Imagine having to sit, in all your adult fullness in the kindergarten chairs of your youth, perhaps a bit smaller…for 10 hours and without access to a bathroom. And we paid money for this.
The boat we took along the Nam Ou River from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw snugly fit about 12 people and their backpacks. Our trusty captain didn't say much, but he navigated our rickety little boat through dry-season shallows and swiftly up small rapids with impressive skill. Every now and then he'd stick his hand out and the other boat traveling astride would float over and hand him a lighter to light his cigarette. Not a man of many words.
Due to a severe shortage of space (or creative use of little space, depending on your point of view), there were no bathrooms on board. Around hour number four, an eerie silence descended upon our boat when thoughts turned from the beautiful scenery to one’s bladder. When the boat finally made a pit stop, the urgency and pending relief was palpable. We haven't seen people move like that since the Black Friday release of the Cabbage Patch Kids.
For our troubles, we were rewarded with beautiful scenery the entire way. Limestone cliffs, mountains, village scenes, water buffaloes lounging by the river and scores of waving kids crossed our field of view like well-scripted cinematography. It was worth every bit of discomfort – including the three to four days worth of sore bottoms.
Video of Mekong Boat Ride: Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw
Practical Details – Boat Tickets from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw
- Tickets: Can be bought at most travel agents in Luang Prabang for around $10. No one seems to make a phone call when they sell you the ticket, indicating that no one keeps count against the number of seats on the boat. So when you arrive at the pier, getting a seat is like shooting craps in the middle of musical chairs. It seems that everyone gets a seat eventually, even if it means launching more boats and moving people from one boat to another. Arrive early to secure a good seat and bring padding for your tush if you have it.
- Take food and drink with you: As opposed to Vietnam, there will not be Oreo and Pringle loaded boats sidling up to the boat, nor forced shopping stops along the way. Stay hydrated, but limit your liquid intake – we only had one potty break during the entire trip.