Snapshot From: A Mekong River Longtail Boat

The longtail boat motor chugs away noisy, yet the boat gracefully glides across the mighty Mekong River in northern Cambodia. Cutting through the glassy surface like a hot knife through butter. Our driver cautiously navigates the countless rocks and trees poking out of the water. We’re coming towards the end of the dry season, so the water level is really shallow in some parts. From the edge of the boat I can occasionally see the bottom, and the obstacles on route pop up out of nowhere, with just enough frequency to make sure the boat driver stays alert.

Aside from the motor it’s very quiet along the river. Every time the driver slows down to navigate a rough patch the roaring motor quietens down and you remember just how peaceful it is out here. Nobody out here except the birds circling above, making their way to and from the wetlands.


Mekong River Longtail Boat


Swirling whirlpools form around the rocky river bed. They twist and turn the boat as we approach them slowly. They’re only minor, but I’d hate to see them in the peak of the rainy season when the river flows full and fast. We continue on past them and then into another shallow section near one of the many islands that spring up along the Mekong.

Just when we’re about to come out of the shallow section we stop with a sudden halt and all of us lunge forward. We look over the edge of the boat and see that we’ve hit a big sandbank bang on in the middle of the river. We’re jammed up on the bank, so the only way out is to hop over the edge and push the boat.


“The sky dances between splashes of yellow, purple and orange before finally settling on a light pink haze that covers the sky”


The cool water feels very refreshing on my feet and I’m half tempted to jump in fully clothed. It wouldn’t matter, it’s so hot out that I’m going to dry quick anyway. The boat slowly moves itself off the bank, and just before I jump back in a splash myself down. We take off a bit faster now, and the feeling of the water on my face cools me down as it dries almost instantaneously.

The trip from the Laos border back to Stung Treng is about 4 hours, and the whole way I’m in awe of the natural beauty along the river. It’s truly stunning, especially towards the end of the trip as the sun starts to slowly set above the horizon of large trees. The sky dances between splashes of yellow, purple and orange before finally settling on a light pink haze that covers the sky and hangs on right up into our longtail boat comes to a stop.


Mekong River Longtail Boat


We’re back on solid ground, but my head still rocks side to side for a while. As I found my footing again to climb the river bank I take one last look at the river before nightfall sets in. This is a view I could never get tired of!


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