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The Laos slow boat thread

  • somtam2000

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    Hi all,

    If you have done the Huay Xai - Pakbeng - Luang Prabang boat trip by slow boat, please post in this thread when you did it and a rough idea of how many people were on the boat with you.

    This is to give other readers who are weighing up doing the trip an idea regards to overcrowding on the boat.

    As always, my humble thanks!

    #1 Posted: 22/1/2008 - 16:28

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  • wellswall

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    Just took the slow boat from Huay Xai, wasn't too bad we had about 75 people on the boat, was a little cramped but not as bad as some of the horror stories that i have heard, and its still a lot better then the fast boat! stayed in Pakbeng, got ripped off on a really bad guesthouse for 300 baht, and food was expensive as well. Next day left from Pakbeng and we had a boat with about 60-70 people on it and was much of the same, I think the key is to get to the boat early and lock up the good seats towards the front. Also make sure you buy a pillow cause the ground is really hard. Wasn't too bad a ride just kinda boring. but i guess the other options are worse.

    #2 Posted: 4/3/2008 - 15:17

  • Iridius

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    13th August, 2007
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    Did the trip in November 2007. Don't know how many people where on the boat, but some had to sit on top of the baggage in the back, so it was definitely a lot (one guy said about 100). Being there early is really the best thing you can do.

    Anyway, if you are lucky (like me ;)) you meet some nice people and can at least pass the time getting drunk (beer was about 1 dollar a bottle).


    As already said, Pakbeng is expensive and you don't get much for your money.



    best regards

    #3 Posted: 8/3/2008 - 01:10

  • the_tundram-
    an

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    Posts: 11

    Hello all,

    here is a link i found, i think in thorntree i forgot now. The journey is old, though, its do-er did it in december 2005. But there are some very good pictures. Many thanks to the writers.

    http://www.evcal.org/HuayXaiToLuangPrabang.html

    Here is another link, it talks about some backpackers who were not given tickets by their guesthouse owners who took their money and arranged for their slow boat trip. Not very relevant if you dont'w want to waste time. But is very funny.

    http://www.vwvagabonds.com/Bike/BikeTales12.html

    I have one question, i hope some will answer it here. I plan to go myself, in april end - may beginning, i will be going through chiang mai - chiang khong - huay xai - luang prabang, and i think i will start my slow boat journey around may 1st week. Can anyone please let me know whether the slow boat still operated round may 1st week? What with it being summer season in the north hemisphere, is the river too low for such river journeys? if it is then i will have to plan a bus journey out of huay xai instead.

    Many thanks in advance.

    #4 Posted: 18/3/2008 - 18:29

  • tails101

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    Did the journey in October 2004 but the other way round (Luang Prabang -> Huay Xai) and had no overcrowding issues at all... on both legs of the journey the locals outnumbered the tourists, which was great!

    Was an interesting experience though... quoting below from an e-mail I sent home at the time..

    "We left Luang Prabang Saturday morning at 8.30 'asia time', which was actually more like 9.30am, on the slow boat to Huay Xai via Pakbeng (overnight stop). Each leg of the journey is supposed to take a day... However, after 2 hours our boat broke down - they tried fixing it, but no joy and told us another one was on its way... An hour or so later another one turned up, and we set off again meandering down the Mekong.

    We were a bit behind by this point, but sailing down the Mekong was pretty cool, and the scenery was awesome (the boat, less so - wooden bench seats, and not enough cushions for my liking, but all good fun...) - mountain after mountain all covered in green trees...

    Time passed and it started to get dark (obviously the boat had no lights - navigation or internal) and we hadn't reached the half way point of Packbang... The crew started to look for somewhere to dock (by torchlight) and successfully found somewhere but it wasn't Pakbeng... It was a very small Laos village which had an outdoor shop, a restaurant with no menu, a guesthouse and electricity by generator. We were made to feel very welcome and had a great meal... The bottle water on sale at the shop was a few years out of date, but very drinkable! When it came to sleeping we opted to sleep on the boat, it was cheaper than the guesthouse and we had to be off again at 5.30am!

    So 9 travellers all camped out on this boat with the crew and a group of locals, with candles as our only light and they ran out at 9pm... there wasn't much room and the wooden floor was very hard! But hey, we all did get some sleep... and set off again the next day eventually arriving in Packbang in time to catch the boat for the next leg on the journey.

    It may not have gone quite according to plan, but I wouldn't have wanted it any other way"

    #5 Posted: 18/3/2008 - 19:58

  • shanghai306

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    Posts: 6

    tails101 - i'm hoping to do the trip the same way you did in a couple of weeks.

    my question is: around roughly what time did you arrive in huay xai? was there enough time to cross the thai border on the same day? and once in chiang khong did you have to spend the night or were you able to make an onward journey somewhere else? (i'm hoping to not stop in chiang khong and head straight for bangkok)

    any help would be much appreciated!

    nic

    #6 Posted: 18/3/2008 - 21:41

  • tails101

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    Hi Nic,

    We didn't make it to Huay Xai in time to cross the border the same day... We ended up spending one night in Huay Xai and then crossed the border early the next morning. I'd make sure you have enough cash (either in Thai Bhat or Kip) to cope with spending the night in Laos just in case...

    According to our crew, some days the boat makes, others it doesn't... To be honest we probably should have made it but the crew stopped off to pick some fish up and then shared some Lao-Lao with us as well as a few stops to drop off locals...

    IIRC the border closes somewhere between 5-6... I'm not sure what time the last bus direct to Bangkok leaves, but unless there is an overnight one, I would guess you're out of luck on being able to head straight off.

    However, if you miss crossing the border the same day, you should have no problem making it to Bangkok after crossing the border nice and early!

    Hope this is of some use...
    Cheers,
    Mark.

    #7 Posted: 19/3/2008 - 04:31

  • shanghai306

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    Posts: 6

    Hi Mark,

    cheers for the quick and informative reply! In that case, we may just spend the night in Huay Xai and then do the border crossing first thing in the morning.

    Do you know if there are any buses from Chiang Khong that head straight to Bangkok? Or would I have to go over to Chiang Rai first?


    thanks again,
    Nic

    #8 Posted: 19/3/2008 - 07:00

  • tails101

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    Hi Nic,

    I'm pretty sure you can get a bus from Chiang Khong direct to Bangkok... I could find times on the Internet for buses to Chiang Khong from Bangkok so I guess they go the other way too ;)

    Have a fantastic trip...

    Cheers,
    Mark.

    #9 Posted: 20/3/2008 - 04:11

  • shelld

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd December, 2007
    Posts: 16

    Greetings all

    Did the Huay Xai to Luang Prabang slow boat on 06/03/08 and after the initial shock of the amount of passengers, had a brilliant time. Just go with the flow & everything seems to work out. We had no seats & ended up sitting on small plastic stools in the cooking area at the back of the boat. We met many great people from all over the world & actually ended up traveling with some of them for over a week. Sure its slow but the scenery is wonderful & if you buy a cheap cushion before you board, your bum will still be attached at Pakbeng. Really enjoyed Pakbeng as well. The guesthouse was clean, the staff were very cool & accommodating & the food was pretty good. Can't remember the name of the GH but didn't hear any horror stories from fellow travellers, that stayed elsewhere, the following day on the boat to Luang Prabang. Just stay chilled, have a few beerlao & enjoy the whole experience. I highly recommend doing this trip & I'm not a seasoned young backpacker, I'm a 40yo mum. Can't wait to go back next year!

    #10 Posted: 1/4/2008 - 14:12

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  • michmich11

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    Hi,
    I will be traveling in June for a little less than 3 weeks. I plan on spending time in Luang Prabang--I'm curious if you all think taking the slow boat would be a good use of 2 of my (too few!) days in the region. I don't mind spending the money to fly either. Thanks for your advice!

    Michelle

    #11 Posted: 23/4/2008 - 21:30

  • SBE

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    I'd fly. It's not worth two days of your holiday.

    I did that boat trip in early November 2004 and our boat was so full it hit a rock and sank about an hour before we should have reached Pak Beng. We had to abandon ship and wade to a sand-spit in the Mekong where we spent a rather a damp and uncomfortable night, though we built fires and the captain salvaged some crates of Beer Lao He only charged 4000Kp for a big bottle which helped raise spirits a bit.

    #12 Posted: 24/4/2008 - 05:10

  • pikkumyy09

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    Hello all,

    Did the journey about April 7th or so - from Chiang Mai to LP. I would suggest taking a bus that leaves during the day, (the price usually has accommodation included, the night bus doesn't). Our night bus arrived at approx 3.30 instead of 06.00, so ended up getting a room for 50baht each. Got to Thai immigration for 08.15, and were in Laos by 09.00. After waiting for visas, and everyone else, I think it was about 10.30 when we left. Pick up some water and snacks before getting on board, some boats will sell them, but the first one we were on didn't. I thought the boat was full already, until another group the size of ours showed up! Had a bit of a panic thinking the boat is going to capsize, but it was fine. Definitely get there early so you can have a seat. And buy a cushion! If you're small enough it's pretty comfortable on the floor with some life jackets and a cushion...

    Arrived in Pakbeng about 17.00, had already booked our guesthouse (300baht for two), I think it was called Bounmee, it was okay, nothing spectacular, but wasn't horrible either.

    Left again the next morning in a nicer boat (with proper seats towards the front and a western toilet), again, make sure you arrive early enough!

    It looks much better than the speedboat, they wear helmets, and there isn't a toilet on board! It's a great place to meet people, travelled with a group for the next week, and the scenery is stunning, just make sure you get a cushion!

    Happy travels!

    K

    #13 Posted: 27/4/2008 - 10:26

  • emielvl

    Joined Travelfish
    27th April, 2007
    Posts: 13

    I would like to take the slow boat from huay xai to luang prabang, but only one part of the (2day) trip. Which part is the most beautiful (landscape wise)? Huay xai - pak beng or pak beng - luang prabang?

    #14 Posted: 30/4/2008 - 01:35

  • SBE

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    It was a long time ago and to be honest I can't remember very well, but I don't think there was a huge difference in the quality of the scenery before and after Pak Beng.

    Both stretches of the trip have nice landscapes but it nevertheless gets monotonous after a while. Maybe someone who's done it recently can be more specific. Personally I thought the scenery on the road between LP and Vang Vieng was much more spectacular.

    Just out of interest, how long does it take if you go by road from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang?

    #15 Posted: 30/4/2008 - 14:27

  • emielvl

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    Posts: 13

    Hi SBE,

    thank you for your quick answer!
    By road it will probably take you 1,5 days. One day from huay xai to udomxai (11 hours by bus) and 5 hours from undomxai to lp. We were thingking of making kind of a round trip: huay xai - luang nam tha - udomxai - pak beng - luang prabang.

    #16 Posted: 30/4/2008 - 18:17

  • jenniemcmar-
    tin

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    Posts: 8

    Hey everyone! My fiance and I did the slowboat trip in December 2005.
    There were about 50 people, it was very relaxing (thank god for earplugs), we actually had a great time despite DREADING the trip for a whole week prior.
    Pakbeng was certainly interesting; we didn't book ahead of time but found a room no problem...there was a dead rat in our bathroom, but they got rid of it quickly!
    The second day seemed very short which was nice as we arrived in Luang Prabang while it was still daylight, a bonus when you're trying to find a room!

