This week’s Travel Theme by Ailsa at WhereMyBackpack.com is The Four Elements.   Sticking with a common theme through the four picture challenges, I thought I’d recount a little tour down the Mekong River.

Water - Crossing the Mekong River to Huoay Xai.

Water – Crossing the Mekong River to Huoay Xai.

Water.

Crossing the Mekong River at Chiang Kong, near Chiang Rai at the northern tip of thailand. This is one of the most relaxed borders I have ever been to, with a ramp heading right past the immigration stand into the Laos town of Houay Xai.

But alas, there is no bridge. The only way to cross is by long-tail riverboat.

Air - Day breaking over the meeting river in Luang Prabang.

Air – Day breaking over the meeting rivers in Luang Prabang.

Air.

In central Laos is the sleepy, very much French-influenced town of Luang Prabang. Filled with bakeries, chateaus, and dotted with Buddhist temples, the town in renowned for its beauty. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The northern tip of the town, where the Mekong River meets the Nam Khan certainly has a breathtaking air about it in the early morning hours.

 

Fire - Ships burning at the Naga Fireballs celebration.

Fire – Ships burning at the Naga Fireballs celebration.

Fire.

In late October, thousands gather in the small town of Phon Phisai in Nong Khai, Thailand for the Naga Fireballs. These yet-to-be-explained glowing orbs shoot out of the river. But according to Thais I spoke with, they are still a rare occurrence.

The natural(?) spectacle is supplemented by fire lanterns and ships in the shape of traditional Thai riverboats which are set on fire. They are sent burning down the river until they begin to break apart and sink in view of all the spectators.

 

Earth -  The craggy, impassable, waterfalls of the 4000 Islands.

Earth – The craggy, impassable waterfalls of the 4000 Islands.

Earth.

At the southern tip of Laos is Si Phan Don, the 4000 Islands. Near the southern end of these is Don Khon, a sparsely inhabited island surrounded by these kinds of rocky outcroppings and canyons. While they provide spectacular scenery, it is this small stretch alone which makes the Mekong River intraversable all the way north to China.