Tag: mekong

A Day Tour Of The Mekong Delta

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Ho Chi Minh City is situated close to the Mekong Delta, the end of a river which flows through 6 countries. (These countries are China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in case you were interested). It’s possible to do a day tour to the Mekong Delta from Ho Chi Minh, which is exactly what I did.

It took 2 hours to get to the first stop. The bus stopped for a toilet break after an hour, but I suspect that the reason for the stop was less for guests comfort, and more so people could attempt to sell sunglasses to us.

We arrived at the first stop after 10am. Typically, a torrential downpour began as soon as we got off the bus. This was a place when honey was produced. We were given some honey tea and a small plate of fruit. There was also a photo opportunity with some bees.

mekong delta bees vietnam

Once we’d had some honey tea and watched a traditional Vietnamese folk performance, we got in a small paddle boat. We were provided with traditional Vietnamese hats and the boat took us to a coconut candy factory.

mekong delta boat ride

We were shown how the coconut candy is made and given free samples of the different flavours. They were delicious, especially the fresh ones!

mekong delta coconut candy

There was the opportunity to hold a boa constrictor, although it seemed a bit randomly placed at the coconut factory.

mekong delta snake

We then got on a large tourist boat and floated along the Mekong. Most of the the other boats on the river were tourist boats – there didn’t seem to be many local people around. Which makes sense as it was the hottest part of the day.

mekong delta boats

We¬†stopped for lunch at a small restaurant. We were split into two groups – those who had elephant fish for lunch and those who were given pork and rice. The elephant fish looked good, but I had the pork and rice, which unfortunately wasn’t that great.

After lunch, we got back on the large boat and were dropped off at a point where the bus collected us.

We went to a pagoda which had an enormous statue of Laughing Buddha and Reclining Buddha.

mekong delta laughing buddha

We returned to Ho Chi Minh City and arrived there around 6pm.

Overall, the tour wasn’t particularly amazing. It did kind of feel like the stops were simply to sell the products to us. I’ve spoken to other tourists who went to the Mekong Delta and stayed overnight and it does sound as though the overnight tours are much better. There’s an opportunity to see the floating markets and experience some of the food of the Mekong Delta.

Check out my other experiences along the Mekong, on the slow boat in Laos and kayaking to see Irrawaddy Dolphins in Laos

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Chiang Mai to Laos – A 3 Day Slow Boat Adventure

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After four days in Chiang Mai, and my Thai visa almost at an end, I decided to travel from Chiang Mai to Laos on the slow boat. I’d heard good things about the slow boat to Luang Prabang from fellow travellers so decided that was the best way to get there.

The White Temple – Chiang Rai

The bus collected me from my Chiang Mai accommodation (The Living Place 1 – I highly recommend staying here, the owner, Aree, is lovely and very helpful) at 9.30am. We had one stop off before going to the White Temple in Chiang Rai. I actually think the White Temple was my favourite temple in the whole of Thailand. It was a little bit spooky which I really liked and it’s so different to many other temples in Thailand.

floating heads white temple chiang rai thailand Alex Explores the World - Chiang Mai to Laos

Recognise any of these?

white temple chiang rai thailand Alex Explores the World - Chiang Mai to Laos

These heads are all over the White Temple

white temple chiang rai thailand Alex Explores the World - Chiang Mai to Laos

The White Temple

white temple chiang rai thailand Alex Explores the World - Chiang Mai to Laos

Spooky walkway into the White Temple

chiang rai white temple thailand Alex Explores the World - Chiang Mai to Laos

This guy permanently sits outside the White Temple

white temple traffic cone chiang rai thailand Alex Explores the World - Chiang Mai to Laos

Chiang Rai has some very sinister traffic cones

Chiang Khong

We arrived in Chiang Khong, a Thai border town around 3.30pm. The town was incredibly quiet especially as it was low season. We were given a voucher for dinner, breakfast and lunch which was included in the ticket price. We stayed at a place called Portside which was supposed to have WiFi, but it didn’t seem to work. A group of us went to get the free dinner which turned out to be fried rice. Hardly the best food in Thailand. Fortunately, there was a 7-eleven a few minutes away so we could buy some extra food.