    A couple of tips: find a market in Thailand before you go and pick up cushions to sit on.

    Bring some dried fruit and water with you...when we went they only sold Lays chips and Beer Lao...which is GREAT, but doesn't do wonderful things to your guts when you're on a boat for 10 hours.

    Snag a seat on the FLOOR, forget the wooden benches, they're garbage to sit on for more than 3 minutes.

    Bring earplugs and a good book.

    Look outside every once in a while; we witnessed an elephant sauntering up the banks of the river...it was probably the best moment fo our 3 month adventure!!!

    #17 Posted: 1/5/2008 - 01:43

  • Layabout

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    Posts: 27

    I plan on doing this trip in August from LP to Huay Xai. Does any body know what the crowds are like at this time of year. I think the advice for cushions and ear plugs is great Thanks

    Steve

    #18 Posted: 22/6/2008 - 20:29

  • smartso

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    11th April, 2008
    Posts: 13

    I did the slow boat May 31 2008. The first day of the trip wasn't that bad as we had a bigger boat so it fit most of the people fairly easily. I think we had over 100 but it was decently comfy. I was not a big fan of the town of Pakbeng as I was woken up at about 2am by someone trying to get into my room but I hear that's just kind of par for the course for that town. Day two we had a smaller boat and more people jammed on, I'd guess upwards of 130 but its hard to say. This was a pretty rough day for most but not bad for me as I had one of the nice chairs.

    I will say that the slow boat the day before me actually broke down and everyone wound up having to spend the night on the river. Some people slept on the rocks on the shore and others on the roof of the boat. A little sketchy if you as me but I suppose it would be one heck of a story. The boat the day after me actually mutinied and refused to leave unless they took two boats because they had so many people. After that apparently the trip was not surprisingly quite comfortable.

    If you've got the time I'd recommend doing the slow boat for sure as by the time you roll into Luang Prabang you will know a good chunk of the people on the boat and continue to see them through out Laos. There is also no way in hell I'd take the speed boat. One guy I ran into had it hit something and basically disintegrate on him destroying his camera. Another girl who I met had been traveling for almost a year and said it was the worst experience of her whole trip (she said she just cried the entire way).

    #19 Posted: 6/7/2008 - 22:26

  • wanderingcat

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    #18: LPB upriver north to Huay Xai is hardly ever crowded, even in December (peak season). most of the world does the trip downriver thanks to guidebooks, leaving empty boats for the return journey.

    sometimes i wonder if this one factor that drives the boat operators to put out as few downriver boats as possible (i.e. squeeze 100+ backpackers on a single boat), since the boats have to return upriver at a loss?

    elephant-spotting: might have luck on left side of boat as you head upriver during the LPB-Pak Beng section, esp around Tha Suang area.

    #20 Posted: 7/7/2008 - 11:54

  • Layabout

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 27

    Thanks for the info wanderingcat I'll be there in about 5 weeks and will post a note when I get back

    #21 Posted: 7/7/2008 - 20:29

  • wimpey1946

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    we were on it November 2007
    100 people onboard just filled up\but somewhere on the road we get 20 bags of rice in the middle of the boat
    people has to move on right to left to keep the boat steady
    but it was an expierience after all

    #22 Posted: 7/7/2008 - 22:07

  • paulspad2002

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    Posts: 21

    hey layabout bloke when in august do u plan on being there in lpb..im doing a quick visa run fromt hailand in august leaving 10th august i think arriving in lp hopefully next day as ill get the bus in ventiene stay the night or two and then head up the river to huey xai ....i have 5 nights to take care of so 1 in ventiene 2 in lp and 1 or 2 on the way up.....hoping to cross into thailand and stay in pai the night getting smashed then off to bkk next morning or night.....shud take care of my 95 days in thailand to 90 which is my limit...

    is there a fixed price for the slow boat tot he border and whats a night worth in lp, vent, and pak beng

    #23 Posted: 8/7/2008 - 00:47

  • Layabout

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    Paulspad2002 we may be there at the same time we are heading to Cambodia for a few days from 5th August then back to Nong Khai into Vientiane and then head north to LP.
    I,m not sure if boat price is fixed and from what I can find out accomodation isn't expensive in most places just depends on what you want

    #24 Posted: 8/7/2008 - 19:13

  • paulspad2002

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    mmm ok im just researching shit now as i think ill be leaving bangkok 10th august so i can get thjis trip done and be back in time to see a freind on the following sunday.....at this stage its 1 nite ventiene 2 nits lp boat trip spose to be 2 days 1 nite so it gives me a free night somewhere maybe in hey xai if its cheap then i can skip to pai for the night and then get anight bus or whateve to bangkok from there or just get a 4hr bus to CM then over night train..its possible that we may be in ventiene or lp at same time if ur taking a slow trip as im sure to catch u up

    #25 Posted: 8/7/2008 - 19:35

  • wanderingcat

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    slowboat fare fixed if you buy from Huay Xai/Pak Beng/LPB boat office/on boat itself. no need to book ahead, unlimited tickets sold. separate ticket for each half of journey, last heard ~110,000kip (early 2008), but fuel prices keep rising.

    travel agents will add on however much they like to get out of you to the fare. some (except Nagi & Asian Oasis? who run their own boats) come with empty promises of nicer boats, saw tourists waving receipts from travel agents & arguing with poor boat crew who weren't to blame at all.

    going upriver: don't get on the wrong boat when leaving Pak Beng - ask around. most foreigners go downriver so locals sometimes assume all foreigners want to board the LPB-bound boat!

    had nice accom in Pak Beng (Monsavanh GH) for 80,000kip (2006 price), many cheaper & also more expensive places.

    #26 Posted: 8/7/2008 - 19:45

  • paulspad2002

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    Posts: 21

    ok so is that 110,000 per section or total trip..sounds ok if total.....does anyone have any info on the buses ventiene to lp or do i have to post somewhere esle.....im trying to organise my whole trip all at once as i need to be back in bkk...any one keen on sharing a twin room as well male or female is welcome if ur in ventiene on night of 11th...just if ur on a tight ass budget like i am although i know its cheap, i didnt expect to be having to do this visa run as my business visa letter failed to arrive from my agent..dam

    #27 Posted: 8/7/2008 - 20:05

  • Layabout

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    If you see a bloke with a red back pack, blondish hair wearing sandals and shorts just call out Steve and it may be me. I,m still checking prices and organizing things so we may catch up

    #28 Posted: 8/7/2008 - 20:11

  • paulspad2002

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    sweet ill be a blonde bloke with a green pack wearing flip flops in cargo pants.....a nights drinking beer lao n whisky on the mekong might be unforgettable or forgettable...been a year since i was there.....am just waiting on a reply from a lp guesthouse run by anm aussie bloke called nikki over looking the mekong seems real nice and cheap as.....max for me is $6 usd singles apparantly are cheaper...more money for lao beer baguettes and cheese, cant beat that watching the sun go down

    #29 Posted: 8/7/2008 - 20:15

  • Layabout

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    Thanks for the tips wanderingcat I'll make sure I check the boats direction

    #30 Posted: 8/7/2008 - 20:19

  • ulto

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    Does any boat do this in one day.
    I hear conflicting reports that there are (or were) but not any more due to eh local lobbying.

    #31 Posted: 11/7/2008 - 18:15

  • paulspad2002

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    yes the speedboats do but they are not very safe

    #32 Posted: 11/7/2008 - 18:36

  • Layabout

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    I have read that the fast boats do it in 6hrs with stopover at Pakbeng but you have to be crazy to go on one unless you have a death wish

    #33 Posted: 11/7/2008 - 18:54

  • paulspad2002

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    Posts: 21

    mmmmm im beginning to notice some problems that i think im going to havhe after reading many blogs.....
    actually im getting overnight train to nong khai, will cross the border and trip to LP same day taking 10 hours....will take slow boat to huey xai but im told or i read that a lot of them dont make the journey in time to cross the border...how true is this as i plan on going to pai that night i arrive so i can chill out there as i am on limited time and have to be back in bkk the sunday morning....so i cant ctually re enter thailand till the 15th august as its a visa run im doing..out on 11th in on 15th.....
    so if i know he details then im going to have to stay in huey xai the night i think its rather difficult not knowing the unknown

    #34 Posted: 13/7/2008 - 00:10

  • paulspad2002

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    ok im leaving bkk 10th august layabout....ill be in LP on night of 11th as im going straigh there long trip i know....where will u be.....im heading for some aussie run guesthouse on the river somethig like last dreamer seems nice and nice sunsets too...wanna do the fall s the following day then on the 13th i get slow boat to thai border...any one keen for a drink on the 12th ...also looking for someoen to share twin room to keep costs down if anyone is keen

    #35 Posted: 7/8/2008 - 16:15

  • neosho

    Joined Travelfish
    13th August, 2008
    Posts: 386

    I did the northern route from Chiang Khong to Huay Xai to Pakbeng to Luang in late Dec. of 2007. Spent New Year's eve in Luang. River is down that time of year but you can see where it will be 30ft higher during the monsoons. They only thing I wish to add is watch your luggage when leaving the boat in Pakbeng. The locals rush down to help unload, carry your baggage up the steep embankment and then wanted 100 baht for it. Some people never saw their luggage upon leaving the boat. I'm 57 so if you're to old and/or handicapped, I would not recommend it. Otherwise I'm glad I did while I still could. Crowded, cramped and uncomfortable at times but a good trip. Plus I was sporting a hangover from partying with the bus drivers in Chiang Khong the night before.

    #36 Posted: 13/8/2008 - 02:29

  • rhymeandrea-
    son

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    Travelling in Laos this October - but thinking of doing the reverse of what I think most people do - so coming north from Vientiane to LP and doing the slow boat back to the Thai border - can anyone tell me if this is a cunning plan to avoid overcrowding? Also - what will the weather be like late October / early November... are we going to drown?

    #37 Posted: 1/9/2008 - 00:11

  • Layabout

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    Posts: 27

    I've just got back from doing that trip and yes it is a cunning plan to avoid crowds as ther was hardly any body with us. About 10 westerners and the rest locals who were dropped off at various villages on the way.
    It is a very slow trip took us 10.5 hours first day and 9 hours second day. Possible due to the fast flow of the river. The seats are small wooden benches and backrest is set at right angles so you can't get comfortable unless you lie on the deck like some of us did. Take a good book and some music as it gets a bit boring watching the jungle go by. The stop offs at Pakbeng and Huay Xai are an experience but don't believe the Tuk Tuk drivers when they tell you the passport office is open until 6.30. I did enjoy the trip but would take the fast boat if I done it again. Hope this helps.

    #38 Posted: 1/9/2008 - 06:01

  • Layabout

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    paulspad2002 I know this is a bit late but just got back home my plans changed and nevver got to Nong Khai I was probably in LP at same time. Was main road floode when you were there?

