Mekong River
Mekong River

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4.5 of 5 bubbles265 reviews
Very good

Leigh H
San Diego, CA10 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2020
I went to the Mekong area from Saigon with a guide and he accompanied me on a half-day tour of the area. It was impressive. They showed me traditional crafts, food for sale being made, including chocolate and coconut candy, took me on a dugout canoe through the canals, on a horse and buggy, to listen to local singers, and to a temple. They do shuffle the tourists through pretty efficiently, and while I got a whiff of commercialism, it seemed authentic enough to make the trip. They worry climate change will flood the area in 10 years or so, so this will be a thing of the past.
Written April 15, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Sydney, Australia1,441 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2011 • Friends
There are 4 ways to take a boat on the Mekong from Chiang Kong via Pak Beng to Luang Prabang. In one day on a 'speed boat', very noisy and cramped for 6 people. Lots of warnings on the net about their safety, but a few locals said it is better these days.
The cheapest is the regular, unbooked public slow boat, wooken seats, 70 people or more on a 35 metre long boat, no stops, no food (take a lunch box), very basic and cheap. The most expensive boats are tied to resorts and cost US$450 each for the boat, meals & hotel. After extensive research we found the Nagi of Mekong. A 35 metre boat fitted with bus type seat for 35, a large area of tables for smorgasboard lunches, a forward area with side seats and sliding open roof, luggage storage, a stop each day at Laos villages plus Pak Ou Cave (Buddhas - a bit overrated), overnight at the Petsokxai hotel at Pak Beng. Reasonable accomodation (slightly basic) in a great position overlook the river with large terrace. Boat trip, hotel, cave fee, lunches, refreshments & hotel breakfast US$150 a head. Comfortable, good service, operator Adisak Star very effecient including hotel pick up a Chiang Khong, Thai & Laos border arrangement. Laos visa costs you US$35 extra.
This is the most comfortable way to make this 2 day trip (7 hours a day) at a very reasonable price. Weather in November delightful. It is cold the second morning for a 7.30 am start and they supply blankets on board... Just great
Written December 6, 2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Kaitlin H
Melbourne, Australia23 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2012 • Friends
We took the two day cruise from Chiang Khong to Luang Prabang and loved every moment of it. The boat was fitted out with very comfortable seats, a clean bathroom and great atmosphere. Viewing the sights of the Mekong from a traditional boat such as this was one of the highlights of our trip. The food was also excellent. Highly recommended and especially if you aren't quite up for the public boats and can't afford the expensive Luangsay Cruise.
Written July 25, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Tenerife, Spain87 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
I researched 'VIP' boats from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang having read many horror-stories about the standard slow-boats & the speedboats.

There are currently 3 companies offering a VIP service, each running on different days. Shompoo & Nagi were the 2 in my price-range so I contacted them both.

Shompoo replied to say that the boat was not running on the day I wanted as they did not have enough bookings. This was my second choice boat anyway because they are more expensive & the tour didn't include accomodation in Pak Beng.

Luckily Nagi of Mekong was running a boat and their service seemed reasonably priced. (we delayed our journey by a day so that we could take this boat)

For just less than 150 USD per person we got the 2-day boat ride (only 9 of us on the boat so super-comfortable), 2 lunches, free fruit, tea, coffee & drinking water, a hotel room & breakfast in Pak Beng and an English speaking tour- guide. Plus 2 stops at local villages and a stop a Pak Ou Caves.

The food on the boat was plentiful & delicious and the guide (Phet) was very knowledgeable.

