Canoe-Trip on the Mekong: 18.12.04 - 25.01.05

Translated by PROMT-Online-Translator

Country: Laos River: Mekong and Nam Ou
Start: Pak Peng End: Vientiane
Route: Pakpeng, Luanag Prabang, Vientiane + Si Phan Don     
Distance: about 900 Km Time: 3 weeks
Current: well to very well Difficulties river: Rapids and whirlpool
Supply: Some towns and villages Boat: Ally Faltkanadier

Often big distances between the villages and towns, so everything always for several days, besides, have. Some Rapids and often big whirlpools one from the back overtake.

Rating: Paddle-technically prety tough and with nice senery very nicely, however, after the Ganges culturally a little bit disappointing
Because the Mekong is still a border river between Thailand and Laos with Huang Xai, and, moreover, still very near in China and Myamar borders we have decided not to drive this first stage of about 150 km with our own canoe. So we purchased ourselves two boat tickets from Huang Xai to Pakpeng for 24 euro (2 Pers. incl. bicycles). For this country simply incomprehensibly expensive. But the next morning our question like became the locals this price performs is able fast answered. Not at all! our boat was a pure tourist steamboat and from locals far and wide no track. But luckily it was an easy boat, so that we could enjoy the journey, nevertheless. So we shipped 6h long the Mekong down which winds here through primeval forest-covered mountains, and our prejoy on our own canoe journey grew from minute by minute.
The police your friend and assistant: In Pakpeng we have arrived, decided together with a Slovak couple without further ado to camp on the beach to be able to begin the next morning directly with the boat construction. It was already shortly before sundown and thus we built up relatively quickly our tent and cooked some tea to the dinner. It had already been getting dark to the first policeman to us came and explained to us that we were not allowed on the beach to tents, because it is too dangerous. Nevertheless, we had to wrap up little desire everything again and with the help of our photo album we pointed him, in like many other countries we had already camped without problems. After a few minutes had won we and the policeman departed of undone things again. After possibly other 15 minutes a policeman to us came once more over again on the fact pointed out that it is dangerous here, after we to him, however, explained we really no fear would have he also disappeared again fast (2:0 for us). Now it lasted again just 45 minutes to the whole police troop once more advanced. Now, besides, a police officer was English and even a little bit in German spoke. This just mentioned policeman explained to us quite in ebullient friendliness that we might camp here on no account. Opium would be smoked here and they would become around our life fears; and this although the police station was only 50 m away! After a longer discussion attempt with the supposed police chief we resigned and diminished our tent very much irritated again (2:1). Then for the crowning conclusion we saw on the way to the guesthouse that not far from us locals camped what was of course completely in order (2:2).
The bitter pill: The first 2 days in a new country are always very exciting for us and mostly very expressive. Mostly these experiences stretch because like a red thread through the whole country. Already in Huang Xai (border place) we had to find out that the tourists are excluded like a Christmas goose. If they cashed up, nevertheless, for a dry small baguette proud 35 eurocents. Also ruften them for 800 g of rice the double price like in Thailand on. For biscuits and other luxuries became even more impertinent prices asked (our trip the first time went on without biscuits). But as one says so nicely, more badly always goes, and then thus it was also. When I asked with our 10 litres of water bag in Pakpeng for drinking water, became only with a devaluing movement of the hand and the remark, nevertheless, I should purchase bottle water, comments! However, only in the third shop somebody has forced itself in addition to point me where I can find a tap. Sadly, however, true!!! Be (2:3) having to go this first impression here in Laos really the right one?
Quiet and secretly: To camp after the failed attempt we have decided to be based for safety's sake to be our boat and already on the water already at the break of dawn, before the life awakes in the village. If we wanted to prevent, nevertheless that our Bootstripp is finished, before he has started generally. No sooner said than done and around 5.30 there rang the alarm clock (as Martin has looked in this time you can introduce yourselves absolutely) and already at 8.30 o'clock the boat was built up and us on the water (3:3).
Mekong: Charming scenery and good current: Finally, on the water and already we shot by some rapids and whirlpools there. Nevertheless, just to me (Nadine) was some fear and Anxious and thus I was very gladly about the life jackets already purchased in Bangkok. Also only after I enjoyed Martin against it the a little bit wild water very much (however, however, me after the first rapids as a more or less suited paddle comrade put outside). The Mekong winds with some curves through the close covered primeval forest mountains of Laos. However, in spite of the mountains wonderful white sandy beaches are everywhere itself very well to the tent are suited. Finally, we can start to enjoy Laos.
Speed boats: Just in the upper share of the Mekongs streets are rare and many places are often to be reached only by boat. To be able to overcome the partly big distances fast here there are so-called speed boats. The small only 5 m long speed boats are over with a 40 HP of engine equipped and race with höllenlärm and simian-like speed several times daily to us. Though the passengers carry motorbike helmets, however, after the 6-hour trip of Huang Xai to Luang Prabang a well-arranged Brummschädel is hardly to be avoided. As for the rest a speed boat trip is not quite safe, because they can easily overturn, after the contact with objects floating on the water, were yearly several injured persons and deaths demands. Nevertheless, for us they are safe, because they keep enough distance and cause merely small waves.
Cave of Pak Ou: Shortly before Luang Prabang with Pak Ou a holy cave of the Buddhists lies directly with the Mekong. Together by the whole tourist boats we invested in the pier directly before the cave. In two caves stand beside a Stupa and a holy Shrine more than 8000, partly 200 year-old small Buddhas who were manufactured only of wood, animal horns or ceramics and were covered afterwards with gold.
Broken foot: On account of the good current we have reached after three days and 150 km already our first stage top Luang Prabang. We want to spend here Christmas and drive on Nam Ou, a tributary of the Mekong with the most enchanting river country of Laos, moreover, still, and thus we decide to diminish our canoe. I brought just to a few cases in the guesthouse as Martin the boat from the water got and, besides, in a rusty nail stepped which bored about 1 cm deep into the foot. He did not pull out the nail again and there the wound too much hurt we diminished first the canoe, before we cleaned the wound and fixed up. Nevertheless, in the course of the day the wound had been roused and then in the evening the foot had risen and hurt. So we hobbled in the nearby hospital only to find out there that only the next morning a doctor is available again. Then back in the guesthouse Martin's foot still received a nice footbath and an even nicer organisation, and the next morning the swell had gone down again a little bit.
Luang Prabang: Luang Prabang (from Nadine also affectionately "Pak Pua Lama Pum Pum Lam" called), is a small small town, frames from mountains, with his Buddhist temples and French colonial constructions nestles in the Mekong.

Sidetrip: Pak Ou River:

Coach journey to Nong Kiev: Together with Simona and Sven we wanted the Pak Ou river, a tributary of the Mekong to which according to guide the nicest river country in Laos, from Nong Kiev paddle back to Luang Prabang. Thus we dealted with for ourselves a little bigger stock in fruit and vegetables for the about 2-3 day excursion. We left our bicycles and a share of our luggage in the guesthouse and made and in the morning of the first Christmas Day on the way to the bus station. We were not astonished badly when our coach turned out a converted old truck. On the loading area only two long benches were right during in the middle Eternitplatten were stacked up. Thus it went on the 4-hour journey. The fog had wrapped up the mountains here close and thus it was substantially drafty on the loading area of course and was fresh. After about 2 hours our truck stopped all at once. Flat tyre! Apparently here an everyday problem, because after just 20 minutes the absolutely removed spare was already mounted and the journey could be continued. One hour later, we held just in a place with it a few passengers could get out, then we had the next Platfuß. Again the right front tyre. Luckily we had not far from a tyre workshop and the word more allows to expect than which what we found) stopped, so that also of these disks had been repaired very quickly. Nevertheless, still surprisingly our coach driver let only the normal tyre and mend not the spare. Later we held scanty half an hour at a singles-standing house to let out a passenger and could diagnose with this opportunity then also immediately then 3rd disks in the right front tyre! Now with us good council would have been expensive, however, now was simply developed one of the twice frost-covered back wheels and was traded with the front wheel! We used the break around for Simona who had for a few days some stomach problems to cook a peppermint tea. Anyhow one of the poetries was defective in the pump and the whole cooker rose ablaze in flames. Everybody tries him with water failed to extinguish, because constantly furthermore petrol from the pump ran. Then anyhow it has succeeded Sven and to me the flames with many sheets we the fire pressed to suffocate. Because the pump of the cooker from plastic exists some shares were burnt of course by the fire a little bit. First we thought the cooker now would be perfect over, however, with some patience and a file we could repair him again scantily and now must not renounce our warm meals. With only 1 hour of delay we reached after this adventurous "coach journey", finally, Nong Kiev, only to forget our bulging full fruit basket and vegetable basket with the unloading!
Rat's plague in Nong Kiev: Then in Nong Kiev we immediately checked in in the first-best guesthouse which existed of several small bamboo huts. Travelled around with the dinner we were warned by our bamboo hut neighbour that there should be here rats and us our food, should well rather stow away in particular the fruit appeared anew and vegetables . After the dinner we packed all our treasures into plastic bags and hung one half at about 1.5-m height from the outside on our bamboo hut. We had hardly extinguished the light when we heard how the first rat the walls our hut hochkrabbelte and herself gave a hard time in one of our bags. Not to lose our stocks before the departure already now I stretched a clothesline at about 2-m height on our veranda and hung up the food packed in single plastic bags on it. I was ready just when I heard a small scream from our hut. Just from above very much to the joy of Nadine one of the rats wanted to climb in our bamboo hut! Of course Nadine the whole night has closed no eye, because now everywhere in and around our hut it started to creep! Our vegetables were hung up luckily certainly enough, however, the rats took revenge for it, while they ate a few holes in Nadines Bermudas shorts.
Boat excursion with Sven and Simona: Then, finally, after an extensive breakfast it went on the water. Because we left a large part of our equipment in Luang Prabang the canoe with Sven and Simona had become more difficult only slightly. Nevertheless, differently than expected Nam Ou was no quickly fluent river with countless rapids separate splashed rather very comfortably there. Merely every now and then there were some smaller rapids on the otherwise almost standing waters. Once, then of course only shortly before evening, there came a little bigger rapids, so that we received some water in the boat. Unfortunately, regional we were also disappointed a little bit. Though we found the narrow river valley with his partly precipitous mountain flanks and to many, in the middle of the water to standing, to bushes very nice, however, at last it was not much also nicer than on the Mekong. We have spent the night together in our tent. To believe hardly, however, our 2 personal tents is really so spacious that we could sleep in a group of four relatively comfortably in it.
Capsizing: After we had put back meanwhile about 2500 km without a single accident by our boat, now, finally, we also had to go sometimes involuntarily in the water. Sven paddled in front and the girl liesen to himself in the middle go well when a few rapids once again came. We gave way commonly we to some of the rocks from, nevertheless, then I see all at once in front the boat sinking down and before I I provide most awkwardly also the rear share of the boat half a metre in the depths. By many heads before myself I could not see one of the big stones and thus we have gone simply directly about him. After the stone was of course a bigger roller and we already lay everybody in the water. We well came everybody from the boat and got still the boat to turn round again, before to us the current floated further downstream. Nam Ou had here, finally, sometimes current and thus we hung everybody on the boat during it past some rocks still by a few smaller rapids went. Then, finally, after a few hundred metres a bigger Kehrwasser came (here some water flows against the normal assembly-line direction of the river) and with combined forces we could push the boat to the shore. A smaller place and from the curious ones it was natural exactly here we could lend ourselves a bucket to scoop the chock-full boat again blank. It was already late afternoon and thus we decided to lay out to throw to ourselves simply everything again roughly in the boat and to dry on the small sandy bank on the other bank side then (there was still the sun). With cycle our pockets are really watertight, however, however, thus a Kenterung is another case. Now we had in every pocket at least some water and even in the photo box watertight to 30 m it was wet. Though we have hung up everything still to drily, however, thus really drily most cases were only two days later in Luang Prabang. Official damage list: All biscuits completely made soft, water also in powdered milk and cocoa, hanger of Sven's sunglasses lost, underwear of the girl (lay to drily on the boat).
  To paddles, paddle, paddle: Actually, we had counted on a little bit more current than on the Mekong, and thought that we in about 2 days 120 km to Luang Prabang would master. Thus we made to ourselves no big stress and alternated with paddle regularly; nevertheless, mostly have paddled Sven and I. However, after 2 days nothing was still to be seen by Luang Prabang far and wide and according to information of some tourist boat drivers another about 2 hours by motorboat distant. Simona made her stomach again strong problems, so that she itself decided the last kilometres to put back rather, nevertheless, by the coach and to let examine in the hospital, so that Nadine and I only weiterpaddelten. Finally, we reached shortly before sundown of the third day something exhausts Luang Prabang again and were to be heard gladly that Simona was better again.
New Year's Eves: Then on the 30th of December it went again on the Mekong. We spent our Jahreswechel 04/05 on one einsammen Mekonginseln. It was getting dark we every evening early and thus we already lay about 19:00 o'clock in our sleeping-bags. We have slept away the turn of the year so of course.
Gold!!! Already on our first Mekongetappe we have been surprised at many glittering dust on the bank beaches. First we thought that it presumably is only Phyritstaub. However, bit by bit we saw more and more women who stood with big bowls in the floods. No to clean her laundry, not possibly in order thus, but to wash thus gold from the Mekongwasser. One seems to empire at this hard work, the women were mostly about the hip in the cold Mekongwasser, but not to become. Him the huts in those the gold panners with her families lived were mostly no more than a few bamboo sticks covered with tarpaulin.
Rapids: The Mekongabschnitt between Luang Prabang and Vientiane is known, above all, for his many rapids. Of course they vary according to water level and there we just Trokensaison had they were only not so bad. Much more difficultly for us were many whirlpools. Mostly they appeared very sudden directly before us and we had all trouble to make way to them. Often they had a diameter of 1.5 m and were about 1 m deep (size of the air holes and there were also bigger ones). It is not always to be made way to us successfully rechzeitig. While Nadine has always still come regardless of by the whirlpool, then I have got stuck behind in it and have sunk with boat in the Struden. Besides, a well-arranged sloshing water came mostly also immediately directly to the boat. Now the water only few centimetres was removed from the Bootskante and wobbling would presumably have led to a so strong water burglary that we would have capsized. However, anyhow we have succeeded over and over again in At, Nadine who was out already from the whirlpool again has moved simply hard weitergepaddelt and to us thus from the whirlpool. (sorry, but wenns wildly was, unfortunately, we could make none bilder)
Without boat nothing goes: Many of the small places situated in the Mekong have no street binding to the rest of the world and are to be reached merely about the Mekong. Thus it is also no miracle that presumably every family owns here her own boat. The wooden boats are all very narrow and long. They are so wide gerademal that an adult can sit in them, and then thus everybody also sits nicely well one after the other. While the easier boats everybody are still paddled what is quite hard with the current very strong now and again, are equipped most boat, nevertheless, with a small engine. Are used the boat around the children in the school to bring to drive the introduced harvest in the next place, with it the women to wash to a lonesome river place can go or just in order to check the fishing nets. No half an hour passes, actually, in not behind any rock a small boat appears. Then beside the smaller boats there is still berits to mentioned speed boats (for bigger distances) and the combined passenger and cargo boats. They put back bigger distances and transport everything, from the travelling small family about cement bags up to the beloved beer (Beer Lao). To good one last there are dan still the big freighters which are completely so big though nict as the freighters on the Danube, however, for it are not so wide of the Mekong also and are quiet.
Dreamlike Campsites: In the Mekong there are countless small rocks and islands. During the day they offered and mostly impressive landschaftlichs picture and in the evening wuderschöne camp sites. Particularly have loved like the islands on their itself sandy benches between rocks had formed. Thus we had beside the romantic situation still a good view protection and windbreak.
David and Goliat: Even if on the Mekong always lively boat transport rules, nevertheless, all a lot of consideration for us has always taken. The quick speed boat have held steets enough distance to us and some of the bigger cargo / passenger liners have throttled even her speed not to throw up allzugroße waves. The Mekong was quite narrow once again by many rocks in the middle of the river when one of the big freighters met us. Strictly speaking there were two hinterteinanderliegende narrow places and also two freighters. We passed the first freighter still before the first narrow place and wanted to pass, actually, the second freighter zwischenden to both narrow places. Nevertheless, captain wildly waved with the arms and meant us that we should make way in a side bay. A little bit irritated we made way in one of rock bay framed. Luckily, because what we could not see, there followed another three other big freighters. Prizipiell would also have been in the narrow places enough place to drive through there together by a freighter. The Mekong had here, nevertheless, strong current with a few smaller electricity bells and, besides, right and left rock which throw back the waves produced by the freighters and increase therefore. Thus the rapids of freighter to freighter became bigger and bigger. After the lezte freighter had passed the narrow place quite nice wave mountains stood accordingly also in the middle on the river, wärend it was absolutely quiet in our small bay.
Morning fog: Then during the last days before Vientiane the allmorgentliche fog became so thick that one could see no more 50 m wide! Not to get all of a sudden in some rapids, to go against or about a rock or to collide even with one of the fishing boats we remained rather a little longer in our tent and sold us the waiting period with a vast breakfast and a round colonist. Although it was already getting light from 6:30 o'clock, the view became so good mostly first between 9:30 o'clock and 10:00 o'clock that we were able lospadeln.
Outdoorkitchen: In Luang Prabang we had stocked up, actually, for the first days again with enough stocks, in particular rice, fruit, vegetables, to biscuits and baguettes (a leftover from French colonial ages). In the late morning of the 5th day we reached a quite big place in which we wanted to refresh our stocks, especially biscuits, baguette as well as fruit and vegetables. There was baguette here of nobody and fruit and vegetables here there is almost only at the morning market. Nevertheless, the morning market is at 6:00 o'clock and had dissolved long time ago again in pleasure. At least, we could buy one more bottle of coke, 4 apples and a box of biscuits (1.8 kg). From our formerly very extensive vegetable stock nothing was left except a few tomatoes onions and bean sprouts merh, and after the last baguette was eaten our menu became relatively uncomplicated: in the morning: Rice pudding, midday: Rice with tomatoes and bean sprouts, evening: Noodle soup with tomatoes and bean sprouts. Though we could only relatively simply cook, however, for it our break places were the nicer for the lunch break!
Vientiane: We had planned for the distance of Lunag Prabang with about 10 days. However, by the good current we made headway so well that we could already have arrived after 9 days. Then unfortunately we would have arrived exactly on the Friday evening. We wanted to apply in Vientiane, nevertheless, for our visa for Cambodia, treatment duration 3 working days what would not have been possible, nevertheless, on Friday any more. So we decided to lose ourselves another 2 days on the Mekong to arrive only in the Sontag inVientiane. On the first day it still worked wurnderbar. We mended our sleeping suits in the morning and broke only about 13:00 o'clock on only around about 17:00 o'clock again close to make. Nevertheless, on the 2nd day we were not so successful. We were gerademal one hour on the water when we already reached the first houses from Vientiane. The Besidelung became fast thicker, and there there now no more islands and sandy benches was we also had keienrlei overnight stay possibility more. Thus we reached the capital from Laos already on the Saturday noon.


Temple overnight stay: To the south of Paxe we wanted again by our boat on the water. Nevertheless, instead of on a lonesome beach in the Mekongufer we landed in the middle of a small village. We asked for the Mekong and were sent in a temple layout on whose other side really flowed of the Mekong. To build up the boat and to paddle to the next island it was already too late. Nobody spoke of the pair of fishermen to us with her children to surrounded ones even a word English and the monks were just with the prayer. Though a few fishermen meant we could sleep quietly on the roofed terrace of the cloister, however because we rather wanted to ask the monks we sold us the waiting period while we with the help of our pictures our present trip and our other plans the curious locals pointed. Then sometime was also the Abendpuja finishes and carefully a few young monks looked around the corner. I snapped to me like the first-best, asked him whether we could sleep here and also he had no objections. The still rather young monks, nobody worked more than 25, everybody was a little bit shy and reserved, but very charming and helpful; if they have brought us, nevertheless, really another two mats and two pillows on the veranda. Then after burglary of the darkness half a village has assembled over again with us on the veranda. Although a young Laomädel spoke even rather well in English, nevertheless, the entertainment kept surely to a certain extent and then bit by bit everybody also disappeared again. The next morning we were still woken up before the first sunrays by the praying monks. Then hardly it was a little brighter, half a village came of course again past around us with the build of the boat to watch. We had meanwhile quite well practise in are based and 1.5 hours later then everything was also stowed away ready with departure again in the boat.
Si Phan Don: Shortly before the border to Cambodia expands of the Mekong all at once and forms with 4000 islands (on Lao: "Si Phan Don") a unique scenery from islands, canals, rocks and lonesome sandy beaches. Although in particular the bigger islands are settled close, nevertheless, we have also found lonesome islands a La Robinson Cruso. A small paradise to bathe and take it easy!
Bungalowelt on Don Det: Of course earth should not be hidden to these nice spots also from the tourists, particularly as at the southern end of the island world also the famous Mekongfalls, the biggest waterfalls of Asia are. No miracle that here during the letzen years a medium-sized tourist boom was released. Hence, the tourist bungalows like the mushrooms from the ground are shot during the last years also in particular at Don Det. However, as is so typical for the relaxed Lao, the small bamboo huts or wooden huts adapt themselves harmoniously in the scenery with. There are not sounds shrill restaurants here and thus nothing is left different, than to lie back simply and to be relaxing.
Fishing: Although the tourism rises constantly further, something has hardly changed for most islanders. As well as already her forefathers are most from them Fischer who eject custom also furthermore her nets between the islands and bushes according to the old fathers. At least, in the rich in fish Mekong there are more than 320 different fish kinds. While the men will eject the nets the boats of the women or the children (the latest ones were just 3-4 years old) steered. A very laborious work, because although constantly fishermen round us were we have never seen that they had a fish in her nets.
Mekongfalls: At the southern end of Si Phan Don lie the famous Mekongfälle. Although the Khon Phapheng situated to the east cases richest in water are in Asia, we visited the dramatic Sophamit cases. Between two islands rushes here of the Mekong only by rock in the depth and then flows out by a canyon of wide direction Cambodia. We had belonged from a kayakist who has driven on the Sophamit cases and even has survived, and thus we also wanted to try our luck for what we have, finally, life jackets!) . O.k joking aside: Now, nevertheless, completely so weary of life we are not, but we wanted to try to go at least very near to the waterfalls and carry them around. Absolutely a good 1 kilometre before the waterfalls became our Mekongarm, nevertheless, a little more level, so that all at once everywhere bushes and sharp stones stood in the water and the current pulled. After only few metres we had already scratched several times about some of the sharp stones, and by many bushes should not be recognised shortly after any more in which direction the waterfalls lie generally. We wanted to take no risk and paddled against the current again back to letzen settled place (now corresponds rather laxly, was, nevertheless, very much exert and sudorific). Around the waterfalls to visited ones we unpacked without further ado our bicycles, and cycled over the island up to the sightseeing place.
Boat packing and repair: Now after just 900 km on the Mekong and Nam Ou River we had already brought our third boat stage behind ourselves. After we had got over the stages on the Danube and walk without damages, we left on the Mekong, nevertheless, some feathers. By the sharp stones (in the upper Mekong and in particular before the Mekongfalls) had like some smaller holes in the boat skin which had to be mended now. Also the aluminium linkage inside of the boat was bent something. This came, because the boat is charged in the rear share in principle a little heavier; here are same within 1 metre four panniers, 20 l of water canister and thick Martin accommodated. Ordinarily still no problem, however, whenever we were soaked up by one of the big whirlpools I hung behind laxly 1/4 metre deeper in the water, and, however, this was a little bit too much for the linkage. Then after a good 2.5 hours everything was cleaned, repaired and stowed away again on the bicycles and to South America (Amazon) now there will be no more other boat stages.




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