    #39 Posted: 1/9/2008 - 06:07

  • blpratt

    Joined Travelfish
    30th July, 2008
    Posts: 6

    We're hoping to go from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, but maybe only taking a slow boat for part of the journey. Is one section, either from Huay Xai to Pakbeng , or Pakbeng to LP, more scenic than the other? Does anyone know how long the bus takes from Pakbeng to LP, or if it's really an option? Thanks!

    #40 Posted: 15/9/2008 - 07:25

  • paulspad2002

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    Posts: 21

    hey layabout, no the main road wasnt but the road down by the river was and the main road to oudomxai about 20 km out of L.P was .....i got he wrong info from the tourist centre and had my plans all screwed up and never was able to get the boat due to wrong info and so missed out on that river trip much to my disgust and then also as they gave me the wrong info about the bus trip as well i never made it to pakbeng either to catch the 2nd half of the trip so had to do the bus all the way to huey xai and was a real nightmare.....ive posted it in a warning about the laos slow boat trip on here as an updated info list so have a look...cheers hope ur trip was more enjoyable than mine

    #41 Posted: 15/9/2008 - 08:17

  • Layabout

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 27

    paulspad2002

    I meant the main road by the river so we probably walked past each other. The boat trip up river was long 10.5 hrs to Pakbeng and when we got there the river banks had been washed away and the Indian restaurant that used to be up top was in the river. The trip to Huay Xai took another 9 hours next day but it was worth doing.
    Cheers

    #42 Posted: 19/9/2008 - 18:04

  • klaralotte

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    8th August, 2008
    Posts: 4

    We are a small group of 7 people and will do the boat trip from Houy Xai to Luang Prabang on the 19th or 20th of October. We are thinking to hire a boot and are looking for other people to join. My Thai phone number is: +66 879080274
    give me a call if you are interested to join
    Charlotte

    #43 Posted: 10/10/2008 - 16:40

  • jmartin

    Joined Travelfish
    10th September, 2007
    Posts: 5

    My husband and I took a slowboat from Huay Xai to L.P. on October 14 and 15th. There were well over 100 people on our boat and 15 bicycles on top - it was packed and very uncomfortable. I would be lying if I said this was a fun trip. The trip to Pakbeng was about 6.5 hours and the trip to L.P. was just over 8 hours on the second day. On the first day our boat engine died, luckily not too far from Pakbeng . We drifed while the captain cursed up and down the aisles but eventually another boat arrived and towed us the rest of the way to Pakbeng .
    The wooden benches are horrendous and so crammed together that many people cannot sit facing forward as there is mere inches between the benches. The trip also brought out quite shameful behaviour in other travellers. I watched people work very hard to hog two seats (sometimes the nice comfy car seats at the back) while other people were forced to sit on the floor. I was really upset when I watched an elderly Lao woman hobble up and down the aisle looking for a seat, while a young guy kept lying across two seats to himself, apparently oblivious (but I think wilfully blind). It was a pretty disgusting sight.

    Everyone was clearly very uncomfortable and we were all very glad to be off the boat in L.P. If you do take the boat (the scenery is really stunning) just dont be a complete jerk about it. Maybe the rest of us should speak up more too...

    #44 Posted: 19/10/2008 - 11:45

  • mic59

    Joined Travelfish
    30th July, 2008
    Posts: 107
    Total reviews: 5

    Just about to take the bus to Chiang Khong from Pai to then take the slow boat to Luang Prabang. Reading this thread has shown me the importance of getting a cushion, so I thought I'd post that you can get good ones in Pai for 85 baht. Not the peanut or neck pillows but proper flat pillows. You can get them from a shop on the same side as the road as the AYA travel service. Go past the bus station and when you get to a large shop selling kitchen utensils, clothes, matresses etc. that's it. I would assume the same would apply for other places where you would get this trip, I know there'd be no problem with getting a cushion in Chiang Mai. And the good thing is that after the trip, if you don't want the inconvenience of carrying the cushion you can leave it on the boat for the next person.

    #45 Posted: 27/10/2008 - 12:32

  • jpaus

    Joined Travelfish
    30th October, 2008
    Posts: 1

    Hi all, I'm planning to do this in January 2009 with 2 of my friends. Will we be able to cross from Chiang Khong into Huay Xai and still make it for the slow boat?

    We hope to be in Huay Xai whenever the immigration office opens (8:00am) but we will also need to get our Laos visa on the spot. I've read somewhere that the slow boats wait for all of the tourists from guesthouses are on the boat before they leave.

    Thanks in advance.

    #46 Posted: 30/10/2008 - 15:38

  • mic59

    Joined Travelfish
    30th July, 2008
    Posts: 107
    Total reviews: 5

    After taking the trip I would say there are 4 major requirements. A cushion,as previously mentioned; water, you can buy it on the boat but it is preferable not to have to navigate the bodies on the floor; something to eat as the boat only haschips. Something refreshing like different typesof fruit. A book as there will be periods where thereis nothing to look at and you will be bored out of yourskull.
    As to the overcrowding question that this sticky started with, well we had about 100 on the boat to Pakse and the oneto Luang Prabang.
    In Pakse there was a guesthouse called Doilivasert which charged THB200 for a comfortable and sizeable room and also did me a packed fruit lunch for THB120.

    #47 Posted: 31/10/2008 - 13:23

  • klaralotte

    Joined Travelfish
    8th August, 2008
    Posts: 4

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Hi,

    this is Charlotte again (the one who wanted to hire a own boat from Huay Xai) Actually its no problem, the price is 500 US$ per boat, but the maximum number of person which can goon a hired boat is 10, maximum 11, which brings the price up from around 29 US for the public boat to nearly 50 US per person. The travel time is still two days, as the boat will stop in Pak Beng.

    To find a group of people to join is no problem, you just need to wait at the border for one hour or so and ask everybody who crosses the border.



    ...and, its no problem to cross the border first thing in the morning and still get the boat on the same day, as the boats are leaving between 10 and 11 o'clock.

    And after all, the whole thing is not as bad as its sounds! so enjoy the landscape and have fun taking the slow boat!

    By the way, you can buy nice tasteful pillows (hello kitty) at the boat pier in Huay Xai!

    #48 Posted: 31/10/2008 - 19:39

  • mic59

    Joined Travelfish
    30th July, 2008
    Posts: 107
    Total reviews: 5

    To correct my previous post(post #47), the halfway town on the Mekong is Pakbeng and the name of the guesthouse is Donevilasack. I have mentioned this guesthouse in feeback in the Pakbeng guesthouse reviews.

    #49 Posted: 2/11/2008 - 14:38

  • rhymeandrea-
    son

    Joined Travelfish
    31st August, 2008
    Location United Kingdom
    Posts: 8

    Just did the slow boat from LP to Huat Xai - defintely better going in that direction with just 40 passengers as opposed to over a hundred in the other direction! Get to the landing stage nearest the bakc of the palace early and you can get decent seats (some boats have a few bus seats - MUCH more comfy than the benches!!) The best scenery is probably nearer Lunag Prabang end but it's all interesting. It's about 9 hours each day going up river and Pak Beng wasn't great, but contrary to some reports it did get us to Huay Xai in time to cross the river back into Thailand... but only just!! Really liked thetown of Chiang Kong - Mr Sayan at the Easy Cafe sells cheap cushions and does great shakes!

    #50 Posted: 3/11/2008 - 19:07

  • rosiea

    Joined Travelfish
    4th November, 2008
    Posts: 1

    Hi

    great info everyone - thanks. I am planning to do the trip from Huay Xai to LP with three other adults and three kids (age 5-12) next September and wondering if we would be better to book the Nagi boat rather than the standard ones. It claims to do it in one day downriver.

    Does anyone have an opinion or experience of this? Is it safe when the river is high at this time of year?

    Thanks

    #51 Posted: 4/11/2008 - 08:58

  • natisafunky-
    monkey

    Joined Travelfish
    6th October, 2008
    Posts: 5
    Total reviews: 6

    We did the trip on 8 and 9 Oct 2008. I am not sure how many people were on the boat but there were enough seats for everyone and quite a few of us got whole 2 person benches to ourselves (not as spacious as it sounds). The days are long and its a bit uncomfortable but on the whole we enjoyed it, I think we were there at a very quiet time though. Make sure you get your packed lunch and plenty of snacks before you go (cheaper to get in Chiang Kong for the first day).

    #52 Posted: 7/11/2008 - 20:11

  • natisafunky-
    monkey

    Joined Travelfish
    6th October, 2008
    Posts: 5
    Total reviews: 6

    We did the trip on 8 and 9 Oct 2008. I am not sure how many people were on the boat but there were enough seats for everyone and quite a few of us got whole 2 person benches to ourselves (not as spacious as it sounds). The days are long and its a bit uncomfortable but on the whole we enjoyed it, I think we were there at a very quiet time though. Make sure you get your packed lunch and plenty of snacks before you go (cheaper to get in Chiang Kong for the first day).

    #53 Posted: 7/11/2008 - 20:11

  • PrawnFingers

    Joined Travelfish
    7th November, 2008
    Posts: 2

    Did the slow boat from HX to LP on the 1 Nov 2008. I crossed the border the afternoon before after traveling up from Chaing Mai. Got to the border around 9 but didn't leave til 12. They were waiting for people who had just crossed the border.

    Watch out for a scam for those who cross the border the same day as getting the boat. When u cross the border, u are put it in a 'waiting area' for about 2 hours and they tell u horror stories about the slow boat and Pak Beng and that the minibus is better. Firstly it is not a minibus but a WWI local bus. I met two girls who took the bus and it took 17 hrs when they were told it would take 10.

    The slow boat is not so bad, the first day to Pak Beng was only 5.5 hours and I had a bench to myself. Bring a cushion!! Get there early and get one of the few car seats or it's more comfortable to sit/lay on the floor at the front. We had two boats on the first day, with maybe 90 on mine and 30 on the other. If u kick up a fuss about overcrowding then they usually relent.

    The second day everybody was put on one boat again if enough people make a fuss they take 2 boats. I talked to people who got the boat the next day and they took two boats from Pak Beng to LP. The second day was a lot longer, around 8-9 hours and it gets fuller as they pick up more locals along the way.

    Overall, i enjoyed the experience of the slow boat.

    #54 Posted: 8/11/2008 - 17:17

  • wanderingcat

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

    a post about an interesting slowboat experience here: http://ladycroft.travellerspoint.com/29/

    seems like there are indeed people trying to convice tourists to opt for the bus instead. there's no way one can reach Luang Prabang in 10h by bus, think the minimum is closer to 13+h on a good vehicle with no stops along the way.

