The Urban Wanderer

Crossing Borders ~ Bridging Cultures ~ Traveling Responsibly

Sailing Down the Mekong River

So our time in Laos has come to an end and it truly has been an unbelievable experience. I forgot to tell you that during the long drives throughout the country side we would see old B52 shells laying on the ground. We were told that basically the US bombed so many B52s during the Vietnam war that the Laotian people have used their shells for things such as boats; and what I saw at a gas station they use the shell to hold the gas!  Laos is an amazing country! Literally there is no begging and everyone is smiling, but at the same time nobody lives in ‘normal’ housing. All stick huts, or people literally living in the shop that they work at. I went to a little restaurant to grab some breakfast and the place was open so I called out ‘Sabaidee’ which means hello and two people bolt straight up from their bed all in a sleepy stupor. They went right from sleeping to making me my breakfast. It is such a different life!


Before leaving Laos, we woke up before dawn and made our way to the main street that led to the Buddhist Temple. Dressed in bright orange robes, with shaved heads and bare feet, these men and boys come from afar to make their way to the Temple. On their way people of the community feed them. A bunch of us bought baskets of fruit and sat there in the dark until the Monks lined the streets. It was such a surreal experience to be in such an intimate setting with these beautiful people.


We then had two, ten hour days on the Mekong River. Getting to and from the junk boat itself was highly interesting. Me with my massive back pack along with two other bags (from my shopping addiction), trying to climb over rocks and sand dunes to get on the boat made for quite the feat. Getting off was far more difficult as I had to walk on tiny planks to get across a few boats. The river bed was so steep that I needed someone to hold me from behind because I kept falling over backwards. Then at the end of the journey we had to get into a tiny boat to cross the border and this is when I literally fell over on to my back. I was stuck on my back like a turtle and a local had to come rescue me not once but twice. Oh the joys of carrying your life on your back.


Yesterday we arrived in Chang Mai. This town is up in Northern Thailand. It is a great place with lots to do. Unfortunately we have to leave today so I tried packing in as much as possible in this short period. Yesterday afternoon I met with a tattoo artist. He is one of very few people who do tattooing with bamboo.  This is the ancient traditional way where they shred the bamboo stick and then take tiny needles and tie them on the the bamboo. From there they dip the stick into ink and basically tap the ink into you. I obviously couldn’t resist getting another tattoo in this unique way. Usually it is only the Monks who do this technique so coming across this man was very lucky. I got a pretty big peacock feather along the right side of my rib cage, and along the stem of the feather I got the word ‘family’ in Thai written beside it. The feather looks amazing and life-like.  I am very happy with it. The pain was effing unreal…but you only live once. I have heard that the ribs are a painful spot for tattoos, and that myth is a FACT!


Today I am so excited!!! I am spending the first half of the day riding on elephants, and the afternoon visiting a tiger sanctuary. We are told that the tigers are owned by Monks and have basically trained them to be like house cats by feeding them regularly every day. They are never hungry so they don’t have that urge to go attack for food. I am going to shit my pants with excitement when I see this. I can’t wait to tell you about my elephant and tiger experience!

3 responses to “Sailing Down the Mekong River”

  1. […] Having already been inked several times with a present day tattoo gun, while traveling through South East Asia I jumped at the chance to be traditionally tattooed by a former Thai monk. I didn’t get a traditional Sak yant design, but instead chose the word ‘family’ written in Thai along with a peacock feather that was tattooed with a gun. You might think that the traditional ways of dipping a bamboo stick into ink and then tapping it repeatedly into the skin may be excruciatingly painful, but on the contrary I can say without a doubt that it was far less painful than the gun and it healed without any scabbing unlike any other tattoo I have ever received. Read more about this here. […]


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