Flag of Laos

Laos forum

Vientiane to Huay Xai - Advice

  • richardhjan5

    Joined Travelfish
    4th March, 2010
    Posts: 10

    Hi all

    Just in the process of planning a trip, into Vientiane and out of Huay Xai and then into Northern Thailand.

    Not going till Dec/Jan 2011/12 but have young kids and taking off in the Aussie Dec school holidays so need to get in with the arrangements well in advance. Not to mention the cheap flights !!

    Definitely planning to get on the boat from LP to Huay Xai and wondered if anyone could give me a heads up on a couple of things:

    1. Will the boat definitely run at that time of the year? Water levels ok?
    2. Should I plan on 2 nights, including an overnight at Huay Xai ? More going upriver?
    3. How am I likely to go not booking places beforehand and taking my chances in Laos generally at that time? No fun looking around for too long with tired youngsters in tow

    Greatly appreciate any advice people take the time to pass on

    Cheers

    Richard

    #1 Posted: 2/2/2011 - 17:12

  • Advertisement

  • wanderingcat

    Joined Travelfish
    21st October, 2006
    Posts: 724
    Total reviews: 4
    Places visited:
    At least 67

    1. Will the boat definitely run at that time of the year? Water levels ok?

    Dec/Jan = earlier half of the dry season. when the boats stopped running in 2010 it was during the later half (mid/late Feb to Mar). but no one has a crystal ball & can say for sure what water levels will be in the later part of this dry season, let alone the next dry season...

    2. Should I plan on 2 nights, including an overnight at Huay Xai ? More going upriver?

    going upriver = best to allow for one night in Huay Xai. better to relax & enjoy the Pak Beng-Huay Xai boat journey than to spend it worrying about whether you'll arrive before the border shuts for the day. even if you do make it in time, a long bus/van ride (2.5h to Chiangrai or 6h to Chiangmai) with no scenery to enjoy in the dark isn't a nice ending to a long travel day. & no point rushing to cross the border just to spend the night in Chiang Khong (unless you are on the last day of your visa).

    planning for 2 nights also means that if for some reason you are unable to travel by slowboat, you can do LPB-Huay Xai overland with breaks in between (2 nights in Luang Namtha - you can explore there, or 1 night each in Oudomxay & Luang Namtha) instead of a 13+++h marathon bus journey.

    3. How am I likely to go not booking places beforehand and taking my chances in Laos generally at that time? No fun looking around for too long with tired youngsters in tow

    depends on budget, time of day that you arrive in town, & how particular you are about rooms. if arriving in VTE or LPB in the late aftn or evening, i'd try to book for the first night in town.

    #2 Posted: 2/2/2011 - 20:37

  • Captain_Bob

    Click here to learn more about Captain_Bob
    Joined Travelfish
    27th May, 2006
    Location Thailand
    Posts: 1571

    Odds are very low that the Mekong will dry up enough to threaten the slow boats in Dec/Jan. In other words, it's never happened that I'm aware of the past 12 years or so except as noted last late Feb to mid March. Slow boat trade is almost never otherwise on hold. But if the Chinese decided to close any of their upstream dams, well...

    As per WSC, just assume you won't make Huay Xai in time for the 6pm border closing and stress out less. Then if you do make it be pleasantly surprised but all it will mean is you sleep on the Thai side. Too rushed to head for Chiang Rai/Mai same evening (I've seen people arrive here in CM at midnight after doing so and they were not happy campers).

    You're travelling in peak season so of course it will be busy. Rooms are always available somewhere but to make it easier on yourself plan to arrive early in your destinations, as most people check out of rooms by noon. I always travel with a mobile phone with a Lao SIM card and phone the place I have in mind early same morning I am departing the last place, tell them what time I'll be there and call again if delayed. At least then you have a chance they'll hold something for you without commiting way in advance to a schedule and advance payment, etc.

