The Mekong is Southeast Asia’s longest and most prominent river, originating in China’s Tibetan plateau and flowing 4,350 km (2,700 mi) downstream through five more nations before joining the sea. Roughly half the entire span of this mystifying waterway (2,000 km) winds through and traverses the entire length of the country of Laos, from the Golden Triangle in the northwestern corner to the “Four Thousand Islands” at the southern tip.
As the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, all Laotians depend on the Mekong not just as a vital source for fishing and farming along the river’s fertile banks, but also as a major artery for domestic transportation and trade. The Laotian slow boat is the region’s most common mode of transport, often laden with passengers alongside livestock and cargo. In addition to owning the longest expanse of the river, Laos has also been blessed with some of the Mekong’s most pristine and dramatic sceneries.
Beginning with the crags and rolling green foothills of the north, surprises lie around every bend of the river. A charming riverside village can be spotted every so often, nestled between jungle-clad hills and accessible only by water. Residents of these tiny settlements belong to one of Laos’s 49 ethnic minorities (namely the Khmu and Hmong) and lead relatively simple lifestyles, specializing in handicrafts and bartering with nearby villages rather than using the national currency.
As the enchanting Mekong meanders throughout the serene countryside, it reveals its charms and hidden treasures for those fortunate enough to explore this rather unknown part of Laos. Although located in one of the most isolated regions of Southeast Asia, life is teeming all along its banks.
Glimpses into everyday Laotian life are plentiful as novice monks in their saffron robes take an early morning plunge into the Mekong, fishermen cast their nets into the deep, and children beam with joy as they wave enthusiastically at passing slow boats.
Embark on an unhurried voyage along the timeless upper Mekong and experience its captivating landscapes, remote native communities and unique cultural insights. Launching in August 2021, Heritage Line Anouvong will be Laos’s first boutique cruise vessel with luxury accommodations on board (8 staterooms and 2 suites).