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Review Highlights
A must do

Firstly, we have to thanks our tour operator and guide Cham for all the hard work he put into... read more

Reviewed 2 days ago
Chiang Mai, Thailand
via mobile
Wonderful introduction to Laos

We were picked up from Chang Rai exactly when promised, and helped across the border into Laos... read more

Reviewed 1 week ago
Chris A
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All reviews pak beng pak ou caves chiang rai slow boat relaxing trip public boat two days thai border border crossing boat captain beautiful boat hill tribe village english speaking guide visa process dropped off low season great trip
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Reviewed April 28, 2016 via mobile

My wife and I were looking for a good alternative to riding the local bus from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang after doing the Gibbon Experience. We had heard the local boat gets full going downriver and some cruise companies charge $300-$400 USD per person for the two day cruise downriver.
Thus we found Mekong Smile to be a great mid range option. Going to the booking office in Huay Xai was easy as they are right on the main road and pricing was up front with a good explanation of the cruise itinerary. We booked our trip about 5 days in advance and had no problem. Why anyone expects a tour company to have last minute availability given the logistics of the tour is beyond me, tour guide, food for meals, boat captain and cooks, etc. You can also email them to make your booking online and pay via PayPal. It is all quite easy and we had no worries about using Mekong Smile.
In fact my wife has a gluten allergy and cannot have soy sauce or wheat flour. Our guide spoke excellent English and made sure the cook made her food without any gluten. Every meal was delivered directly to her so there was no confusion and it was delicious. Everyone else had the buffet food which was plentiful and also delicious. Each meal was different so there was plenty of variety and all the passengers were very satisfied.
Not much else to say that the other reviews don't already say. There were only 11 ppl on our boat so plenty of room to spread out and relax. In fact one other couple we met at the Gibbon Experience was also on our boat and they also loved it.
The hotel accommodations in Pak Beng were nice. The breakfast meal was across the street at a local restaurant and was excellent. I would recommend dinner there as well because the dinner place our guide took us to was so-so. They did give us a free taste of Lao Lao, or the local whiskey. But the food was just okay so eat at the restaurant across the street for better food.
I would definitely take Mekong Smile between Luang Prabang and Hauy Xai again!

Date of experience: March 2016
2  Thank Rugbyrules05
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 23, 2016

From the moment we were collected by Kae and Pheng at the border into Laos from Thailand I knew we were in good hands. Formalities over, we collected a few people in our minivan along the way to our beautiful boat before boarding for the two day cruise from Huay Xai downstream to Luang Prabang with a one night stop over at Pak Beng.
Our guide aboard was Kae and he had us all laughing before too long with his little jibes and jokes. We taunted him right back with his snappy dressing and his fun sense of humour.
Incredibly luckily for us, we were only eight passengers for the trip, so we had the whole boat to stretch out on or to read or sleep. Indeed we were "VIP's". Our captain admirably navigated his way through some tight spots and his lovely wife Nok freshly prepared the most delicious food we ate anywhere in Laos. No kidding! The scenery along the way is spectacular with a photo opportunity at every corner.
Our boat was well equipped with a large ice box and it was a treat to enjoy a cold beer or a soft drink with lunch. Bottled water is free. It wasn't too long before the eight passengers became a group of friends we affectionately named "The Falangang". (Falang = foreigner) who have kept in touch and have since shared other travel adventures. We were two Aussies, three Germans, two Welsh and a Finnish man.
Tip: If you have room in your luggage you could take some second hand clothing or small items for the incredibly poor children of the hill tribe village we visited on our first day. It would probably be the second day if you are boating upstream from Luang Prabang. Be prepared to buy some little hand stitched bracelets from the kids as they gather around you and want to show you their wares. Obviously don't just give money because that is setting a precedent that ruins the experience of meeting people who live in a different way. We handed out clothes, balls and pencils which the children loved.
Our overnight stay at the Riverside Lodge in Pak Beng was delightful. We stayed in our own little Laotian hut with a verandah overlooking the Mekong River. Very rustic and quaint, still with bathroom luxuries though. The electricity did go out for most of the night but we didn't care, sleeping under our mosquito net in our bamboo thatched cottage.