    #3 Posted: 5/2/2011 - 01:49

  • richardhjan5

    Joined Travelfish
    4th March, 2010
    Posts: 10

    Hi guys

    Thanks heaps for the advice.Much appreciated. It's fantastic to be able to plan with a bit of extra info.
    Would definitely prefer the lesser stress option so i'll be checking out the accommodation on the Laos side of the border. Then wander over the following morning and on to Chiang Mai

    Any thoughts on this:

    From an adult perspective, the slow boat upriver sounds perfect. Taking it easy, having a cold one, taking in the whole thing. Ah, can just imagine it now....

    We have 2 kids, 6 & 8, good travellers so far,pretty hardy, had practice in Bali,Cambodia, Vietnam, but...
    Is it likely to be a more interesting ( read..slightly more interactive for kids ) trip going overland via a couple of villages. (As Wanderingcat mentioned as a plan B should the boat be out of action )

    I know it will obviously all depend on the kids state of mind at that time and the little unexpected things that go on as any part of the journey and it's a hard question to give a definitive answer for but any coments will certainly go into the planning bank!

    I do love the boat idea but i am also making sure i consider it from the perpective of a couple of kids on a boat for 8-10 hours 2 days in a row.

    Thanks in advance

    Richard

    #4 Posted: 5/2/2011 - 08:27

  • wanderingcat

    Joined Travelfish
    21st October, 2006
    Posts: 724
    Total reviews: 4
    Places visited:
    At least 67

    slowboats going upriver tend to have lots more space, enough to walk up & down.
    buses in Laos tend to be really packed, can't really move until the bus stops for the next pee break (usually once every 2 hours or so).

    for upriver slowboat, if you don't mind lying on sacks of rice or on the wooden floor (BYO mat? cheap & found in any market there), you could stretch out & sleep. don't know if anyone has ever taken up my (crazy) suggestion of bringing an inflatable armchair for the 2-day trip...will be the envy of other passengers (& those embarking on the downriver journey might want to buy it off you at Huay Xai ).

    both boat & bus can be just as interactive, as long as one is willing to make the effort. phrasebook, sign language, bring extra food/fruit to share with fellow passengers & the boat crew (usually the captain's family members). Lao people love kids & tend to be fascinated by Western kids (their features, eye colour, hair, etc), so should be no problem breaking the ice with kids in tow.

    going upriver, if you're lucky you might spot working elephants from the left side of the boat on the first day.

    at Pak Beng, if you get up early enough you can see a bit of the place (e.g. morning market, 2 temples, nice views of the Mekong from higher up) before the boat to Huay Xai leaves ~9am. something different from what you'll be seeing on/from the boat.

    #5 Posted: 5/2/2011 - 10:34

  • magneticbear

    Joined Travelfish
    2nd March, 2011
    Posts: 2

    Hello Richard,
    Just wanted to add that I would recommend the slow boat over the bus. I've heard that particular bus trip is a bit worse than usual. Slow, dusty (and dust will come into the bus) and long. The slow boat is nice and relaxing. I took it from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang just weeks ago and ran into an Australian family who was traveling with 5 kids between 6-13 yrs old and they all seemed to be enjoying the ride.
    My advice is to bring toilet paper and food with you. The boat only offers simple baguette sandwiches and some snacks. Most Lao folks in each town you'll depart from will understand "lunch box" or "take away" (hand motions never hurt either) or be impressive and learn how to say it in Lao!
    I found that there are always guesthouses not listed here nor on Lonely Planet. Laos is pretty packed with guesthouses these days.
    Enjoy your trip!

    #6 Posted: 17/3/2011 - 21:20

Have questions? Jump to our menu of forum quicklinks

Add your reply

Your reply

Check this box if you want to be notified of replies.

Please be familiar with our user guidelines before you post. Thanks!

Businesses planning on plugging their guesthouse / hotel / karaoke bar should read our "Addition guidelines" very carefully.

You need to be logged in to answer an existing post on the Travelfish forums. Please login via the prompts just above and refresh this screen -- before writing your post -- and you'll be in business.

Possibly related discussions Replies  Views  Latest reply
Huay Xai to Luang Prabang (or Vientiane) May 2010 ... By jessia on 17 Mar 2010 3 4514 22 Mar 2010