So, I am writing this from the boat on day 2 of our Mekong river adventure. We left at 9am yesterday morning to embark on what I felt a little daunting, 8-hour sail down the river on a slow boat to reach our accommodation for the night xxx homestay. I think for my overactive monkey mind when I was told 8 hours originally, I panicked as I know I overanalyse every detail and felt a little uncomfortable being confined for this amount of time…however, my mind has been changed completely. This past 2 days have been simply wonderful and such a unique experience I cannot recommend it enough.
From leaving the town of Houay Xai we cruised down the Mekong taking in the peaceful sights along the way including swimming buffalo, local fisherman, children swimming along the banks of the river and various birdlife flying past along the way. At midday we were welcomed to a fantastic buffet lunch with 5 different Lao dishes, fresh fruits and a help yourself tea and coffee station. The weather by lunch time was beautifully sunny, so we moved the roof and turned one of the areas into a sundeck where we could bask in the midday heat and chit chat about our lives and adventures.
Around 4pm we arrived at the homestay and to be honest time flew by, this may have been from all the interesting conversation we had through the day or the fact that the boat has beer Lao so we made our arvo a pretty social, boozy type of event. Upon arrival we hopped into our swimmers and despite the river being freezing cold, all (bar 1) jumped into this river to refresh before dinner. Dinner, like lunch was incredible and I think today I may have eaten more in 1 day than I usually eat in 3… tbh not a single fuck given as it was just too good…and when else will I do this again?
This special Lao 'Baci' ceremony takes place after dinner in the village hall. It consists of prayer, drinking Lao whiskey, and the people of the village tying 32 cotton bracelets (representing the 32 components of your soul) around your wrist. The ritual is thought to protect you, bring you good luck and health, and leave a small piece of you wherever you go in your travels.
Now, the homestay itself, as there are only 6 of us in the group we were split into 2 separate local houses separating the girls and boys and shown where we would sleep – essentially a small cuddle puddle on the floor with some fleecy blankets and a pillow each surrounded by a mosquito net. It was actually perfect, but we were warned it would not be comfortable.
At about 10.30pm we all went to bed and slept as best we could in the conditions we had before hoping back on the boat for breaky at 7am the following morning. Today's journey is 6 hours of cruising before reaching the ‘Buddha cave’, a cave filled with 1000 Buddha statues before reaching Luang Prabang this afternoon.
This has always been an experience I wanted to experience first hand from working for Stray for so long and knowing the work we put into the villages to help the local communities. From building schools to installing pipes for fresh water and raising money for the children’s education, this first hand experience was beyond brilliant.