With an estimated length of 4,350 km, Mekong River is the world’s 12th longest river that traverses from China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and exits in Vietnam. Just let that sink in for 5 minutes.
Then I remember my history teacher back in high school talking about the significance of Mekong River to the community surrounding it. The diverse population living along its shores relying from it for food and livelihood.
And the thought of visiting a place that was once discussed in school is always an exciting thing, at least for me! 😊 So when I got the chance last March, we did visit the mighty Mekong river!
Border Crossing : Chiang Khong, Thailand to Houayxay, Laos via Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge No. 4
After witnessing the best sunrise spot in Thailand, Mt. Phu Chi Fa, we headed straight to the border in Chiang Khong, a district in the northeastern part of Chiang Rai Province, northern Thailand. We went through the immigration control and secured our exit stamps then paid 20 baht for the 10-minute bus ride going to Laos border on the other side through the 4th Thailand-Laos friendship bridge. I saw the Mekong River for the first time and it was huge and brownish but not really that spectacular. Upon arriving on the other side, we passed through the same logistics and got our entry stamp to Laos! Lots of tuk-tuk are waiting outside offering a ride to town. We hired one and paid 50000 kip for 2 people. It was way over the regular price but our haggling skills wasn’t effective that time so. We arrived in town around lunch time.
Where to stay in Houayxay, Laos?
We stayed in Oudomphone 2 Guesthouse as it was centrally located with restaurants and tourist agencies nearby. Our room was basic but spacious with twin beds and own bathroom. No free breakfast though but there’s a restaurant downstairs and the food was affordable as well. We just paid Php 987 for a night for 2 people.
HOWEVER, please don’t buy bus tickets from them or any transportation tickets regardless where you are going. The lady sold us Chiang Mai bus tickets for 500 baht each. It was really expensive but we thought it’s normal. During our search for some ref magnets, we happened to asked the vendor of the store if they sell bus tickets too. She told us the normal price to Chiang Mai would be 370 baht per person. Like FML!!! IT WAS A TOTAL RIPPED OFF! Grrr I really hate it when people milk cash from me.
Kayaking in the Mighty Mekong River
What to do in Houayxay, Laos? I asked that question in TripAdvisor and saw this tour operator that offers Kayaking Trip in Mekong River and boy it’s highly recommended by the people with 5-star rating and positive feedback. Of course, I took the bait! I reached out to them through their Facebook page and someone named MJ was patiently responding to all my queries.
When I finally met him in their office near the Mekong river, I was shocked to know that we were their only guest on that day. I thought lots of people are interested. T_T I really need to work on my expectations! And the worst part of it all? My friend Beth backed out because she got scared when she saw how strong the current was. 😭 So yeah. It was only me and MJ, dating. I mean kayaking in the Mekong river. Hahaha.
Before it all began, I really thought it would be just a chill kayaking session. Like just paddling back and forth near the shore. So when we arrived 25 kilometers north from the town MJ said, “From here, we’ll kayak back to the office.. bla bla bla”. I got scared because first of all, I was alone! Second of all, what if a crocodile or some scary creature shows up, or the current will go wild and crazy and we won’t be able to keep up! Only God knows how deep this river could be. What was I thinking anyway? But we were there and I already paid 60 USD for this shit. 😭
Finding Gold in Mekong River
While my guide MJ was setting up everything, I checked up on the water and damn it was sooo cold even if the sun was scorching hot!!! And then I saw some glitters sparkling my eyes went wide! MJ said that those glitters are gold particles that may have been washed out from the gold mine in the upstream part of the riverbank. In fact, some locals do gold-panning in the shallow part of the river on their free time! It was amazing! (watch the video below to see!)
After paddling for some time, MJ told me to swim. While I was nervous and really feared for my life, I jumped in the middle of Mekong River with so much hesitation only to feel extremely cold and uncomfortable. The life jacket I’m wearing hindered me to move freely so I asked him if it’s okay to take it off but he strictly said no. 🙁 I understand, so I just went back to our canoe. My body was shocked with the water temperature. I was really shivering. But the view along the way was fascinating, facing two countries at the same time. ❤ It took us around 2 hours before we arrived back in their office, just few meters along the Mekong River. We were fast actually because of the strong current. Sometimes, we just need to go with the flow and see where the current will lead us. 🙈😂
It was an exhilarating experience! But I should have just taken the cruise you know! Haha. Next time! 😉
Strolling the streets of Houayxay, Laos
After kayaking around 25 kilometers of Mekong River, MJ invited us out for dinner and brought us to some beautiful sights within the neighborhood. We had a short stop on this Buddhist temple called Wat Chomkao Manilat on top of a hill and climbed a good amount of steps enough to gasped for air! We saw the beautiful sunset overlooking the Mekong river and Thailand across. It was so dramatic and emotional. 🌅
We had our dinner on this local street food place(alfresco setting) just beside the Mekong river where food carts, tables and chairs were put up by the locals. I told MJ if we could dine the local way so yeah we end up here. He ordered some barbecue which was my favorite! And some pad thais and I forgot the names of the other food haha. One thing’s for sure, I hate eating the green leaves! Its smell is just asdsfdgfgfhl. I cannot.
What I learned from my short visit in Laos?
We watch the sunset over the temple on the hill ❤🇱🇦 . . . . . . . #laos #laagankaayo #beautifuldestinations #wonderful_places #bestintravel #lonelyplanet #passionpassport #tlpicks #natgeotravel #naturephotography #mekongriver #silhouette #landscapephotography #huaweip9 #sunset #southeastasia #neverstopexploring #welivetoexplore #travelblog #wanderlust #jetsetter #globetrotter #sharetravelpics #photooftheday #gettingstamped #seetheworld #landscape #instatravel
MJ was a nice lad and very talkative. He spoke about how hard life is for the Lao people especially in this little town of Houayxay where they receive less support from their Government. That’s why most of the local kids here don’t go to school and start working as early as age 15 to support their family. Some locals, being uneducated, sold their lands to Chinese businessmen for a small amount thinking it will already make them rich but end up working for the same Chinese on the land they once owned.
Most of these lands are planted with genetically modified bananas which will be exported to China to support its high demand. But he was proud of their huge sapphire mining industry in the area which is one of the world’s greatest source of the said gemstone. He was really encouraging us to buy! 😂
MJ also mentioned that he can relate to our very own war on drugs here in the Philippines because drugs are also rampant in Laos especially in Golden Triangle where Asia’s biggest producer of opium is located.😣 But on the brighter side, MJ admires Manny Pacquiao! He said he is proud of Manny because he represents South East Asia in the world of Boxing! 💪
Watch the video below in HD FULL SCREEN for some action!