On my two visits to Laos, I did the Mekong River Cruise and I would not hesitate to repeat it. The route that the Vat Phou makes through the south of the country is 170 km, that will take you to places of great beauty and immense historical importance. Visits towns, temples and above all you see dream landscapes where you can admire its 4000 islands.
Vat Phou, the story of a floating hotel on the Mekong River
Originally, the Vat Phou transported teak wood from Vientiane to southern Laos. However, in 1993, it was transformed into a cruise ship 34 meters long by 7.5 meters wide. The ship has two decks, the lower one, where the restaurant, kitchen and 10 cabins are located, and the upper one where the bar, recreation area and two cabins are located. obviously, all cabins have a shower and air conditioning.
The cruise can start from Pakse or from the vicinity of the Khone Phapheng waterfall, near the Cambodian border, depending on the day of departure.
Visits during the cruise
If departing from Pakse, the meeting point is at Cafe Sinouk, then you are taken in small boats to Champasak, where the Vat Phou is anchored. After lunch, you visit the small town of Champasak to see the ruins of Wat Phu, an ancient Khmer religious complex. Declared a World Heritage Site in 2001. The best preserved entrance to the pavilion (gorupa) contains a stone column that resembles a lingam*, with two sculpted faces.
Back to the ship, it begins its navigation to the south
On the second day, after breakfast, disembark in the village of Huei Thamo, to visit the ruins of the Oum Moung (Temple of Tomo). It is believed to have been built in the 9th century during the reign of the first Khmer king Yasovarman I, dedicated to the god Rudani, consort of Shiva. The best preserved gorupa contains a stone column that resembles a lingam, with two sculpted faces.
In the afternoon, you will visit the town of Ban Deua Tia. Here they teach you their way of life and customs, a school where children receive you singing in the French language, and especially the precariousness in which they live.
On the third day, we visit the island of Don Khon. (Don Khon is one of the two islands that are inhabited, famous for its coconut, bamboo and ceiba plantations. In Don Khon, there are still some buildings from the French colonial era. This island was an important enclave between Laos and Saigon for refuelling. The French built a narrow-gauge railway network, today only a couple of tracks remain. From Don Khon you can visit the Li Phi and Khone Phapheng waterfalls.
The cruise ends with lunch by the Mekong River and visiting the Khone Phapeng waterfalls. Return by bus to Pakse.
Meals at the Vat Phou
Breakfasts are served on the upper deck, which is very nice to feel the cool of the morning while sailing, as are lunches. Dinners are served in the restaurant on the lower deck, as mosquitoes can be a big problem in the late evening.
However, the food is excellent, plus you can taste Thai, Vietnamese or Laotian food.
If you want to enjoy a coffee, tea or a drink, you can do it perfectly on the upper deck that is furnished with comfortable armchairs, sofas and mats.
The Mekong River
Thew river is born on the Tibetan plateau in China and has a length of 4880 km. The Mekong is a livelihood for the people of southern Laos. With its waters, they irrigate their fields. The children go in boats to school, wash their clothes and shower in it. However, it is a source of food for most of its inhabitants since they live from fishing.
Surely, the vegetation is spectacular and being able to observe the sunrise, the sunset like the stars is a gift that nature gives us.
Lingam*: In the Hindu religion, a lingam is a symbolic representation of the god Shiva, used for worship in temples.