai immigration in Chiang Klong, Thailand. A long boat ferried us across the Mekong River to Laos where we purchased our Laos Visa for $42 USD. Then a songthaew, small local bus which reminded me of a pickup truck with a tin roof and 2 long benches on either side, took us to our private Long Boat. The boat has benches, tables, a washroom and comfy airplane like chairs. Tea/coffee is always available. We removed our shoes at the entrance before entering the boat since this is the owner's home. Their sleeping area and kitchen is at the back of the boat. The couple has a 4 year old girl. I gave her some pens and markers and paper to draw on. She just loved it. At one point, Paul was on the floor with her dressing up in life jackets.
We stopped at Ban Houy Phalam, a typical village. The climb from the shore was quite steep with white sand speckled with gold. About 250 people live there. There is a primary school. They are farmers raising cows, chickens and pigs. They grow rice, corn and hops (for beer). There homes were thatched walls with tin roof and shuttered windows and built on stilts.
Along the river we could see crops, 100m steep banks, animals grazing and drinking from the river. People could be seen at the banks of the river washing clothes, panning for gold, herding animals or tending crops planted on the shores.. Naked kids were playing in the water.
We passed through a few slow rapids with rocks jutting out. We made great time and arrived at Pakbeng by 5:30pm. This village is a stop over for local traders heading to Luang Prabang. There is only one paved hilly road through the town. Our guesthouse, Mekong Riverside Lodge was perched up high on the riverside. The room had woven walls with wooden shutters and a kingsize bed with a mosquito net. We had an amazing view of the Mekong River. We had dinner in a local restaurant and did shots of Rice Whiskey. Some people will be hurting tomorrow!