The onset of our Wet season, bringing us the monsoon skies I posted here a week ago and reminding me of similar skies in Laos at the end of their Wet, brought back memories of my visit (outlined here) to that country six months ago. This post presents photographs of the Mekong, which dominates Lao geography and landscape, and the boats which serve its travellers. My next will do the same for life along its banks.
These boats are all built to very much the same size and proportions: very long for their width, perhaps 30m long but only 3 or 4m wide, with a small wheelhouse in the bow separated from a substantial deckhouse at the stern by a roofed section which takes passengers and cargo equally easily. The rear section houses the engine (below deck level), stores and living quarters for the crew.
Our seating was spacious and luxurious by local standards. Locals making routine journeys between villages would get plastic chairs like the one the captain’s wife is using in the previous photo. There might be 50 or more instead of our 20, and assorted produce and livestock instead of our backpacks. The captain’s wife produced lunch for us each day, and it was better than many restaurant meals I’ve had. Their teenage son helped out.
The speedboats are very fast, very noisy, and so dangerous that passengers are advised to wear crash helmets. Not many do, although a collision with a log like the one in the foreground of my second shot, or a barely-covered rock, would be disastrous.