After boarding a private boat, I cruised along the Mekong River, drifting through towering jungle covered gorges. There was 7 full hours to relax and stretch out in the sun on the boat as we made our way to the small village of Pakbeng. I caught up on some writing and watched local life in remote villages along the river banks.
As we pulled into Pakbeng and our boat started to dock, dozens of Laotian children came running down the dusty hills asking to carry our bags up the hill for us. “Take bag! Take bag!” they exclaimed with their tiny and eager outstretched hands. The children do this in hopes for tips, and are they ever hard to say no to. There were some little boys carrying a bag twice their size. It melted my heart seeing them struggling yet determined to haul the bags successfully to the top of the hill.
Once settling into our very basic guest accommodation for the evening, I ventured into the bathroom/shower area. The only way the door would shut and stay closed was if the latch was locked. A slight problem with this – I wasn’t able to get out. The latch was completely stuck. I looked above and around and discovered there were no windows. I clawed uselessly at the latch. My roommate Sophie tried jostling the door on her end, while I tried lathering the latch with a bar of soap. From outside, the door was being pounded on so hard that it was beginning to concave, almost splitting open, with the lady of the guesthouse exclaiming “Noooo! You’re going to break it!” Eventually, this hammering on the door in combination with soaping of the latch got me out of there safe and sound. Needless to say, we never used the latch again, the state of the door remaining in extra questionable condition after its recent beating.
Eager for some fresh air after the bathroom lock up, we strolled down the main street of Pakbeng, well, the only street of Pakbeng. At the end of the road is an ATM, surrounded by children. Once we walked up the steps we were swarmed by the children, holding up their hands for money.
It was the first time in all my travels I had been so up close to poverty. The children were all so dirty, sweet, and smiley. My heart sank as they looked up at me, hopeful for something, anything. A friend of mine on my travels, Shannon, brought packs of glow sticks to hand out to the kids. Their reaction to the vibrant sticks were taken aback yet amazed. They ran off in the distance with the setting sun, playing and showing off their new and colourful prized possessions to others.
The sunset in Pakbeng was absolutely beautiful. The soft pink and blue hues stroking the sky, with the sun gently sinking like a deflating balloon between the green, lush mountains.