Cruising the Mekong in Pakbaeng; a must-do for visitors

During Visit Laos Year 2018, Vientiane Times is publishing a series of feature articles and images inviting you
to experience the authentic nature, culture, history and hospitality of Laos, Jewel of the Mekong.

If you’re ever in Pakbaeng district in Oudomxay province, be sure to take a cruise on the Mekong River as this is something really special.
Boat trips on the Mekong are increasingly popular with tourists and offer stunning views of both banks of the river, in addition to the many interesting activities available on land.
In this part of Laos, the Mekong runs between Pakbaeng district and Ngeun district in Xayaboury province. A cruise enables visitors to see a wonderful view of Pakbaeng town on one bank while also looking at the other bank of the river in Ngeun district.
The boat trip takes visitors to caves, waterfalls, and Khmu ethnic villages where you can observe their daily activities. Visits to villages that make handicrafts are also on the itinerary.

One of the wooden boats plying the Mekong in Pakbaeng district, Oudomxay province.

A boat dock on the riverbank not far from the centre of Pakbaeng is where passenger boats running between Luang Prabang and Bokeo provinces stop to let passengers on and off.
This is also the place where boats wait for customers who want to take a river cruise. The trips are reasonably priced at 250,000 kip per hour excluding food and drinks.
Passengers can choose the boat they want and can also negotiate a discount.
You can order food and drinks from the boat owner or bring your own.  And of course you can eat, drink and sing on the boat.
I went to Pakbaeng district recently as part of a media visit organised by the Tourism Marketing Department of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. Our objective was to interview local officials about tourism development.
We also took a trip on the Mekong, which we enjoyed very much and were made welcome by the owner of the boat and the driver.
As we travelled we breathed in the fresh air that swept over the river and down from the hills. We could see both banks of the river and take in the fascinating scenes that unfolded in the picturesque villages we passed. We saw people fishing and bathing, while others were tending to their vegetable plots and watering them.
From time to time we saw other passenger boats. On the riverbank at Pakbaeng we could see the development that was taking place while on the opposite bank, in contrast, there was dense forest in Ngeun district.
Of course, everyone on the boat enjoyed taking photographs and selfies. I thoroughly recommend this boat trip because it is so pleasurable and you can fully immerse yourself in the glories of nature.
Pakbaeng district is situated in the southwest of Oudomxay. It is 144 km from the provincial capital Xay district and is a place of fertile green hills and fresh weather.
It has plenty of tourist attractions of scenic and cultural interest which are all interesting.
The area clearly has potential for the development of tourism, partly because of its river access to other provinces.
At present Pakbaeng is mostly known as being a stopping off point for travellers, mostly on their way south to Luang Prabang or north to Bokeo province. Most just stay overnight, but the area merits a longer visit for those who have time.
The district is working to improve all aspects of tourism in the hope of drawing more visitors. As well as other tourist activities, the boat trips are a major attraction and operators are adding new options in order to attract more customers.
Visitors can get to Pakbaeng by bus, or there are flights to the provincial capital from Vientiane. There are also buses or flights from Luang Prabang and Bokeo provinces, while boats go to Pakbaeng from Luang Prabang and Bokeo provinces. Another way is to take a bus or boat from Ngeun district in Xayaboury province.

By Visith Teppalath
(Latest Update December 29, 2018)

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