Small Ship, Big Experiences On The Mighty Mekong - Part 2
Part two of Hannah Steward’s report from her Mekong River cruise with Lernidee Cruises reveals some of the fantastic excursions you can look forward to if you follow in her footsteps.
Our itinerary was a more condensed version as we were only there for three nights (4 days) for a snapshot of this stunning country. Soon after stepping on board, having had the opportunity for a quick shower to freshen up after the long-haul flight, we met our guide, Joy, who wanted to introduce us to his home city, Luang Prabang.
Home to only 22,000 people, Luang Prabang is much smaller than most cities back home. Stepping off the ship, you’re met by quiet, residential streets that feel more like a town centre than a bustling metropolis. Less than five minutes from the dock, we reached the main street of Luang Prabang where small cafes, bars, restaurants, shops and temples were situated along a mile-long stretch. We visited Wat Xieng Thong and learned that this was a royal temple until 1975.
We then hiked the 300 steps to the top of Mount Phousi for sunset. Here, you take in views of both the Mekong and the Khan rivers that surround this city. It was an overcast day for us but, with better weather, this is the perfect viewing point to see the sunset. You would need to get their early as it’s a place on everyone’s agenda to capture those beautiful sunset shots.
Luang Prabang has a famous night market where the locals set up their stalls under cover from 4.30pm – you will need your best bartering skills should you wish to take home some souvenirs. There are brightly coloured stalls selling clothing, artwork, jewellery and much more. You will have some free time to explore the city independently and, due to the close proximity to the docking area, it makes for a nice walk after the excursions have taken place. Whether it’s soaking up the atmosphere in one of the many cafes or shopping for some gifts, there is plenty to keep you occupied. There are many spa places offering different treatments, where an hour-long full body massage costs around $15.
Almsgiving And The Morning Market
The following morning, we had an early start but it was completely worth it. Joy wanted to show us a Laotian tradition known as Almsgiving. With the sky still dark, we walked to a nearby street where the Laotian ladies had taken a seat outside of their homes. Some were sat on mats on the floor, others were on low chairs. There was a slight drizzle in the air so many had umbrellas up and beside them were pots. What we were about to witness was a daily tradition, only carried out by females and monks. Every morning, before sunrise, the monks visit from different temples and bless the local people for providing them with food. Many accept handfuls of sticky rice in a pot, as well as crackers, eggs and other sweet and savoury foods. The monks take the food they have accepted from the locals back to their temple and pray before sitting down and eating together.
Tat Kuang Si Waterfall
Sailing from Luang Prabang, a couple of hours later, we arrived in the village of Ban Muang kai for a short trip in a tuk-tuk to the beautiful waterfalls. If you fancy taking a refreshing dip in one of the many pools, remember to take your swimming costume with you. We spent a couple of hours walking the wildlife discovery trail and visiting the different areas of natural beauty. This is also home to the bear rescue centre where the beautiful brown bears now reside having been saved from poaching. You can watch them interact with one another or see them take a nap in their homely surroundings.
Opposite the mouth of the Nam Ou River, you’ll find the Tham-Ting Caves, a holy place for the people of Laos. You will visit two caves containing thousands of Buddha statues. If you wish, it’s possible to join a 45-minute walk through the forest to the next village of Ban Meng Keo. On the walk, you will see many different species of flora and fauna and the occasional family of goats looking for food. Those looking for a less active adventure can take the slow boat to the next village.
Botanical Garden of Pha Tad Ke
Downriver from Luang Prabang, you will stop at the botanical gardens. But first, there is a stop in Ban Chan village, where local pottery is produced. The tranquillity of this place makes for a pleasant walk discovering different plant life. Stroll to the viewing platform for views over the gardens and then rest in the café in front of the lotus pond to sample a selection of wonderful, refreshing teas.
If you would like to learn more about Lernidee Cruises or the Mekong river cruises we have available, call us on 0800 954 0064. Alternatively, you can click here to submit your enquiry online.