Going slow in Laos – a lazy journey up the Mekong River

Most people come down the Mekong – as Laos has opened up for tourists in recent years, a fairly standard 2-day package has emerged, with foreign travellers boating down one of Asia’s most iconic rivers, from northern Thailand to the stunning old Laos royal capital of Luang Prabang.

But there’s nothing to stop you going upriver instead. Against the flow, of water and people.

We just turned up at the pier in Luang Prabang one February day and bought a ticket, with no real idea of what we would see and where we would end up.

The boat was long and low, with basic wooden seating and a thrumming engine that drowned out conversation. The muddy Mekong slapped against the sides, while green hills and sandy anchorages slipped by, for hour after hour.

Buffaloes and bathing children – that’s what I remember most. That and the sound of the ever-present engine, carving a noisy furrow through the heart of one of the most gentle nations on earth.

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