Are you looking for a unique travel experience in Southeast Asia? A luxurious cruise along the Mekong River may just be what you seek. In the southern part of Laos, one of the best parts of the Mekong, Jon and I recently went on the Vat Phou Cruise which passed by ancient ruins, islands and giant waterfalls. On top of this, we had the most amazing 3 days aboard an oriental-style floating hotel.
The Vat Phou Boat: A Floating Hotel
The Vat Phou Boat, named after the Vat Phou ruins, is one of the highlights of the cruise. A former transport ferry that carried trak wood from Vientiane to Southern Laos, the Vat Phou Boat was converted into a luxury floating hotel in 1993. It has two decks with 12 small cabins complete with air-conditioning and hot showers. It is tempting to just relax most of the day in these comfortable cabins that look feel more like hotel rooms but there’s more to love about this boat.
The best part of the Vat Phou Boat is the upper deck, where there are great seating areas for observing the river scene and watching the gorgeous sunsets. This is also a nice spot for guests to unwind after the tour activities, enjoy some drinks and interact with one another. Breakfast and lunch are also served at the upper deck, where guests can take advantage of the view as the boat moved towards the beautiful 4000 Islands region of Laos.
ຂອບໃຈຫລາຍໆ (khàwp ja̖i lãi lãi). In Laos this means “Thanks you very much.” The boat manager, Kevin and the staff on-board were very accommodating and made our stay on the Vat Phou truly memorable. We were always welcomed with a smile and were served refreshing drinks after activities. For the first night, we even had some local cocktails.
For the various tour activities, we had English and French-speaking guides to show us around. Our English-speaking guide, Khan, is from a local village near the Mekong River and has been with the company for over 10 years. He was very friendly and spoke good English so it was easy to understand the details about the different places we visited. Jon and I like to explore attractions on our own (since we take lots of photos and want to take our time) so it was good that our guide always gave us enough time on our own.
The 3 Day Vat Phou Cruise goes 2-3 times per week (depending on the season) with a maximum of 24 guests on board. Our fellow guests were all French so at first we thought it would be difficult to communicate but we had a good group and talked a lot about the places we had all travelled to. We also got quite used to saying French phrases like “Bonjour,” “Bon Apetit” and “Bonne Nuit.”
Laotian, Vietnamese and Thai Dishes on Board
For breakfast, we had a tasty Western platter with eggs, bread, butter, jam, juice and coffee. For other meals during the cruise we had a buffet of some of the best Southeast Asian food. From spring rolls to various coconut curries, every meal was delicious. One of the memorable dishes we had was the steamed fish with coconut cream wrapped in banana leaf – it was so rich in flavour. We also tried the local sticky rice. For dessert, we had local fruits like milk fruit, mangoes and pineapples.
The 3 Day Vat Phou Cruise Activities
There are a lot of activities to do on in the southern part of Laos. During the cruise, we went to some ruins, river islands and waterfalls. Here are the highlights:
Vat Phou Ruins
The majestic Vat Phou Ruins, which pre-date Angkor Wat, will take your breath away. This World Heritage site near Champasak is huge with lots of intricate stone carvings, impressive sculptures and buildings to explore. The Vat Phou ruins are surrounded by mountains and lush jungle. Make sure to go up the 77 steps to the main temple to savor the view of the whole site below.
Uo Moung Ruins
The second day started with a visit to the Ou Moung Ruins, a small pre-Angkor site hidden amongst the trees. Unlike the Vat Phou Ruins, many of the structures in the Uo Moung Ruins remain in their weathered state. It needs a lot of work for its restoration but it’s interesting to see it raw where you can leave most to the imagination.
4000 Islands – Don Det and Don Khon
Scattered across the Mekong River int he Southern part of Laos are the 4000 islands. These islands come in various sizes, some inhabited and some deserted. We transferred to a smaller speed boat to see the shallower parts of the 4000 islands and stopped at an old French rail bridge which connects the islands of Don Det and Don Khon. We also walked along the northern tip of Don Khon Island to look at the old train and the heritage houses which date back to the French colonial era.
Khone Phapheng Waterfalls
Dubbed the Niagara of Southeast Asia, the Khone Phapheng Waterfalls are the largest waterfalls in Southeast Asia. We walked around the various viewpoints and went down one of the stairs to see it up close. It was truly captivating! It was a fitting end to our 3 day cruise on the Mekong River.
Disclaimer: We were hosted by the Mekong Cruises during our 3 Day Vat Phou Cruise on the Mekong River. All thoughts and opinions are our own.
The Vat Phou Cruises
Pakse Office Address:
Nr 108, Road 11 Ban Wat Louang Pakse, Laos
00 856 (0) 31 251 446
Have you been to Laos? Are you interested in the luxury Vat Phou cruise on the Mekong River? Let us know.