We were so pleased we took this option when we sat on our hotel balcony in Pak Beng and counted more than 50 people getting off one of the 'standard' slow boats.
Written October 2, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Glenn H
London, UK7 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
We agonised over our trip down the Mekong from the Thai border to Luang Prabang for budget reasons but eventually went with the more expensive option of the 2-day slow boat called the Nagi of Mekong! We'd heard the public boats were a nightmare and the fast boats dangerous so this sounded more to our liking and we're so pleased we did it!
We were picked up at our hotel in Chiang Khong at 8.00am and taken to the border where we were assisted through the Thai and Laos borders very quickly as all our forms had been left at our hotel the night before and filled in by us!
We were then met by our guide for the next two days, Kae, who took us to the boat at Houayxai by minivan.
There were only 15 people on the boat, of all nationalities, so there was plenty of room to move about and stretch out! For the next two days we chugged peacefully down the Mekong with our cheerful guide Kae keeping us informed along the way! Tea, coffee and fruit snacks were plentiful and the buffet lunches were lovely and varied local dishes!
We made a couple of stops at some hill tribe villages which felt a bit awkward but was probably more down to our own embarrassment about traipsing through their turf! You could donate or buy things if you wished as they were very poor! Kae was originally from a hill tribe so was very knowledgeable about them.
We stayed in Pak Beng overnight in some lovely rustic rooms with big balconys overlooking the Mekong! We were recommended a restaurant by Kae and he joined us for food and even a few shots of Lao whiskey(free) but then left us to relax and bond with the rest of the group.
The next day after a good breakfast we were off early again and had to put our sweat tops on as the sun was still rising but it was lovely and fresh! More cruising, snacking, lunching and snoozing followed and a trip to the Pak Ou caves in the afternoon also. We eventually got off the boat about 4pm and were taken directly to our hotels in Luang Prabang!
The cruising was very gentle as my wife suffers from motion sickness as did a couple of others but everyone was fine! The trip cost
£100/€120/$150/4600bht each with good overnight accommodation, pick up and drop off,snacks, drinks, breakfast and lunches and our guide Kae was fantastic, helpful and cheerful! We also made a few friends which was a lovely bonus!
If you can afford this trip it's well worth it! We salute you Nagi of Mekong!!!!!
Written April 11, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Gavin M
Hobart, Australia8 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2013 • Couples
We very much enjoyed the boat cruise on the Mekong River. After reading about the discomfort some travellers had experienced with the fast boats, and even with the budget slower boats, we opted to book the Shompoo cruise. We travelled on 23 April 2013 going downstream, and returned a week later for the upstream voyage.

I spent many hours researching how to travel from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang and back.

Our tour really started in Chiang Mai. We took a minibus, arranged through Travelhub, to Chiang Khong. This can be booked as an accommodation/transfers package, but we already had our hotel booked. Although advertised as a shorter trip, the coach took a full six hours. The driver courteously dropped us off at the Teak Garden Hotel overlooking the Mekong. In the late afternoon we strolled along the river and checked out the port and immigration centre for crossing into Laos. Chiang Khong is on the Thai side of the Mekong, Houay Xai is opposite. The various cruise boats depart from Houay Xai.

The money changer near the immigration centre suggested we take US dollars for the visas – $30 US each. We took this advice, which proved to be correct, and cheaper than paying Thai bhat. Crossing to Houay Xai looked to be a little nerve racking. I could see from the Lonely Planet guide that the idea was to clear immigration on the Thai side, cross over to Houay Xai by small ferry, fill out the Lao side paperwork, then meet the Shompoo cruise by 9am. If we missed the cruise we would have to seek out the budget boats.

It's a well travelled path however and we needn't have worried. The hotel had breakfast available early and they arranged a tuk tuk to the immigration centre. We were in line for when it opened at 8am and made the crossing by about 8.15. At Houay Xai we were walking through the growing crowd of travellers towards the Lao immigration office when our guide identified himself by simply asking "Shompoo cruise?" He obtained the correct paperwork for us and we then had no difficulty arranging visas and getting our passports stamped. While this was happening he went off searching for the other passengers on his list.

The Shompoo cruise office is just up the road from the immigration centre, we waited there for a few minutes – finally all the passengers assembled and our guide organised a taxi truck to take us to the boat.

The Mekong flows at about 3 knots. I used the GPS facility on my phone to check our speed later in the day and found the boat was pulling 12 knots going downstream. Thus the scenery changes fairly rapidly.

The long boat provided considerable comfort, good seating, a healthy lunch made and served by the on-board cook, drinks were on hand, and the guide had good English to interpret the various activities along the river. He lead us on a walking tour of a local village for a break. Seating is for about 24 but there were only a dozen passengers this trip.

We arrived at Pakbeng about 5 pm. This interesting little town is focused very much on the river trade. Accommodation ranges from backpacker to luxurious – we had chosen the middle level Mekong Riverside Lodge. The restaurant opposite featured Indian/Lao cuisine and was fine, even if the service was a little slow. We could not get the hot water to work in the room, but in that heat it wasn't a problem. The view over the river and the assembled longboats was superb. Next morning the shower was decidedly chilly in the cool. (We had the same room on the way back, and it hadn't been fixed.) We had breakfast in the handy restaurant, took a stroll around the town, then made our way down to the boat for an 8am departure.

Day two produced some interesting rapids for the boat to negotiate, sometimes the black rocks seemed very close. After lunch we visited caves containing hundreds of Buddha images, large and small, blessing visitors and pilgrims winding their way up the steps. The river and the dramatic hills opposite made for good photography.

Shompoo Cruises has its own wharf about 6 km from Luang Prabang. Our guide organised the group onto waiting transport, ensuring that the drivers knew where to go – in our case accompanying us to Hoxieng Two Guest House. Transfers were part of the cruise package. The two day cruise cost $135 US per person, more if you book accommodation through Shompoo. The trip is approximately 300km.

We had booked our accommodation through Agoda beforehand, there were never any difficulties and no extras to pay.