    #55 Posted: 16/11/2008 - 10:36

  • knotty13

    Joined Travelfish
    17th November, 2008
    Location United States
    Posts: 2

    We are going to LP from chaing rai..in jan 09 do we need to be at the boarder the night before in order to get through imagration and get a boat to pak beng or can we stay in chaing rai and get up early to goto the boarder , and how long does it take to get to the boarder from chaing rai should we take the bus? or hire a car? or should we stay in chag klong the night before? any ideas? and any else going to be in LP, ving vang around late jan 09?
    tag youre it
    Knotty

    #56 Posted: 17/11/2008 - 02:08

  • maedbh3

    Joined Travelfish
    31st October, 2008
    Posts: 3

    Be warned of one Laos guy who spoke to almost 160 of us the morning we were leaving Huay Xai . He had some kind of official job as he was the one who gave us an 'orientation' talk about getting to Luang Prabang . I was there to take the slow boat to LP and so was everyone else, but this guy toldus to expect 10 hour journeys both days, made all the people at Pak Beng out to be crooks and thieves (not so) and basically convinced 80 people (who had already paid their slow boat ticket) to pay an additional 600 Baht to take a private minibus to Luang Prabang instead, telling us it would take only 7 hours,

    Well, he was so good at appearing nice, professional, genuine, that many peopel bought it. NOt me. I had a great 2 days on the cramped boat, which sailed for only 6 hours each day; made loads of new friends and even Pak Beng was ok, just for an overnight (totally commercial but no representation of Laos in general). I met some folks in Luang Prabang who had taken the additional expense of going by minibus and they were ripped off - it took them 13 hours to get to LP and they said the ride was not worth it.

    I guess Mr. NIceGuy was setting up his own sidebusiness of minibuses and at Huay Xai he has a captive (and ignorant) audience.

    Michele
    www.roamsweetroam.blogspot.com

    #57 Posted: 4/1/2009 - 17:29

  • maedbh3

    Joined Travelfish
    31st October, 2008
    Posts: 3

    PS

    I did the trip in the beginning of November with about 65 people on our boat the first day and 90 on it the second day (squashy but we got there early to get good seats) - they put 2 boats' worth of passengers together onto one boat....

    #58 Posted: 4/1/2009 - 17:30

  • Layabout

    Joined Travelfish
    17th March, 2008
    Posts: 27

    We did the boat trip from LP to Huay Xai in August and when we got to PakBeng the Indian restaurant had just slid down the river bank into the Mekong. They had tied it to some other nearby structures to stop it floating away. I was just wondering is it still tied up there or has it gone down river along with anything else. Apparently it was the Highest the Mekong had been in 42 years
    Cheers

    #59 Posted: 4/1/2009 - 17:48

  • basho

    Click here to learn more about basho
    Joined Travelfish
    10th May, 2008
    Location United Kingdom
    Posts: 24

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Did it with 7 of us in our group in November 2008. Seemingly hundreds on the boat. Get there early on the second day to secure the limited comfy seating. I took a cushion which I bought for 30 in Thailand (I think).

    Basho

    #60 Posted: 27/1/2009 - 16:33

  • mimapuddled-
    uck

    Joined Travelfish
    25th January, 2009
    Posts: 1
    Total reviews: 2

    Just arrived in Luang Prabang after taking the slow boat from Huay Xai. I booked through an agency in town and was one of about 150 people or more who was supposedly going to board the boat that day. After being taken over to Laos to sort out our visas we were then herded down to the drop-off point where our passports were removed and we were tod we would have to wait until more people turned up before we could board the boat. Turns out they took everyone's passport in order to make sre we stayed together and were in one place ready for 'the talk' from an official-looking guide who told us we were his guests, and he wanted to make sure we were safe.

    The passports he said were removed to make sure he knew who was going on the boat (although I never saw this being checked) and his talk, kicked off with a warning that if we can't swim, he needed to know - and then made a reference to a boat sinking a couple of years ago and someone dying as a result. We were told that when we got to Pak Beng people would try to take our bags off the boat (and some would try to steal them) and that there would be limited (and expensive) accommodation there that evening... and that we might have to stay with a family - and that the journey would take 11 hours on the second day rather than 7 as we'd been told. Conveniently we were then informed that there was a new bus route which people could take if they didn't want to do the boat any more. The bus was 900 baht more and - needless to say half the group were now so scared about the trip that they decided to take the bus instead - which is 12 hours apparently door to door.

    Arriving in Pak Beng (now a bag of nerves) we found that there was no problem finding somewhere to stay, it wasn't dark when we arrived and no, we didn't sink. The second day took no more than 8 hours and the entire trip was absolutely brilliant fun. Yes, the boat was crowded (around 90 - 100 people on board) but a couple of nervous tourists kicked up a stink and refused to get on board. As a result, they put on another boat and everyone was happy. People were incredibly twitchy on the boat as we set off as a result of this talk which was clearly set up to make more money out of easily spooked travellers.

    There doesn't seem to be any way out of keeping your passport and avoiding the scare-mongering - but do try to shut out this (quite aggressive) man's speech, sit back and enjoy the ride - I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

    Pak Beng by the way is also fab and yes, the lights do all go out at around 10pm - after which time all you have is the stars and the sound of the river for company. Brilliant.

    #61 Posted: 1/2/2009 - 16:32

  • Pernette

    Joined Travelfish
    20th October, 2008
    Posts: 7
    Total reviews: 7

    We buyed our tickets at the official ticket office near the slowboat landing. The only thing you have to do is write down your passport number, they don't take your passport. And it's cheaper than buying from one of the travel agents in town.

    We went on the 27th of january and all went well for 4 hours. We left only at 12:15h because they wait for all of the people who cross the border that morning. After 4 hours of navigating the Mekong, the rudder broke and we crashed on the shore... The captain jumped off and waved we should do the same. After that, we took our backpacks out and after 1.5 hours another slowboat came and took us for 15 minutes further to a local village. It was almost dark and some of us slept with local families and we slept on the slowboat (hard wooden floor and cold...). The next day, our old slowboat came, they fixed the rudder. So everyone in that boat again and after 2 hours we arrived in Pakbeng.
    We had to go on another slowboat and just made it before sunset in Luang Prabang. The guy from our guesthouse said, he never takes the slowboat because they are so old and it's dangerous...

    But the journey was really nice, you play cards, chat, read, drink beerlao's and I didnt had the idea i was travelling from A to B, but had a good time. I didn't want to miss this, but when the rudder broke in another place and we crashed in the middle of the Mekong and floated further with an uncontrollable boat and without lifejackets, things could have been worse.....

    #62 Posted: 6/2/2009 - 19:03

  • Pernette

    Joined Travelfish
    20th October, 2008
    Posts: 7
    Total reviews: 7

    We buyed our tickets at the official ticket office near the slowboat landing. The only thing you have to do is write down your passport number, they don't take your passport. And it's cheaper than buying from one of the travel agents in town.

    We went on the 27th of january and all went well for 4 hours. We left only at 12:15h because they wait for all of the people who cross the border that morning. After 4 hours of navigating the Mekong, the rudder broke and we crashed on the shore... The captain jumped off and waved we should do the same. After that, we took our backpacks out and after 1.5 hours another slowboat came and took us for 15 minutes further to a local village. It was almost dark and some of us slept with local families and we slept on the slowboat (hard wooden floor and cold...). The next day, our old slowboat came, they fixed the rudder. So everyone in that boat again and after 2 hours we arrived in Pakbeng.
    We had to go on another slowboat and just made it before sunset in Luang Prabang. The guy from our guesthouse said, he never takes the slowboat because they are so old and it's dangerous...

    But the journey was really nice, you play cards, chat, read, drink beerlao's and I didnt had the idea i was travelling from A to B, but had a good time. I didn't want to miss this, but when the rudder broke in another place and we crashed in the middle of the Mekong and floated further with an uncontrollable boat and without lifejackets, things could have been worse.....

    #63 Posted: 6/2/2009 - 19:08

  • wessatong

    Joined Travelfish
    4th March, 2008
    Posts: 14
    Total reviews: 2

    hi all, thanks for your info.

    If you're reading this and you happen to be leaving Huay Xai for Luang Prabang on the 20th or 21st of April, drop me an e-mail at wessatong @ gmail . com .

    There are just two of us travelling but we hope to maybe cobble together a group of 11 and hire a boat (as Charlotte said earlier). Will be more comfortable if there's just 11 of us!

    #64 Posted: 14/4/2009 - 17:10

  • tazgirl

    Joined Travelfish
    30th April, 2009
    Posts: 6

    I'm trying to figure out the best way to get from Luang Prabang to Luang Nam Tha and back. From the above posts it seems it might be best to go by boat up to LNT...and bus or fly back to LP? Can anyone give me tips on travel time by boat between LP and LNT, and costs too, please? Cheers

    #65 Posted: 5/5/2009 - 17:07

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    Tazgirl

    Laoairlines.com show a flight from Vientiane to LMT, but not from LP. So, the quickest way would be to get to Vientiane (fly from LP?) and fly to LNT. But, Lao Air are expensive.

    The next quickest alternative is to take a public bus from LP to LNT. The bus runs daily via Oudom Xay, and takes about 9+ hours (depending on raod weather conditions). The price is about 100,000kip (add 20,000kip for VIP, which only sporadically runs, but takes about an hour less).

    The next quickest is boat up the Mekong (for a little way) and the Nam Ou to Nong Khiaw (7+ hours, and 100,000kip) overnight at Nong Khiaw, and bus (via Oudom Xay) to LNT (7+ hours, 80,000kip).

    The next option is boat up the Makong to Huay Xai (via an overnight at Pak Beng), this takes 2 days, (200,000kip), another overnight at Huay Xai, then a bus to LNT (5 hours, 60,000kip).

    There are a couple of other very circuitous routes, but I doubt you'd get much of a ride. For example, there are times when parts of the Nam Tha are 'serviced' by boats, but there's one section that you'd have to find a boatman to take (which may not be pssible, even if it was navigable).

    Another way of looking at getting to LNT is not to go to LP first. Rather, to approach LNT from either Vietnam or Thailand.

    I've written on this in my blog of my recent travel from Chiang Mai to Hanoi. Refer:

    www.travelblog/Bloggers/brucemoon/

    Hope this helps.

    Cheers

    #66 Posted: 7/5/2009 - 15:04

  • Yorick

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd November, 2008
    Posts: 9

    Hello fellow travellers,
    I make this trip very often as a Chiang Mai based photographer, around five times a year.
    - Yes it is often a matter a "good spirit" more than about wonderful logistic ;-). The ordinary slow boat can be fun sometimes, often rough, indeed.
    - If you awant another kind of fun/rough equation you also have the "speed boat". Those very small noisy and probably more dangerous boats have a dedicated pier wherever they are ( Luang Prabang , Pakbeng or Houey Xai.) It will cost you around 4000 THB (dec.08) for a boat / sharing is always possible up to 4,6 or 10 people for the bigger ones. The good aspect of this 7 hours rushing glide in the heart of Laos, is that it takes "only" one day to do the trip.
    - Another way to do the boat trip between Luang Prabang and Houey Xay on the Mekong, is a luxuary one, and i believe, it you have the extra cash, it totally worth it. It is a 2 days cruise, same as the slow boat, but in very comfortable conditions. you can check www.luangsay.com.
    Beside all this, and what ever is your choice, it is a wonderful travel to do either ways, and choosing a less crowded period of the year is always a bonus, I would try to avoid October to March.

    #67 Posted: 9/5/2009 - 07:49

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    Hello

    Yorick suggests the fast boat...

    Fast boat on the Mekong - BE VERY AFRAID!!!

    Recently, I had little choice regarding riverboat travel on the Nam Ou. It was fast boat or nothing.

    I had a great buzz. BUT! My guts were in my mouth the whole trip. Not only because we were travelling at about 50 kph, but also because the driver could have hit a submerged object and at that speed I'd be minced meat!!!

    I agreed to the fast boat on the (upper) Nam Ou because I'd travelled the lower section the day before and hadn't noticed floating logs, etc.

    But, there ARE floating obstacles on the Mekong. Just relax at a Luang Prabang riverside cafe, and watch!!!

    To my way of thinking, taking a fst boat on the Mekong is a recipe for a fast end to an otherwise enjoyable life.

    Cheers

    #68 Posted: 10/5/2009 - 08:53

  • Yorick

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd November, 2008
    Posts: 9

    Hello dear Bruce, dear fellows,
    I agree with you, riding the speedy monstres is potentially very dangerous.
    ... I was trying to state what is available ... but if you want my opinion ... The speed boats are not only dangerous, but also very poluting. I m not talking about fumes here, as they work out gaz more and more, but noise. It might a bit conservative, but i don't like to see this unique scenery wasted by a rushing arrow.
    Another point is that, speed is not what you need, I would say when you travel here. It is much more insighful for speed pacing westerners to learn a bit of the essence of slowness, the quality of the doing nothingness, and actually enjoy after a brief moment of panic looking for the control remote, one of the most penetrating channel on earth. ;-)

    #69 Posted: 10/5/2009 - 09:08

  • Rufus

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd April, 2007
    Location Laos
    Posts: 950

    Alas poor Yorick. I knew him well.

    #70 Posted: 13/6/2009 - 17:03

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6220
    Total reviews: 10

    Man I hate to always be the contrarian, but I love those boats. What an adrenaline rush! But I kind of live by the motto "If you can't get killed doing it, it ain't worth doing". I'm about to buy a power paraglider that are being sold here in Muk - including flying instructions. I love parachuting, so this should be great fun.

    #71 Posted: 14/6/2009 - 15:49

  • Skimonkey

    Joined Travelfish
    16th April, 2009
    Posts: 40

    Folks

    I did this trip last week 24th June, it was rammed (if you really want to do this trip but hate the crowds consider going the other way, from the boats that passed us going to Pakbeng and HuayXai there was almost no one on them). And as many people have said get there early and bring a cusion. fantastic scenery, the river is quite low by all accounts and there were large cluster of rocks exposed on some bends. So if the river was a couple of feet higher is would be easy to see a fast boat would not stay in one piece along with crew & passengers should it twat them. I also saw some bloddy big logs gently floating down stream. Our boat left at 11:20, on the Thai side there are signs says it leaves at 10:30. From what I could gather this is almost never the case.

    Just to make this point again, if you get there late you may well find that you have the company of a large diesel engin for 7hrs or so. the second leg from PakBeng to Luang Prabang is longer, or at least it seams so.

    Take it easy.

    #72 Posted: 30/6/2009 - 21:07

  • BruceMoon

    Click here to learn more about BruceMoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    For those interested, I refer to a pic taken in April 2009 of the inside of the slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang...

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulandheatherfordham/3512358738/in/set-72157619192881370/

    Cheers

    #73 Posted: 8/7/2009 - 20:50

  • Skimonkey

    Joined Travelfish
    16th April, 2009
    Posts: 40

    Again for those interested, following up from BruceMoon's reply I have posted a video clip of part of my journey on the slow boat on my blog.

    http://dancesouth.blogspot.com

    Next time I update my blog I'll be putting a link on it to travelfish.

    cheers.

    #74 Posted: 9/7/2009 - 21:11

  • BruceMoon

    Click here to learn more about BruceMoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    Hey, Ski

    I had a look at your vid.

    Pretty noisy.....

    Wouldn't be what I'd class as a relaxing sojourn.

    Cheers

    #75 Posted: 10/7/2009 - 05:27

  • Skimonkey

    Joined Travelfish
    16th April, 2009
    Posts: 40

    Exactly !!!

    Personally I would only do this journey again the other way ALOT less busy which means you can get a seat near the front!!!!!!!!

    #76 Posted: 10/7/2009 - 18:47

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    Myself and three friends are planning the dreaded slow boat trip in October (25/26).

    Has anyone stayed at the Pakbeng Lodge? I know its expensiv(around US$90 a night but from stories of rat infested guesthouse rooms we'll pay the piper.

    Also found a company called trekthailand that promote a tour ex Chiang Khong taking a rented boat from Huay Xai to Pakbeng. Overnight then boat to Pak Ou cave then trek to local village for overnight. Then following day six hour trek to a place called Xiang Maen where you cross the Mekong by small ferry boat to Luang Prabang.

    It sounds great but from experience in SE Asia looking and being are poles apart.

    Has anyone heard of trekthailand? If so are they kosher?

    #77 Posted: 16/7/2009 - 14:41

  • BruceMoon

    Click here to learn more about BruceMoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    robmacca

    May I suggest you make a brand new post with these questions, you'll get better replies.

    Cheers

    #78 Posted: 16/7/2009 - 15:02

  • wanderingcat

    Joined Travelfish
    21st October, 2006
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    Pak Beng has quite a number of decent rat-free options that are far cheaper than Pak Beng Lodge e.g. Phetsokxay Hotel & Monsavanh GH. Many new GHs have popped up while some old places have been rebuilt, the list on Travelfish isn't exhaustive. Most guidebook info is outdated, things there change so rapidly.

    Google for 'hobomaps' & look for their online Pak Beng map.

    #79 Posted: 16/7/2009 - 15:27

  • Layabout

    Joined Travelfish
    17th March, 2008
    Posts: 27

    I was in Pakbeng last August and the Indian Restaurant had just fell into the Mekong can somebody tell me if it has been ressurected or has it just floated away. And as wanderingcat says there are quite a few decent guest houses around I think I paid 200 baht and had our own hot shower and toilet. Must go back one day

    Cheers

    #80 Posted: 16/7/2009 - 19:12

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    hey BruceMoon

    Sorry if a newbie stuffed up. Bad day. There again Australia should have won the first test.

    Checked out your snap of the slow boat. Where do they hang the washing?
    Seriously me and the missus took a fast ferry from Phnom Phen to Siem Reap last year up the Mekong and across Tonle Sap. Great if you sat inside but hairy as hades on top. Then there was the gang plank walk to get off. The missus suffers from vertigo and we had to blindfold her.

    Can one book any of the Pakbeng guest houses in advance? I don't mind roughing it. I came out on a convict ship to Australia in 1970 - at least that's what it looked like.

    The company doing the trek I mentioned is called trekthailand. The boat they feature on their website is the same class as the one in your snap. I wondered if they hire one out or if you travel on the regular.
    boat.

    From Luang Prabang we plan to travel by bus to Viang Veng for the tube ride then Vientiane . Do Luang Prabang to Vientiane buses drop off in Viang Veng? And aside from tube riding is Viang Veng worth a stopover?

    Cheers

    #81 Posted: 17/7/2009 - 08:01

  • Yorick

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd November, 2008
    Posts: 9

    Hi RobMacca, Hi fellows

    I realise there is maybe a few pieces of informations we can add in this thread about " the slow boat between Luang Prabang and the Thai border experience ".

    - Accommodations in Pakbeng are actually improving, a lot. But a lot of people are looking at the same moment for a room ... it is all about being one of the happy players. so. a cool hint is, if you are actually travelling at more than one person, get off the boat as soon it arrives and go get a nice rooms as your companions will wait for the luggages to be disembarked and then Join you.
    - Robmacca, the Lodge you are talking about is actually really nice, but I would not be surprised if it is exclusive to the Luang Say Cruise itself (the luxury slow boat). You may want to ask/mail them (they are very nice people) if you can stay there for the night : www.luangsay.com
    - I just found yesterday, the coolest maps of exactly (and only!) the cities we are here talking about : www.hobomaps.com. Precious !

    Have a nice trip !

    #82 Posted: 17/7/2009 - 11:26

  • BruceMoon

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    RobMacca,

    No, not a bad day or anything. It's just that more ppl tend to see a new post and so you tend to get more replies. Though, you've got enough here to answer your query.

    The pic I referred to was taken by acquaintances. The vid offered by skimonkey (immediately below) is also worth a look to get a feel for the journey.

    If the pic depicts what you've been shown by 'trekthailand', it appears you are booked on the 'ordinary' slow boat. I don't know whether 'trekthailand just do the legwork to get you on any slow boat departure, or whether you are allocated seating, etc., to warrant the cost they charge. My hunch is that they are just acting as agents for the boat company. If so, make sure THEY organise you onto the boat. There have been reports that stuff-ups have occurred. So, forewarned is fore-armed.

    At this time of year, i wouldn't be worrying about booking accommodation at PakBeng. There just aren't enough tourists to fill all available beds. The problem with pre-booking is that you pay top dollar. For walk-ins, the price drops if its low season. If money is no object, then pre-book.

    Yorick makes a good point. As there is a boatload of ppl all looking for accommodation, get one to look after baggage while other/s go secure a bed.

    As for LP > VV, these days, as it is a day journey there is usually a dedicated bus. But if not, they'll drop you there (you'll only be paying for that leg of the journey so they won't want to carry you for nix).

    Cheers

    #83 Posted: 17/7/2009 - 12:43

  • wanderingcat

    Joined Travelfish
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    Pak Beng accomm listing:
    http://www.oudomxay.info/index.php?option=com_sobi2&catid=17&Itemid=218&lang=en

    another Pak Beng map:
    http://www.oudomxay.info/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=71&Itemid=102⟨=en&lang=en

    LPB-VTE buses will drop you off in Vang Vieng . state destination when buying tickets & you'll pay only for that stretch. once on the bus, tell the driver/bus crew that you want to get off at Vang Vieng. doesn't hurt to remind them again further into the journey. helps if you know where in Vang Vieng you are headed e.g. organic farm, they can drop you off there before reaching Vang Vieng proper...if main part of town, the LPB-VTE bus bypasses it on a parallel road but they can drop you off somewhere along the disused runway rather than at the bus station north of town (saves you a ~2KM walk/tuktuk ride). see maps: http://www.hobomaps.com/vvmain.htm

    #84 Posted: 17/7/2009 - 23:59

  • irvinejamie

    Joined Travelfish
    21st May, 2009
    Posts: 3
    Total reviews: 15

    We did the trip in july and there was around 50-60 people on board. The plastic chairs we most popular and god moved into convenient circles great for groups. The timber seats are not designed for humans and you are better off on the floor. Only the locals sit up the front, which looked overcrowded. The noise from the engines did not seem to be a problem. Buy beers before you get on the boat!

