On the Mekong in Laos: Photo Essay

We were introduced to Laos by cruising down the Mekong River on a slow boat. Our 150 km journey started in northern Laos at Huay Xai, ending 2 days later in the middle of the country at Luang Prabang.

The Mekong is very long; starting in China it meanders down through Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is the 12th longest river in the world and the 2nd highest in aquatic biodiversity.

In Laos, it’s one of the biggest attractions and an important resource for many people, especially those living along the banks of it.

The background was picturesque, formed by endless jungles and different tones of mountain colors fading in the fog. It seemed untouched and peaceful. We spotted small villages here and there, but not many. We were fortunate to stop and visit two of them.

Most Laotians are Buddhist and being a monk is an honor for their family. It also guarantees their education.

Many women from the villages make scarves. She informed me it would take her almost two days to make just one!

The second village produced rice whiskey.

The picture above shows the last step in the Lao whiskey being made. They process it by soaking rice in water overnight, after which it is steamed, rinsed with clean water, then mixed with rice flour and the leaves from a local tree. This mixture is placed in a large container and left to ferment for about ten days. Finally, the mixture is boiled in a large pot over fire where the steam rises and is caught on the underside of the pot’s lid. As it condenses and cools, the liquid drips out of a spout and into a waiting bottle.

We sampled a little, nothing like rice whiskey in the morning! It was a lot smoother than I was expecting. Tasted like a stronger version of sake, leaving a warm sensation on the way down.

Rice Fields

Apart from fishing, drinking and washing, the Laotians use this river for agriculture and transportation. They travel along the river by boat carrying goods from city to city for trade.

Most boats from the river look like the one above: long and skinny. There were other smaller speed boats that could hold fewer passengers. I imagine those are for locals that are looking to travel short distances faster. (we were told to avoid these speedboats as they can be very dangerous)

Sacred Buddhist caves along the river.

Near the end of our trip we spotted some elephants, our first time seeing them outside of a zoo!

Many people in Laos live a simple life, nobody seems to be in a hurry or concerned. They are devoted to their monks and Buddhist ceremonies. They seemed conservative and shy, although they certainly will return a smile!

Have you ever been in the Mekong? How was your experience?


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