Spending a week on a river cruise really wasn’t within our budget. But we took a gamble that we wouldn’t regret it and signed up to join the only river cruise out of Luang Prabang, Laos that we could find.
The Mekong Sun is run by a German company but it never occurred to us we would be the only non- German speakers on board. Surprise! But much of
the Lao crew and most of the German/Swiss guests as well as our tour guide were multi-lingual and so we always were in the loop. And it actually made it
kind of fun!
What a great week we had and what a perfect way to say farewell to Southeast Asia. We are in love with Laos and the gracious and shy people, the gorgeous and sunny scenery and the mighty Mekong.
We spent our first night in Laos in the absolutely
beautiful Maison Dalabua hotel. We walked around small colonial Luang Prabang and had a delicious Lao meal at Manda de Laos, perched on a historic lily pond. Early the next morning we got up to participate in the alms-giving for the local Buddhist monks. This daily ritual provides the monks of several local monasteries their daily meal. The
monks walk silently through the street while the faithful (and tourists) hand out rice and other foods. It was a special experience.
The next day we boarded the Mekong Sun, a beautiful wooden vessel with 14 rooms. It was a real nice size and our room was very comfortable. Because we were the only non-German speakers they hired a special English-speaking guide. So on this first day all of the guests went off
on a guided tour of Luang Prabang with the cruise director – except Arne and I. We went off on a personal tour, just the two of us with our own guide.
Throughout the rest of the week we all stayed together and there really was no problem with the language.
We enjoyed getting to know other guests, especially during meal time when everyone laughed and talked and enjoyed the delicious food. The food was both abundant and amazing!
Highlights of the week included a tour to see silk
weaving and paper making – traditions the Lao have endeavored in for centuries. We also enjoyed a very interesting museum located in the former palace where the last Lao king reigned (under the watchful eye of French occupiers) until the 1950’s.
One of the most special things we did was visit a
Hmong village along the Mekong. The Mekong Sun company has adopted this village and on each cruise they collect donations and then provide the village school with needed supplies. During our visit we presented them with two new chalk boards and lots of books, pens and paper. The people were so sweet and friendly.
We visited the absolutely gorgeous That Kung See waterfall, where limestone in the water reflects with the sun giving the water a surreal turquoise color. I swam in the
brisk water and it was just like the blue lagoon.
We toured an elephant camp where we enjoyed
feeding the elephants. Some of the guests took a ride on the beautiful beasts, but this is a practice we personally don’t agree with so we just watched. I really love
these amazing intelligent creatures. We then visited the cave of 1000 Buddha’s before hiking through the jungle and learning a great deal about the flora.
Each night the Mekong Sun pulled into a protected area on the river and tied up for the night before
serving the amazing sit down final meal of the day. On one evening we left the boat and went into a small village where the local shaman blessed us each in a ritual that involves tieing string around our wrists and chanting over us. I felt the magic.
That evening when we returned to the boat the crew had set up a BBQ on the sand and had a huge bonfire. We ate and sang and danced and then lit paper lanterns for good luck and watched them sail off into the upper atmosphere. Perfect night.
On our final night we were treated to a Laotian
dance performance on board the boat followed by a delicious farewell dinner. The next morning we said farewell to all our new friends, to the amazing Mekong River and to Laos – our new favorite
We have no regrets about going over budget for this cruise. It was a great way to end our time in Southeast Asia . We will return.
But until we do – it’s farewell to Chapter Five – the longest chapter yet of The Grand Adventure.
New Zealand here we come!