    I would recommend the trip as the scenery is beautiful. My friend had a 20 hour ordeal on a luxury AC bus service from Huay Xai and had to change the tires 4 times on the bus...(this may have changed). I was weary of this section but turned out to be a highlight. Pak Beng is rubbish, but it's only one night. The following day was shorter on the boat, and Luang Prabang is a nice destination to reach after 2 days.

    Have Fun!

    #85 Posted: 4/8/2009 - 10:52

  • adisak

    Joined Travelfish
    24th August, 2009
    Posts: 4

    The Nagi of Mekong is back with their one cay cruise again.They will do it on once a week basis, starting Saturday Septemerb 19th 2009

    #86 Posted: 24/8/2009 - 12:25

  • sullivanmarc

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd July, 2009
    Location United States
    Posts: 3
    Total reviews: 41

    My wife and I did the trip upstream in 2006. From Luang Prabang to Pak Beng, out boat was roughly 2/3 full; there were about 20 Lao and 20 farang. From Pak Beng to Houay Xai the boat was just a bit fuller and much more Lao; there were, by my count, 33 Lao and 13 farang. Neither boat felt crowded, but looking at the downstream boats we saw a different story -- much more crowded and with a very high proportion of tourists.

    #87 Posted: 5/9/2009 - 08:18

  • starfish

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd March, 2009
    Posts: 20
    Total reviews: 2

    hey!

    Did the slow boat in july this summer. Booked a pakage with the guesthouse and cost 1000bht. The boat was packed and as we were last one we got the floor at the front of the boat which proved better than the seats. Estimate around 100 people or so. Accomadation was ever rat infested and they consantly nibbled the bottoms of the raised bed.(however i think it worked out as £1 a night).

    #88 Posted: 5/9/2009 - 21:46

  • mmmmbeerlao

    Joined Travelfish
    8th October, 2009
    Posts: 8

    The slow boat ride is fun. Its a great way to meet people, and if your on the trail south, you will see these same people on all of your stops. Its always fun to run into people you have met before

    I recomend crossing the boarder on your own and buying your ticket on your own at the slow boat launch area. There are some places there to stock up on snacks and water and beerlao.

    Also I bought a butt cushion before but forgot it on top of the hill. I was pretty bummed out but ended up sitting on a life jacket, so save the kip from a cushion for an extra beerlao floating down the mekon

    #89 Posted: 8/10/2009 - 10:58

  • Saphir

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    I did the trip in July 09. Took the boat from Luang Prabang to Pak Beng, then next day to Huay Xai. Neither boat seemed too crowded. Wish I had taken a cushion, though, as the seats were very hard. Well, maybe I just need to toughen up.

    #90 Posted: 10/10/2009 - 13:53

  • LauraCronk

    Joined Travelfish
    13th October, 2009
    Posts: 4

    Hi. I'm going to Laos from Chiang Mai in Jan 2010 and I have been trying to find out whether the Slow Boat goes on a Sunday or not. We are doing a whistle-stop tour of Asia so time is tight.
    I've also seen mixed stories as to whether the slow boat to Luang Probang is 3 days or 2 days travelling.

    Can someone please answer my questions so I can start getting excited about my trip :)

    #91 Posted: 15/10/2009 - 01:17

  • somtam2000

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    LauraCronk: Boats depart daily -- slow boat takes two days, one night.

    Cheers

    #92 Posted: 15/10/2009 - 07:07

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    Hi all

    Just completed the slow boat from HX to LP - yes irt runs everyday.

    First impressions.

    Was it worth the trip - definitely. Spectacular scenery on one of the world's great rivers.

    Was it fun - depends how much you drink.

    Was it comfortable - depends how much you drink.

    Our party booked tickets through hotel in Chiang Kong - problemo in that bus picks up all round town and got to us at 9.15am. By time you cross river, get through customs - easy process one us dollar extra on Sunday - get passports back and walk 800 metres to slow boat wharf boat is filling fast. Its now after ten but we find seats - all stories about seats true. This boat had 6 rows of aircraft style seats (luxury) the rest rickety chairs from a gargae sale that wouldn't fit the bum of a starving refugee. So all good seat gone and those already on board have spread out. No problemo - group are good natured and we are all soon seated. Its now around 10.30. And we wait and we wait and we wait. No explanations. Finally at 11.30 - so poor suckers who got on boat at 8.00am have been there all morning - we take off.

    Boat is chockers - 100 plus - few locals, mainly young backpackers and a few grey packers like us. Good size boat - whatever awaits you on the daay is what you get - food and drink available - at rip off prices - not a life preserver to be seen - practice a few choruses of abide with me. Away we go and within five minutes the Lao beer, whisky and rum is flowing. Great group of kids with the inevitable joker in the pack - Marcus from Derry. Lots of craic, drinking games. Everyone gets numbum or dead arse as English girl calls it even if you have a cushion which everybody does. So we all move around a lot and drink. Good for the numbum but not for boat which lists dramatically every so often and causes little crew boy to run up and down the aile moving people to equalize the list.

    Arrive Pakbeng after 6 hours at dusk to be greeted by chaotic scene of hotel touts and kids wanting to carry luggage. No lights at landing place. Walk plank to sandy beach then hike up rocky road to guest house.
    I figure they plan to arrive at dusk everyday so pax are stuffed after 6 hours on boat and will take any bed they can. Our hotel room is clean although pillow and sheets look like they are still there from last guest. No a/c but Generators go off at 10.30pm so no difference. Have a good Indian meal and talk cricket with guy from Chennai who has been in Pakbeng for 10 years. Must be slightly mad as Pakbeng is a nothing town whose existence seems to be down to overnight boat stop.

    Day two. We have been told to be at boat at variously 8,8.30 and 9. Indian guy says in his 10 years boat has never left before 9.30 so we have leisurely breakfast at great bakery and stroll to boat just afte 9.00. Different boat. Much smaller but with better seats - starving refugee could sit on these. So low in water that if I hold my arm out of window I can trail hand in Mekong. Same crowd as yesterday no locals. Boat chockers again. Underway at 10 to 10. Not so much drinking this morning as fkids are all hungover. But as sun braces yard arm Marcus has his first Lao beer and soon more hardy souls join in. Great scenery again and day passes easily if slowly. Boat lists again when we move around - this one dramaticaaly but we all know the routine so space ourselves out. Arrive Luang Prabang att 10 to 5 after 7 long hours. Mercifully still daylight. Touts less agresive no kids plenty of tuk tuks short walk up concrete ramp. Luang Prabang is paradise. Small laid back great architecture. Journey done.

    Suggestions.

    Don't buy package from hotel in Chiang Khong. Get tuk tuk to ferryt wharf pay 30 baht for river crossing and buy ticket in Huay Xia - cheaper and gets you to boat earlier if there are any decent seats. But be prepared to wait and wait and wait. Boat never leaves before 11.30am so it can arrive in Pakbeng on dusk according to our Indian friend and he should know.

    Buy food and drink at Huay Xai after customs. Not cheap but not rip off like boat.

    This is a once in a lifetime trip but a pleasure cruise it ain't. Be prepared for numbum, lots of noise and drinking, full boat - at least from September through to May. Also be prepared - as happened night before us - of booked out cheap accommodation in Pakbeng. Up market accomm no problemo but at 80 to 100 US for one night - and generators still go off at 10.30pm it aint worth it. Suggest as one blog did that if you are party of two one waits for luggage while other secures room.

    If you can get a group together of say 20 people - I know no easy. You can hire your own boat for 200 US a day. We found this out by talking to lady owner of another boat tied up to us while waiting at Pakbeng. Her and husband boat had aircraft seats, tables, luxury. So for 400US you can travel in comfort and when you think the regular trip costs about 22US per person it makes sense though easier said than done.

    Onward and downward to Vientiane.

    #93 Posted: 27/10/2009 - 08:54

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    Met girl in night market last night. Boat she was on from HX to PB broke down and they were forced to wait three hours in stiffling heat while a replacement boat was brought from HX then transfer on the river bank.

    Turned a 6 hour trip to 10. And she could still laugh about it. Don't you love travelling.

    #94 Posted: 28/10/2009 - 08:31

  • somtam2000

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    Thanks for the report robmacca -- great info.

    #95 Posted: 28/10/2009 - 09:56

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    Almost forgot.

    If you succumb to a beer or three on the boat DON'T pay in Baht. Boat vendors could show Travelex a thing or two about currency exchange. Exchange enough kip at Huay Xai (shops and unoffical moneychangers everywhere - not best rate but better than boat) to get you through two days on boat and meal in Pakbeng (hotels in Pakbeng take baht).

    Once you get to Luang Prabang there are dozens of official money exchanges offering top rates.

    #96 Posted: 31/10/2009 - 17:48

  • magella82

    Joined Travelfish
    5th December, 2009
    Posts: 6

    Hey there, I am quite prone to motion sickness,but it depends on how choppy/rough the trip is. Would it be worth me taking the slow boat or would I be better off finding an easier mode of transport?

    #97 Posted: 6/12/2009 - 06:05

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    The Mekong is a wide river. It flows easy and slow. The trip is well worth it but it isn't a pleasure cruise. Having said that, you would hate yourself if you didn't take it.

    #98 Posted: 12/12/2009 - 13:32

  • jaizan

    Joined Travelfish
    16th November, 2009
    Posts: 13

    I did this going UP the river in mid-December.

    Total of about 30 people on the boat, probably less than half the number on the boats going down the river.

    About 9 hours on the first day nearer to 10 on the second (ie a little bit too long).
    Bought tickets at the top of the ramp to the boats on the first day. Anywhere else in town was more expensive. Bought on the boat on the second day.

    No scams encountered anywhere.

    #99 Posted: 2/1/2010 - 14:29

  • grasshopper-
    322

    Joined Travelfish
    30th September, 2009
    Posts: 25

    We found the trick to getting good seats is to get there EARLY! And definitely get seats up towards the front. We bought a couple of the pads that are sold right on the shore plus used one of thermarests as a cushion for our back. Many of the people behind us just had the staff remove the hard benches and made comfy spots on the floor of the boat with their pads and packs. The crew did try to put too many people on our boat at first but eventually after a bit of rebelling - they added another boat. Spent the night in PakBeng - worse part was that boat dock was packed so we had to hike up the largest sand dune with our gear - steep and deep. Generators in PakBeng shut off at 10p, back on at 6a so make sure you have a headlight or similar. 2nd day was on a different boat for some reason - had bus seat type seats - much more comfortable but again - get down there early!! Food and beer is available for sale on board - munchkins will sell along the way when the boat stops - much cheaper than the boat prices. Had we had more time to organize and arrange it - we would have hooked up with others and rented our own boat - we just didn't have the time to get it together. And like someone said before - not a pleasure cruise but definitely worth it - I have a short video if anyone wants to see it..just email me.

    #100 Posted: 3/1/2010 - 05:19

  • Dubraatz

    Joined Travelfish
    17th December, 2009
    Posts: 7

    Hey Grasshopper thanks for the info.
    Do you know how much it is to rent your own boat and what the capacity is?

