Lotus cruises will offer two upstream itineraries along the Mekong River through Laos. One itinerary is 10 nights, starting in Vientiane and terminating at Chiang Saen. The itinerary can be halved after day 5 with disembarkation/embarkation at Luang Prabang.
The following itinerary is the full 10 nights cruise upstream starting from Vientiane.
Embark for a welcome lunch onboard followed by a relaxed sightseeing experience of French-colonial architecture and Buddhist temples in this former French trading post, now capital of Laos. Vientiane is a peaceful city of tree-lined boulevards, steeped in historic shrines such as the riverside Buddhist temple, Wat Chanthaboury, with its enormous bronze seated Buddha. Hear the legend behind the golden Wat Si Muang Khmer temple, climb the Patuxay monument with its five towers which represent the five Buddhist principles of “consideration, flexibility, honesty, honour and prosperity”, and marvel at the most important Buddhist monument in Laos, the 16th century golden Pha That Luang. If you have the time and interest, explore the COPE Visitor Centre, an informative museum which highlights the ongoing impact from the Vietnam War. All proceeds support innovative projects in Laos.
Enjoy cocktails on the sundeck followed by dinner onboard, showcasing chef’s signature dishes combining local and international flavours as the ship meanders along the Mekong, stopping for the night just outside of Vientiane.
Enjoy a day of cruising on this wide and scenic part of the Mekong River, rich in verdant jungle scenery with small villages scattered along the banks. On arrival at the village of Xanamkhan the ship will moor for overnight while guests relish in sunset cocktails followed by dinner on board.
After another day of stunning riverine scenery the ship stops at Pak Lay, a market town with a history as a French administrative centre. There are many beautiful colonial buildings. Overnight mooring will be close to Pak Lay.
Set off for the quiet village of Ban Mouang to taste authentic Laotian life then guests are introduced to the stark contrast of the controversial run-of-river hydroelectric facility at Xayaburi Dam. Further upstream the ship will moor overnight.
The ship continues its cruise upstream. Guests are taken by minibus to visit the spectacular turquoise waters of Kuang Si Falls where a relaxing picnic lunch is provided. The waterfall has 3 tiers leading to a 50-metre drop into shallow pools, before flowing downstream, with great swimming holes and jungle pools. There’s further opportunity to savour the abundant flora and fauna at the nearby Kuang Si Butterfly Park (closed on Tuesdays). Stroll through the beautiful gardens populated with a colourful variety of butterflies. A relaxing evening on board the ship is welcome after a busy day of exploration. The ship moors overnight just beyond the access to the waterfall.
Just a short sail to Luang Prabang allows plenty of time to discover the myriad of architectural, religious and cultural wonders of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Luang Prabang encompasses a multitude of Buddhist temples and royal palaces and travelling by tuktuk ensures you have the opportunity to visit all the highlights. Visit the Royal Palace Museum built in 1904 with French colonial and traditional Lao architectural influence to learn about Lao history and its royal family. Another highlight is the richly decorated former royal temple, Wat Xieng Thong with its elaborate mosaic patterns and wall carvings dating back to 1560. Local craftwork produced offers a colourful array of scarves, art work, ceramics and even more on market days. As the sun sets, climb 100 metres up Phu Si, crowned by an enormous gilded stupa called That Chomsi for a beautiful evening view over the city. Dinner will be taken onboard.
An early start is recommended to participate in the alms offering as monks invite everyone to join in. A longstanding tradition in Laos Buddhist culture, it takes place daily as the sun rises, beginning on the main street of Luang Prabang before spreading throughout the quieter back streets. Return to the ship for a well-earned breakfast then enjoy the rest of the day at leisure further exploring Luang Prabang’s historic treasures. Dinner will be taken onboard.
After a short sail, guests disembark at the charming village of Ban Xang Hay nestled on the riverbank. Famed for its rice whiskey distillation, guests are invited to watch how lao-lao is produced and bravely sample this local potent tipple. The ship sails a further 6 kilometres to the historic Pak Ou Caves overlooking the west bank of the Mekong. These are two caves set in spectacular limestone cliffs and are overflowing with hundreds of Buddha statues. The lower cave is called Tham Ting and upper cave Tham Theung. Both serve as shrines to the river spirit and Lord Buddha and the upper cave is a worthwhile five-minute climb. As the ship continues to sail a little further upstream, the rest of the day is free to enjoy the facilities on board.
The cruise continues through rural scenery, past small riverine villages, arriving near the sleepy and charming village of Pak Beng for an overnight stay.
Enjoy a leisurely stroll exploring Pak Beng and surrounding villages before continuing on the ship, sailing to the border village of Huay Xai where the river divides Laos and Thailand. The ship will stay on the Lao side for this final night.
The ship sets sails for Chiang Saen. Disembarkation will be mid-morning. Guests crossing into Thailand will need to complete immigration requirements which can take up to an hour.