Taking the Slow Boat on the Mekong, Thailand to Laos
The famous Mekong River starts its journey in Southern China, winding its way down Thailand, Laos and finally meets pours into the ocean in Vietnam’s Mekong delta. This river passes through some of the most scenic places in South Asia. To experience the best of this scenery, meet the locals and have a taste of the local delicacies, a trip on a slow boat down the Mekong is just what is needed.
Start in Thailand
Starting on the Thai side offers a longer trip and more sights. There are vans from the Northern Thai city of Chiang Rai to take you to the border town of Chiang Kong. Cross the border into Huay Xai on the Laotian side. Huay Xai is a small town but has most of the supplies you will need for the trip down the river. You can even get a new SIM card if you want one.
The Slow Boat
The trip down the Mekong is best done on a large slow boat. This is as opposed to speed boats that fly past much of what you would like to see while you hang on for dear life. The slow boat is a long narrowish boat that has a roof. Different boats have different seating arrangements for passengers. Some have forward facing seats just like on a bus. Some have seating for four around a table just like on a rail couch. Some will have a clean toilet and serve you coffee, water and fruit.
From Thailand, the river turns east into Laos. Much of the landscape downriver is made up of lolling green hills with small hold farms dotting the hillside. It is not uncommon to see the hills covered in smoke at the beginning of the planting season as many of the farmers do slash and burn farming.
There are numerous villages with locals going about their daily life; taking cows out to pasture, thrashing rice, washing clothes and taking baths. You will sight the occasional elephant grazing.
The boat will make a stop in a town called Pakbeng on the first day. When the trip resumes, the captain of the boat sometimes makes a stop at Pak Ou Cave. This is a cave that has been converted into a Buddhist temple. You can walk around and see the numerous Buddhist shrines and statues in the temple.
The trip ends in the riverside town of Luang Prabang. However, if you are intent on enjoying more river fun, you can continue to Vang Vieng which is nearby and enjoy river tubing and other fun activities on the Nam Song River.