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A Journey on the Mighty Mekong River: Laos’ Luang Say Cruise and Lodge

The mighty Mekong River begins in China and the Himalaya Mountains and flows through seven countries and 2700 miles along the way. It is a way of life for the people along the river, giving food, transportation and life. A wonderful way to experience the river is to travel by boat and Vietnam, China, Cambodia and Thailand all provide their own unique river tour. An unforgettable way to experience the Mekong in Laos is with the Luang Say Cruise lines.

The trip along the Mekong allows passengers to have a fantastic experience of exploring villages and sights as well as the Mekong River itself. It is a journey that will transport guests from Huay Xai – which is a town and entry point into Laos at the Thai border –  into Luang Prabang, the tourism capital of Laos, or make the trip in the other direction.

The trip is broken into two days with excursion stops along the way and then a night at the midpoint of the trip at the ships sister lodge, the Luang Say Lodge. To begin or end the trip in Luang Say, many will opt to stay at the five star Luang Say Residence.

It’s been said that life is a journey and not a destination and the Luang Say Cruise is a good example of this. The journey is as equally enjoyable as its destination points as guests take in the incredible views and sights only accessible by the river.

Most of the area is dense uninhabited jungle, but on occasion there will be rural villages providing glimpses of life along the river as locals fish, farm, or swim along the river bank. Most of the sights of civilization are of other boats transporting goods, fishing, or carrying other passengers upstream.

The Luang Say Cruise ship is a grand vessel. It is of a typical style that is found on the Mekong, made of teak wood with comfortable wicker chairs and plenty of space to move around. The ships are relatively narrow in design with a shallow steel hull for it to be able to navigate the winding and sometimes shallow Mekong.

There is a sun deck with a retractable roof for those who want to take in some sun along the way. Many will vacillate between taking in the views of the river and scenery, reading a book or talking with new friends. The hum of the ship and breezes also lulls one into a nap or two along the way.

The maximum number of guests on the ship is 40 so it never feels crowded. There is a bar as well that serves cold beer and cocktails. It is also the area where a buffet lunch of Laos cuisine is served.

There’s so much to see and do on the journey that you can hardly believe how much you’ll cover in just two days and one night.

The journey will end or begin in the fascinating city of Luang Prabang . Luang Prabang became a UNESCO World heritage site due to its well-preserved French Indo-Chinese architecture from the turn of the century.

There’s a lot to see in this city from the vibrant city centre food markets, touristy night markets, the majestic temples, and the shops and bistros of the old town area.

The first stop upstream is the Pak Ou Cave which is one of the top attractions around Luang Prabang. The cave is a historic landmark which tribes from China discovered in 900 ad.

Now it is a Buddhist monument with over 2500 Buddha statues of different sizes and types that inhabit the cave. It’s somewhat of a Buddha graveyard for damaged Buddha statues. The cave is high up on a steep mountain wall and massive inside. It is quite interesting.

Pak Ou Cave

The other two interesting stops are at two villages to see life along the Mekong up close and personal. In the village of Ban Baw, the must try product is the Lao Whiskey which is a traditional rice alcohol.

The locals make it there as they have done for hundreds of years, fermenting rice and then bottling the product. It’s clearly not the smoothest whiskey in the world and you need to ready yourself, it packs a powerful punch.

Children at Ban Baw, an old village located on the banks of the Mekong between Pakbeng and Luang Prabang

Kamu is one of the larger ethnicities in Laos. The other village to be visited is Ban Houy Phalam which is a Kamu village that follows the traditional way of life. There are about 85 families there who live in traditional houses built on stilts in anticipation of the inevitable floods that come along with life along the river.

Around the half way mark of our journey we arrive at the Luang Say Lodge which sits on a hillside surrounded by the dense jungle. There are 20 charming cottages designed with traditional Laotian architecture.

The cabins are constructed from teak, rosewood and bamboo with louvred doors and windows to allow for cooling breezes and unobstructed views of the Mekong. There is a comfortable bed with mosquito netting and a shower and bathroom.

Luxury pavilions at the Luang Say Lodge, a luxury accommodation on the banks of the Mekong River

After time to settle in, guests return to the reception area for pre-dinner drinks and for dinner. By now, most of the guests on the cruise have made friends and will dine together. Some couples choose to dine separately with the candlelit dinner making a setting for a romantic evening. The three course dinner is of well prepared and delicious Lao cuisine.

Restaurant at the Luang Say Lodge, a luxury accommodation on the banks of the Mekong River, Pakbeng, Laos

At the end of the trek is the city of Huay Xai which is the point where most will clear immigration for entrance into Thailand and their trip onward. It’s been a packed few days of up close and personal interaction with the Mekong.

The Luang Say Cruise is the optimal way to get from point A to point B especially when those points are Luang Prabang and the Thai border.