March 17, 2013
We got up pretty early today so we’d have enough time to pack, find breakfast and get to the ticket counter a few minutes early. I sat with the bikes while Chandler waited in line, getting cut by little old ladies who poke their heads sideways into the ticket window as if to ask a quick question then slowly push their whole bodies in front of the person there. This sort of thing happens all the time and Chandler has learned ways to deal with the situation. Usually this involves getting uncomfortably close to the person in front of him (pretty much vertical spooning) and then putting his hands on his hips creating a little old lady barrier with his elbows. Eventually, he got our tickets and we headed down to the boat.
Our bikes were loaded onto the roof of the boat and lashed down, while our panniers were piled up inside with everyone else’s luggage. The people aboard the boat were a good mix of locals and tourists, with one person per seat. This was nice to see, because that meant nobody would be sitting in the aisles or wherever else they can fit. A few straggler backpackers were relegated to the luggage area though and were a lot more cramped than the early birds who snapped up the reused passenger van seats set up in the front, away from the engine room.
When everyone and their gear were loaded, the boat was pushed out into the current using long bamboo poles. The captain started the engine and we were off, traveling up the Mekong. We had an 8 hour boat ride ahead of us, so we got comfortable with our Kindles, alternating between reading and watching the landscape pass us by. Surprisingly, the boat went through a couple sections of pretty good rapids (nothing the Seahawk II couldn’t handle). We made a few stops at small village landings along the way to drop off locals who had obviously been down in Luang Prabang shopping.
We got to Pakbeng around 500pm and checked into the first hotel we came upon. Since it was St. Patty’s day, we figured it would be semi-sacrilegious not to celebrate. In the spirit of things, we decided we should have some black and tans. With only Lao beer available, Chandler purchased a regular BeerLao and a dark BeerLao. Hoping they would do the trick, Chan mixed them together, only to find that light rice beer and dark rice beer have pretty much the same specific gravity and eventually mixed despite how carefully he manipulated his spork. Slightly disappointed, we enjoyed our beverages anyways. Erin go Bragh!