South East Asia (Laos) Diary 5 December 2001

There isn't a direct road from Luang Prabang to the border with Thailand. The best way to reach the border is by the Mekong. There are two ways to navigate this stretch of the river; by slow boat (2 days) or by speedboat (6 hours).

'Speedboat' is probably not the best word that could have been chosen to describe what I saw at the Northern Speedboat Terminal at Luang Prabang. Imagine if you will, a ski, 18 foot long by just under 3 foot wide, cram 8 people onto it, side by side, Noah's Ark style. Next, rope their luggage to the front of the boat and strap a 2 litre, 16 valve, Toyota car engine to the back. Slam on a propeller to the end of 2 metres of scaffold pole, and you're all set. What a superb laugh. Our ski's handling is reminiscent of a Triumph Spitfire in the wet i.e. lots of sliding around and seemingly no traction or control! We're pelting up river at a quite ridiculous speed, shooting through rapids, skimming over whirlpools and sliding around rocks and the odd stray branch.

The scenery is simply stunning. The river passes through a wood lined valley that has the occasional local village