Sailing on one of the longest and most historic rivers in the world: the Mekong
What to do in Huay Xai?
After visiting Luang Namtha we headed to Huay Xai, a city on the border with Thailand in the north of Laos. We went only to Huay Xai to take a boat and make Mekong cruise towards Luang Prabang. In Huay Xia basically everyone goes, above all, for three reasons:
- Crossing the Laos-Thailand border.
- Try the “Gibon Experience“; which basically consists of sleeping in a hut on a tree and trying to see gibbons (although we have heard of people who spent two days and didn’t see a single one…)
- And the last one, the one we did; sailing through the Mekong, and going Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, stopping one night in Pak Beng.
What is the Morning Alms-Giving Ceremony?
The day we took the boat, we got up early, expressly so we could see at six in the morning what they call the “Morning Alms-Giving Ceremony“.
This ceremony takes place every day. It consists of food offerings to the monks in exchange for blessings as they make their way through the city carrying their large bowls. With the food they receive they can enjoy their first meal of the day (they are only allowed to eat twice a day), and they also distribute it to those in need.
We witnessed a group of young monks passing in single file in front of some people on their knees as they filled their bowls with rice and all kinds of food. Then the monks lined up in front of them and began to recite what looked like a prayer. When they had finished, they went on their way and we saw them disappearing into the distance.
After a while we went up to the temple where the monks were coming from. The monks, mostly young, had returned and were eating in silence. Those who had finished eating came to greet us. We spent some time talking to them very sympathetically and were even offered breakfast with them. It was a morning well spent.
Mekong Cruise: From Huay Xai to Luang Prabang
First day on the Mekong Cruise
At 9 a.m. we went to catch the boat that would take us on a journey through the Mekong for a day and a half. It was an elongated wooden boat of the kind you see on the Mekong. We left in the company of a few foreigners and spent the rest of the day sailing quietly along the Mekong.
The Mekong River leaves no one indifferent. With more than 4000 kilometers long it is one of the longest rivers in the world. It starts in the Himalayas, flows down through China and passes through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, where it flows into the Mekong Delta.
Personally, I was surprised above all by the curious combination of large, dangerous rocks in the middle of the river, its great eddies that can be seen from the boat and its quiet white-sand banks. In addition, it is quite common to see a few villages in areas adjacent to the river. It is all very beautiful and very curious to see.
At nightfall, we stop in a small village called Pak Beng to spend the night. Pak Beng is halfway from Luang Prabang and we could see that it was a very touristic village where everybody was passing by. Even so, it wasn’t bad because there are some bars where you can drink a few beers and interact with more tourists.
Second day on the Mekong Cruise
The next day, they put two boats full of tourists on one and Mekong cruise was not so pleasant and relaxed. We were all piled up like goats, with our luggage lying on the ground.
At noon we arrived at our long-awaited destination, Luang Prabang, the pearl of the Orient and Laos’ most beautiful city so far. In spite of that final stretch, I can say that the entire journey along the Mekong was worthwhile.
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