The culinary offerings in Pakbeng made me dislike the place even more. The noodle soup I had for breakfast was total and utter crap and the sandwiches we picked up for late breakfast were plain disappointing. The local market shed a bit of light on the situation, here we got ourselves some sticky rice and various dishes in small plastic bags for lunch. The eggplant/chilly paste was a clear winner for me.
As in Luang Prabang the boats leave at 8:30 and we made our way there early to make sure we’d get a good seat on the boat. It wasn’t necessary though, there was about 20 passengers aboard. The crews finished loading the cargo and off we went.
Farther up the river we encountered more and more spots were it is just about 30m wide. The currents here are so strong that the boat comes almost to a halt. With massive rocks lining the banks, our skipper didn’t exactly look relaxed there. We got through unharmed and for most of the journey it was once again a relaxed river cruise.
With the occasional cargo stop, of course. I’m assuming these bottles were empty, as the crew was constantly smoking right next to them. Can’t figure out why they’d unload empty gas bottles at a small river village, though.
In the afternoon the Mekong did a big turn and suddenly Thai flags appeared at the left bank. Now the river was once again the border between countries. The difference between Thailand and Laos becomes very obvious here. Solid concrete buildings on the Thai side vs. bamboo huts on the Lao side.
Shortly after sunset we reached Houay Xai. To my surprise there was no tuk-tuks and touts waiting at the pier, that’s new. We went into town and found a nearby guest house. Bit pricey but clean and tidy. A nearby restaurant provided solid local food and nice views over the river and neighbouring Thailand.