Boats on the Mekong River

The Ultimate Mekong Experience

Countries: CambodiaThailandMyanmarVietnamLaos

27 Days | $8,950

The Mekong River has been the lifeblood of Southeast Asia for millennia. In this exclusive Signature Tour from Journeys Within, guests will be escorted down this amazing river from Yunnan Province, China to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. When originally offered back in 2005, the destinations visited along the route were truly off the beaten path of most Western travelers. In the years since, many of these cities and towns have become important cultural and economic centers that still retain the charm they have always had.

Guests will explore the highlights of Southern China, Myanmar/Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, all the while witnessing authentic rituals of daily life as it happens on the river. With Western tour leaders as well as English-speaking local guides, no question will go unanswered and the beauty, history and activities of the people and places will come alive.

From traditional villages to bustling capitals, from ancient temples to modern palaces, pass through or along the borders of six countries on everything from a 34-foot cruise boat to a local long-tail boat. The only tour of its kind, the Journeys Within Ultimate Mekong Experience is an exploration into culture, tradition and history, all with the comfort and safety of the preeminent Southeast Asia experts on the planet. We are proud to reoffer this epic journey and invite you to come and experience the Mekong.

View of the Mekong River

February 4, 2019  Arrival Jinghong, China

Start your Mekong experience celebrating Chinese New Year in Jinghong, China – a melting pot of regional cultures near the borders of Myanmar and Laos. Whenever you fly in, you will be met by a Journeys Within representative and taken to your hotel. If you get in late head for bed otherwise you might like to relax by the pool, catch up on your sleep and recover from jet lag or head into Jinghong to experience the fun of Chinese New Year.

Meals included: Dinner

Overnight at Crown Hotel – Deluxe Room

Feb. 5   Chinese New Year in Jinghong

We will start the day at a leisurely pace. In the morning we will explore Jinghong and after lunch in town we will take a short bike ride thru town and on to the Tropical Flower and Plant Garden where we will spend the afternoon. Here we can walk thru the plants that make up the local tropical forests and enjoy the peace and tranquility of these beautiful gardens. On the way home we’ll stop at a local supermarket to see what is for sale and to buy some snacks for the boat trip tomorrow.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Crown Hotel – Deluxe room

Feb. 6   Jinghong: Sunday Market

We set off with our guide to visit the Sunday Market in Menghun. Well known because it is a blaze of color due to the amazing variety of head gear, leggings and locally woven materials worn by the visiting ethnic minorities. This market is a wonderful introduction to the local cultures. We will continue on to visit a pagoda set high above the town giving a commanding view of the area before stopping for lunch. Relax back at the hotel before joining us for dinner at a local traditional hot pot restaurant.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Overnight at Crown Hotel – Deluxe Room

Feb. 7   Jinghong to Chiang Rai, Thailand

After an early start we board a local passenger boat and head down the Mekong thru the spectacular gorges with mountain-sides covered in bamboo forests. The river is stunning in the early part of the trip and later wends along the border with Myanmar and, at first, China and then Laos. We will pass Chinese Cargo boats, and rocky out-crops as large as cargo boats, navigate minor rapids and wind and twist to avoid sand banks and shallows. After lunch on board we will reach the famed Golden Triangle where Myanmar, Thailand and Laos come together and arrive at Chiang Saen, Thailand late-afternoon where you will be transferred to our hotel.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at The Imperial Golden Triangle Resort – Deluxe Room

Feb. 8   Chiang Rai: Golden Triangle

Your guide will meet you in the morning and take you to visit the Mae Sa Border where you can cross over into Burma and take a rickshaw ride through the local village, visiting the local market. Return to Thailand for lunch and in the afternoon visit the Queens Opium Museum, a fascinating look at the history and culture of the opium trade in the Golden Triangle before heading to the famous Golden Triangle where you can see the borders of Burma, Thailand and Laos all come together. Return to your hotel in the late afternoon.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at The Imperial Golden Triangle Resort – Deluxe Room

Mekong River

Feb. 9   Chiang Rai: Biking The Mighty Mekong

This morning, we’ll venture out to nearby town and begin cycling one of the nicest roads in the north. This route along the Mekong provides scenery of village life, as well as the wide bends and cool air of the river. Cycling is mostly flat, with a few manageable hills.

