Mekong River Cruise in Laos

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Mekong cave

Mekong River Cruise in Laos

After having a few relaxing days in Chiang Mai I decided it was time to start moving again. I took the bus(which was very comfortable this time) to Chiang Rai. I spent the night in Chiang Rai then moved on to Chiang Khong the next night in preparation for my Mekong River cruise. It turns out I probably should have just went all the way to Chiang Khong the day before since there wasn’t much to see in either town. In an attempt to slow down my pace I would like to make as many stops as I can. Everyone who I’ve talked to about it says that the pace always slows down once they get to the beaches. So we will see.

Second time in Chiang Mai

I didn’t spend nearly enough time in Chiang Mai the first time around to really appreciate it. But I knew I would be back and would take my time this time around. I spent 3 relaxing days and nights just wandering around the city, resting and getting some work done.

Chiang Mai is a nice size city. It is not as big and crazy as Bangkok, but it is has just enough modern conveniences and things to do to keep you entertained. It is surrounded by mountains and has very nice little sois(lanes) to just walk around.

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I was there on the weekend, and the city puts on weekly events. On Saturday night there is a Saturday walking street and on Sunday the same thing but on a different street. It has all the usual street venders selling food, crafts, clothing and everything else imaginable. Along with plenty of entertainment it makes for a fun night.

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Interesting colored rice. I wonder what it tastes like?

Interesting colored rice. I wonder what it tastes like?

On the road North Again

The first leg of my journey to Laos was to Chiang Rai. In an attempt to keep my days on the bus as short as possible I like to make plenty of stops along the way. Even if its just for one night. I might re-evaluate this method in the future though.

Chiang Rai wasn’t a particularly exciting place. I did only spend a night so maybe I didn’t get a good sense of it. It does, however seem like it would be a nice place to live. I walked around a little after arriving late.

 

clock tower

Clock tower in Chiang Rai

The next morning I went to see a temple I had read about. It is the most revered temple in Chiang Mai.

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Next Stop-Chiang Khong

Another one night stopover was Chiang Khong which is situated right along the Mekong river. Directly across from town is Laos.

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It turns out that night there was a festival going on in town, called Loy Krathong. It takes place on the night of the November full moon every year. People were releasing lanterns and generally having a good time. Although I was one of very few tourists who didn’t really understand what was going on, it was really an experience to see. I took a few time exposure night shots, but they didn’t turn out great.

night shot

Mekong River Cruise

The border crossing was quite the process. From Chiang Khong I had to take a tuk tuk to the Thailand side of the border. Once there I had to get stamped out of Thailand and board a bus to cross the Thai-Lao Friendship bridge to get me to the Loas side. Why I couldn’t just walk the 1 mile to the Lao immigration I do not know. After waiting around for the Lao authorities to process my visa on arrival, I then had to get another tuk tuk ride to the boat dock, which was quite far.

Apparently this all used to be way easier before the bridge was opened in 2013. You just took a boat from the center of town across the river to the boat docks where you checked in with Lao immigration officials.

I was finally on my boat and got a decent seat since I got there so early. After waiting around for almost 3 hours for the boat to leave we were finally on our way down the Mekong. This is just how things work in SE Asia and I should have known better than to get there an hour early just for the boat to leave almost 2 hours late.

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The first day was very nice. It was fairly short. We left around noon and arrived at the overnight stop of Pak Beng around 5 pm. At the docks I was greeted by plenty of enthusiastic guesthouse owners competing for business. It is quite easy to negotiate in a setting like this and I ended up with a decent single room for about $5 a night.

Same thing happens once you arrive at the guest house. Restaurant owners walk through the halls trying to get business for their restaurant by offering free shots of Lao Lao whisky. From what I understand this is common here in Laos and for the most part it is true that beer and whisky is actually cheaper than drinking water.

We had to get on a different boat the following morning for the trip to Luang Prabang. This boat tried to pack on even more people. So it ended up being a long and uncomfortable day with literally no leg room.

Overall though I would definitely recommend taking the Mekong River slow boat from Huay Xai to Lunag Prabang. It was a nice change of pace from taking the bus everywhere. And the scenery was breath taking.

Mekong sunset

Mekong cave

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I had finally arrived in Lunag Prabang around 5 pm on Wednesday and found that the wifi in most places of Laos is pretty slow. That is why I am so far behind on posts. It is painful to try to upload photos and it has actually been a multi day process. I should be able to catch up once I arrive in Vientiane, the capital of Laos in a few more days.

 

Brooks

Brooks

I am traveling the world focusing on adventure and photography.

4 Comments

  • Mom

    I love all the temples-even the clock tower was sacred looking!!! Were the lanterns at the street festival the same as sending up wish balloons like we’ve done before?? How pretty that must have been to see so many going up at one time!!

    Honey I would never try that colored rice!! Doesn’t sound or look like it was very appetizing at all!!

    And I noticed that comment about how nice that town would be to live in!! Boo hoo!!! Think of how sick of rice you’d get!!!

    November 29, 2015 at 10:34 pm
    • Brooks
      Brooks

      Yes, exactly like the balloons we’ve done before. They are very popular all over SE Asia I think.

      November 30, 2015 at 11:03 am
  • Ante Peg

    Hi Brooks – Happy Belated Thanskgiving.

    As usual, amazing photos. Do you have any idea why everything is so ornate? It must be a ‘belief” of some kind. Be careful on those overloaded boats Brooks – not the safest in terms of river vessels!! Am hopeful you had read the importance of bug spray in that area as mosquito bites can carry disease, if you don’t have it – GET IT!

    So where are you off to from Laos? Cambodia? Travel Safe and have a blast.

    Ante P

    December 1, 2015 at 11:48 pm
    • Brooks
      Brooks

      That’s a good question, I’m not sure. Maybe to honor Buddha?

      I’m headed to Southern Laos today (the 4000 islands), then on to Cambodia in a few more days to see Angkor Wat before finally getting to the beaches. Hopefully I will find some decent internet somewhere along the way to catch up with posts.

      December 2, 2015 at 3:00 am

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