From Luang Prabang to Muang Thadua (25 October 2017 – 28 October 2017)
This 4 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!
After we spent five nights in Luang Prabang we went back on the river. Since we were planning to continue the boat trip for longer time (all the way to the border to Cambodia or even further) we both had extended our Laos visa in Luang Prabang. We left Luang Prabang at about 11am with our upgraded boat, as Markus installed a board on the bow of the boat to give better protection against waves. We enjoyed being back on the river.
As always it was a nice sunny day. For this day we had a determined destination. We wanted to stop at the Kuang Si waterfall. On the way to the waterfall we passed some big rocks in the water. But, in general, this part of the river was pretty quiet. So, a good first day back on the river. We arrived at about 3.30pm at our destination. We just unloaded our stuff and packed it on our backs as suddenly a herd of about 7 water buffaloes was running towards us. After being shocked for a second we quickly ran up a little hill to avoid broken bones and worse. After the water buffaloes had past us we went further up the hill and came to a small village and road.
The village close to the waterfall was still about 5 km from here. Since we didn’t want to walk with all our stuff we arranged a ride for me and our stuff. Markus rode with his bicycle. When we arrived in the small village we asked around for accommodations. We noticed pretty fast that there is only one accommodation. It was a beautiful resort which was directly beneath some small but wide waterfalls where a huge amount of water was passing every second. The water was coming from the Kuang Si waterfall which was a good hike up a hill. As expected the resort was not in our budget. But, after a nice conversation with the owner she arranged a cheaper room for us in her house.
After we put our stuff in the room we went for a swim in the nicely cold and clear water. Thereafter we went for dinner at the resort, which was kind of a family dinner. During the dinner we had a conversation with a friendly German couple who told us they had a house just a few meters the way up. And they were so interested in Markus’ story and glad to meet another German that they invited us to stay at their house the next day and night. So, as agreed we showed up at 8am at their house the next day for breakfast.
They had already prepared a really nice breakfast with all kind of fruits, some real bread, coffee and many other things. But the best thing for sure was the house. It was just stunning. It was a big two-storied house, all made of high quality wood and with a lot of open space. Further, it had a nice terrace which was directly next to another small waterfall. We were both stocked by the luck we had to get invited to stay at their house.
After we had breakfast we hiked up the hill to the Kuang Si waterfall by just following the water. It was a nice hike through the jungle. As soon as we approached the waterfall there were more and more tourists. The waterfall itself was really nice. It is a three tier waterfall with a 50-metre drop into an azure pool before flowing downstream. The pool was full of tourists, so we went a bit further up the hill and looked for a quieter place to relax, go for a dip and do some weird movement practices.
When we got back to the house of our hosts we spent the rest of the afternoon talking with them and joined them for dinner at the resort again. For the night we decided to sleep on the terrace exactly next to the small waterfall. And the first thing we did in the morning the other day was taking a nice bath in the cold water. This morning we were invited by the family of the resort to join them for breakfast. It was really nice with a lot of fresh fruits. After breakfast the owner of the resort also gave us a lot of avocados which were fresh from a tree and some papayas for the day on the boat. Just really nice people again we met.
To get back to the river our host family offered us to bring us there on their scooters. So, I and our stuff went on the scooters of our two hosts and Markus went again on bicycle. They accompanied us all the way to the boat and we also asked our host if he may want join us on the boat for a few kilometers down the river. Unfortunately, he didn’t. But, they waited all the way until we disappeared in the horizon continuously waving to us.
For this evening we decided to spend the night on a small island in the Mekong. Therefore, we stopped in the afternoon in a small village to buy some food for dinner and stock up on water. Thereafter we continued to go further down the river and looked out for a suitable island. At about 5pm we saw a small island and decided to stay there for the night. The island was really small. Maybe about 50 square meters. Except sand and rocks there was nothing in the island. As we approached the island we saw again some water buffalos on the land close to the island. This time it was a family. Two big buffalos and a baby buffalo. We first unloaded our stuff on the island and then went with the boat to the mainland and collected some wood to make a bonfire. We loaded the boat full with as much wood as it could take and rode back to the island.
Here, I put the responsibility of making the bonfire in the hands of the experienced firefighter Markus while we both were talking foolish. I said something like: ‘I feel pretty safe if we make a fire and I have a firefighter by my side.’ And Markus was tiptoeing from one foot to another like Smokey the Bear. Thereby, he pointed on the mainland and said like in a bad TV advertisement: ‘No worries. If the forest gets on fire we are safe here! Trust me, I have experience in this! A safe spot is an island in the middle of the river!’ He underlined his words by showing both thumbs up. Then he continued:’ Surrounded by sand also good! Trust me! I am a forest fire fighter!’ Then he pointed at me and said: ‘ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FOREST FIRES!’
The rest of the evening we spent by making our own private island party. We put on some electro music had a few beers and were just dancing. This kind of dance: I just move the way I want to because nobody cares. After the party was over we prepared our night-quarters. Basically, we just slept on the sand without anything but clothes on. But, because it was getting quite cold and wet in the night I put on my cheap (plastic bag like) waterproofed pants and jacket which I still had with me from my motorbike trip in northern Vietnam.
The next day was our earliest start so far I think. We got up at about 6.30am and were on the water at about 7.30am. The clouds were still hanging over the mountains that surrounded us. It was a beautiful mystic landscape. For this day we again had a destination were we wanted or better were we had to stop. Our destination was Muang Thadua.
After one hour of paddling down the river we stopped to refill our drinking water in a small village beneath the Mekong. It was always a nice feeling to walk in the small villages on the side of the river. The small villages that normally no tourists reach. People are so surprised and happy at the same time if a foreigner walks on the roads in their village. I could find only one little shop in the village. However, they had only small water bottles. So, I continued to search. I asked some young guys who were working in kind of joinery for a place to get some water and they offered me to refill our bottles from their big tank of water. After some further minutes of conversation mainly with body language I thanked them for the water and went back to the boat.
After two more hours of going down the Mekong we saw again a waterfall on the side of the Mekong. As we didn’t had a shower or bath since we left the Kuang Si waterfall we decided to stop to take a shower under the waterfall. It was so far the biggest waterfall which we met randomly on the side of the Mekong. After we had a nice refreshing shower under the waterfall we finally arrived at Muang Thadua at about noon. We had to stop in Muang Thadua because we knew that there was a big damn to come in the Mekong a few kilometers down the river.