From Laos’ cultural heart of Luang Prabang, set off on a journey by river to catch a closer glimpse of the destination’s many sides, be they spiritual, mystical or natural. Four river cruises down the Mekong or Nam Khan bring you closer to the heritage of Laos.
Luang Prabang lies at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers. The current of culture here flows as deep and strong as the waters, and it’s no wonder this former capital of Laos has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
With gilded temples, crumbling colonial mansions and the stunning Royal Palace, there is timeless beauty in the old treasures of this city. Yet Luang Prabang is a place not trapped in time, life flows on, even if it usually is at a slower pace than elsewhere outside this serene bubble.
For a taste of Laos, enjoy a journey through old and new, from the city centre to the countryside surrounds, propelled by the mighty flow of its mother rivers. These river cruises from iMekong can be enjoyed separately or together for spectacular sightseeing and an experience you’ll never forget.
Days begin early in Luang Prabang as hundreds of saffron-robed monks who call the historic city home parade through the streets collecting alms and dispensing blessings. The city’s many temples remain at the heart of daily life and this tradition is truly a sight to witness.
Board an early morning river cruise from Luang Prabang to Ban Don Kao, watching the landscape come alive in the magical light of dawn. Catch a glimpse of the monk’s processions from the water as you arrive at your riverside destination.
Your hostess will meet you at the water’s edge and guide you to where you will join the time-honoured ritual of almsgiving, or tak bat. Learn the history of this Buddhist tradition and the significance of earning merit, or bun, and how these beliefs play a part in Lao life.
Afterwards, enjoy your own breakfast on the scenic banks of the Mekong. Enjoy scrumptious bites and tea or coffee while watching the sun burn away the last tendrils of mist and the sky come alive a vibrant blue. After you’ve had your fill of breakfast and the beautiful setting, board your boat for the return journey to Luang Prabang for the rest of your day’s sightseeing and adventures.
Alternatively, celebrate the close of another day with a spectacular sunset cruise along the majestic Mekong. Water is truly the lifeblood of any city and along the banks of this mighty waterway, you’ll witness the hum of activity that signals the day’s coming to an end.
At dusk, board an all-inclusive river cruise to take in the panoramic views from the water. To one side, see the bursts of pink, orange and gold as the sun casts its grand finale behind scenic hills in the distance, and on the other side, enjoy the sight of the city gilded in the light of magic hour.
Enjoy chilled beer Lao or a refreshing glass of wine along with canapes and other refreshments as you relax into your seat and enjoy the sights slowly passing by on the riverbank. Bask in the quiet of the evening or turn up the energy and enjoy onboard karaoke as day fades to night.
Climb aboard a wooden boat to escape the city’s bustle and connect with the natural and cultural heritage of Laos. On this journey, you will discover the mystical caves of Pak Ou – a liminal space where worlds blend and collide.
The world’s tenth longest river and home to a biodiverse ecosystem rivalled only by the Amazon, the Mekong River offers many gifts to those who live on its shores. At the village of Ban Muang Kham, discover the tradition of harvesting riverweed, known locally as khaipen. This nutrient-rich local delicacy makes for a popular appetiser which you can sample on your tour of this rural hamlet.
Afterwards, head on to the day’s main event, a journey to the fantastic Pak Ou caves, also known as Tam Ting. An ancient site of spiritual significance, it is here that traditional animist beliefs have merged with Buddhist practices in a spectacular way.
These natural caverns are lined and decorated with stupas, shrines, carvings and over 4,000 wooden figures of Buddha. A testament to Lao craftsmanship through the ages, some of the icons date back a hundred years or more, and you will marvel at the harmonious blend of manmade construction and natural embellishment.
Enjoy lunch on board as you slowly cruise down the Mekong back to Luang Prabang.
For those who are interested in experiencing the natural rather than the spiritual, on this day trip guests can journey by boat down the Mekong to a rural village and visit the spectacular Kuang Si Waterfalls.
In the late morning, join the buzz of activity along the riverbank and board your boat which will whisk you away to the traditional Lao Loum village of Ban Sing. The Lao Loum are one of the country’s ethnic majorities, and the village is the perfect place to discover the essence of Lao life. Wander between traditional stilted houses and feast your eyes on the beauty of the rural landscape.
From the village, journey overland to see what will surely be a highlight of, not just your day’s adventure, but your entire Lao visit, the majestic Kuang Si Waterfalls. From the jungle-covered hilltops spills a crystal clear stream of water which tumbles down limestone shelves into aquamarine pools at the fall’s base. Swim in these crisp spring waters and enjoy a picnic lunch.
Your journey is not yet over, however, travel on by road to your last stop of the day, the Pha Tad Ke Botanical Gardens. After your afternoon in the untamed jungle, enjoy sculptured gardens and the many landscapes of Laos, from palm forests to bamboo glades, recreated in this botanical park to stunning effect.
To learn more about these leisurely river cruises in Luang Prabang, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.