River cruising on the Mekong River is increasingly seen as a sexy alternative to traditional river cruising. The Amazon has the world’s greatest biodiversity, but the Mekong River is second, with more than 1,300 known species of fish along its 3,050-mile path through Southeast Asia. The Mekong is the next hot destination….. Travel Weekly
Our ultimate explorer cruise adventure! This 4 day Mekong riverboat cruise from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang with village home-stay covers over 300 kms, cruising the Mekong River aboard a 45 meter private VIP river-boat from Huay Xai in Laos (across the river from Chiang Khong in Northern Thailand) to the UNESCO world heritage city of Luang Prabang is not to be missed.
As you cruise down the Mekong River through an ever changing, mountainous landscape, you may well reflect on how complicated your life really is, when all around you happy people live off the land, river, and rain-forest, with no internet or smart phones, or cars and with only a few material possessions.
Travel this 3 day Mekong riverboat cruise from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang with village home-stay in style and safety with the famous Wandee and his wife Thonglom on their steel-hulled river boat which can comfortably seat up to 30+ people if necessary, so it’s perfect for families, groups of friends, sports teams, companies, or for corporate events and entertainment.
Wandee is an experienced and skilled boat skipper, who has lived his entire life on the river and knows all the navigational hazards that change from day to day depending on the weather and water levels. We’ve been using him now for over 10 years, as he’s a very cautious, and responsible captain, who’s always helpful and safety conscious.
His riverboat No 92, is scrupulously clean as it’s also their home, so please treat it with Asian style respect by removing your shoes when boarding.
Wandee and Thonglom only speak a little English, but your guide can translate any questions you may have.
This comfortable river boat is fitted out for private “VIP” cruising, with sunroof, dining table, relaxing, reclining tour seats with headrests, seats and tables, bar, clean western style bathroom, USB charging for cameras and phones, etc. Unlike many of the public river boats, it’s also fully equipped with life jackets and insurance.
A guide is mandatory on all tourist river boats and ours are all hand-picked professionals, who speak English, are trained in first aid and who can offer any assistance you may need, as well as sharing details on the fauna, flora and the fascinating history of the region with you.
As the Thai/Lao bridge is 10 km’s south of Chiang Khong you’ll have to depart your hotel there no later than about 0700 in order to meet your guide at 0830 and have sufficient time to cruise to Pak Beng to arrive before sunset.
The first day after crossing the bridge from Thailand, you’ll be met inside Huay Xai Immigration at 0830 by your guide, who’ll then facilitate express clearances for you, then take you to Huay Xai port to board your boat.
To avoid a long wait at Lao Immigration, (60 minutes is not uncommon), please read and download our Laos immigration visa form for Huay Xai to ensure you can speed through with a minimum of delay.
Thonglom is renowned for her fabulous Lao cooking and will whip up a delicious 3 course lunch cooked over a fire on the stern. It will be mainly fresh chicken, fish, pork, and eggs, along with plates of fresh vegetables and tropical fruit. Please inform your guide in advance if you have any specific dietary requirements.
Lunch also includes bottled water, coffee, and tea at no charge. Snacks and cold beer are also available and can be bought onboard.
Along the river, it’s a photographer’s paradise where you’ll see villagers panning for gold, casting their fishing nets in the rapids, tending their crops like corn, tobacco, bananas, mangoes, chillies, or peanuts planted on the river sandbars in the dry season, etc.
As it’s too dangerous for boats to navigate the river at night, you’ll spend the first night at the half-way stop called Pak Beng, arriving just before sunset. Your accommodation and meals there are all included in the tour price.
Next morning you’ll depart about 0800 and you’ll arrive at Ban Lad Khammune village early afternoon where you’ll meet your host family. You can then spend some time exploring the village, have a swim, trek up to the Tadtom waterfall, play Pétanque, talk and play with the children at the school, visit the temple, or just chill out on the beach with a beer in the sun, which you can buy at the village shop.
Following dinner, you’ll be welcomed with a traditional, warm Laos Baci (bicee) ceremony, a national custom complete with the local village ensemble. Baci is a spiritual ritual to celebrate important events and occasions, like births and marriages, and welcoming strangers.
This ancient ceremony is a very humbling and authentic experience, as the older villagers line up to tie a cotton thread around your wrist to welcome you and also wish you good luck and safe travels.
You may then be entertained by the school dance troupe with graceful, traditional Laos classical dances, who may ask you to join in.
They have initiated this cultural entertainment and are not paid to perform. If they pass the tip box, a US$2 to US$3 donation per person is sufficient.
As a general rule should villagers ever ask, please do not give money to them. If in doubt, ask your guide, he’s there to help and support you.
In the morning we head off for Luang Prabang stopping off at the famous Pak Ou Caves, home of over 1,000 Buddha images nestled deep inside Tham Ting Cave, where we’ll stop for 45 minutes for you to take a look. (Your entry fee is included in the tour price).
Then a picnic lunch at a Buddhist temple called Wat Don Koun on an island in the river (this island has a connection with Buddha’s travels, which you can read about here); before arriving at Ban Don Mai port late afternoon. There a waiting tuk-tuk will either whisk you back to Luang Prabang and drop you off outside the central Post Office at the crossroads in Chao Fa Ngum Road opposite the new Azerai Hotel at the southern end of the night market, or take you back to your hotel/guest house.
Ernest Marc Louis de Gonzague Doudart de Lagrée (1823 – 1868) was born in Grenoble, France. He joined the navy as a frigate captain serving in the Crimean War, before moving to Indochina for health reasons, and was then appointed to lead the French Mekong Expedition of 1866-1868 to find a river trading route from Saigon to China. See also The River Road to China by Milton Osborne.
On June 5th 1866, the expedition left Saigon but by the time the expedition reached Tong-Tchouan (now Dongchuan), in China nearly 2 years later, he was too sick and exhausted with malaria and dysentery to be moved, and died shortly after in the attic of a pagoda called Kuang Wang Miao Pagoda, located outside and south-west of Tong-Tchouan city compound (about 150 kms north of Kunming in Yunnan province).
There have been several attempts to find the temple and simple stone cenotaph his compatriots built to honour him. In May 2018, on the 150th anniversary of his death a French discovery party managed to locate the temple, but the monument has long since disappeared.
Lagrée was also a prominent entomologist and his insect collections are conserved in the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris.