Sunday, March 2, 2014

Traveling on the Nam Ou, Laos

The Nam Ou is one of the tributaries of the mighty Mekong, and is an important river in Laos as a means of transportation. For travelers going northward from Luang Prabang, a boat trip is certainly one option that should be experienced.

The guidebooks would tell you about the "fast boats" and the "slow boats". Circumstances had led me to try out both. Note that as the road infrastructure in Laos slowly improves, the frequency of these boat departures will be based on demand, and sometimes you may not get a departure for that day. I managed to take the slow boat from Muang Ngoi to Muang Khua after waiting for a couple of hours. The slow boat is generally comfortable enough, although for people with long legs, it does get strained after 5-6 hours of travel.

From Muang Khua to Hat Sa, I was not so fortunate. There was no slow boat going upriver. It would also be another 5-6 hour ride anyway. I contemplated waiting another day or just go by the road route, until the locals start filling up the "fast boat". In a moment of eagerness to reach Hat Sa, I somehow went with them, throwing all the guidebooks' warning about the dangers of the speedboat trips into the wind.

The good(?) news was that the 5-6 hours journey was reduced to a 2+ hours journey. The bad news was that the above video was a somewhat 'calmer' part where I could utilise my camera with 1-hand. In most cases, I was just hanging on for my dear life in that narrow space. I was also concerned for my luggage that was stowed below that blue tarp at the front. It was one of those travel experience that you would probably want to try once only.

Traveling on the Nam Ou would probably be less busy than the Mekong, and its something one would probably do in Laos. For eg, one would probably visit the Pak Ou caves via the Nam Ou. But for the adventurous, do the Luang Prabang to Phongsaly journey on the Nam Ou!!

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