River Rafting near Luang Prabang Laos

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By: leelefever on June 26, 2006 - 11:04pm

Like so many of the things we do, the journey is so much better than the destination.  This was certainly the case when we decided to go river rafting in Laos.  We didn’t expect real white water and white water was not what we got.  What we did experience were some authentic moments with Lao people on the banks of the Nam Ou river.

The day began with the precarious stacking of various river floating paraphernalia on top of an open air truck called a song tao (phonetic spelling) and meeting two of the more unfriendly travelers we’ve met thus far.  Funny thing, their noses seemed to be permanently lifted into the air to such a degree that they found it unnecessary to interact with the likes of us. We could only chuckle in our bewilderment.

It was really more like river floating or river paddling than river rafting, I’d say.  The rapids were surely class 1 and we spent much of the time paddling through nearly stagnant yoo-hoo colored water.  In fact, on a couple of occasions, our trusty guides Pon and Jon napped (as is apparently customary in SE Asia).  All the clothes below are for protection from the sun.

The fun began when we stopped to have lunch at a small 300 person village.  As we pulled up on the banks of the river, the kids from the village came down to greet us.  For the next hour or so we all played in the river and my camera, or the images it produced, was often the center of attention. They laughed so hard when they saw the picture below.

 The guides let them take the boat out in the river and before long they started using it as a diving board.

The guides gave them a little help in the air too.

The girls from the village were a bit more reserved.

We got thankfully separated from the other group and in our time waiting for them, Jon saw his cousin on the river and they invited us to the shore for a fish fry. 


We pulled up on the banks as his family and friends proceeded to make a fire, set up a table and serve a freshly caught meal of river fish, stewed vegetables, pumpkin seeds, sticky rice and plenty of “lao-lao” or homemade Lao Whiskey.  The whiskey is akin to moonshine, but made from sticky rice.  They made us feel right at home.

Though the rafting itself wasn’t that exciting, the scenery was amazing and we didn’t need to remind ourselves that we’re floating down a river somewhere in the middle of Laos – so far from home. 

Looking around, it really felt like something from a movie with village fisherman, kids playing on the beach and not a speck of modern civilization in sight.  It was surely some of the best Laos can offer.