We have saved the best journey for last. We travel toward the Thai border on this fabulous long boat. In our 40 days of travel through South East Asia, we have tried basically every mode of transport, and I can certainly vouch that there is no better way to travel than on a slow boat up the Mekong!!
We have two whole days of slow travel. We pack a picnic lunch and there is free fruit, tea and coffee on board! The boat comes with a happy house so we don’t even pull over to go to the loo! Cool. I can read, write, listen to music, admire the passing scenery and think…ok and occasionally chat! What more can you ask for..?
Jane and I have this entire boat to ourselves. When compared to the cockroach infested trains in Vietnam and the over crowded minivans in Cambodia…this is paradise! The boat is often owned by one or two families. The entire family live on the boat. In addition to what you can see here, the boat also includes their living quarters and kitchen. The kids live and grow up in a very unique environment and inherit this life style as they grow old enough to drive the boat themselves. We notice how happy and well behaved the kids seem. They have unlimited attention from their parents who have a pretty idyllic, stress free life. No computers and high tech gadgets here. Not even much contact with the outside world. Just human interaction within the family and the grandeur of the natural environment around them. They run around the boat and peer over the edge into the murky, deep waters of the Mekong. I wonder if they can swim…because they aren’t wearing any life vests..and they can’t be more than 5 years old..!
We pass some incredibly beautiful scenery…green mountains, the tips still covered by the morning mist and low hanging cloud.
Life happens at a lazy, un hurried pace on the Mekong. The river is the life blood of most people who live in this remote region on the border of Laos and Thailand. Imagine coming to work in this environment everyday..Is it any wonder that everyone we pass is waving hello..or is that good bye.. We pass numerous flood markers on the way..and I am reminded of my own work place..which now seems like a million miles away! Hello everybody :)
This must be an amazing place to be when the river is in flood. I have never seen such a massive river in my entire life and I am told this in only the #3 in Asia! I can hardly imagine what it is like when it is another 5-10 m deep. Yes… I would like to come back for that!
We have a minor hiccup when something gets caught on the propeller and we have to pull over to find out what has happened. The older kids strip off and dive in. This is all part of their schooling and just like any other job there are risks involved in this lifestyle too. The propeller is damaged by perhaps some floating wood..or it hit a bit of rock….I am not sure what. We can’t proceed because they need a new propeller.
Jane is worried about our laptops in case we have to evacuate. I am just concerned because I have eaten all my food :) !
Within minutes though they have hailed the public boat and we are transferred to a new boat. Fortunately it is also quite empty and we are still able to enjoy the rest of the journey. As the sun sets on the Mekong, we sit on the bow and drink a toast to an amazing day on the river….
“The saying ‘Getting there is half the fun’ became obsolete with the advent of commercial airlines.” – Henry J. Tillman