Bugged Out

When we arrived back to the hotel, there were hundreds of bugs in the reception area which the staff didn’t seem too bothered about. I was lucky enough to have a room to myself and a working fan but other people in the group weren’t so lucky. Breakfast the next morning was some kind of omelette in a toasted sandwich. We went to the Thai border with our departure cards so that we could officially leave Thailand. We then took a bus across to the Laos border, which cost 25 baht, the price of which was already included in our slow boat ticket.

Laos Border

The Laos border is not a fast process. First, there are two forms to fill in. Then it’s a $35 fee (plus an overtime charge of $1 at weekends). Because this is done by the bus load, it ends up taking a while. On the bright side, there’s an ATM at the border which dispenses Laos currency (kip) and the fees are 20,000 Kip (¬£2). The owner of the hotel in Chiang Khong tried to tell us that there are fees of $10USD at Laos ATM’s, but I suspect that was a ploy to try to encourage us to change money with him at a poor rate.

Once we’d crossed the border, we got a minivan to the pier where we’d be getting the slow boat. A guy took our passports for a few minutes whilst he sorted out the tickets for the slow boat. There was a shop where we could buy snacks, drinks and alcohol for the journey. I actually recommend buying from here as it’s cheaper than the slow boat. It’s also possible to get sandwiches, which I also recommend, as the only hot food option on the boat is instant noodles.

Time passes really slowly on the slow boat so I definitely recommend bringing some form of entertainment, whether this be a book, cards or a journal.

slow boat laos mekong Alex Explores the World - Chiang Mai to Laosslow boat views mekong laos Alex Explores the World - Chiang Mai to Laosslow boat views mekong Alex Explores the World - Chiang Mai to Laos

Pakbeng… a.k.a Marco Polo’s Drug Hotel

At the end of the first day we stayed in a Laos village somewhere along the Mekong called Pakbeng. The accommodation there was basic, to say the least. The place became known as ‘Marco Polo’s Drug Hotel’ amongst the group because the owner was constantly trying to sell us drugs. In fact, many residents of the town were trying to sell us drugs before we even got off the boat.

As I just mentioned, the accommodation was very basic. Here are a few things we had to contend with:

  • The door didn’t lock from the inside, causing us to barricade the door with our bags overnight.
  • The transformer was incredibly dodgy so the power in the room kept going out because the switch kept falling off the wall.
  • There were live electrics next to the shower.
  • There were bars on the window, but no glass or mosquito net, leaving insects to come and go as they pleased.

From other travellers I spoke to, most accommodation in this village is of a similar standard. Luckily there is a bar -Happy Bar which is alright. They have beerpong and darts for entertainment and one of their drink options is a banana whisky shake.

The following morning we were eager to leave our accommodation, even with the prospect of 8 hours on the slow boat. We were the last group on the boat so got seats near the back of the boat. Again, the scenery throughout the day was spectacular. I managed to fill the day by playing Heads Up! with people and reading.

views Pakbeng slow boat Alex Explores the World - Chiang Mai to Laosslow boat views mekong Alex Explores the World - Chiang Mai to Laos

The Scam

The boat stops 10km outside Luang Prabang. It also stops in Luang Prabang but all foreign passengers are made to get off at the first stop. I’d already read about this on other blogs, and whilst it is grossly unfair, there isn’t really much you can do about it. It costs 20,000kip to get into the centre of Luang Prabang in a tuk-tuk.

Final Thoughts

Accommodation and food might be basic but I actually had a great time on the boat. I made some really good friends, some of whom I ended up travelling further into Laos with. The scam at the end of the trip where foreigners are made to get off the boat and pay for a tuk-tuk isn’t fair. I would be embarrassed if British companies were treating foreign tourists in a similar way. After spending a couple of weeks in Laos, I would say that the slow boat is the most comfortable way to travel from Chiang Mai to Laos on a budget.

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