Today we’re heading out for the Chompchek trek on the other side of the Mekong river. Into the jungle…
After breakfast and some work on the blog we go down to Mekong to find passage across to the other side. On the way we stop to get some coffee and a sandwich to go.
The river crossing is easy enough to find and we ask another of the passengers what we should pay. It sounds like six thousand for the two of us, but turns out that’s the local price. Foreigners pay five thousand each. It’s even put up signs on both sides of the river that point this out.
The whole off Laos is plastered with stickers claiming not to walk bare chested or only in bikini top. It’s strange they have such a cultural difficulty with this as they seem to have no shyness when it comes to bodily fluids. The drivers will stop and pee at the side if the road, they hark and spit anywhere regardless of sex, and today we saw something new. A lady waiting for the boat with us stepped ten paces to the side and squatted. A stream of urine ran to the river before she got up and got back to waiting with the rest of us. Not that it bother us, but again – what with the bare chested thing?
We get across on a full boat. It’s small, but that does not discourage people from bringing all kinds of things along. Katja sits next to a man who’s eager to explain a lot of different things to her. To bad he doesn’t speak any English. But we give him A for effort.
In the other side we climb a little hill and get a good view of Luang Prabang. The Mekong itself is slow and low as it’s dry season. The sides are blooming with different vegetables growing in neatly lined patches. I guess the ground is fertile where last year’s flood has left it.
The first part of the trek is very easy. Flat land and paved road. Nothing like what we’ve read about.
Has so much been altered?
But first we go up on Wat Chompchek. It’s not in use regularly anymore and it’s pretty worn down. There it’s still some beautiful murals to be seen here, and the view of Luang Prabang is unsurpassed.
When we move just a few meters further on the road it turns into a dirt road, and soon after that to a trail.
There are not many tourists here, on the trek after we passed Wat Chompchek we met four others the next three hours.
We have found a website called hobomap.com that have fun and informative maps for activities in Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. I don’t know if they keep expanding it, but it’s very useful. The maps are free and in pictures that makes it easy to download and keep them offline.
We had to pay an entrance fee at one of the temples because we needed to pass over their ground to get onwards. Turns out that included a “guided” tour into a cave. There where three local girls waiting outside, and we suspect they just waited to get someone to pay the monks so they would unlock the gates to the cave. In comparison to the cave we visited in Vang Vieng this one was not cool and chill at all, but rather warm. We ventured a good way into the mountain before we reached the end and turned back. A nice little side track on todays walk.
Before we went we read that the time and distance we’ll cover will depend on how often we get lost. We don’t really get lost, but we do have to backtrack a couple of times to find the right path.
In the most remote areas of the jungle we meet four young guys that led us to the monastery in the village we’re aiming for. Here we meet a monk we think might be of Italian heritage, but it’s hard to say since he mumbles a lot. With sign language and a book he tells us he’s collecting donations to build doors to his monastery. We give him a few Kips and walk through the village.
The kids are ecstatic to see us. “Sabai dee” can be heard all the way through the village and they wave to us as well. We grab a water bottle from the last place that sells them before we leave the village. Cold water is the nectar of the gods.
We walk along what once used to be a road, but it’s so full of holes that it barely resembles a road anymore. It’s hot, but we’re in a good mood. Trekking like this is great.
We come back to the main road above the “ferry station” we came ashore by. A little over three hours trek with mostly the sounds of cicadas, birds and what ever ratteled the dead leaves but we didn’t see. It’s been a great trek.
We get back over Mekong in another full boat. It’s not one boat that ferries people over, but several. Still there is only one on the water at the time and it seems there is a system for alternating who’s turn it is. Just as we’re about to board the boat the rain starts to fall. Not willing to be stuck on the wrong side of the river in a heavy rain we take our chance on the boat.
We relax a couple of hours at a cafe before moving down to the river again. We hire a captain and a boat to cruise a little on the Mekong. It’s only us on board and the seats must previously have been in a bus or a mini van. They can be tilted backwards so we lay back and enjoy the quiet ride up and down the river.
We go once again to the alley for dinner. This time we do the fish and are super happy about it. It’s maybe the best fish we’ve had so far. Grilled white fish, oh heavens. It was so good. Probably gonna do it again tomorrow even though we originally planned a decent white table cloth dinner the last day here in Luang Prabang. We’ll see.
I look for patterns that nobody else does. Like I noticed that my face looks like a tablecloth. Especially when I have food all over it.
– Jarod Kintz, This Book is Not FOR SALE