    #101 Posted: 7/1/2010 - 08:42

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    Hi Dubraatz

    See my post for cost of renting your own boat. Capacity is fluid. To the boat owners its how many they can pack on. For comfort max 50 pax. For super comfort you your favorite lady and a healthy supply of food and alcohol.

    #102 Posted: 8/1/2010 - 18:27

  • borisborough

    Joined Travelfish
    30th November, 2009
    Posts: 21
    Total reviews: 2

    We did the trip 22nd & 23rd December 2009. We bought a deal in Chiang Mai - minivan to Chang Khong and basic accommodation at Nan Khong Guesthouse (buffet dinner, egg breakfast & sandwich lunch all included) (shared bathroom)(large Chang beer 60thb) and then ferry across to Laos and two days of boating to Luang Prabang (it didn't include the accommodation in Pak Beng).

    Once we crossed into Laos (visa USD30 or 35 depending on your passport!), we were taken by minivan to a cafe near the river - at about 10:30am. We stayed there for an hour (large Beerlao 10,000K on the approach road) and booked a room at Donevilasack Guesthouse in Pak Beng for 300thb, then walked down to the slowboats at 11:30am. We were told to get on one that was already crowded with about 100 travellers who had been aboard since about 9am. There wasn't enough room for the forty of us. The organisers decided that everyone on the boat should move back and this created about six spaces. We all decided to sit down and demand that they put on a new boat. One or two broke ranks saying that their friends were also on the boat but most of us stood firm. Eventually they loaded the rest of us (about 35) on a new boat which then left before the full one.

    Large Beerlao on the boat is 20,000K and I don't remember the woman washing her hands when preparing sandwiches after helping load people and parcels and the like. But what you don't see won't hurt you!

    We arrived at Pak Beng at about 5:45pm - the quayside's pretty steep so watch your footing with a backpack. It was a 400m climb up the hillside road to the guesthouse. The accommodation there was basic but still had en-suite with hot shower and electricity all night.

    After breakfast we walked down to the slowboats at 8am to find that one was due to leave at 10am and the other at 11am. We picked the early one which left at 9:30am with about fifty people aboard - not packed but not many spare places. Arrived at Luang Prabang about ten minutes after the later boat (??!) at 5:40pm - lots of hawkers there trying to sell accommodation. We managed to get a large room at the Symoungkoun Guesthouse (en-suite bathroom with hot shower) for USD15 per night.

    The boat wasn't cramped and it was certainly a "must do". You get a chance to talk to lots of people from all over the world doing different trips - really interesting. Don't forget to buy a cushion in Thailand (40thb) for the bench though - otherwise it'll be a numb-bum for two days.

    Grasshopper322 might have done the trip the same day!

    #103 Posted: 24/1/2010 - 11:04

  • climbg

    Joined Travelfish
    21st October, 2009
    Posts: 14

    Hi,

    In Dec last year, I took the boat from Luang Prabang to Pak Beng on day 1. On day 2, from Pak Beng to Huay Xai .
    The boat on the first day was nice. It has cushioned seats and tables. The boat on the second day was a different story... :)
    On both days, although the boats were full, they weren't overly full. Everyone had a seat.
    Both trips took about 8-9 hours. We stayed overnight in Pak Beng and were back at the ferry dock the next morning. By the time we arrived at Huay Xai, it was almost 6 pm. So we had to stay the night at Huay Xai and crossed the border to Chiang Khong the next day.
    The border crossing only took about 5 minutes.

    #104 Posted: 8/2/2010 - 17:17

  • grasshopper-
    322

    Joined Travelfish
    30th September, 2009
    Posts: 25

    I made a short video of our 2 day travel on the slow boat...all the kids who came down to the river to check us out, some local kids on the boat....

    #105 Posted: 9/2/2010 - 18:50

  • grasshopper-
    322

    Joined Travelfish
    30th September, 2009
    Posts: 25

    #106 Posted: 9/2/2010 - 18:51

  • hotchily

    Joined Travelfish
    14th January, 2009
    Posts: 14

    Trip mid January 2010
    It's easier to do the booking in Xuong Xai (Houai Sai)
    100,000 Kip XX to pakBeng
    200,000 Kip XX to LP

    The usual - too many people on board so another boat ordered which left a very comfortable trip in the end. Boats were combined again in PakBeng to a larger boat with reclining wooden chairs - now this was luxury for those that awoke early to catch to boat.
    XX Ticket Office at the top of the road neat boat landing on the left.
    Boat supposed to leave at 11:00 however with toooo many people and a second boat, left at 12:15.
    Beer on boat 20,000
    Food above average prices so bring your own

    Phonevichith Guesthouse Xuong Xai (Houai Sai) - great views of the Mekong
    They sell cushions - 10,000 kip; pillows 25,000 kip
    Good food reasonablty priced
    email: thavone_suthavong@yahoo.com

    Pak Beng
    Phet Sokxai Hotel (up road, turn left, then about 100 meters up the road)
    $35 a night
    Not worth it

    Bounee Guesthouse
    50,000 kip per night - clean rooms, bathroom and cheap breaky
    Up the road from the above hotel

    Heard a first hand account from travellers that travelling from LP to Houai Xai on slow boat that packs were taken from the boat when stopped in a village - apparantly in hessian sacks when they stopped. Not sure if these were on the roof (I would expect so)

    If you want to try some really nice indian give the Khopchaideu restuarant in PakBeng a go (just below the Phet Sokxai hotel)
    (Malaysian, Lao and Indian food)
    It's not the cheapest but bloody good food - service a little slow however you can pass the time by sampling many a beer lao.
    Average food price 13,000 kip - 28,000 kip

    When arriving in Pak Beng it's an interesting sight after spending about 6 hours chilling out, meeting people etc. It's like landing at the airport - where everyone jumps up and makes a dash to be the first off the boat, only to wait on the shore for the baggage - there goes the chillout.

    #107 Posted: 18/2/2010 - 10:00

  • McPint

    Joined Travelfish
    9th November, 2009
    Posts: 6

    Hello all,
    Laos is an amazing, truly beautiful country. People are charming and gentle everywhere.

    The slow boat is a very nice ride.

    Just marvel at the mighty Mekong, talk to interesting people, read a book or listen to some music. There’s time for it all – enjoy the trip.

    If you think it is boring maybe it’s because you’re too stressed out and not yet in to the Lao wavelength.

    Just relax and go with the flow. Don’t count the hours until LP – that’s the wrong way to do it.

    The benches are somewhat short for westerners and the boat rarely departs on time (only when it’s full: 2,3 hours delay…). But all that talk about absolutely needing pillows is pathetic, really…

    Food: there isn’t good food on board. Mainly chips, water and beer… No noodles or Lao food and that’s a pity.

    If you can, buy some fruit and water beforehand. Also, along the shore you can buy some dried, smoked fish from villagers

    Boat Tickets

    After crossing the Mekong from Thailand (Chiang Khong) to Laos (Huay Xai) and once you’re done with the passport formalities (somewhat chaotic), walk or take a ride (motorbike or tuk tuk: 5-10 000 Kip) to the main boat terminal, about 5 km up north.

    Skip the touts, agencies and whatever, both in Thailand and in Laos, and buy the tickets directly in that pier (100 000 kip – Dec/2009).

    There’s a small local mafia getting rich just by squeezing the falang (foreigners).

    Food for thought:

    It’s not uncommon to be asked 400 000 kip for the boat ride.
    That’s a 300 000 kip profit (24 € / 32 $) – roughly the equivalent of an average two weeks work

    (The Per capita income in 2008 was $765 - http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2770.htm)

    As in other places and situations prices will soar, for no good reason, if you just pay on demand whatever they’ll ask you for.

    Be a responsible tourist: be assertive, proactive and buy local stuff, directly from the source, at the just price– skip the middleman.

    Do some simple math and compare the relative prices of things. Bargain, when appropriate.

    Have a nice journey in Laos

    Pedro

    #108 Posted: 18/2/2010 - 18:19

  • climbg

    Joined Travelfish
    21st October, 2009
    Posts: 14

    i agree with mcpint (pedro), when in laos switch to laos' time and just enjoy the journey. they are a gentle and laidback people.

    if you get the narrower boat with short wooden seats, it's better to go to the back of the boat and sit on the rattan mat provided. it's more comfortable and you can lie down.

    it's a good idea to bring food. i brought a bag of rambutan and plenty of water. on the second boat, they did sell instant noodles. so i guess, it depends on which boat you get.

    #109 Posted: 18/2/2010 - 18:48

  • somsai

    Joined Travelfish
    1st March, 2006
    Location United States
    Posts: 563

    I'd disagree with some of what is written up above.

    Laborer wages were $5 a day in 2008, per capita statistics are meaningless in an economy that is mostly agrarian. The boat owners wait in line to take people down the Mekong, they are lucky if they come up in rotation three or four times a year, so whatever you pay is stretching a lot longer than a day for one family.

    The comments on bargaining and a local mafia are pretty much over the top. There is just about no bargaining for those who know the correct price for anything. Locals have become accustomed to lots of rude arguements over price with foreign tourists. Many don't even deal with foreigners or if they do they come ready for lots of nastiness, and they charge accordingly.

    The slow (cattle boat)boat isn't even running now, as of February 17, 2010, river is too low, so try cramming on the bus, and look out the window of all the gorgeous parts of Laos you are going to miss on the way by. Should take 12 to 15 hours.

    http://www.travelfish.org/board/post/laos/9653_boats-not-running-from-huay-xai-to-pakbeng

    #110 Posted: 18/2/2010 - 20:46

  • danibek

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2006
    Posts: 4

    As of Februar 18th I can confirm that the slow boat IS running.
    Pak Beng to Huay Xai the problem is that after about 2 hours there's some rapids that the boats can't cross.
    So you get off one boat, walk around 20 mins, then get on another.
    The big surprise is if you come in the other direction ie from Huay Xai.
    In this case boats don't leave till around noon then arrive at the rapids around 5.30pm. That means there;s no time to continue on the second boat and so everyone has to sleep on the boats or on tarpaulins that have been laid out on the sand banks. Since nobody is warned about this many travellers get very angry but in fact the atmosphere becomes something of a party and a new boat continues next morning, picks up passengers in Pak Beng (or else you switch boats there) and continue the same day down river to Louang Prabang, dirty but having had a bit of an adventure. For those who don't want to sleep rough a few speedboats come to the first boat on the night before offering rides to Pak Beng - they ask 1000Baht per person but will take 3000Baht per speedboat with some considerable bargaining (six in a speedboat is pretty squashed but possible for the 35 minute ride to Pak Beng).

    #111 Posted: 19/2/2010 - 16:48

  • climbg

    Joined Travelfish
    21st October, 2009
    Posts: 14

    wow!! i just had a look at the photo of the boat from huay xai to luang prabang... http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulandheatherfordham/3512358738/in/set-72157619192881370/
    it's very crowded!!!

    the boats i took from luang prabang to huay xai were not crowded at all. they probably had 30 - 40 people max. they were full, but never uncomfortably crowded.

