The Mekong River is one of the truly big rivers of the world. Not many can conjure up the magic and mystery that this magnificent waterway has created. Inspiring writers and poets for centuries, the Road to Mandalay as Kipling put it, is quite simply awesome. It starts its epic journey in The Himalayas and travels through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and finally Vietnam before exiting into The Eastern Sea. Surprisingly for a lot of people, the country that is home to the greatest length of this giant is Laos, and it was here that I experienced it.
The name of the Mekong River means, mother or boss water. It enters Laos in the north, close to the borders with both Myanmar and China and flows along the Thai border before looping round to reach Luang Prabang which is where I joined it. I had booked a trip on a cabin cruiser. The ship was excellent, much more comfortable than I had expected. As soon as we left the city of Luang Prabang the scenery was fantastic. Lush green hillsides, rice paddies and forestry, slowly slipped by as we sailed down the river. Farmers were working in the fields and children ran alongside the boat, waving and laughing.
We could simply sit on deck and enjoy a drink as mile after mile of this wonderful countryside passed by. Occasionally small boats would approach and the captain slowed down to allow us to interact with the locals onboard. They were selling soft drinks, fruit and cigarettes and children would collect the money as their mothers steered the small craft along.
This part of the Mekong is quite tricky to navigate, there are tight gorges and loads of sandbanks to watch out for. But the crew knew what they were doing. I suppose years of experience is better than any modern machinery in these circumstances. The crew told us that the river can rise up to 6 feet overnight as the flood water brings the soil enriching waters down from the surrounding hills.
We spent the best part of a week getting from Luang Prabang to the capital Vientiane. It was easily one of the best trips I have ever taken. i had deliberately told everyone I was unavailable and turned the cell phone off. It was just good food and drink, lovely company and the finest scenery imaginable anywhere. I would recommend this to anyone wanting to get away from the rush of daily life, and simply relax amid nature’s beauty.