November 29, 2001

I'm a millionaire!

Greetings from Louang Prabang, Lao. I've been here for a few days now, and
this morning went to the bank to ask for a million kip. Mind you, the
largest note is 5000 kip, or just over 50 cents.

The trip here was interesting. Lao has become a big tourist destination. The
trip down on the infamous slow boat was on a cargo boat like it was in the
past, but there were about 80 of us packed in with no cargo. Reccomendation:
take the slow boat the other direction, or go only halfway--probably the
second half, since a number of people will do as I did and abandon the trip
and hire a fast boat instead for half the trip, which also lets you spend
some time in the charming town of Pakbeng. The trip is beautiful, the Mekong
is large and fast and the geology seems to alternate between upthrust
sedimentary rock (usually smooth going) and something volcanic (quite
rough). The fast boats handle this by having a smooth bottom, in effect
skimming across the water at maybe 30-50 mph, never actually going straight.
With the flat bottom they can go straight over whirlpools and you barely
even notice. And you do get a view of everything.

The country itself is quite beautiful. It's at a weird stage, you can get
off the tourist track in one minute, but on it they're learning all the
tricks quickly, from the begging children to the touts getting you on their
tours to the overpriced taxi from the (somewhat distant) fast boat terminal
into town. Bascially it's a total melange of the faded and completely
modern, with a strong 1930s French influence.

Where to next I don't know. Probably stay here a few days, then maybe north
(also beautful but even colder than here), or south.

Posted by MBlain at November 29, 2001 12:00 AM
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