We’ll have a lunch of local delicacies under the shade overlooking the Mekong River. Before returning to the hotel, we can pop by the ancient capital of Chiang Saen Ruins, once the center of power of the mighty Lanna Kingdom beginning some 1,400 years ago, and Chiang Sean Lake, a nature reserve and a favorite for bird watchers.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at The Imperial Golden Triangle Resort – Deluxe Room

Feb. 10   Huay Xai to Pakbeng by Private Riverboat

You will be met by your guide at your hotel and taken to the Mekong, where you will say good bye to Thailand before crossing to the Laos Immigration point at Huay Xay. We advise you to get to the border by 8.00am to give you lots of time to pass through immigration, especially if obtaining a visa on arrival. Your Thai guide will not be able to pass through immigration with you, but your Journeys Within Lao guide will be ready to meet you at the bridge as you come through the immigration. Once you are into Laos you will take a 20 minute ride along the Mekong River to reach the boat pier where your private longtail boat awaits. Enjoy in this little bit of luxury for your seven hour journey downstream to the river town of Pakbeng.  Lounge in comfort as you coast down the Mekong River, observing local riverside life and the lush tropical landscape. Along the way if time permit you will have chance to visit a local village before feasting on some traditional Lao dishes prepared for you right on the boat. You will arrive to Pakbeng and  check-in to Sanctuary Pakbeng Lodge in the late afternoon. Dine on the beautiful terraced dining area overlooking the Mekong as the sun disappears over the horizon.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Overnight at Sanctuary Pakbeng Lodge

Feb. 11   Pakbeng to Luang Prabang by Private Riverboat

Wake up early in the morning. Take a small boat cross the Mekong river to feed & bath elephants at the Mekong elephant camp. Then return the hotel for breakfast. After breakfast, the boat will leave Pakbeng for the second day of your river cruise downstream to Luang Prabang. En-route you will stop and visit a local village to observe rural riverside life. As a part of your fee to the village you will provide some donated materials such as pens, pencils & books to the local school. Afterwards, lunch will be served on board as you drift through the Lao countryside. Continue on to the famous Pak Ou Caves where there are two caves ‘Tham Ting’ and ‘ThamPhoum’, home to thousands of different Buddha images.

Arrive into Luang Prabang just before sunset. You will be met by your private van and driving to the main part of town for a quick orientation tour. Your guide will give you an introduction to the city, showing you the main roads, some restaurants and the night market area, before dropping you off at your hotel to check in for the evening.

After your arrival in Luang Prabang, you’ll be picked up from the boat pier and driven to the main part of town for a quick orientation tour. Your guide will give you an introduction to the city, showing you the main roads, some restaurants and the night market area, before dropping you off at your hotel to check in.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel – Superior River View Room

Mekong River Fishermen

Feb. 12   Luang Prabang: Morning City Tour

In the morning, your guide will take you on a tour of the city which will include visits to The National Museum, Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Sen, Wat Visun and Wat Aham. Your guide will take you to have lunch at the Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Center located on the Mekong River surrounded by a garden and artisans on the outskirts of town. Afterwards enjoy a free afternoon taking in the laid back vibe of Luang Prabang.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel – Superior River View Room

Feb. 13   Luang Prabang: Mandalao’s A Day of Sharing

This morning, you will be met at your hotel by a Mandalao Elephant Sanctuary representative between 8:00-8:30am and transferred 30 minutes outside of Luang Prabang. Upon arrival to the Mandalao Elephant Sanctuary, you will be greeted by the camp manager and given an in-depth introduction into the sanctuary and its conservation efforts. You will then take quick boat trip across the Nam Khan River to meet some of the sanctuary’s rescued elephants. You will further learn about the relationship of the elephants to their mahouts and observe their behaviors and ways of communication. Then grab a bucket and help the mahout give the elephant their morning bath. After the bath you will head off with the elephants to trek through the local farms and jungle along the Huay Nok spring. Your tour today will ensure you have both the time and proximity to deeply connect and interact with your own elephant. After your walk with your new companion, stop to enjoy a traditional Lao lunch in the jungle. Walk off your lunch to find a seldom-seen hidden gem of a waterfall, where you can wade, meditate, or stand under its softly flowing showers. You will end this full and deeply satisfying day by escorting your friends to their feeding grounds before biding them farewell and returning back to the main camp. You will be transferred back to your hotel by approximately 4pm.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel – Superior River View Room

Feb. 14   Vientiane: Arrival

You will be transferred to the Luang Prabang airport in time for your flight – Laos Airlines QV102 departing from Luang Prabang at 13:05 & arriving in Vientiane at 13:50.

