One of our travel partners, a man who represents some pretty exotic vacation companies, was recently in Southeast Asia. Here is his report from aboard the Mekong Sun in Laos and the Golden Triangle.
“This product presents Laos to you with no pretentions,” he says. Enjoy and please direct any questions to me at 415.248.5079 or email me.
A voyage aboard the Mekong Sun empowers travelers to share in an exclusive commune with the wild force of the upper Mekong River and the ethnic peoples that call it home. On the stretch through Laos - on its course from the Tibetan Plateau to the South China Sea -- the world's 12th longest river is the "road to the world" for most land-locked villagers referred to as lowlanders, middlelanders, and highlanders depending upon their rural elevation. Many of these easy-going river people don't have electricity yet welcome visitors to share in special celebrations and to observe their everyday cottage industries. Rich in biodiversity, 2nd only to the Amazon, the Mekong is home to many giant fish such as the 660-pound Mekong giant catfish. Its fast flowing waters (low to high levels), tight gorges, labyrinths of sandbanks and violent rapids, and jungle punctuated by aboriginal villages, make the Mekong a fascinating river to cruise and a challenge to navigate.
Built in 2006, the stately 28-passenger Mekong Sun, one of three boutique-style river vessels operated by Mekong River Cruises (a joint German-Laotian venture) on the upper Mekong, offers luxurious rusticity. It is simultaneously very exclusive yet casual. Guests can be intrepid explorers and enjoy indulgent creature comforts too. The vessel has two decks and 14 cabins: 11 that are 130 sq. ft. and three 215 sq. ft cabins, all with floor-to-ceiling glass doors, French or full balconies and incredible river views. The two beds are not attached to the walls so you may configure to your convenience. Amenities include hair dryer, slippers, robe, and very nice toiletries and plenty of hot water in the shower. Teak and mahogany crafted interiors and the attentive and courteous Laotian crew lend a colonial adventure-expedition ambience to the cruise experience. The ship's well trained chef prepares artfully presented meals, a blend of Asian and Continental culinary styles, that are delicious and accented with curry and other exotic spices. And the sous chef creates made-to-order buffet-style breakfasts. Passengers enjoy all meals - and panoramic scenery -- in teak-furnished elegance of the top deck pavilion.
NIGHTTIME ON THE MEKONG
When night falls the Mekong Sun moors and most passengers turn in soon after dinner. Two things keep them up late: the Laotian barbecue and the festival of lights. In preparation for the barbecue the versatile crew fashions a sandbank allee - from ship to bonfire - using just macheted palm fronds strung together with glowing lanterns. Barefooted guests enjoy plenty of imported wine and tasty meats and vegetables from the grill. The party picks up speed when guitars appear and captain and crew entertain with Laotian songs, and it moves into "tribal mode" with drinking and dancing round the bonfire that continues well into the night. Participants agree that it creates an incredible bond of humanity between them. During the festival of lights clusters of passengers team up to launch three-foot tall hot air lanterns that are set aloft - about 12 of them - and glow brilliantly against the pitch black of a Laotian night sky.
OPIUM AND THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE
Those unfamiliar with the darker sides of Eric Clapton and Billie Holiday might be surprised to find these celebrities turn up on a Mekong cruise shore excursion. But the stars' addiction to opium have landed them a spot in the Hall of Opium located in Golden Triangle Park near Chiang Khong, Thailand, the Mekong Sun's last port of call. The region is referred to as the Golden Triangle because it is where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos meet, and it has brought enormous wealth to those trafficking in opium and heroin. The Royal Family of Thailand created this innovative museum to recount the history of opium - including the Opium Wars -- and the impacts of illegal drugs. Two other novelties on the Golden Triangle excursion: the gargantuan Golden Buddha of Sop Ruak and the Doi Tung Royal Orchid Botanical Gardens.
Daily shore excursions are included in the price of the 8-day Luang Prabang-Golden Triangle cruise. Cruise only rates from $1,400 pp for the classic cabin and $3,700 pp for a superior cabin with full balcony depending on the season. Rates are per person, based on double occupancy. A host of optional shore excursions in Luang Prabang include a "Village Life and Trekking Journey" that features kayaking on the Nam Khan River, walks one through the Elephant Park Project (for rescued elephants), and offers first-hand encounters at a Khamu village.
Josh Friedman is a travel agent specializing in luxury travel for small groups and individuals – particularly ultra-luxury cruises, customized vacations and food & wine inspired journeys. Based in San Francisco, and with clients throughout the USA and abroad, his business is focused on 24/7 personalized service to the sophisticated leisure and business traveler and management of study abroad groups. Business services include high-touch reservations, exclusive hotel and airline offers. His relationships with the world's top hotels, cruise lines and local agencies will ensure your successful business or leisure trip.
For more information, to learn about our exclusive benefits, and to book, please contact Josh at 415.248.5079 or 800.553.4777. Associated with Casto, a member of the prestigious Virtuoso Travel network. Be a big fish in our small pond.
Boy on the Mekong
Mekong Sun River Boat