Travel Post #24: Mekong Boatmen Chaos Chorus (Luang Prabang, Laos)
An example of the boats that the singers live on.
There was nothing to do in Luang Prabang most nights, unless you went to the markets. But the markets were dead most of the time and so Jacques and I ended up down by the river, for lack of money and ideas.
At the river, boatmen sat in a circle and moaned in a musical way. Some would yell and leave, then sometimes come back and join together. Various instruments took their turns; first a guitar, then an accordion, and finally a keyboard softly pumping out a generic beat. But all of them were punctuated by the put-put of riverboat engines, as long craft in the dark made their way to points I would never see - except across the river, where the silhouette of a large boat settled in and let a car off onto the far shore of houses and temples, and maybe other things that were now just lights floating across the water mixed with the heavy haze in the air.
Jacques said the smoke was because the farmers were burning forest, which they always did, but for some reason it was worse today. The smoke burned my eyes and scratched my throat, but it was too nice to leave here yet. Lights, fluorescent, were nailed to the trees up on the bank, but they left the grand staircase down to the beach unlit, making the lights from the banana shaped boats seem much stronger.
Hanging in the boats were pots and pans, the organization of lives shining in the light, radios with digital screens, and maybe a lantern here and there. So many boats were moored here and yet the river was supposed to be too low for them to go anywhere.
Jacques talked about Egypt…the Mekong reminded him of places by the Red Sea. It was like this, he said, people living like this.
Play count: 40