LUANG PRABANG, 3 August 2015: Lao and Thai provincial authorities will survey the potential for boat travel focusing on a stretch of the Mekong river from World Heritage town of Luang Prabang to Loei province in Thailand.
Luang Prabang province’s Public Works and Transport Department deputy director, Bounkhong Souksavat, told Vientiane Times that the project had the potential to improve the living standards of communities on the river.
The river trip from Luang Prabang to Chiang Khan district in Loei province would span 290 km, while the same journey by road covers 410 km. There are no regular tourist related river trips on this section of the river.
The only established river trip, that attracts international tourists, starts in Huay Xai on the border with Chiang Khong in Chiang Rai province and passes through Pak Beng on the way to Luang Prabang.
The deputy director said: “Lao and Thai consultants will join a Lao team to survey the currents, volume of water, depth and other factors that would determine if boat tourism is feasible. They would also study seasonal phases of the river to ensure year-round safe navigation .”
The big issue of water volume relates to upstream dams. The control dams have over water flow makes it difficult for locals to determine accurately safety margins for boat drafts. The river is now artificially controlled and this means long stretches of the river from Luang Prabang may not be navigable year-round, or the level could drop significantly without much warning.
Authorities of Loei province, Thailand, recently toured Luang Prabang with their Lao counterparts to investigate the concept of opening tourist riverboat services.
At a recent meeting, officials agreed to use technical consultants from Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, along with Lao consultants for the survey. The survey will be completed by the end of the year.