Peril on the mekong
From Chiang Mai, Thailand, the next destination was Luang Prabang, Laos.
Once across the Laos Border the choices available are one 12-14 bus ride, or a two day slowboat down the Mekong River. Having recently imposed a ten hour limit on our bus rides, the boat was the only choice. The Mekong slowboat is not new to the backpacker trail. Cynical travelers have claimed it lacks authenticity.
Our journey got too real.
Here we are in a Tuk Tuk, facing Laos from Thailand.
Our day started in Chiang Rai, Thailand. A very logistically optimistic beginning location.
The Route went like this:
Bus: Chiang Rai to Chiang Kong(crossroads)
Tuk Tuk: crossroads to Thai immigration
Bus: Across friendship bridge to Laos immigration
Trucktuk: Laos immigration to slowboat pier.
No more than 100 meters from our departure, the middle of the boat became stuck on a rock. For about twenty minutes it seemed like we were very very stuck, like get on a new boat type stuck. The solution was moving passengers from the middle to the front, shifting the weight and hitting the gas before becoming dislodged.
Two days, six-seven hours each day. Easy enough. Seven hours turns into eight if you arrive early enough to not sit by the very loud engine. Go early.
The definition of what you want to see on a boat.
To be fair, this is a small amount of water compared to the leaky longboats on the Andaman Sea in Thailand.
The boat made four or five stops each day to pick up and drop off locals and their deliveries. We would awkwardly dock, or a smaller boat approached from the bank.
Here are three novice monks being taxi'd to shore.
"She was Poisoned."
"She accidentally ate rat poison."
Rumors move fast, but boat rumors move faster.
The boat stopped at a village early on the second day, and loaded a woman so sick she couldn't stand. Nick's first reaction was "I think that woman might die on this boat". She was laid down on the floor at the front. She looked bad. Time passed, and concern grew before passengers learned the woman and her husband could not afford the speed boat. So she was on the same slowboat we were. Heading toward Luang Prabang, with the only local hospital. Drifting in and out of consciousness, her condition visibly worsened rapidly.
A hat was passed around for collections, and the call was made. That is when the rumors started.
Thirty minutes later this man appeared.
With a jet engine on a canoe. The woman, now unconscious, loaded into the boat.
Sorry no conclusions here. Sometimes there are no answers.
That is all we know of the woman. We were left with plenty of time to take in the views while reflecting on the realness of our surroundings.