See why the Mekong River is known as Asia’s lifeblood with this epic adventure. Trace the mighty River as it meanders through big cities and countryside towns through five countries. From the Myanmar hills to Vietnam’s delta, this tour covers a lot of ground- and water!
Cross international borders by water, from Thailand to Laos to Cambodia and Vietnam via the Mekong River.
Explore five countries that share borders but have vastly different cultures and histories.
Join farmers in the fields, bike alongside locals on river islands and rub shoulders with shoppers at bustling fresh markets.
The Mighty Mekong, Asia’s Lifeblood - 17 Days / 16 Nights
Upon arriving at Kengtung Airport your car and guide will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel for check in.
After freshening up take a short stroll around downtown Kengtung, a quaint town laid out around Nawng Tung Lake. The city’s architecture ranges from fading old colonial-style houses to nondescript modern structures and several large Buddhist temples and monasteries. We recommend to visit to Maha Myat Muni Pagoda and Wat Ho Kong, where monks learn Buddhism in khun language, which is similar or almost same as lana from Thailand.
Enjoy dinner in a local restaurant (own account)
Overnight in Kengtung.
After breakfast, visit Kengtung’s local market. This daily market is visited by villagers from the surrounding area who come to sell their products and barter for goods. Visiting the market, we will see minority hill tribes in their traditional dresses.
Then depart by road to Hokyin area, the starting point of today’s trek. The trek begins with a 1.5-2 hour walk to an Akha village. Spend some time in the village and interacting with the locals to discover more about their unique customs and daily lifestyle.
Resume trekking to Na Phi Phank village, a further 30-45 minutes, which is home to Lahu people who are famous for their blacksmithing. Then loop back to where our car is waiting possibly passing a Wa village en route. During the trek a picnic lunch will be served in a scenic spot or village.
Return to Kengtung by car this afternoon.
Overnight in Kengtung.
We will wake up early this morning for a colorful and enchanted local market in Kengtung, observing the local people from surroundings hill tribes who buy, sell and trade the various kind of stuffs. It is a unique place to soak in this busy atmosphere to discover the local life.
If you are a noodle fan, it is worth to skip breakfast at hotel and try Shan noodle at the market. There is a section of noodle shops and other eateries and our guide will take you to the best one.
We then embark on a 4 hour drive to the Thai border. Before crossing into Thailand we’ll explore the border market and have lunch at a local restaurant (own account).
After completing the border formalities, say farewell to your Burmese guide and meet your Exo Travel Thailand guide.
Upon arrival in Mae Sai, continue driving to the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet. Visit the ancient Kingdom of Chiang Saen on the steep banks of Mekong River, opposite of Laos, where you will see a couple of magnificent ancient ruins and temples. Then embark on a long-tail boat and see the area from the majestic Mekong River’s perspective.
Overnight in Chiang Rai.
After breakfast at your hotel, transfer to Lanjia Lodge. Arrive at Lanjia Lodge. Herbal local juice will be served during the check-in. Then, watch a presentation about the Hmong and Lahu tribes, the Golden triangle area and the giant catfish (locally known as Pla Buek) – the world’s biggest fresh water fish found in the Mekong River. Learn about activities that affect the Mekong River and people whose lives depend on the river.
Tour the Hmong and Lahu hill tribe village, including a visit at the shaman’s house of the Hmong. Drink tea with the shaman and discover why the fireplace is important to the Hmongs and why they bury the placenta and umbilical cord of their newborn babies. Lunch will be provided on the charming terrace that looks to the Mekong River and Laos.
Get firsthand experience on how to make Hmong batik handkerchief with Hmong ladies (about 45 minutes). Alternatively, you can learn how to make and set animal traps. Then you will help villagers to plant trees at the Herbal Plant Nursery Project. The project is dedicated to His Majesty the King to commemorate his 84th birthday on December 5, 2011. The main objective of the project is to improve the quality of life of local people by educating them on how to grow vegetables and the importance of the eco-system in their village.
Dinner and watch traditional Hmong performances.
Overnight at Lanjia Lodge.
After breakfast, transfer to Chiang Khong border to cross to Laos. Your guide will assist you through immigration and you will then need to cross the road bridge to Lao immigration. This is done by shuttle bus and costs 30 Baht per person (please bring cash).
(Note: Please bring 2 passport photos per person and cash in USD for the Lao visa on arrival.)
