Slow Travel on the Mekong

The Mekong seen from Vietnam. Photo by Flickr/David McKelvey
The Mekong seen from Vietnam. Photo by Flickr/David McKelvey

The night time is not silent, as in devoid of sound, but there is a sort of tranquility and purity to the noise. No whirring air con, mumbling TVs, perma laptops or chatting. Other than the occasional scurrying animal, the only noises are the cicadas’ symphonic hum and the rush rush rush of the flowing river. Loud but meditative, it lulls us to dreams.

A rapping on the door gets faster and faster. In a deep sleep, I come round in that ‘where, what, how’ stupor. We’ve overlaid and missed our wake up, and the rest of the group is waiting to leave. We’re surprised we’ve slept that well. Thankfully this is not a situation where grooming is necessary and so we fold our blankets, whisper thank you, and leave into the darkness.

The next day is more of the same. The scenery doesn’t change much, but hovers un-endingly. It becomes entrancing and its vast sameness trains the gaze to being more attuned to changes. Fluctuations in the hue of fluffing leaves, the formation of a new plant, trees bending in a different direction are all noted. The expression in the eyes of water buffalo becomes apparent. The curve of the rock and the meander of the boat is real to the sharpened senses. Observation and appreciation heightened.

Sunset in Ko Lanta Thailand. Photo by Thai National Parks
Sunset in Ko Lanta Thailand. Photo by Thai National Parks

As we get further down the river and closer to our border crossing, we are literally sandwiched between two countries: Thailand on the left and Laos to the right. From our vantage point of neutrality, the landscape and view suggests little difference, and it’s true that they have shared heritage and culture. For people so used to categorizing everything, adhering to timetables and structures, being in no man’s land has an odd frisson in itself.

The final couple of hours glide past with grace. Soon we are at the point of disembarkation, and I’m genuinely sad to leave. Sure, it was not the most efficient form of transportation, but sometimes travel is just as much about the journey. I didn’t do much, I saw a lot of the same, but the things that I felt…well, that is the magic of travel.

Author Bio: Francesca Baker is a scribbler, wanderer and ponderer. Prefers pencils to pens. Read more at



Previous articleCancun and Playa del Carmen: What’s New at Mexico’s Top Destinations
Next articleCoping with the Solitude