Mekong River is the longest river in Southeast Asia, which flows through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam before draining into the East Sea in Southeast Vietnam. Both Vientiane and Phnom Penh, Laos and Cambodia’s capitals, stand on the banks of the meandering river. Therefore, a cruise on the Mekong truly reveals a vibrant world of Southeast Asia along its shores.
The river rises and flows through the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, but about three-fourths of its drainage area lies within Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Locally known as the mother of water, Mekong River stretches over 4.500 km (2.800 mi). Along the way, it passes through some of the most exotic destinations in the world, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang in the northern Laos and major rice-growing area in Cambodia and Vietnam. Only the name is enough to make our spirits soar.
After Luang Prabang, its tributaries including the Tha, Ou and Ngum rivers forms the northern highlands of Laos, where hills and valleys are covered with dense deciduous forest before running through the capital Vientiane.
In the southern lowlands below Pakse of Laos, the river enters Cambodia with wide stretches of alluvium in its floodplain. The junction, which occurs near Phnom Penh, between the Mekong and Sab rivers connect it with the Tonle Sap Lake, a highly productive fishing ground of Cambodia. The river then divides into two branches, the Mekong proper and the Bassac, that forms the Mekong Delta of Vietnam and spreads out to the sea.
Our journey on the Mekong started from the “Golden Triangle”, the meeting point of Myanmar (Burma), Thailand and Laos. It is where the Mekong forms part of the international border between Myanmar and Laos, as well as between Laos and Thailand. Our water journey began from Huoeisay, a small town on Laos and Thai border.
Our boat, the Luang Say, a barge that have been tastefully converted into vessel that evoke a traditional wooden boat what has been so familiar in Indochina. While the captain was busy to negotiate the boat through clusters of rocks, we enjoyed the warmth of the sun on our faces and the lush vegetation on the hills passing by. The spectacular Khone Phapheng waterfall, which is known as the “Niagara of the East”, explained why it is impossible to cruise the entire length of the Mekong.
Along our cruise, we passed by wooden houses on stilts and agricultural activity providing signs of human habitation. But for the most part of the journey we were the sole boat on the river, and the Lao scenery appeared untouched. Occasionally, Lao children with beautifully cheery faces running down to the water to smile and to wave, to play and to bathe.
Later that evening, we stayed at the Luang Say Lodge on the left bank of the Mekong. The solid teak and rosewood property is backed by mountainous jungle, offering wonderful vistas looking out over the Mekong river. After our delicious dinner at the traditional Laotian architecture, we were all satisfied with a great adventure along the Mekong.
On our second day, we stopped at the caves of Pak Ou filled with some 4.000 Buddha statues. The cave is just a few miles upstream from Luang Prabang, it was an extraordinary sight and fitting prelude to the magnificent city of golden temples and colonial-era majesty that lay at journey’s end.
The two-day cruise on the Mekong with the Luang Say, covering 125 miles including stops a couple of traditional local villages as well as the night at the lodge, was a unique cultural journey. It was a great way to understand more about Laotians living on the banks, and nature along the legendary river.
In Luang Prabang, we settle down at Belle Rive Boutique Hotel, a very nice colonial style hotel located by the river and a short walk from the main town. Contact us or view our Laos tours that feature all the highlights of the country as well as the Mekong River, we specialize in tailor-made itineraries according to your interests and schedule.