Though the adventure of the boat trip from Northern Thailand into the heart of Laos was a bit overrated, I would have to say it was a great way to enter the country. My initial impressions were ones of a great gentle beauty. It is, however, a long and tedious trip. The boat itself is not super comfortable especially on such a long haul though by no means the torture advertised.
It takes two full days to get to Luang Prabang from the Laos/Thailand border so plan on spending the night in Pak Beng. The price can vary quite a bit so be strong and shop around. It should be around 260,000 KIP ($25).
I touched down in Chiang Mai Airport in the morning and began my journey from there.
Chiang Mai Airport - Arcade Bus Station : 160 Baht by Taxi
Chiang Mai - Chiang Rai by Regular Bus : 77 Baht
Chiang Rai - Chiang Khong by Regular Bus from Platform 18 (2 hour journey as compared to Platform 13 bus which is more expensive and takes a longer route) : 45 Baht thereabout (cannot remember)
Chiang Khong Bus Station - Thai Checkpoint by Tuk-Tuk : 20 Baht
Thai Checkpoint - Huay Xai Chekpoint by Boat : 20 Baht
There are regular slowboats to Luang Prabang from Huay Xai via the Mekong River. The trip will take 2 days and 1 night. This trip is very popular among travelers. To get more information about boat travel, get to BAP Guesthouse and the lady boss should be able to advice you.
I took this route when I was in Laos. I took a regular bus from the bus station which is some 5km from the town center. It is very far from the jetty, so, take a tuk-tuk there. At the bus station, just purchase your ticket from the counter. It is simple. As it was my first transport out of Huay Xai, I got BAP Guesthouse to arrange for me and paid 350 Thai Baht. Transport to the station was included.
I do not recommend booking through your guesthouse/travel agent as it was indeed very easy and convenient to just buy your ticket at the ticket counter.
You can also take the truck if you are unable to catch the 9.30am only bus out to Luang Namtha. The bus ride was 7.5 hours. It was indeed a very dusty ride. So, get ready your bandana.
It took me 7.5 hours to reach Luang Namtha from Huay Xai via the dusty highway. This route is only possible, or rather, best traveled during the dry season as the rain will make the road unpassable. The bus journey was quite nice, passing through many villages along the way. It even stopped for a lunch break.
At the end of my trip, my bag, face and clothes were coated with dust. So, my advice is, do not wear your newest outfit.
A slow boat is a wonderful option but it is a little slow and you can be in the boat for a long time.
If you like people then it should be great cause theres a good chance to make new friends and meet interesting travellers. From the slow boat i developed a group of about 6 and we eneded up travelling together throughout our stays in Laos.
picked up a package deal from chaing mai costing me $30 including some meals and accomodation. the ride itself should only cost you about $10. Cheap considering the amazing scenery. Ive been on ,many crusises in the pacific paying thousands and i was equally impressed paying 10 bucks.
This is how it goes :
1. Go to the Vientiane Bus Terminal near the big market.
2. Check the bus schedule to the Friendship highway. Purchase ticket either from the counter or in the bus/mini-bus. 10,000 KIP on regular bus; approx 35 minutes
3. After clearing the immigration on the Laos side, buy a ticket for the mini-bus crossing the bridge. 2,500 KIP; 8 minutes
4. 3-4 minutes later, you reach Thailand's Nong Khai immigration.
5. If you are getting to Udon Thani Airport, hop on to a mini-van at the Thai immigration side. 150 Baht; 1 hour approximately
Took mini bus from luang to Vand Vieng which took about 6 hours. Its only about 100 km away but you have to literally go through mountains to get there. It gets a bit much at times as your constantly moving from side to side, its brutally slow. Bring your vomit bag because it can hit you, severeal of those in our bus got sick and i wasnt feeling to crash hot.
The scenery is outstanding as you look out at the woinderful mountains and look at laotian life go by, the only bad thing is the poor and winding road.
Many people also talk about bandit on this road. Some may remeber the incident a few years ago where a bus was shot up killing a dozen people including backpackers. Although banditry does exisit i dont think people should cease to take this route (preety much the only route to vang vieng from the south)the army's precence is today very strong in the area and you see many men (presemedely the army) carrying machine guns. In my opinion its safe.
cost:$5, from any guesthouse
Similar to Pak Ou Caves, there are many operators doing day trips to Kuang Si Falls. You can get there either by signing up with one of those operators or simply flag down a tuk-tuk on the streets. Negotiate the price.
They will usually stop by a Hmong village.
Because the overnight train was booked out i took the bus. In all honesty im glad i took this option. It costed about $15 instead of the $30 i would have payed on the train.
The bus was very good quality ,was double decker, played DVDs and had very good reclining chairs.
the price also included dinner and the bus staff supplied blankets and pillows.
was not too shabby at all
There is no truck or bus going to Luang Prabang if you intend to travel in the late afternoon. Always get to the station early. I took the earliest mini-bus to Luang Prabang. It left at 8am. The journey was fine, passing by small villages and you would be able to see the river as you travel.
P.S.: The bus terminal is just before the bridge to the other side of the river. There are food stalls at the terminal where you can have your breakfast or some food before your journey out.
Many travellers do this route too, Vang Vieng to Vientiane. As usual, you may go to the bus terminal early in the morning and hop on to any bus or truck serving that route. There shouldn't be any problem getting transport to Vientiane.
I took a morning truck to Vientiane. The ride was alright but comparatively, not much scenery to see. I even had my breakfast at the stall at the Vang Vieng bus terminal before leaving.
The truck stopped me at the bus station which is farther out of the town centre. I then took a tuk-tuk into town.
Cost : 20,000 KIP
There are international flights to either Luang prapang airport or Ventaine Airport.
The companies which fly there i believe are
AIR BANGKOK, THAI AIR, VIETNAMESE AIR, and AIR LAO.
I have heard some funny stories about AIR LAO , of pilots walking to the plane from with beer bottles in their hands (just kidding)
im sure its fine though.
Getting to Muang Sing from Luang Namtha is simple.
All you need is to get to the Bus Terminal and there are many trucks which run that route. The first truck leaves as early as 8am if I am not wrong. The last truck leaves around 4pm. So, if your connecting transport arrives after 4pm or in the early evening, you will need to stay a night at Luang Namtha.
The journey was 1.5 hours and it would be nice if you travel in the morning when the weather is not scorching hot yet.
Cost : 15,000 KIP
These things a very fast , takes 6 hours to Luang from the chaing Khong border. They are small and cramped though and have been known for its crashes and fatalitlies. but if your up for a rush then assess the risks, besides even the slow boat i was on almost capsized because of incompentant driving by the captain.
Did i mention that there fast.
TOUGH MANAGEMENT While this facility may be nice, I know the management is tough and does not have...more
Although my stay in Vientiane was brief, I really enjoyed the hotel. It had everything I needed and...more
Ban Sawang, Vang Vieng, 2145532, Laos
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Business
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