Please arrive no later than 08:00 at the border crossing point. Upon reaching the Lao border of Houay Xay, a representative from the Luang Say Cruises will be there to greet you and escort you to your shared cruise boat. The cruise takes two days to reach Luang Prabang, with an overnight stop made in Pakbeng.
En route a stop is made to visit and admire the authentic rural life of hill tribe settlements.
Enjoy a delicious buffet lunch onboard the boat as you continue your cruise along the scenic Mekong River.
Late in the afternoon, you will reach the town of Pakbeng. Halfway between Houay Xay and Luang Prabang, this small town is lined with wooden houses along a steep street on the hillside and is quite dynamic. Depending on the rivers current, you may reach Pakbeng in time to watch the sun set over the river from the balcony of your room.
Overnight in Pakbeng
In the morning enjoy breakfast at the hotel before continuing the river cruise downstream.
OPTIONAL: For early risers, there is an opportunity to visit the morning market of where the nearby villagers and hill tribes come to buy and exchange their goods.
The boat departs at 0830 am for the second half of the journey. On the way to Luang Prabang two stops will be made.
The first stop is at the village of Ban Baw. Here you will be able to see the processing of traditional rice alcohol. Continue downstream to the Pak Ou Caves. Locally referred to as Tam Ting, these two caves are carved out of towering limestone cliffs and contain thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues. The Buddhas range in size from a few centimeters to the size of a human. The caves are also a destination for local pilgrimages.
Luang Prabang is a further 2 hours downstream from Pak Ou. Arrive in Luang Prabang early evening, before sunset, and transfer to your hotel.
The rest of the day is free at leisure.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
After breakfast at the hotel, venture to Luang Prabang’s peninsula where the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers merge. The beautiful Wat Xieng Thong is located here and a visit to the temple unveils golden gates, ornaments, and colorful murals.
Next, visit the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum. The Royal Palace was built in 1904 during the French colonial era for King Sisavang Vong and his family, and is now home to exhibits of art and jewels as well as the residence itself.
From there, continue on foot to visit Wat Mai, with its unique 5 tiered roof and golden bas-reliefs. During Pimai, the Lao New Year, the small Buddha statue called Pra Bang normally housed in the Royal Palace Museum is brought and put on public display in this temple.
Continue to visit Wat Visoun, where you will see the famous Watermelon Stupa, shaped like the fruit it takes its name from. This temple was destroyed in 1887 by the invading Black Flags from China, and was restored in 1930 by Buddhist monks and local people. We will also visit Wat Aham where you will see the altar of the 2 geniuses of Luang Prabang.
This afternoon we continue to visit the weaving village of Ban Phanom. This village, populated by Thai Lue (a tribe with its origins in Southern China), is well known for cotton and silk hand-weaving. Here we have the opportunity to check out how to make the traditional Lao Cotton on a weaving loom, before return to Luang Prabang.
Finish your tour by climbing the 328 steps to the top of Mount Phousi to enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding countryside. Stop at the evening hill tribe market before returning to your hotel.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
After breakfast, your guide and private car will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your departure flight.
Depart Luang Prabang at 10:55 on QV513 (Lao Airlines), landing in Pakse at 12:35.
You will be met on arrival in Pakse and transfer directly in to the Bolaven Plateau. This mountainous region is home to dozens of hilltribes, waterfalls and coffee and tea plantations. Your first stop will be around 2pm for lunch in a local restaurant close to Tad Fane (not included). If you are too hungry then please tell your guide and you can have lunch in Pakse instead!
Tad Fane is a set of twin 120-metre high waterfalls formed by the merging waters of the Champy and Pak Koot rivers. These impressive falls are situated on the edge of Dong Hua Sao National Protected Area, 38km from Pakse. Note: water level may vary according to the previous rainy season.
Stop to visit a nearby tea and/or a coffee plantation. Laos is known for its famous coffee, the majority of which is grown here on the Bolaven Plateau. A visit to one of the plantations will introduce you to the process of planting, harvesting and roasting these delicious beans.
You will also witness simple villages on the drive back to Pakse and might like to stop to meet the locals. From Pakse you will drive another hour south to Champasak and check in to your hotel in the late afternoon.
Overnight on Dong Daeng Island.
After breakfast, transfer by road to Wat Phou.
Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Wat Phou is a spectacular pre-Angkorian temple that sits amidst the rice fields and waterways of southern Laos. The temple was constructed in three levels: the bottom level is focused on the baray (water reservoir) and promenade, the second level features quadrangular pavilions and galleries of carvings, and the top level is the sanctuary itself. The temple was built by the rulers of the Khmer empire before the construction of Angkor Wat. The temple served as the most important economic and political centre of the region and still is one of the Lao people’s most revered temples.
Drive on to Champassak, through streets lined with French colonial buildings, and enjoy lunch in a local restaurant.
Then, continue on to Khong Island, the biggest island in south Laos and the start of the 4000 Islands Region. Called “Siphandon in Lao language, this area is where the Mekong stretches over 14km wide and has thousands of islands between those the river flows and runs between cascades and rapids.
Overnight in Don Khong Island
Board a simple longtail boat for a scenic 1.5 hour cruise through the 4000 Islands to the peaceful islands of Done Det and Done Khone, where plantations and simple villages are almost all you will find.
The islands played an important role during the French Colonial rule as they linked Laos to Cambodia and Southern Vietnam. To overpass the waterfalls, a railway and bridge were built, the perfect place to take your time and soak in the view.
We recommend bicycles as the best way to explore the island of Don Khone, or a tuk-tuk if you prefer. Visit the impressive Lippi falls, which are on the west of Don Khone, very close to the Cambodian border. Their original name, Tad Somphamit, means “trap spirit” and the locals revere these falls as they believe they act as a trap for bad spirits.
From the southern tip of the island a short boat trip will give you the chance to spot the rare Irrawaddy Dolphin. Please note that sightings are never guaranteed.
Continue to the southernmost part of Laos and the imposing Khone Phapheng waterfalls, close to the Cambodian border.
Overnight in Don Khone Island
After breakfast (approximately 09:00), you will meet your guide from EXO Travel at lobby of hotel, and then transfer by boat and road to Veunkham, arriving at the Cambodian border at 10:30.
On arrival at Cambodia Border late morning, you will be warmly welcomed to Cambodia by your local English speaking tour guide. First head to Veoun Khao, a small village just behind the border, where you will embark on a scenic boat trip to Preah Rumkel. This is one of the wildest parts of the Mekong, and also one of the most remote. The boat trip (20 mins duration) will take you through the flooded forest and across the river, until you reach the ecotourism village Preah Rumkel. A true village lunch will already be waiting for you, with stunning views of the river and this is one of the best places to spot the rare Mekong Dolphins.
After lunch, ride through the village on locally rented bicycles and explore the local lifestyle, with your guide at hand as an interpreter and facilitator for interaction with the most friendly local population. The community development project of M’lup Baitong will welcome you to their center with a traditional dance and you will be introduced to the project’s activities to alleviate poverty in this remote area. Return by boat and onward transfer to Stung Treng (2h duration) (Return by transfer for 2hrs and you will also take a ferry 15mn from Thalaboravath district to Stung Treng), where you will arrive in the late afternoon.
Overnight in Stung Treng.
Breakfast will be served at a local restaurant near the market in Stung Treng.
This morning, visit Mekong Blue, a local silk weaving centre offering work and an income to disadvantaged young women in this remote area. You can tour the workshops and, if you like, shop for beautiful silk items that carry the ‘UNESCO Seal of Excellence.’ (Note: Mekong Blue closed Sundays).
From here, transfer south towards Kratie. On the way, stop to visit Wat Sorsor Mouy Roy in the village Sambo. The Vihea of the so-called ‘100 Pillars Pagoda’ is an important historical and cultural building and quite famous for its legend involving a princess and a crocodile.
Continue along the banks of the Mekong, a very scenic route with great views. In the village Kampi, the best spot to view the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins along the Mekong. Get on board a local boat that will take you to the preferred places of these interesting creatures. As soon as you will have spotted the first dolphin, your boat driver will turn the engine off and you will follow the dolphins silently (duration 1 to 1.5 hours).
Lunch will be at Le Tonlé Tourism, where young locals are being trained in the principles of hospitality to ensure a better future in Kratie. Dining here means most delicious Khmer food paired with a very personalized service. The students are as excited to meet their guests as the guests themselves to meet the students.
Arrive in Kratie (transfer ca. 30 minutes), where you will have some time at leisure to discover the small town by yourself. This afternoon, you will take a private boat to Koh Trong Island, only a short 10 minutes boat ride away from Kratie. This Mekong island displays typical Cambodian village life, where people’s livelihood largely depends on rice farming and fruits cultivation (Koh Trong is famous for its pomelo!). Upon arrival, check in to your hotel and enjoy some time at leisure to enjoy the environment.
