This post was written by Jette. She hand wrote a report on our trip down the Mekong river, I typed it up, and she revised it in a second draft. I’ve posted it here with the addition of some photos. Enjoy!
Our Trip Down the Mekong
My family and I are taking a year off to go around the world. I am being homeschooled by my parents. We’re calling the trip Field Trip X. The “X” stands for unknown. We were in Chaing Mai in Northern Thailand. Our visas were about to expire, so we decided that we would go to Laos. My mom was investigating how we would get to Laos. She figured the best way to get there was to take a 7-hour bus ride and then a two-day boat trip.
On the day we departed we took a songthaew to the bus station. The first few hours of the bus trip were through winding mountain roads. I got carsick. Really carsick. For about two hours my mom and I sat in the back of the bus to be close to the bathroom. Then I went back to my seat, took a short nap, and had a piece of mint gum. The car sickness went completely away.
The bus trip ended in Chiang Khong, a small Thai town on the Mekong river. We had a few days before the boat left, so we stayed in Chiang Kong. There is a really, really, really good Mexican (yes, Mexican!) restaurant. I had a burrito. The best burrito in Thailand! The hotel where we stayed was right on the river. We could see across the river (which was the border) to Laos. At night we could see paper lanterns floating in the sky from the Buddhist Lent celebrations.
On the morning of our boat ride, the lady from our hotel gave me a big snack bag. She was really nice. A van picked us up from our hotel and drove us to the border crossing. After we got our passports stamped, a bus took us across the border to the Lao side where we got our passports stamped again. Then another van picked us up and took us to the boat.
The boat was a long boat. It was 10 feet wide and 150 feet long. Sometimes boats like this are crammed full of more than 100 people. Our boat only had about 20 people plus staff. The seats in the long boat were car seats!
While we were going down the river we saw very few towns and villages. We saw a lot of mountains and jungle and forests. We saw a few river boats, huts, and guys fishing in canoes with bamboo fishing rods.
After about 4 hours into the boat ride we stopped at a village. There were about 10 kids playing on the “beach.” The girls were wearing clothes, and the boys were in their underwear. The smaller kids were naked. We walked up the hill into the village. The village was basically a couple dozen huts on thick bamboo stilts. There were a few kids playing soccer and one girl bathing at the village water pump. As we were leaving, I did a cartwheel on the beach. The village kids started trying to do cartwheels and one of the little boys was flinging himself in the water. It was really funny.
In the evening we stopped at a town called Pak Beng to spend the night. It was a really tiny town. There was one main street with street vendors, shops, guesthouses, and restaurants. We walked along the whole thing in about ten minutes. We had dinner at one of the tiny restaurants. We stayed in bamboo huts on a hillside overlooking the river. The next morning we woke up to roosters crowing and we heard elephants from a nearby elephant camp.
After breakfast, we got back on the boat. A few hours later we stopped at another village. It was kind of like the first village, but this one had a temple. At this village the kids were selling bracelets and pieces of embroidered fabric. We bought four bracelets and one scarf. They are really pretty.
Then we got back on the boat. I listened to The Graveyard Book audiobook. About two hours later we stopped at Pak Ou Caves. The caves were in the face of a cliff on the river. Our boat docked at the bottom of the cliff and we climbed about 150 stairs to the cave. At the entrance to the cave there was a lady with flashlights and little banana leaf cones with flowers around them. The cave had hundreds of Buddha statues inside it.
Then we went back to the boat and an hour later we were in Luang Prabang. I thought that the boat trip was really fun and it was cool to see everything along the river.
The day we arrived in Luang Prabang was Halloween. Jette arrived as a panda:
Of course Halloween isn’t really celebrated in Laos, but we got lucky and a local ex-pat family pointed us to one of the few restaurants in Luang Prabang that was giving out candy. Jette got a “one-stop” trick-or-treat session this year!
Here is the photo I forgot to post of Jette doing a cartwheel on the beach at the first village.
Here’s a video of the village kids after Jette’s cartwheel:
And here’s a video of the soccer/football action in the village: