Eight Hours on a Lao Boat to Watch a Woman Pick Her Nose
Words and Photos by Jacob Moss
Location: From Luang Prabang, the Mekong and the Nam Ou river, into the remote village of Nong Khiaw, Laos.
The white, hand-made miniature wooden chair seems as if it has been transplanted from some eleven-year-old girl’s tea house. Lashed with rope to the side of the cardboard boat that’s bobbing on the water as if nodding, confirming your initial thought; for the next eight hours, you should have considered travel insurance and brought an extra fluffy pillow.
“Scenes of village life and of a people and an economy dragged along by agriculture like a plough being dragged by a buffalo remind me of a time I never lived.”
From the ex-colonial town of Luang Prabang, where baguettes and croissants are found alongside noodles and rice in any restaurant’s menu, I board a boat on the Mekong heading north to the Nam Ou river. This trip came recommended as an “insider tip” from a German restaurateur married to a Lao girl: “Don’t take the slow boat along the Mekong into Thailand – that’s what all the tourists do,” he advised. “Go north on the local boat along the Nam Ou river – the scenery is far more spectacular.”
Not a local is to be seen on the suggested boat, which leaves Luang Prabang full of tourists, heading north against the current.
Like most of South East Asia, no matter how hard a person tries to travel independently here, the foreigner is always handicapped, disabled in some way. All roads lead back to the well-oiled tourist trail, whether you like it or not. There are few places left where tourists are yet to plant their flag.
Soured with this reality on this particular day, I sit at the rear of the boat in an attempt to avoid conversation. (read more…)