During my last 48 hours in Laos, 20 of them were spent on a boat.
As I’m sure you can imagine, time passed rather slowly on it, and at least on the first day, this was an absolute dream. It was the kind of time which ambles along and you revel in its pace, rather than getting impatient and urging it to hurry up and get out of your way.
I clambered on to the boat, giving a quick appraisal of what would be my surroundings for 20 hours. The grey chairs looked as if they had been taken from a minibus but more importantly they looked comfy.
We were told to have a balance of people on either side of the boat so we didn’t capsize, which is always a reassuring start to a morning.
The engine whirred and we were away.
Listening to: Neutral Milk Hotel
Airplanes Over the Sea
The boat rocked gently in the flowing river, the water was always nearer than I expected it to be. What a beautiful part of the world to drift through.
Fleets of trees lined the hills and the green slopes of mountains were never too far away- majestic sprung to mind often.
I was happy to sit back and take all this scenery in.
Ten slow and steady hours later, we arrived at the village which hosted us for the night.
304 people lived there. They would get up at 4am alongside the crow of the roster to farm and the electricity would go off at 9pm.
We were shown some of their houses, the school. Animals were everywhere: goats, pigs and dogs.
Some of the locals came out to meet us. A little girl took my hand and soon lots of children were around me, pointing at the red in my hair and poking my skin, giggling as it got whiter where they prodded it.
I wrote this in my diary:
I felt a strange mix of curious, grateful and far, far too privileged. I didn’t do anything to deserve the life I have, it’s a pure fluke I was born in the country I’m in. I felt bad for the gratitude for my privilege. There are elements of my life that make it more convenient, but I shouldn’t assume my life is better than theirs.
To get to the toilet, I had to walk through their bedroom. It struck me that I was staying in their home and I felt a different kind of gratitude.
* * *
We set off at 5am and the less said about that, the better.
The sun rose and the scenery was still just as majestic as the day before, but after ten of seeing it yesterday – I couldn’t help it – I got bored. I was eager for the time to pass, and feeling ridiculous for wanting it to because how often in life do you cruise along the Mekong river?
Of course, the journey did eventually come to an end. I prepared myself for the Laos/ Thai border crossing, perhaps not quite ready for the last couple of days in Thailand, but more than ready to get off the boat.