Upon arriving to the capital of Laos, Vientiane, you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel. Enjoy your day of leisure with a walk along the Mekong River at the Chao Anouvong Park or explore the shops and restaurants spots in the quaint town centre.

Meals included: Breakfast

Overnight at Ansara Hotel – Savvy Room

Feb. 15   Vientiane: City Tour

After breakfast, meet your guide who will take you to Thong Kham Kam Market.  Here you will witness how the locals do their early morning food shopping in this large market. Perhaps you will feel courageous enough to try some real local foods.  Afterwards you will visit the weaving center of Carol Cassidy. Carol Cassidy, founder and owner of Lao Textiles has been working with Lao weavers since 1989.  The center is home to the creation of her internationally revered textiles. The shop’s staff, or Carol herself, will be available to inform you on this art form and the importance of it to Lao women. Afterwards enjoy lunch at Makphet Restaurant, who trains homeless youth to wait tables and cook.  Here you can also pick up a couple of last minute gifts for loved ones at their shop that sells handmade handicrafts from underprivileged families. Afterwards stop by the COPE center to learn about how they are helping the disadvantaged in Laos.

Then you will take a tour of the main temples and sites of the city including Haw Pha Kaeo, Wat Si Saket, Pha That Luang, Patuxai and Si Muang. You will be dropped off at your hotel in the afternoon. In the evening you will be picked up and transfer to have dinner at a local restaurant overlooking the Mekong river.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Overnight at Ansara Hotel – Savvy Room

Mekong River Town

Feb. 16   Vientiane: Pakse

After breakfast at the hotel, you will be transferred the airport for your flight to Pakse – Laos Airlines QV515 departing from Vientiane at 07:10 & arriving in Pakse at 09:05, Upon arrival Pakse, you will be met your guide & driver, first visit Wat Loung temple; Daohouang market before lunch at local restaurant and transfer to Ban Moung take boat to Dondeang for check in at La Flolie Lodge and take bicycle see around Dondeang.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at La Folie Lodge – Superior Room

Feb. 17   Pakse: Khong Island

After breakfast at the hotel, take a long tail boat to Champasak and visit Watphou temple by Songtheo, lunch at champasak at 1:30pm. Continue by long trail boat from Champasak to Donkhong for 4h30 will be at Donkhong at 5:00pm for check in hotel Pon Arena hotel, dinner at Local restaurant.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Overnight at Pon’s Arena Hotel – Deluxe Room

Feb. 18   Sala Don Khone Island

Set off from the hotel early ready for a morning on the river. Take a longtail boat through the 4000 islands for about an hour until you reach the island of Don Det. After a safety briefing on the shore of the island, paddle down to the Old Bridge on Don Khone where you will get off the water and travel by land to the southern point of the island to see the Lipphi Falls. Jump back into the kayaks again and start moving downstream towards the Cambodian border where you will visit the Dolphin Pool in Preah Rumkel. From Veun Kham you will travel by bus to go see Khon Pha Peng, “the Niagra of the East” before returning to Don Khong in the afternoon.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Sala Don Khone – Ban Lao Room

Feb. 19   Khong Island to Kratie

After breakfast, you will take the boat to cross the Mekong river to Nakasang boat pier. From here you will take a private bus to visit Khonephapheng waterfalls. After visited continue your journeys to Cambodia border to meet with your Cambodian guide (approximately about 11 am).

After checking out of Laos we cross the river to check into Cambodia before boarding a boat with our new Cambodian guide. Down river we stop at Stung Treng for lunch.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Rajabori Villas – Deluxe Room

Feb. 20   Kratie: Boat ride to see Dolphins and Drive to Siem Reap

Back on board we continue down stream to Kratie possibly seeing the dolphins before drive you to Siem Reap. This journey will take about 7 hours depending on the traffic and will take you through countless Cambodian villages and rice fields. Arrive in Siem Reap and check into your hotel.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Mulberry Boutique Hotel – Balcony Suite

Feb. 21   Siem Reap: Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom

Wake up early and head to Angkor Wat for sunrise and a morning tour of the temple before the crowds arrive. Mid-morning head back to your hotel for breakfast before relaxing in the garden, by the pool, or in your own room through the heat of the day.

