|The slow boats of the Mekong in Laos.|
Here's a short and sweet account of the day I spent riding a boat down the Mekong for six hours. I arrived at the pier in Huay Xai not too long before the boat left (the lack of scheduled departure time notwithstanding, everyone "knows" you should get there before 11am), so I just took the first seat I saw available. Fortunately for me, it wasn't one of the minivan carseats crammed into rows along the length of the boat, but part of a pair of minivan carseats set facing one another. This meant more legroom for me and the three others with me, although anyone who walked down the aisle of the long and narrow boat had to step over our legs. Anyway, what made it fortunate was that I got to spend the entirety of my trip getting to know three very fun and interesting folks: Greg, Corine, and Ian.
|Probably not the most flattering photo of them, but +1 for capturing personality and +1 for mangosteens!|
Even better, though, was the discovery that both of them loved to play word games! I was reading a book at some point in the mid-afternoon when I saw them get out paper and pens and begin playing Boggle. "Genius!" I thought. You don't need the letter cubes to play; you can simply think of random letters and write them down, et voila. Noticing my obvious interest, they invited me to play the next few rounds, and the epic Mekong Boggle Tournament was born. Well, it wasn't that epic. But it was loads of fun. I had my books and my camera, but playing word games with new friends was the absolute best way to pass the time.
|A monk on a riverbank.|
The more I talked to Greg, the more impressive his story got. He held very strong opinions against America, capitalism, and technology, explaining that he'd found the quiet and laid-back modus vivendi in parts of South America (Guatemala) and Southeast Asia (Thailand and Laos) to be a much more human way to live. He even told us about the family he'd sort of "adopted" since his first visit. There's a single mother with five children who lives in a tiny village perched on the banks of the Mekong; after meeting her and her family for the first time about a decade ago, he has returned a dozen times with gifts, living necessities, photographs, and a genuine offer of friendship. In turn, he has become a part of the family. I'll write more about this later, but suffice it to say that as I got to know Greg on the boat, I realized I was talking to someone quite unlike anyone I'd ever known.
So that's how I spent the boat ride: making new friends, taking photos of the pretty (if repetitive) scenery, reading, napping, and avoiding the overpriced snacks. Here are some of those photos:
|And this is what everyone on the boat tends to look like after six hours... ("Ugh get me off")|
|Me in Pakbeng in the late afternoon! Fog is already starting to roll in.|
|I bought a sausage from this smiling lady whose grill was billowing smoke so thick it stung my eyes.|
|Spiderboy playing with fire, quite literally.|