Whenever you go somewhere, you don't always know where your feet are going to take you. I used to worry about whether I was going in the right direction, and the only way to figure it out is to start by moving. Once you do this enough times you realize you've been missing the point. There has never been a wrong direction, only what is. A set of experiences and dream like memories that mold themselves into a beautiful sculpture that no one will understand but you.
I had felt for a long time that I was traveling backwards. The crowds always going the opposite way, or taking an alternate route. Most people would start in Europe and go to the cheaper countries later in their journey. Not me, I plopped myself right in the thick of it, went straight to some of the poorest countries I could with histories of genocide and war within the last 30 years. I went without any idea what it would be like or how best to handle it. I slept in some bad places and some good, I've had great fun and horrible moments. But hey, that comes with the territory of wandering around.
Traveling upstream on the Mekong was no different. It was a great way to see the rest of Laos, but I was once again on my own with nothing to do but read, think, sleep, think some more, snack, fall asleep again, lazily look at the landscape, think some more until finally arriving at the halfway point.
Most of the places along the Mekong are not even big enough to be called towns, just dusty shacks. I can see why this is the part of Southeast Asia that's been forgotten about. Time doesn't move here, making it a great place to learn how to live in the moment..
The slow boat is called the slow boat because it takes two days to go up or down the river. I started in Luang Prabang, stopped in Parkbeng, and continued to my destination at Huay Xai which is at the Thailand boarder. The boat arrived exactly 5 min after the boarder to cross into Thailand closed. If you ask me this is planned by the boat driver so people in the town receive more business. I had hoped to catch a night bus to save myself another full day of traveling but glitches like these are nothing to get upset about. Here you just have to go with the flow.
I was able to catch a bus the next morning to Chiang Mai and turns out will still have longer then I had previously calculated in this city. Having seen Cambodia and Laos and returning to Thailand, I feel like I'm back in civilization. That does not necessarily mean I like it more, but I realize I hadn't noticed the difference going into them. I liked both countries very much, and wish I had had more time to spend in each of them.
There is something that makes me sad and happy about these places, its a land of extremes. Its beautiful and ugly, hot and cold, light and dark. Even so, I already miss them.