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Review Highlights
I'd book this trip again in a heartbeat!

We booked this tour because we wanted a guaranteed seat, which the crowded public boats can't... read more

Reviewed 1 week ago
Terry M
,
Williamston, Michigan
Relaxed way to enter Laos

This was a wonderful trip. The guide (Tuey?) was excellent. He made sure we all had everything we... read more

Reviewed 3 weeks ago
margaretmZ3569DT
,
London, United Kingdom
via mobile
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All reviews pak beng pak ou caves chiang rai his wife slow boat relaxing trip two days public boat thai border border crossing beautiful boat hill tribe village english speaking guide visa process dropped off low season great trip
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Reviewed June 14, 2016

My recent 2-day cruise from Huay Xai, Laos to Luang Prabang, Laos with Mekong Smile was one of my best experiences on a 5 week Southeast Asia tour. The company arranged my ride from Chiang Rai, Thailand to the cruise departure point in Chiang Kong, my bus fare for the trip over the bridge into Laos, and arranged to have a guide meet me on the Laos side of the river to help me with the visa process, and then the shuttle van to the boat dock where we boarded the boat on the river. The guide, Kae, was great fun. His humor and energy were contagious. The boat itself was huge, beautiful and very comfortable, with places to lay down and snooze and lovely teak booths to sit and write, munch on fresh fruits and coffee, or just get hypnotized by the flow of the river. There were only 2 other passengers on my cruise, so we got to know one another pretty well over our 2 days together.

The boat stopped each day at Lao hill villages so we could stretch our legs and get a glimpse of the lives of Lao villagers along the Mekong. We also stopped to see the Pak Ou caves which was a nice excursion.

The RiverView Hotel I was booked into at Pak Beng - the midpoint on the cruise was lovely, but my room was not air-conditioned. There was a strong ceiling fan, and good mosquito netting around the bed, and I slept fine. However, I understand the other two people from my cruise stayed at a different hotel which was not situated on the river, but they did have air-conditioning.

Our experience was enhanced by the fact that our guide, Kae, had his birthday celebration while we were in Pak Beng. We had a super fun celebration with Kae and his friends from Pak Beng. It was a great introduction to Lao warmth and hospitality.

Finally, special thanks to the Captain of the boat and his wife. The Captain made navigating the complex currents and shoals of the Mekong look simple. And the lunches prepared by the Captain's wife for us in the boat's onboard kitchen were sensational. Great, local, authentic Lao dishes.

Date of experience: June 2016
4  Thank jedpro
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 27, 2016 via mobile

My wife and I were the only passengers. We went from LP to Thailand. Everything about it was great. We agree with others who have commented the food was wonderful. We did get our own hotel in Pak Bang. Everyone involved was as nice as can be. Highly recommended!

Date of experience: May 2016
2  Thank fau1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 5, 2016 via mobile

Unfortunately I was the ONLY passenger on this cruise as another couple didn't show, yet the staff and especially the tour guide put every effort in to make my time enjoyable. The guide was very knowledgeable and spoke great English. The boat was clean and the food was great. I don't know why someone would pay twice as much for a luxury cruise, this was more then adequate and the staff were fantastic

Date of experience: May 2016
2  Thank Sven S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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.
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