From Pak Houng to Pak Lay
This 5 part series of blogs are written by Felix from Germany, who joined me for the adventure down the Mekong River. I have not edited any of the grammar as it portrays his voice better in this form. Thanks Felix!
As soon as we were back on the Mekong river from the Nam Houng river we stopped in the first village that showed up on the side of the Mekong. The village was called Pak Houng and was just a few meters down the Mekong after we entered the Mekong from the Nam Houng river.
Again, it was a very small village with the classical basic houses and dirt roads. As the current was especially strong at that part of the river we decided to pull the boat on land. As we were not strong enough we asked some villagers who were just around to help us. After the boat was on land we tried to explain to them that we sunk the boat on the Nam Houng river and it needed to be fixed on some parts. They inspected the boat and suggested to fix the side of the boat which crashed into the cliff, and some leaks. They said the boat would be fixed on the next morning and we agreed on a price of 25 000 Lao Kip (about 30$).
Now we just needed to find a place to stay for the night, which also didn’t took long. We were invited by a villager to stay at his house (for about 3$ each). Apparently it was a homestay. At least that was the word he kept on repeating all the time. However, I am pretty sure that was the first time he had any guests in his homestay. Shortly, after we brought our stuff in his house the head of the village showed up and documented our passport information which took quite a while. Thereafter, we relaxed a bit, took a bucket shower and had dinner with our host.
Shortly after dinner the men who promised to fix our boat showed up and said that they were already done. Although it was already dark Markus went with them to inspect the boat. When they came back Markus said that it should be alright and we gave them the agreed amount of money and thanked them. Shortly after Markus was back we went to bed as we were pretty tired. We slept on some mattresses which they prepared for us in the living room of the house. And we fell asleep listening to the sound of some Lao action movie that our host, his son and his wife still watched right next to us on the television.
In the morning after a good breakfast with the family of our host we were back on the river at about 11am. We had a nice day floating down the Mekong and about 4pm we stopped in a small village to find a place to stay for the night. The village was not even on Google maps or maps.me, but referring to the sign of the elementary school the name of the village was Nakhonke’Ne.
This time it was again my term to organize a place to stay in the village. I walked up the village and asked the first villagers with body language for a place to stay. This time I didn’t have any success the first time. However, after a short time a young woman showed up who could actually speak English quite decent. She was the English teacher of the school and was living in another village about 20 minutes down the river by motorized boat. However, she said that we could probably spend the night at the house of a friend of her. So, I followed her to the house of her friend and met our friendly host for the night.
Then, I went back to get Markus and our stuff. After we put our stuff in the house of our host and after a bit of body language conversation with our host and his family we went for a walk in the village. We found a small clear river at the border of the village and decided to take a bath in the river which was a nice refreshing change to the bucket showers we normally had in the evenings in our guest houses. Thereafter, we explored a bit more the village before we went back to the house of our host.
We had a good dinner, some beer and ‘Lao Lao’ (traditional rice liquor) with our host and his family (including his wife, kid, mother and uncle). In the small villages in Lao it is common that you sit on the floor while you eat. Normally people sit in a circle and in the middle there is a round metal plate with boles of food on it. This evening there were five bowls on the plate. Three of them were meat/fish soups, one was another beef dish and the other one were some snails. With the main dish in Lao they usually eat sticky rice which is normaly in kind of a small wooden basket to keep it warm. For the sticky rice everybody gets an additional small bowl. However, the main dish you basically eat just directly from the big bowls in the middle.
Using our dictionary and one which they had in their house we had a nice and funny conversation until we all were tired. Then, they showed us the room where we could sleep and we prepared ourselves for the night. In the morning after a good breakfast we were back on the river at about 8am.
After another lovely and sunny day on the river we saw a big cliff wall coming up on the side of the river at around 5pm. It looked really awesome. As it was time to find a place for the night we decided to stop in a small village which was just on the other side of the big cliff. When we arrived there were already some kids playing in the water. They were really happy when we came to land and were dancing and playing around us and trying to repeat the words we were saying. After playing with the kids for a while Markus went to look for a place to stay in the village.
He came back after a few minutes and said that we could stay at the house of a villager. The house was not far from the river exactly on the opposite side of a temple. Shortly after we brought our stuff to the house of our host we had dinner with him and his son and afterwards we went for a bucket shower.
On the next morning we got up quite early were back on the river at about 8am. There was still the morning fog hanging in the air. And it made the landscape looking really nice mystic. Especially, the big cliff wall which was half covered by the fog looked amazing. After about one hour of paddling we saw a small waterfall coming up on the side of the river and decided to go for a quick dip in the waterfall. The rest of the day we just kept on paddling and relaxing in the burning sun on the boat.
At about 1pm we already reached the destination we wanted to reach on that day, Pak Lay. Pak Lay is a small, but not touristic, town. We checked into a guest house were we ended up staying for four nights. The reason was that I got kind of a heat collapse. It already built up slowly the days before. Namely, the days before we arrived in Pak Lay I was feeling weaker and weaker from day to day and a lot of heat continuously built up in my body and head from all those days spending being in the sun all day without sun protection (as we lost our umbrellas after we sunk the a couples of days before).
So basically, I was kind of in a fever mode with headache and felt really weak. It felt like my body could not regulate its own body temperature anymore and my nose and throat were completely dry, swollen and hurt. So, I was actually pretty happy that we just arrived in a small town with guesthouses that had air-conditioners.
Accordingly, the days in Pak Lay I just spent laying in bed in a nice and cool room and trying to recover. Markus used that time to do some writing and video editing for his blog and just relaxing. In such a situation you really feel that you are sitting together in one boat. That means, both of us are depending on each other. For example if one of us gets sick or for any other reason cannot or doesn’t want to go back on the river for the other one there is nothing left than to accept it and wait.
Luckily, as we both were already traveling quite long we were both not in a hurry or in a mood of ‘I need to be somewhere at a specific time or date’. It actually for both of us didn’t really matter if we spent one more day here or there. That’s the comfort if you travel without having a return flight (in my case) or as in Markus case not even considering taking a flight home or finishing his route around the world in a specific time. I think that’s also one of the reasons why we came along so well during all the weeks we spent traveling in the boat together. We had kind of the same mind set and idea of traveling.
After four nights in Pak Lay I was more or less recovered and ready to go back on the river. And of course both of us bought some new umbrellas for sun protection in Pak Lay as we (especially me) learned our lessons.