One of the things I really wanted to do while in Cambodia and Laos was spend at least a full day on the Mekong River and from Luang Prabang to Pak Beng I was able to do this. I caught the slow boat to Pak Beng which over two days goes all the way to Huay Xai on the Thai border. After leaving the early morning fog behind in Luang Prabang it was a warm and sunny day where we passed a number of villages, a few temples, a couple of worker elephants, fisherman in their long tail boats, fisherman fishing from the rocks with their bamboo rods and more fisherman casting nets from the shore.
Mountains dominated the view covered in lush forest bordering the river which turned out to be much rockier than I expected, it was quite peaceful apart from the occasional speed boat that went past at rocket speeds with all the passengers wearing motorcycle helmets. It was a full 9 hr trip but I could have defiantly done 9 hrs more. We arrived into Pak Beng just after sunset which is a mandatory stop for those on the way to Thailand and for me the point where I would make my way to China.
The following day the young guy from the guesthouse gave me a lift to the local bus, before we left though I noticed that his younger brother was wearing a Daft Punk cap, awesome!! The bus took me to Oudomxay, a 4 or 5 hr drive from Pak Beng through mountain ranges and then rice patty fields. There were no more buses to the border for the day when we arrived at lunch time so I decided I would try to hitch.
I walked to the edge of town and tried my luck, which didn’t turn out to be very good. No one stopped but after an hour a bus came by on its way to Luang Nam Tha which would be heading pretty close to the border so I jumped on. I jumped off the bus at Na Toei which was only about 20km from the border town of Boten. I managed to get small jumbo from here without any problems with a number of locals.
By the time we got into Boten it was after 5 and the border was closed. After passing the initial Lao township we came to an area, still within Lao, that was distinctively different. Multi-storey buildings dominated the skyline, there were neon lights displaying Chinese characters and after exploring the area I discovered that everyone only spoke Chinese and I had to pay in Yuan. It was all a bit strange but I managed to find a cheap basic hostel to stay the night in from where I would walk across the border to China the next day, although it kind of seemed like I had already arrived…