Arising somewhere near the northernmost corner of Lao PDR, where Phongsaly (Lao), Yunnan (China) & Lai Cau (Vietnam) provinces meet, the Nam Ou river flows along the length of Phongsaly province, crosses into Luang Prabang province somewhere southeast of Muang Khua, & finally drains into the Mekong at Pak Ou (lit. mouth of Ou). Pak Ou is better known for the famous caves filled with old Buddha statues that tourists visit on daytrips from Luang Prabang city.
With the paving of roads in Luang Prabang & Udomxai provinces, regular boat traffic downriver of Muang Khua has decreased. When river levels are high enough, daily slow boats still link Hat Sa & Muang Khua, serving little villages in a mountainous province that has only a few sections of sealed road - paved by neighbouring countries in order to access whatever resources they want to harvest & ship out of Phongsaly.
A cold wave was sweeping over north Lao, with single digit temperatures in Phongsaly & Houa Panh provinces. Cold + windchill + drizzle = locals saw to it that the cat & other female passengers were stuffed into the sheltered part of the boat, hence limited photos with the restricted view:
Everyone & everything still got wet though. The boat leaked along its entire length & some of the Nam Ou hitched a ride by pooling at the bottom of the boat, insisting on being carried instead of helping to carry the boat downriver.
With Mr Boatboy's green mouthwash flowing by:
Having most of the men at the unsheltered front of the boat served another purpose - to keep their cigarettes as far away as possible from the jerrycan of fuel & the fuel-soaked wooden engine housing at the rear. To fill the fuel tank, a rubber hose was used as a siphon, & to fill the hose, Mr Boatboy used his mouth to suck fuel into the hose from a jerrycan. Things didn't always proceed smoothly & the poor boy had to rinse his mouth several times with the Nam Ou. Some day when he is old & senior enough to be Mr Boatman, he will be in the position to order a future Mr Boatboy to handle such sh*twork.
Interlocking spurs shrouded in cloud:
Beautiful from a slowboat point of view, heartstopping from a speedboat point of view, especially if there is a slowboat taking up most of the narrow river channel at this point:
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