Slow Boat to Luang Prabang

It’s early in the morning and I am up and ready to take the boat to Luang Prabang. This is a two day trip with an overnight stop in Pak Beng. Our scheduled departure time is 9am and I am ready well before then.
9am arrives and departs I ask the skipper when we are going to do the same. “maybe 10am” OK what’s an hour amongst friends. Meanwhile people keep on trickling down and the boat starts to fill up, by 10am all seats are taken and still more people are arriving by 11am they have crammed every available space with people and there are still twenty or so back packers on the quay side.
Midday, after a lot more waving of arms and frantic phone calls, a number of the locals is unloaded and the tourists, who pay higher fares, are put on in their place. We are on our way!
The country side changes quickly to hills and jungle with the occasional open patch with a village in it.

From time to time we make a stop to let someone on or off but mostly we steadily travel down river. Most people gasp at the first large set of rapids but the captain negotiates them without a hitch, and after five and half hours we arrive in the Pak Beng a village whose only reason for existence seems to be to put travelers in rooms, sell them some food and get them on their way again.
A young man whispers “you want to buy opium?” I decline he goes off in search of other customers. It slowly starts to rain.
The next morning it’s absolutely pouring down we get back on board. Three English guys who took the drug dealer up on his offer almost didn’t make it in time and end up sitting all day in the engine compartment. the only space left on board. We do depart on time. it rains most of the morning and the pattern of yesterday repeats itself.
Two young monks sit stoically through it all and try not to touch any of the women, difficult given how crammed it is on board.
A young girl, initially shy ends up playing peek a boo with the tourists and is given plenty of attention, lots of sweets,and even a toy, funny what some people have in their backpacks.
The rain stops by midday we roll up the tarpaulins that have been keeping the worst out of the boat. It does stay quite overcast but that’s all right with me, keeps it from getting hot. Then all of a sudden we are there it has taken almost nine hours today and my body feels sore from all the odd angles I have been sitting in. I stretch out, get my pack, avoid most of the touts and go in search of a hotel.

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