Laos is about the size of Great Britain with over 70% of the country  covered by mountains and plateaus and has a population of only about 6 million people. The 12th longest river in the world and the 10th largest in terms of volume, the Mekong is also one of the world’s most untamed rivers and the main means of transportation and source of fish, the staple of the diet.  We arrived in Vientiane, the capital city, a week after the worst flooding in forty years and although the water had receded, we saw much evidence of the damage that water can do.

In the north the Mekong River follows the Annamite Chain of rugged mountains with peaks as high as 2500 m.  We spent two days days on a “slow” boat and covered about 350 km of this 4000 km long river, mesmerized by scenes of awesome beauty, quiet little villages and local fishermen and their families.  Along the way we stopped to visit in some villages and the Pak Ou Cave, which houses thousands of Buddha statues of various sizes.  Fortunately, we had a fairly large and powerful boat with a very experienced driver as the swollen river was moving very rapidly and we were headed upstream.

Accommodations in the two villages on the river were pretty basic, to say the least, but it was neat to experience a bit of village life and it made us appreciate the lovely little guest house we had in Luang Prabang, with mattresses made of wood. 

The people of Laos may not have the best of resources but they have “Customer Service” down to a science.  Our every need was catered to by the most gracious of people, especially the cook (the drivers wife) who travelled with us on our boat and prepared amazing Laotian dishes for our lunches.  She, of course, was cooking on an open flame on the back of the boat.

 

 

One of the highlights of our visit was an afternoon trip into the hills where we climbed up to the Khouangsi Waterfalls where the water crashes down the mountain and over multi-tiered limestine formations and forms cool, clear pools which are perfect for swimming.

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