As the cruise had been so pleasant, we decided to book the upstream voyage to return to Thailand. There are less travellers going upstream and the voyage takes longer against the current. While at the Shompoo office we met up with manager and tour arranger Alex Chitdara with whom we had been corresponding from Australia. While there we arranged for a half day tour to across the river to the pottery village, and further upstream to a paper-making and weaving village. Highly recommended.

The upstream cruise was less comfortable in that it was slower: less speed means an extra hour each day on the boat, plus it seemed hotter. We don't know if that was the weather or simply less breeze through the boat. Same great service.
Written June 10, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Pennsylvania, USA2,095 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2013 • Couples
We had a great trip from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang with Shompoo. I easily communicated with Alex at Shompoo Cruise over email. I had first contacted him in early December and he said he was unable to confirm our desired departure date as they needed at least 6 people for the cruise to run. By mid-January he had the 6 necessary people and was able to confirm my date. I have read here on TA that Shompoo will cancel their cruise at the last minute if they don't have the necessary number. This clearly isn’t true any longer as Alex was very forthright in saying he could not confirm till he had six people. I paid using a credit card after he confirmed and was told where to meet the Shompoo representative on Saturday morning. The charge to my credit card was made the day after departure from Houay Xai.

The representative was easy to find and he pointed us to a place to wait till he found the other passengers. We sat in a café and had coffee till all passengers were accounted for, and then we were loaded into tuk tuks to take us to the pier that the Shompoo departed from. There were a total of 13 people on our cruise and an excellent guide who was very friendly and had a great sense of humor. His sotires of his family and life in Laos were interesting and provided a more complete picture of the area we were visiting. The public area of the boat consisted of two very clean Western style bathrooms in the back, a bar, and an open area with bar stools along the sides. Then there were a series of tables with a bench on each side. The front had four lounge chairs. It was chilly in the morning but a little later they opened the roof where the lounge chairs were so if you wanted sun you could get it. Lunch was served at 11:30 and was excellent and plentiful. We stopped and visited a Khmu village along the way and then made it to Pakbeng about 5:00pm. Shompoo gives you the option of booking your own accommodation or paying a little more and having them book it for you.
I booked my own lodging using Agoda at the Mekong Riverside Lodge—excellent. This is the same hotel that Shompoo includes in their comfort level, but its cheaper to book on your own using Agoda than paying the comfort level price for Shompoo to do it. The balcony of our room offered a spectacular view of the slow boats loading and unloading below, and of the elephant bathing the next morning across the river. When we saw the slow boat arrive and dislodge ALL its passengers we were even more thankful to have taken Shompoo. We ate dinner that night at the hotel, and had excellent Indian food. Breakfast the next morning, included with our room price, was also good and plentiful—eggs, bacon, toast, fresh fruit.

We set off at 8am and enjoyed the beautiful scenery along the Mekong. Again, lunch was served at 11:30 and then we stopped at a weaving village near Luang Prabang about 3pm, followed by a visit to the caves. We got to Luang Prabang about 5pm and Shompoo insisted we leave the bags to them as the walk up was steep. When we got to the top the guide sorted out our hotels, put us in a tuk tuk, and sent us on our way. I highly recommend the Shompoo Cruise, the crew, guide, and service was excellent! Cruising down the Mekong for two relaxing days was wonderful.
Written March 19, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Døgg H
5 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2016 • Couples
My boyfriend and I tried to look on the internet about the journey from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang. The only thing we found was a explaination here on TripAdviser from 2012.
So this is me, trying to explain how it went on in february 2016.
You go to the bus station in Chiang Rai Terminal 1 and go on the red bus. The ticked is 65 bath. We went with the bus at 6am, so we could catch the slowboat the same day and it took us 2 hours to come to Chiang Khong.
The bus will set you off on a road 5 km from the borderline and there will be several tuktuk's waiting. It costs 50 bath per person. You go through immigration, get a stap and then you have to pay 25 bath to go on the bus to Laos. It took no time at all. The bus took 4 min to Laos immigration.
When you go in to the immigration in Laos, there will be 2 cubicles. One is called Visa Fee and the other is called Visa Application. Don't go in the queue, before you fill out the visa application - you can get the applications papers by the window with the Visa Application cubicle. After you fill it out, go in the queue to the Visa Application and they will take your passport and the application.
REMEMBER to have a passport picture with you.
Then you need to go to the Visa Fee cubicle, where there isn't any queue, because the staff shows the passport or says your name, when the application is finished. I have a danish passport and the price for the visa was $35. It took 1 hour and 15 min, from when the bus stopped at the immigrantion in Laos until I got my passport back.
There is an exchange and an ATM, if you need it!
Go out, take a tuktuk at the price of 100-150bath and you will arrive at pier 25 min later. We arrived at 10.30am.