Dinner at Rajabori Villas.
Overnight on Koh Trong Island.
Breakfast at the hotel. Now you are ready for a visit the island that is your home during your visit to Kratie. You can decide whether you would like to take a local horse cart or pedal yourself around the island on a bicycle.
Your first destination is the island’s Wat, where a special activity awaits you: A tree planting project initiated by a local farmer, in order to recultivate the once densely forested island. Contribute to the project by planting your own tree here and it will carry your name tag and leave a positive trace on the island.
After toughening up, relax with a beautiful Khmer lunch at local restaurant.
Now it is time to leave this beautiful island as you continue your journey towards Phnom Penh. Stop in Kampong Cham to stretch your legs on a short tour of the provincial capital and its typical market. Continue the final 120km to Phnom Penh, where you will arrive in the late afternoon.
Phnom Penh was once considered as one of the most beautiful cities in the Orient, and despite its recent turbulent history, it still retains a colonial charm. Cambodia’s capital is a bustling city, majestically located at the confluence of the mighty rivers of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap. Wide tree-lined boulevards and many colonial-era buildings reflect the glorious days and add to the allure of the city, where Asian and Western traditions meet in a fascinating way.
Overnight in Phnom Penh.
This morning, you will be greeted by a driver who will take you on a tour to the most remarkable sights of Phnom Penh in a Cyclo, an original Phnom Penh means of transportation and a fun way to explore this lively city. First, visit Wat Phnom, which is situated near the northern boundary of the city. The site contains some good examples of Khmer architecture and statues.
Continue along the lively riverfront to the Royal Palace. This palace dates back to 1866 and houses the Silver Pagoda, named for the over 5000 heavy silver tiles that cover its floors. Its original name is Wat Prakeo, meaning Temple of the Emerald Buddha. In this temple you will view a collection of Buddhas in gold, silver, crystal, and bronze.
Your next stop is the National Museum, built in traditional Khmer style. It houses the world's foremost collection of ancient Khmer artistic, archaeological, and religious artifacts from the 4th to the 13th centuries. Over 5,000 pieces are on display, constituting the repository of the Kingdom's cultural wealth. In addition, the roof space is home to a large bat colony!
Lunch will be at Friend Restaurant.
This afternoon, visit to the remarkable Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, housed in the former school that was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and used as its main detention and torture center named ‘S-21’. A grim, but important visit that will allow you to dig below the surface and understand Cambodia better.
Late afternoon head to the riverside area of Phnom Penh, a pleasant French style promenade that is great for people viewing. In the early evening (and morning) various activities take place include exercise classes, Khmer dancing and plenty of snacking on local food. You can participate in a Khmer dance class which is a lot of fun for all!
Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Early morning, leave Phnom Penh in a southernly direction for Kep (3h transfer). Cambodia’s prestigious beach resort of the 1960s is now awakening to its former glory. A fascinating mix of a small calm beach, reminders of the past and a growing choice of activities.
Arrive around lunch time and check into your hotel. The afternoon is at your leisure to discover Kep on your own or just relax.
Overnight in Kep.
Breakfast at your hotel. Visit the popular crab market before transferring to the Vietnam border. The 1h drive leads you through one of the most picturesque sceneries in this regions, as you travel through a sea of rice fields that are bordered with limestone mountains in the distance. You reach the border crossing at Phnom Den/Tien Binh, where your Vietnamese tour guide is ready to welcome you to the Mekong Delta.
On arrival at the border, you will meet your Vietnamese guide and transfer to Chau Doc.
In the afternoon head to nearby Sam Mountain. There are dozens of pagodas and temples around Sam Mountain and reaching the peak is the highlight of the visit. The views from the top are spectacular (weather permitting) and you can easily look out over Cambodia.
Arrive in Can Tho after the 3.5 hour transfer from Chau Doc.
Overnight in Can Tho.
Wake up early for a boat cruise to the colorful Cai Rang floating market which bustles with wholesalers on big boats. Here, during the early morning market hours, larger sized boats anchor and create lanes that smaller boats weave in and out of. The main items sold here are fruit and vegetables and every boat has a long upright pole at its bow from which samples of the goods for sale are hung. The waterway becomes a maze of hundreds of boats packed with mango, bananas, papaya, pineapple, and even floating pho vendors.
Following your visit to Cai Rang and Can Tho depart for the 5 4-hour drive to Ho Chi Minh City.
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