We are 75 white and ready backpackers sitting for 17 hours over two days on a wooden river barge down the Mekong. Three months ago the department of tourism upgraded the boats with minivan style bucket seats. So we are spared the a aching from days on a wooden bench. The first day is bright and warm. Blue sky meets green jungle, to sand banks, and finally greets the brown, low, river. The hum of the engine, the mumbles of passengers, and the hours of nothingness hypnotism me into a state of comfortable boredom. I listen to music and let my mind wonder as miles of brown river pass beneath us.
A slow life of agriculture beat into the hilly land scape, water buffalo napping in the sand, small children waving with dogs running at their feet reveals itself along the banks. Sometimes we feel like the zoo as groups of locals stare at the crowded boats of western tourist pass by the isolated villages. Sometimes it feels like safari where we stock glimpses of the poor and capture their image with cameras costing more then a year of education for those school-less children. Barbara and I sit next to each other gorging on sandwiches, Oreos, and Pringles. We spend the night in a river village existing and thriving because of the hundreds of foreigners appearing and disappearing daily as they cruise along the river. Hours give way to days until we reach the port in Luan Probang, battle for our bags, and walk the streets until we decide to splurge on a room with real, hot, water pressure to wake us from our slow boat commas.
The aging roads and busses make travel down the Mekong the more comfortable option to travel into Laos Northern interior. I appreciated the two days of nothingness and the small windows into life on the Mekong.