Boating the Mekong River

By Mark Wiens 8 Comments
Boating the Mekong River
Boating on the Mekong

After hearing about boating the Mekong River, there was absolutely no way I could leave the country of Laos without embarking on the water journey.

I happen to be getting a Thai visa in Vientiane and had some spare time to explore the country a little further North.

After a number of ultra lazy days in the charming town of Luang Prabang and setting up the transportation logistics, I boarded a slow boat en route to the Thai border.

For 250,000 Kip (equal to about $30) we would receive 3 days of transportation all the way from Luang Prabang, Laos, to Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The first day would be a boat from Luang Prabang to Pak Beng, the second day a boat from Pak Beng to Hauy Xai, and the third day a bus from Huay Xai, Laos to Chiang Mai in Thailand.

Mekong River
Mekong River

Excited to depart I grabbed a Laos style sandwich, some fruit, and of course some sticky rice, before making my way to the 50 seater slow boat on the Mekong River.

The experienced boating staff (family who owned the boat) loaded in the morning with bags and bags of food.  I thought, surely all that food is for a later point in time, or for the entire next week.

About mid morning the family set up mats in the middle of the boat and began to play cards.  The Mother released the bags of food and the family began to casually indulge.  I fell asleep for about two hours and when I awoke the family was still balling up sticky rice and partaking.

The meal literally went on for 6 hours and I felt compelled to praise the family with congratulatory high fives.

The first day we drifted against the current of the giant Mekong, heading upstream.

As I stared into the oncoming mass of water the current put me in a trance.  Looking up I could see experienced fishermen working and taking care of their section of the river and providing food for their families.  I could see women washing baskets of clothes.

Groups of naked kids would create a ruckus of splashing water, ecstatic as our boat would glide past.

Boat trip down the Mekong
Boat trip down the Mekong

We lazied around the boat for the remainder of the day sporting the natural shirt vent and watching the sun as it passed from its harshest to a milder form.

In the later afternoon entire related families could be seen on the banks of the river together bathing.  The wake from out boat would send a wave into the circle as a cloud of white suds would disburse.

We arrived into the tiny town of Pak Beng and organized an ultra cheap guest house room at the Vatsana Guest house, for some vital snoozing (accommodation is super cheap in Pak Beng).

Small town of Pak Beng
Small town of Pak Beng

The next two days were equally charming.  After a long second day we finally arrived in the border town of Hauy Xai where we posted up for another night of rest.

The final day we took a boat across the Mekong to the Thai immigration office.  We then settled into a van for the 5 hour journey to Chiang Mai, Thailand.

After maximizing relaxation in Vientiane, boating the Mekong River was yet another way to experience first hand the relaxing and collected culture of Laos.  Laos is a wonderful country that makes you appreciate life.

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  • Drew

    8 years ago

    I’m looking to do this same exact route next month. How were you able to get transportation set up to Chiang Mai from LP. That would be ideal instead of figuring that out in Hauy Xai

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Hey Drew, it was a while back, but I’m pretty sure the boat package included a van ride straight to Chiang Mai, so everything was arranged for us on a single ticket. Hope you have a great trip!

  • Josh

    11 years ago

    I agree the water doesn’t look too pretty but the scenery around the water sure does.

  • DewaBharataUbud

    12 years ago

    The river more beautiful if the water is clear.

  • Becky Padmore

    12 years ago

    This brings back memories, I remember doing the same thing but in a speed boat. This was definitely the scarier choice-I was relieved that they provided a helmet and life jacket!

    • Mark Wiens

      12 years ago

      I remember the speed boats cruising past us, looked like quite a thrilling ride though!