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Mekong river boat journey: Houixai, Pakbeng to Luang Prabang: 09 - 14 Feb 2007
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Sun down view on Mekong river, Laos
At 5:30 p.m. while we were nearing Pakbeng the sun was also going down in the hills behind us - in the Myanmar's Shan state and China's Yunan state. Sun sets and sun rises are always special times creating unique feeling and emotion whether we are at sea, in the mountains or on river, and in the middle of a desert. Sunset and sunrise can even make normally un-attractive crowded city view into a poster-quality scenery.

Against a setting sun at Pakbeng, Mekong river
Sands or the boat landing place at Pakbeng. A tourist is taking picture of her boat against the setting sun.

Being transformed quite abruptly into a tourist transit point between Houixai - Udomxai - Luang Prabang triangle, local people unprepared to face the cultural (and economic) shock of seeing foreign tourists are drawing visitors' complaints. Some of the village people who flock to arriving tourist boats in hope of being offered porter works for a fee and to receive some gifts, are also taking left-over food and drinks on the boats without asking.

Monesavanh Guesthouse, Pakbeng
Monesavanh Guesthouse in Pakbeng. The 7-room guesthouse prepares breakfasts for the guests infront of its two storey building. All rooms are fitted with private bath. Warm water for shower is available for a set hours in the cool season.

A family on a wooden paddle boat
Still there are many ordinary village folks who can not afford to become victims of meeting between two enormously different civilizations. Rather, they might be making some good out of it. People from villages send their local produces such as food stuff to be sold at Pakbeng or other places.

For many it is working hard in all weather situation in the farms, eating the very basic food, and living the bottom line of the survival. From the tourism and opening of the country, they also realize that there is a world of great opportunity and wonders out there somewhere. Having that knowledge in their minds, and having to continue to live their hard life instill a lot of young Lao people a strong ir-resistable desire to go abroad (mainly to Thailand) to look for a better life and pay. But not all is a success story.

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