Then there is the river, where natives wave from the shore, and young boys make faces in response to yours if you sit in the back of the riverboat and breathe all the fumes from the engine, all the clouds of blue cigarette smoke, and all the smoke from the fires lit throughout the land. Once the children on board are finished serving the passengers they climb the ladder at the front of the ship and wander into the windy compartment upstairs, where the pilot sits with a young monk wreathed in orange, and a pair of women talking about betrayals and loser boyfriends, and an Irishman and a woman from Corsica discussing their lives of exploration, and perhaps even the author, who is drenching himself in these overheard conversations, the pleasure of eavesdropping. Then there is the river, the darkness, the mist and the rainfall; once you get off at Luang Prabang and walk up the cement ramp to the city which is more jungle than city you will find yourself overwhelmed with wonder, especially when you see all the rectangular riverboats moored together on the shore. The old world is the new.
Then There Is The River