Laos Life: West, Son, Along The Mekong

Our second attempt walking the picturesque (and completely exposed) river path from downtown to the ice factory. Will we succeed this time?

Here it is, almost November, and we (no—just Lori) received her absentee ballot for the upcoming election. Too bad the upcoming election was ELEVEN MONTHS AGO. No worries—we were able to submit our ballot by email instead!

It’s the first weekend of the dry season (yay!) so we decided it’s high time to reattempt a walk we’ve been wanting to do for months.

There’s a dirt track that hugs the Mekong uninterrupted for ten miles, from Bo Ice Factory in the northwest to the “Clocktower” neighborhood in the south. In Europe or North America (or Thailand, for that matter) this would be a paved shared use bike-jog trail, used and loved by many. But in our fair city of half a million, it is largely a decades-long work in progress that few use for recreational purposes. Yes, there’s a mile stretch in the city that is paved and used for walking/jogging/strolling, but this is a new development and certainly an exception.

Our favorite walk in town is the southern portion of this track, which I’ve talked about numerous times here. It’s a lovely stretch of gravel road, largely covered by established trees and large houses lining the Mekong. The north/west portion, however, is a different story.

We first attempted the western portion at the beginning of the rainy season in May, before the 2.5 mile stretch had completely devolved into one big mud bath. It was hot—bloody hot—and crazy humid following a major rain storm. We agreed we had started out too early in the day and that we should return some time closer to sunset. Then the rainy season fully embedded itself and that dream was put on hold…until now.

My brother-in-law passed this carrier on to us and we’ve been waiting eagerly for the right opportunity to break it out. It’s been sitting in our storage closet for over a year, almost mocking us—a regular reminder of the dearth of hiking opportunities in the capital region. It also seemed laughable when we moved here that one day Noe would be big enough to use the thing. He’s just on the limit right now, but we’re looking forward to trying something besides the ErgoBaby. We’ll see how this goes…

We don’t want to jinx anything, but here it is, October 21st, and it appears we may just be out of monsoon season. Six months. Good riddance! Until next May…

Sunset’s getting early around here, and by early, I mean 5:45 pm—a mere hour earlier than the summer solstice (6:45 pm). Growing up in the PacNW this is still hard for Lori and I to wrap our minds around, given that the difference between summer and winter solstice sunsets is about four hours, factoring for daylight savings time.

We made sure not to make the same mistake twice and set out about an hour before sunset. The weather gods smiled upon us and we got just about as perfect an evening for a long walk as it gets around here, with a nice breeze to boot.


We noticed a few additions to the river bank that weren’t there in May—one looked particularly interesting and we resolved to return on the way back for a cool beverage on the water.

The ten mile dirt track along the Mekong is a result of the construction of a river wall about a decade ago, which in reality is a several-meters-high dike. Walking west from the city center, you’ve got a steady drop to the water on the left, and a steady slope down to houses and neighborhoods on the right that long predate the dike. It’s hard to imagine a time when the river would swell into these neighborhoods in the rainy season, and a gentle grassy slope would re-emerge when the river retreated—but it really wasn’t that long ago. As a result, many of the older houses we see along the way are stilted, with wooden bridges connecting the second story to the river path.


We didn’t make it all the way to the Bo Ice Factory, but much farther than last time. The round trip distance from Highland Bar / Mekong Zone (where we parked) to the ice factory is about five miles, leaving us with the difficult decision to push on or save time for a beer on the Mekong—needless to say the decision was an easy one.

At any rate, we did make it to the meteorological station, having essentially walked from downtown to the airport and back.

On the way back, Lori took the kiddo. Her assessment of the carrier wasn’t as positive as mine. The Mister is becoming increasingly uncomfortable to take in the Ergo on long walks/hikes, but Lori seemed to still prefer it to this. She’s been liking having him on her back lately, but it’s awkward for him. This carrier is still a bit awkward, but the difference being that he’s going to grow into this, whereas the Ergo, unfortunately, is just going to get more awkward for Noe. Regardless, I didn’t mind using this one, so we might just have to make this the daddy carrier for now.


Hardly ever a bad sunset over the Mekong, even if the sun isn’t actually out.


On our way back, we stopped at the floating barge—now alight in all its Mekong glory.

It’s a pretty sweet setup they’ve got here. Not only can they move their restaurant up and down the length of Laos, it appears they can also detach the kitchen and use it with multiple dining barges in multiple configurations.

Kitchen in need of an upgrade? No problem, just float a new one in. Live along the river and need a caterer for your wedding? No problem, just float the kitchen down to the party. Kitchen fire? Again, no worries. Just detach the thing and send it out to the the middle of the river and let the Mekong take care of things.


I’m not sure what was so exciting, but it was enough to get both of their attention at the same time, which never happens.




Back in town, we stopped off at Highland Bar for fish n’ chips, some of the best in town. Any guesses on what Noe’s so transfixed by?


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Looks like Noe is interested in being a soccer player as a big boy! Looking forward to seeing the young man .

What’s again great photos David thanks for the posting .


Thanks Gramps! We’ll be reunited before you know it. Hope you’re ready to play a little “soccer” with him 🙂

Shirley L. Northcraft
Shirley L. Northcraft

Fabulous pictures and story. Poor Noe is so deprived on lack of television time. He’ll be a reader for sure!


Thanks Grammy! Noe is excited to read books with his Grammy!