On the Mekong a few kilometers upwards Ban Pak Beng. Image by Asienreisender, 2013
The little place at the banks of the Mekong River was a few years ago merely a mosquito infested hamlet without electricity. In the last years it more and more developed into a tourist trap. Due to the fact that every day a number of tourist boats are coming and going between Luang Prabang and Huayxai/Chiang Khong, having a one-night stopover here, a fast growing number of guesthouses spread up in the place, accompanied by restaurants and street vendors.
Ban Pak Beng consists only of one main road, which leads further up to Udomxai, the transport hub of north Laos. To the other side the road is leading to the river banks, where all the ships land. There is no pier, it's just naked shore. Here the road bends to the right following the river upwards. On the right and the left of this road all the facilities are placed. Along the riverside many new guesthouses were build or are still under construction. There is, by the way, no need to book accommodation in advance; it's easy and rather cheaper to just make a choice right here.
The place is all but nice. The locals are rough peasants and fishermen, noisy and much of the usual drinking is going on. I don't know about drugs here, but I wouldn't wonder if there is much drug trafficking and use of it. The businesses are, as so often in Southeast Asia, run mostly by the women. It's one of the places where it is most obviously that it is all for money. There are no deeper relationships between tourists/travellers and locals possible, because nobody stays here for more than just a night. The locals appear friendly on the first glance, but after you paid your price, the friendly facade disappears. On the other side are most of the tourists the usual ignorant kind of people - so, two worlds clash together of whome I don't know which one is more shabby.
Ban Pak Beng after sunset. Guesthouses and restaurants over a few hunded meters, that's it. Image by Asienreisender, 2013
Coming from Huayxai on the slowboat I noticed a big building site a short piece before arriving Ban Pak Beng. I guess it's the construction site of another new bridge over the Mekong River.
When I arrived here in December 2011 I was not coming on the boat but crossing the mountains by hiking and hitch-hiking. I arrived then in Ban Pak Beng in the early afternoon. To my very surprise there was no electricity in the place. The electricity was switched on exactly when the first tourist boat arrived. The arriving tourists can never notice that.
From February on until the beginning of the rainy season in June there is heavy smog and air pollution around the whole area. That's due to the massiv slash and burn activities of the local population. They have the bad habit to burn everything what burns, including their plastic waste.