In the early afternoon head to Angkor Thom, the famous walled city and see the many temples within its borders, including the fascinating Bayon temple with its many magnificent faces smiling out. There are several beautiful spots from which to watch the sunset. Discuss with your guide where you would like to be and then relax and enjoy a memorable end to your day at the temples.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Mulberry Boutique Hotel – Balcony Suite

Feb. 22   Siem Reap: Banteay Srei, Other Temples and Visit JWOC

This morning set off with your guide to Banteay Srei, the intricately carved temple located just 30km beyond Angkor Wat. As you head back towards town you can stop at Banteay Kdei and Ta Prohm, two of the prettiest temples in the complex, where you can enjoy climbing through these smaller unique temples. Return to your hotel for lunch, or have your guide help you find a good place to eat in town. Remember to take a look at our Cheat Sheet which lists a number of our favorite restaurant recommendations!

Come and spend an hour in JWOC’s Community Library where you’ll get to meet some of the children from the surrounding communities. Between 3pm and 4pm you can help the younger children complete a puzzle, engage in some arts and crafts, or perhaps enjoy constructing a castle from the building blocks, while helping them practice their basic English. Or if you prefer something quieter, there’s always someone looking for story time. You will also have a chance to meet with our scholarship students and gain a greater understanding about the work we do within our community.

Please note: You should arrive at 2:30pm so you can get an overview of JWOC before jumping in to help!

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at Mulberry Boutique Hotel – Balcony Suite

Feb. 23   Siem Reap to Phnom Penh by Boat

Catch an early morning boat to Phnom Penh. In the five hour journey you’ll pass floating villages, flooded forests and interesting bird and shore life and you should arrive in Phnom Penh around 1pm.

Please note: This journey can take up to 8 hours depending on the water levels.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at White Mansion Boutique Hotel – Deluxe Room

Feb. 24   Phnom Penh: City Tour of the Palace and Killing Fields

Take a tour of the Royal Palace this morning which, to this day, is still the royal residence. See the amazing royal collection and the beautiful architecture before heading to the National Museum. You will be met and taken around by a trained museum guide who will show you some wonderful pre-Angkorean pieces as well as a number of special pieces from the temples. You will also visit the White Building which was built in 1963 and the Post Office which is one of the oldest buildings of the French colonial era. After your cultural morning, enjoy lunch at Friends, a restaurant benefiting at-risk street children.

In the afternoon, head to the Tuol Sleng Prison Museum where your guide will explain the history of the Khmer Rouge and walk you through the different museum displays. After watching the introductory movie, continue on to the Choeung Ek Memorial, the site of one of the country’s many killing fields. At the entrance you will find a memorial stupa and shallow pits reminding visitors of the thousands killed under the Pol Pot Regime. There is an excellent audio headset on site which includes firsthand survivor stories, accounts from guards, traditional music, as well as a guided tour of the site. We recommend using this thoughtful and well-produced audio tour as most visitors to the Choeung Ek Memorial use the personalized headset tours, leaving the somber grounds quiet allowing for introspection. Your JW guide will be on hand if you would prefer to explore the site with them or have any additional questions after you have completed your audio tour. You will be transferred back to your hotel late afternoon.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at White Mansion Boutique Hotel – Deluxe Room

Mekong River paddlers

Feb. 25   Mekong: Chau Doc to Can Tho on Le Cochinchine Cruise Day 1

Have the morning free and then transfer to the dock to catch your 1pm boat down the Mekong to Chau Doc. Along the way watch as the pace of life on the river changes from the occasional, peaceful Cambodian fisherman to the busy commercial comings and goings of Vietnamese traders. You will be met on arrival by your guide for check in to your Mekong Cruise.

