Vang Vieng, Lao PDR

Fun Activities Around the Mekong

Cai Rang Floating Market, Viet Nam. Image courtesy of Hugh Derr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Download link

The best activities in the Mekong Subregion take place right alongside the river – and in many cases, on it. Check out the following activities that use the Mekong River as a backdrop for fun, adventure and culture.

View the rapids at at Si Phan Don, Lao PDR

Landlocked Lao PDR has “four thousand islands” ready for visitors, but they’re set in the Mekong, not in the sea. Si Phan Don, an archipelago of islands in Southern Laos, is a backpacker hotspot, full of laid-back country activities and compelling natural wonders like the rampaging Khone Phapheng Waterfalls on the Mekong.

With an average width of 10,783 meters (35,376 feet), the Khone Phapheng Falls is the widest waterfall in the world, with an average flow rate of 11,610 cubic meters per second. These waterfalls effectively cut the Mekong in half, preventing boats from passing through.

Kayak with dolphins at Kratie, Cambodia

Mekong River Dolphins can be found in a 190-km part of the river between the Cambodian province of Kratie and the Lao border.

Go to the riverside town of Kampi in Kratie to see the gentle cetaceans in action. Visitors can kayak on the Mekong, the better to see the dolphins in their natural habitat. Most tourists prefer to ride the boats that go on the river to spot the dolphins at play. The best viewing times are in the morning and late afternoon, though to avoid the crowds head there before 8 am.

Shop at the Viet Nam Mekong Delta’s floating markets

Viet Nam’s Mekong Delta grows rice for the rest of the country, while cultivating a water-borne way of life that’s unique to the area. This is most apparent in the area’s floating markets.

The most popular one, the Cai Rang Floating Market near Can Tho, features large boats arranged in rows, their customers navigating the lanes in between. The boats hang their merchandise on high masts, so buyers know what to expect before they cruise up.

To see the market at its busiest and most authentic, come before 9am. Don’t just buy souvenirs, try local food favorites like “broken rice” and pho from floating vendors.

Enjoy a riverside small-town experience at Chiang Khan, Thailand

The laid-back town of Chiang Khan on the Mekong River is a great launchpad to explore the rest of Loei province from, but you don’t really have to go far to have a good time. You can cruise on the Mekong itself from a boat wharf on Chiang Khan; a river cruise is the best place to watch the sun set over Loei.

On Chai Khong Road, close to the wharf, visitors can explore the night market that pops up alongside the town’s ancient teak houses from Soi 5 to Soi 20. The market opens at 5pm, and offers a wide variety of local products and foods. Chomp on delicacies like khaow chee (grilled sticky rice) and mieng kham (savory leaf wraps) as you walk about.

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