On the second day we visited a mixed tribe village, Lao, Khmou and Hmong. This was a lovely experience as we watched village women at work on their looms creating beautiful handicrafts with incredibly intricate designs. You are encouraged to buy their items which are truly works of art, very inexpensive and the genuine article, not some mass produced rubbish you might find in a city street market. It was very hard to choose between so much variety of designs and colour. Again clothing, pencils and balls were welcomed by the children. Lollies or other small food items would work too.
Truly this is one of the great travel journeys in the world and will leave you with a lifetime of fond memories. Thank you Pheng and Kae.

Date of experience: April 2016
1  Thank Yogalover9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 21, 2016

We had a 2-day long cruise in Mekong, from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang. Everything went fine. A person was sent from the company to take us to the border between Thailand and Laos (from Chiang Khong). Another two were waiting us after crossing the friendship bridge by a bus. They assisted us to get the visa and cross the border. We departed from the port of Huay Xai in Laos, with another couple of Australians. Practically, the boat was empty, probably because of low season. We had a great experience. Nice trip, watching daily life of the people on the banks of Mekong. The captain was very experienced, which is necessary, since Mekong is a difficult river for sailing. We stopped in two villages and saw local people, which has been one of the highlights of our trip in Laos and also stopped in the Pak Ou caves. We had plenty of nice food and free coffee, tea, water and fruits. Also, our guide was very helpful.
Cons: There is only one negative point in this trip. Our hotel in Pakbeng was mediocre. I understand that most hotels in this village are like this, but I believe that one can find alone a better hotel, so I would choose the option of booking the cruise without hotel. Also, the worst of all, we had to carry our baggage for several hundred meters uphill, from the port of Pakbeng to the hotel. We saw from other boats that several vans had been sent for this transfer, since a paved road exists. I believe that at the price we payed, the company should have arranged a van for this transfer.
Everything else got fine and this was a nice 2-day cruise in Mekong, from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, which proved to be a nice experience!

Date of experience: April 2016
3  Thank Dbalats
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 18, 2016

The Mekong Smile two days river cruise was great experience, comfortable and relax on the boat, the tourist guide very helpful and nice, talked a lot of about Laos, let me know deeply about the country. and different local village visiting was very valuable.

The trip down the Mekong River from North to South, the review was amazing great and beautiful.

Lunch was delicious, and one day we can join to make the salad, very funny.

Date of experience: January 2016
1  Thank hadatam
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 7, 2016 via mobile

The Mekong Smile two day river cruise from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai was fantastic and I would definitely recommend it. I happened to be the only one who booked this particular journey and I was shocked that they would operate it given it was just me. That level of commitment alone impressed me.

The guide and boat crew were professional, accommodating and kind. The food made on board was authentic Laos food and so delicious. Having unlimited coffee, tea and water was an added bonus. The scenery was beautiful. The boat was super comfortable and clean. Try to snag one of the day beds, it's so nice to take a nap on and watch the river go by. I would also recommend adding the Mekong Riverside Lodge to your package. It's a beautiful place and I only wished I had more time to enjoy it. If you're crossing the border to Thailand and are unsure about the process I suggest paying the extra $12 to have them assist you. So worth it!

Mr. Khum, the guide is filled with tons of information, you can ask him anything! He really went above and beyond. He met with me the night before to chat about the trip and knowing I was traveling alone offered to dine with me the one night we stayed in Pekbang. So nice!!! The visits to the caves and local village needs improving as you feel a bit rushed but hopefully they'll work on that.

The two days flew by and a month later I still day dream about being on the river enjoying the peaceful beauty of the Mekong River.

Date of experience: March 2016
3  Thank alliu
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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