The Mekong

SE Asia’s longest river at 4350 km it starts with springs in Tibet and flows through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Mekong literally means ‘mother of the rivers in Asia’ and as one of the worlds’ major waterways this was something I had heard of. Having watched Sue Perkins travel the Mekong I was keen to take a boat trip.

We duly booked a cocktail sunset cruise for 2 hours via our hotel for $15 each (approx £11.50) A bargain we thought.

I should at this stage point out that this is the low season as the temperatures can get quite high (40 degrees). Having said that, coming from Bangkok we can confirm that it is nowhere near as humid. So whilst we do get hot & a bit sweaty here during the afternoon the rest of the time is lovely for us. Anyway, to cut to the chase, its the low season and there aren’t many other tourists around. Most people come during the high season which is Nov – Feb. There are multiple restaurants along the river bank with empty tables which is quite sad.

Anyway we went down to the river to board our boat

In Laotian style it was long and very beautiful inside with polished wooden floors and little tables.

Then we discovered that we were the only guests so it ended up being a private cruise!!! for 11 quid each! We certainly lucked out there!

It was a magical evening floating gently down the river watching the golden sun sparkling on the water as it set behind the mountains

What could be nicer than sipping Laos Mojitos on such a special river.

And the nibbles were new to us too… (Not the peanuts)

The black curly things were actually locally sourced mushrooms made into crisps. Although the looked pretty grim and unappetizing they were in fact delicious. Organic and very more-ish.

We sailed up to the quite rickety bamboo bridge at the confluence with the Nam Khan River. You can pay £1 to walk across. I didn’t as it looked pretty ropey in the middle!

Our host was fascinating and spoke impeccable English (which he had taught himself when working as a waiter) his parents were farmers in the north but on their death he decided that he didn’t want to continue to cut down trees as they had done but instead he wanted to give something back to his country. He started his boat business and any profits he makes he uses to fund a school in the countryside. He has paid for classrooms, toilets and last week he made them some new tables as they don’t have enough and the children eat in the same place that they study. Sadly, he said that the low number of tourists this year would mean that he couldn’t do much more to help them financially so he was going to spend some time teaching English instead. What an inspirational man.

And what a beautiful place.

I guess that being landlocked most westerners don’t think of Laos as a holiday destination as there are no beaches. But if you like cultural experiences and nature you can’t beat this. I would recommend it for anyone wanting a holiday with a difference.

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