Board Le Cochinchine at around 5:30pm where you will be greeted by your cruise team with a welcome drink and cruise briefing before checking in to your cabin(s). Once settled the cruise will depart for Long Xuyen. This evening you will relax and enjoy dinner on board.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Overnight at Le Cochinchine Cruise

Feb. 26   Mekong: Chau Doc to Can Tho on Le Cochinchine Cruise Day 2

Wake up to the sounds of the Mekong river as you breakfast on board.

A smaller tender boat will transfer you from your main boat to visit the Long Xuyen floating villages and Ong Ho island (Cu Lao Ong Ho – Museum of the 2nd President of the Vietnam). For a different perspective of the Mekong you will then switch over to a fun bike ride along the countryside footpaths and through the hamlets around Ong Ho island to discover tropical fruit orchards and local life.

Take a break for lunch back on board as you continue on down the river, no longer sleepy but buzzing with commercial vehicles, fishing boats and cargo boats, big and small, as we cruise towards Can Tho. Further village stops en route this afternoon will give you more wonderful insights into local Mekong Delta life.

Reflect on your day as you relax and watch the sunset followed by dinner while the boat anchors at a peaceful spot for the night.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Overnight at Le Cochinchine Cruise

Feb. 27   Mekong: Chau Doc to Can Tho on Le Cochinchine Cruise Day 3

Sunrise is a magical time along the Bassac River.  Early risers and photographers may choose to enjoy the sunrise views whilst cruising towards Can Tho first thing this morning. Depart Le Cochinchine to visit Cai Rang floating market. Watch the poles on the boats to see what the traders are selling today.

Over the day we will make our way down through the Mekong Delta to toast our arrival at the East Sea, before heading back up river to Saigon.

You will be met at the pier as you disembark for your private transfer to your hotel.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at The Reverie Saigon – Deluxe Room

Feb. 28   Saigon: City Tour

Our guides are the experts so we leave you in their capable hands to discuss and decide what you want to see and do with your day. There are some great markets if you are in the mood to shop or you can visit some of the museums like the History Museum, or some pagodas, like Thien Hau Lady Goddess Pagoda and Jade Emperor Pagoda. If you are interested in the history of the Vietnam War, then we recommend that you take the time to visit the Reunification Palace, and the War Remnants Museum. The Vietnamese Traditional Medicine Museum gives another insight into Vietnamese culture. Chat with your guide and decide what suits you!

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight at The Reverie Saigon – Deluxe Room

March 1, 2019   Saigon: Cao Dai, Cu Chi and Dinner with Veteran

Today is an 8am start. Leaving Saigon behind and heading northwest in to Tay Ninh province you will find the Cao Dai Great Temple (approx. 3hrs). Along the way if you wish you can stop for a short break to stretch your legs and meet Kim Phuc’s family (The Girl in the Picture). Later at the temple you will see where Cao Daism is practiced and witness the midday mass. Cao Daism is a unique religion worshiping Jesus, Confucius and Buddha! Have lunch at a local restaurant in Tay Ninh. After lunch you will be driven back in a southeasterly direction to arrive at the Cu Chi tunnels (approx. 90mins).

Guerilla fighters constructed this amazing underground base and village network during the French Resistance and later strategically used these again during the Vietnam War. You will have the opportunity to experience the tunnels firsthand and crawl through a short section of the network or you can choose to listen to your guide’s story from above ground.

Finally, to end your trip, you will be taken to the private home of a war veteran of the Vietnamese American war. Here you will have the opportunity to meet and chat with him and his family whilst enjoying a delicious home cooked dinner before heading back to Saigon (approx. 90mins).

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Overnight at The Reverie Saigon – Deluxe Room

March 2   Saigon: Departure

You will be picked up at your hotel and taken to the airport for your onward flight – .

Meals included: Breakfast

PLEASE NOTE: This itinerary is currently in progress and does not reflect hotel room availability. The pricing is not final until the itinerary has been confirmed and booked.

Cost: With at least 13 travelers – $ 8,950 per person sharing a Twin/Double

Price includes:

  • Air tickets Luang Prabang – Vientiane – Pakse
  • Boat tickets as specified above
  • Accommodation as specified above
  • Air-conditioned car/van with driver
  • Licensed English speaking guides
  • Tours and admission fees as mentioned above
  • Meals as specified in itinerary, including water

Price excludes:

  • Personal expenses
  • Visa fees
  • Drinks (except water) and meals not mentioned in itinerary
  • Tips
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