Our SE Asia Tour 2013
We were supposed to wake at 05:45 but Clive miss-set his alarm which went off at 4:45. We are really getting to like these pre-dawn wake-ups, I don't think! Tuk a tuk tuk down to the boat landing, arriving in plenty of time, but the boat delayed departure for 40 min awaiting one last passenger who, in the end, never turned up so we left without him or her. Could have had another hour in bed! Unasked and unexpectedly the hotel provided us with a breakfast box each. We did momentarily consider handing it out to the monks on the way past but ended up giving it to the tuk tuk driver who seemed pleased. It was quite cool on the river and everyone got rugged up in blankets and either promptly went to sleep or read their books/iPads/kindles etc. One does sometime wonder why one bothers travelling. We only have 11 passengers on this 2 day "Shompoo" cruise (which normally carries 25 if full) as it is not as popular to go upstream on the Mekong to Thailand. Most tourists come via Thailand into Laos and travel downstream. So we can all spread out and be comfortable. Breakfast was served on board - orange juice, excellent croissant and pain au chocolat, accompanied by some pretty awful coffee. You win some, you lose some, I guess. There is unlimited drinking water, tea and coffee available all day and lunch is also provided on both days. We overnight at the village of Pakbeng in a lodge (hope it's better than the auberge at the Plain of Jars) before continuing on to the border crossing at Houay Xay to Thailand. First stop was Pa Ou cave. By now I could have given the commentary being an expert on both caves and Buddhas. Cheryl even declined to come ashore and climb the steep steps - must be getting all Buddhad out. The scenery was spectacular for most of the day. There are many rapids along this stretch of the river. We saw one elephant at the riverside but it was too distant for a good photograph. Plenty of buffaloes though. We arrived at Pakbeng just on sunset and were whisked up the hill in a tuk tuk to our palatial accommodation. This was one place where we quite expected that the accommodation would be a little rustic but it was quite the opposite. The building was modern but in a traditional style. It overlooked the Mekong valley and we were just in time to get some good photos as the sun went down. Dinner was excellent and was partaken of on the airy terrace above the river. We slept well in the jungle silence, at least until the roosters started at 04:30. In the evening we amused ourselves by looking up the Trip Advisor entries for the place we stayed at on the Plain of Jars. They were hilarious and exactly mirrored our feelings about the place. One person had even composed a poem about its awfulness. It is worth reading them for a laugh. They can be found at xxxx. We will be adding our brickbats in due course. The place could best be described as the Lao equivalent of "Phoulti Taors"