Two days ago I caught a bus from Chiang Mai, Thailand, to the north-eastern border town of Chiang Khong. The next day, I exited Thailand and crossed the Mekong River (the same Mekong that comes out a couple thousand kilometers later in the south of Vietnam) to Huay Xai, Laos, where entry was much easier than I had expected. I'm now in a country that occasionally flies the hammer and sickle. I then spent two days taking the slow boat down the Mekong River from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang. This is a very popular route, as the alternatives are apparently very poor - bus travel is nearly impossible, and if you wanted to fly you wouldn't enter at Huay Xai. The other alternative is speed boats, which do the trip in six hours instead of two days, but they cost more and have a bit of a reputation for high speed impact with stationary underwater objects leading to injury or death. Besides, it's hard to take a picture when you're going that fast and wearing a life jacket and helmet.
The Mekong is a shallow (at this time of year, anyway) fast-flowing river in a narrow and steep valley. There are rocks as you see above pretty much the entire way, and above them is what a fellow passenger and I declared to be "machete territory," ie. nearly impenetrable jungle. It's beautiful.