You will see a sign written "check-in" on the left side by the stairs. Go up the stairs and on the left side you can buy the ticked from Huay Xia to Luang Prabang for 220.000 kip per person.

We had food with us from Chiang Rai, but I saw people buying sandwiches and snacks there, before going on the boat. On the boat, there will be crisps, noodles, water, soda and beer.

When you come onboard one of the crew will offer you a hotel in Pak Beng for $15 pr.pers. with tuktuk. We did not book that hotel through him, because we read online we shouldn't. So we found a hostel, 4 min walk from the pier, for 800bath for 2 pers in a private room.
The boat didn't leave until 12.45 pm. And we read online, that the boat leaves at 11am but it never does. It leaves typical around 12am.
The crew said that it would take 7 hours to come to Pak Beng, but it took 5 hours.

Next day we went to the pier at 7:45am to get good seats and we didn't leave until 09:30am. Which was annoying, because people didn't show up on time and the boat doesn't leave until it's full. So people, do everybody a favore and met around 8am!!! Not at 9am!
It took about 6-7 hours to sail from Pak Beng to Luang Prabang.
We arrived 10km from Luang Prabang about 16pm. When you arrive, you need to go in a queue for a tuktuk, which costs 20.000 kip each.
The tuktuk will drop you off in the city centre beside the night market.

Overall, the boat trip was really good. Very beautiful! You need to take a jacket or warm clothes, because it's cold in the mornings.

Before we left Thailand, we thought that we would come to an even cheaper country, but I was shocked how expencive it was!! Maybe we came in a bad time - because the chinese new year was that week - so there was alot of chinese people going on vacation in Laos.
It was so difficult to find a room in Luang Prabang, so I would advise you to book a hostel before you leave. Also in Pak Beng.
We used around £60 each for transport, slowboat and hostel. Food is not included. And I was definietly not happy about the costs, because we're on a budget!
I would HIGHLY recommend to NOT go to Laos while the chinese new year is.

Hope this will help you guys! :)
Written February 13, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Jacklyn D
Luang Prabang, Laos11 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2013 • Couples
During our local village stops I was absolutely shocked to see fellow passengers stick their cameras in the faces of the local tribe people and snap away heaps of photos without asking for permission then walk away. One local elderly man scoffed and walked away from our group, which I don't think anyone even noticed. PLEASE research how to visit the local people politely, and learn what is acceptable photography behavior.
For our cruise itself, we went via Shompoo which is one of the more luxurious options. Overall it was a fantastic way to get from Thailand to Laos with stunning scenery. The service was excellent and we felt spoiled on this "splurge" part of our trip. Everything was sorted for us, from help through immigration to dropping us off at our accommodation at the other end. They prepared vegetarian food for me as I requested in advance. The cheaper boat options looked to be decent enough if you are on a budget, just don't expect all the perks. Sunloungers were a nice touch and a lovely place to lay reading in the sunshine. I would recommend this particular boat, but strongly encourage staff to inform passengers about how to be respectful to the local people during the stops before arrival. Consider taking school supplies to donate if you are interested in helping out.
Written July 16, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Vanessa H
Adelaide, Australia31 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2016 • Couples
We thoroughly enjoyed our experience with Luang Say Cruise. We were met at the Immigration Office by Luang Say's representative Kee (easily identified by a sign and uniform) who ensured smooth processing for everyone to cross from Chiang Khong into Laos. After a couple of short bus trips to complete the border crossing, we left Huay Xai for two great days travelling down the Mekong on our 'slow boat'. The scenery was beautiful, captivating and always varied. The boat is very well appointed with comfortable seating, tables, a bar and an outdoor bench seat up the front. The food was excellent and Luang Say catered well for vegetarians also. The staff were fantastic and genuinely helpful. Our guide Kee was excellent - his English was very good and he was always available for questions about anything along the trip. The stops at two villages and the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas were very interesting. The Luang Say Cruise is expensive compared to others, however, the real advantage it has over the others is the overnight stay at the Luang Say Lodge which is only available to cruise guests. Built right on the steep river side of Pakbeng with views across to the mountains, the Lodge is made up of individual teak cabins which are simply appointed but lovely. The bed was comfortable with a mosquito net. The bathroom was ample with good products. Dinner was delicious and abundant. We finished our journey in the beautiful city of Luang Prabang and were very happy that we had experienced the Mekong with Luang Say. TIP: You'll only need to pack an overnight bag for the Lodge stay - it was quite awkward watching the female employees twice our age and half our size lugging 20kg plus suitcases up the steep stairs for a number of guests while we all stood around enjoying our welcome drink. The luggage is kept very secure - just keep your usual valuables with you.
Written October 19, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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