We woke up in Pak Beng to beautifully misty Meekong. Mum and decided to get breakfast in the town, so ran to somewhere with a pretty great view. It wasn’t hard, because every single restaurant had an uninterrupted view of the Meekong.
While we were eating bananas and pineapple and Mum was drinking weirdly thick Lao coffee with condensed milk, it started to rain. This isn’t a little sunshower but fully fledged Lao rain. Luckily we managed to run back to the hotel and not care if we were wet because it was warm enough. We packed up our bags – somehow my backpack seemed to get lighter (either I lost stuff or am getting used to it) – and headed back to our slowboat floating on the Meekong. It only seemed to rain as we were trying to take ourselves and our luggage to the boat and once we were undercover it stopped.
This day on the Meekong was broken up with 2 stops. After a few hours we stopped the boat and walked up the banks of the river to a little village. I am pretty sure the town was called Ban Lardhan and I am certain it was very interesting. One thing I found particularly interesting (besides the expected local kids playing, new school being built and odd assortments at the corner store) was the chickens. There were chickens and chicks everywhere! Aside for your regular run of the mill chickens, there were fighting chickens. They were kept as pets and the roosters were put into cock fights. It is pretty disturbing that the poor birds have to fight, but they are so strange looking!
We all strolled around the town for a while and took in a completely different culture. Mum and two other people on the tour are school teachers, and so were very interested in the old school and also the new school being built (we were going to visit a class but Laos follows the French school system so it was school holidays). Just as we started heading to the boat the skies opened again and we had to make it down the banks before they turned too muddy.
Back on the boat our lovely driver and his wife quickly pulled down the tarps on the side of the boat to keep us dry. The effect was that of a blacklight disco.
The rain stopped shortly after (I am seeing a pattern here) and after anoher few hours we arrived at Pak Ou Caves. We have seen a lot of temples on the trip, but Pak Ou is something else. We got out of the boat and walked up many stairs to arrive in a cave filled with the usual stalactites and stalagmites, but also a forest of buddhas!
Our local guide said it was OK for us to use the Kau Cim, which is a sort of fortune telling mechanism where you pick a stick with a number on it and that number has a unique fortune. Everyone’s choice was scarcely accurate, mine even saying that if I partake in further study I will get a good job (weird because I am desperately trying to decide whether to study honours or not… this is definitely in the pro-honours list!)
We got back on our slowboat to float toward Luang Prabang for just a little longer. The flow of the river was with us and we actually made good time, getting to Luang Prabang in just about 7 hours on the second day. To reward us for our travels the sky left a rainbow instead of rain for us. The amazing city of Luang Prabang had more in store for us though, to start they had the best markets I have ever been to. The stuff was so interesting, well made and gorgeous.