Bangkok to Hanoi: Pak Beng

arriving at Pak Beng

arriving at Pak Beng

The blessing must have worked for we all arrived safely in Pak Beng. It was the most amazing three-quarters of an hour blast down river, being carried through a surreal land and water-scape, hills wreathed in mist, bouncing along the surface of the mighty Mekong. Mother of Waters was calmer now, and we were looking forward to breakfast.

gathering our few things ...

gathering our few things … can you see the helmets?

Walking up the road at Pak Beng it suddenly seemed we were in a bar scene in a Star Wars movie, or in part of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Connected to China by a narrow winding road, it was thought to be the centre of smuggling operations, and had a lawless wild-west feel when we there in 1995. Ugly slow boats were moored along the bank, and houseboats for river people. There was one road and an awful muddy market place, but our breakfast of noodle soup was excellent.

Pak Beng

Pak Beng, noodle soup cafe first on left

This was my first experience of Lao soup, often to be the only food available when we were on the road. We had a plethora of condiments and sauces to season the chicken stock and noodles, but most delicious was the plate of fresh herbs … just add some mint or basil, some lime juice or chill, bean sprouts lettuce, or coriander.

Pak Beng, one road that leads to China

Pak Beng, one road that leads to China

Some of our group went wandering up the road and discovered the market …

Pak Beng Market

Pak Beng Market

…. where we also ate breakfast rolls of soft dough with green gooey filling, possibly green papaya jelly, that we found amongst the stalls …

fried rice rolls, not so easy to digest!

fried rice rolls, not so easy to digest!

These fried rolls were a bit too greasy when we ate them later. Pak Beng was a little town when we were there, sparse but growing rapidly as Lao began to open up to the West. When I google it now I am astonished at what it has become twenty years later, a busy centre for river travel and development.

Pak Beng market

Pak Beng market

While waiting for our new transport, we lingered on the river bank, no doubt listening to our knowledgeable guide explain about all the ethnic minorities and their way of life.

looking upstream

looking upstream

and downstream, the way we were traveling towards Luang Prabang

and downstream, the way we were traveling towards Luang Prabang

Finally we discovered what we would be travelling in next … it looked sturdy but was the most uncomfortable hot and noisy experience of our lives … we could choose to roast in the sun or be deafened by the diesel motor and suffocated by the fumes  beneath the deck … and it was incredibly slow, making the longboat of the previous day look like a speedboat!

this was our ungainly boat

this was our ungainly boat

Next instalment: Luang Prabang.

Advertisements

13 thoughts on “Bangkok to Hanoi: Pak Beng

  1. The river looks rather high and fast to me, I think you were brave to get back onto a boat again. I wonder how the tour company improved things for the groups that followed your trial run.

let's chat about this ...

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s