    #112 Posted: 19/2/2010 - 18:27

  • idreamofdur-
    ian

    TF writer
    Click here to learn more about idreamofdurian
    Joined Travelfish
    5th September, 2008
    Location Singapore
    Posts: 576
    Total reviews: 4

    I just heard a new variation on the slow boat scams from 2 travelers last night in Vientiane:

    Many people encouraged to pay in advance for accommodations in Pak Beng and do so.... boat stops about 1 hour before Pak Beng and captain says the water is too shallow and they cannot continue to Pak Beng; get off the boat and hike to a camping spot on a beachy area where vendors are already waiting for them; people are charged to rent sleeping bags, build a fire, etc. and then charged even more if they want to sleep on the boat. No refunds on the room in Pak Beng of course!

    Can anyone confirm?

    #113 Posted: 23/2/2010 - 15:41

  • wanderingcat

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

    #113:
    Downriver boats (if still running) have to stop before Pak Beng - water levels currently too low to clear the rapids. No scam here.

    Following is gathered from Vientiane Times article + bunch of blog entries (some links incl to photos at #13-15 here)...

    To get past the rapids passengers hafta walk some distance to another boat waiting at a village. Cos they set off so late from Huay Xai , by the time they reach the second boat it's too late/dark to travel safely on the river to Pak Beng. Either camp there, or pay $$$$$+++ for $peedboat to Pak Beng. Next AM second boat sets off for LPB, stopping at Pak Beng to pick up those who paid for $peedboat & overnighted there.

    From blog entries, sounds like villagers at the camping spot are trying to make life easier for the stranded (& make the most of the situation) by selling them food & so on. Of cos the passengers hafta pay the villagers for the stuff (unless they brought their own food & firewood?) & the cost of transporting it in.

    Initially felt that having to pay to sleep on the boat sounded a bit much, but after reading a blog entry about the mess that backpackers who overnighted on a boat made out of it, i don't think that way anymore...The boat is essentially the boat captain's home, whole family lives on board, not nice when a whole bunch of strangers get drunk & trash your home. Making passengers pay to sleep on board now sounds more like limiting/covering costs of damage...

    Scam part seems to be the agents (in Chiangmai? Huay Xai?) who are well aware of things yet continue to sell the slowboat packages, do not warn their customers about what lies ahead so that they can be prepared (bring extra food & water) or choose to do the journey by bus, & do not refund payment for accomm in Pak Beng. Whatever happens along the way isn't the agents' business as far as they're concerned, once departed from Huay Xai - out of sight, out of mind.

    Also, have seen one report about the boat setting off from Huay Xai at 12:30PM which is really late. Usual time is ~11:00AM latest. Setting off earlier obviously means getting to second boat with enough daylight left to reach Pak Beng the same evening - starting to smell another rat here...

    IMHO, it's a situation that the passengers (who paid for the package) bought themselves into...

    #114 Posted: 23/2/2010 - 17:28

  • wombatfuz

    Joined Travelfish
    30th December, 2009
    Posts: 38

    Just read this in the papers today

    Record low Mekong River poses threat to millions
    http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/100226/world/vietnam_laos_thailand_china_environment_climate

    #115 Posted: 27/2/2010 - 13:19

  • markbek

    Joined Travelfish
    7th January, 2010
    Posts: 5

    When I was back again in Pak Beng in early April there had been rain and the slow boats were running again...

    #116 Posted: 20/4/2010 - 23:09

  • applecool

    Joined Travelfish
    12th June, 2010
    Posts: 3

    Have just done the slow boat trip (June 2010). About 60 on board, quite full, uncomfortable seats and different boats each day. Noisy at back with engine, but well worth the trip. Left first day at 1050am,, then second day left Pak Beng about 0930 and arrived after 5pm in LPB. Get your guesthouse to supply you with fried rice and bananas and water for the trip.

    I had booked with Nagi of Mekong. The night before, in Chiang Khong, all seemed OK, but next morning I arrived at boat to be told not running but had to go in general slow boat. To his credit, Adisak from Nagi paid for the slow boat even though I had not paid him anything.

    I think overall the trip was fantastic and time does pass amazingly quickly. While peaceful as a trip, it is noisy because of the engine.

    #117 Posted: 23/6/2010 - 09:43

  • RACHYPF

    Joined Travelfish
    13th November, 2009
    Posts: 41

    Hey me and my husband took the slow boat from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang in February and had a fantastic time. Granted it was cramped to the point of sinking, estimating around 70 on board both days, was very uncomfy - 6-7 hours sitting on wooden planks or on the floor very numb bums - but it was a wonderful experience and we made a lot of friends along the way.
    We never made it to Pakbeng due to the low water level and had to sleep on the riverbank in the middle of nowhere although the remote villagers knew we were coming and kept us fed and watered and whiskeyed all night it was brilliant.
    Top tips take a cushion 2 if you can manage, take Whiskey Lao and a pack of cards to pass the time, make sure the batteries are charged as the scenery is beautiful, take a jumper but most of all if reading this and wondering whether to take the boat or not do it you will not regret it, flying makes you miss this wonderful part of Asia and please do not be tempted by the fastboat it crashed while we were there and the people had to sleep rough with no shelter food or water until we could pick them up the next day.
    Happy memories indeed xx

    #118 Posted: 14/7/2010 - 00:56

  • emmebi

    Joined Travelfish
    24th July, 2010
    Posts: 1

    Hello! Anyone who tried to go from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai by boat? Useful tips about timing and which boat to take? I'll try it out in 2 weeks time, how is the river situation?
    thanks

    #119 Posted: 24/7/2010 - 00:17

  • Vangrrl79

    Joined Travelfish
    2nd May, 2010
    Location Canada
    Posts: 3

    Hey all,

    Just took the slow boat up from Luang Prabang to Huay Xa a few days ago (Sept 22/23). It was a beautiful ride and I had no issues at all.


    Got my ticket in LP from the boat slip the day before and paid 100,000K. The baat was almost empty with only 8 other farangs and a a handful of locals. I was able to get a car seat to myself and had a comfy ride to Pakbeng. I had grabbed baguettes from the morning market and some water and so I was set for the day long journey. We left around 845 (not bad by Laos standards) and was in Pakbeng by 6pm.


    Guesthouse in Pakbeng was 30,00K with ensuite and hot water. Restaurants are more than what I expected. The Bakery is great for a morning coffee and breakfast.


    For the 2nd day the ticket cost me 100,00K and I just paid on the boat. Again the boat was almost empty and I got a seat to myself. The sun shone and the scenery was lovely.


    Got into Huay Xa around 6pm and decided to walk into town from the Slow Boat pier. Its a good 2km walk but mostly flat. Stayed at a GH right beside the road to the border ferry for 50,000K. More than I wanted to spend, but after looking at 4 other rooms for the same price it was not worth looking anymore. Had a lovely dinner at the Riverside Restaurant.


    All in all it was a simple, relaxed and easy trip. Highly recommend that you go UP the river and not down if you can :)

    #120 Posted: 26/9/2010 - 14:19

  • penthesilea

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd August, 2009
    Posts: 4

    Hi - we did the Huay Xai to LP trip with Nagi of Mekong on Sunday 7th November and learned from their responsible Adisak that almost 200 people had waited for the slow boat on Saturday 6th. They had to use two boats, both leaving rather late (11 and 12 am) and supposedly overcharged. Still not everybody made it on board - we met two people who had passed the immigration with us on Saturday and could not get on the boat.

    If you can afford it, cash out the 4600 THB for the private tour - it is worth it. We were only 7 aboard and pampered by the crew. Transfer from hotel to pier in Huay Xai, food and drinks, excursions and explanations during the two days as well as the hotel in Pakbeng were included in the fare.

    #121 Posted: 14/11/2010 - 15:39

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    Interesting to read that Nagi of Mekong is in the forum again. Glad to see somebody had a good experience with Adisak. Regular readers of this forum will know the problems in the past. Like applecool. Yo book and if the numbers aren't sufficient he offloads you to slowboat. Although I question his estimate of 200 people catching the slowboat. Maybe he counts then doubles up.

    On a different note. How is the water level on the Mekong? I have friends looking to make the trip in January and thought I'd ask the experts.

    #122 Posted: 23/11/2010 - 16:24

  • williamducl-
    es

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd October, 2010
    Posts: 19

    The slow boat, i guess it would not be risky for people who don't swim.

    #123 Posted: 23/11/2010 - 17:04

  • errik

    Joined Travelfish
    28th October, 2010
    Posts: 28

    Do not go for the name 'slow'

    #124 Posted: 25/11/2010 - 20:13

  • williamducl-
    es

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd October, 2010
    Posts: 19

    I am not. It's just, i have not been on one ;)

    #125 Posted: 26/11/2010 - 22:33

  • errik

    Joined Travelfish
    28th October, 2010
    Posts: 28

    Well said

    #126 Posted: 29/11/2010 - 21:48

  • laurenladky

    Joined Travelfish
    27th January, 2011
    Posts: 32

    Hi all,

    I did the slow boat trip in April of 2009 just following Songkran in Chiang Mai . It seemed our van from Chiang Mai to the Laos border made record time because my friend and I were the first on the boat. Food and drink its not outrageously expensive. The boat was not overly crowded though I had a great seat with fun people around me. Maybe I was lucky? Whats with all the horror stories... ?

    In Pak Beng, I just spoke to all the different people offering guesthouse rooms. I stayed in some seedy guesthouse way to the left and it was extremely cheap. (I think 90 baht for one person?)
    I would do the slowboat again in a heartbeat. Bring a good book, seat yourself amongst a good group of people and enjoy.

    #127 Posted: 27/1/2011 - 15:21

  • jackdsilva12

    Joined Travelfish
    18th January, 2011
    Posts: 31

    I did the slow boat earlier this year. You can book your ticket once you are in Chiang Mai from just about any tour agency or you can just get a bus to the border and book your ticket when you arrive.

    If you decide to just go directly to the border and get your ticket there you may not be able to leave the next morning. Worst case scenario you will have to stay an extra night at the border and there isn't much to do but it is quiet and pretty pleasant. Might be a nice rest before the boat ride.

    #128 Posted: 27/1/2011 - 17:28

  • suehc

    Joined Travelfish
    30th March, 2011
    Posts: 1

    Does anyone know about current water levels and whether the slow boat is traveling from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang? Are boats still having trouble making it to Pakbeng in one day and leaving people to camp on the riverbanks? We are planning to make this river trip mid April and wondering if it's feasible. Any current info would really be appreciated. Thanks!

    #129 Posted: 31/3/2011 - 06:02

  • smartcookie

    Joined Travelfish
    11th August, 2007
    Posts: 15

    We took it a few weeks ago in April 2011 after Sonkran (boat left April 16). It took 6 hours the first day and 7 hours the second day. It left 1.5 hours late the first day and 30 mins late the second day though. No problem booking right at the office by the boat an hour before scheduled departure for 200,000 kip. In the end, there were about 100 people on the boat. The reason we left late is because they had us wait 1.5 hours for "people stuck at the border". It ended up being about 50 people, i.e. they should have had another boat for them. Most people who waited for 1.5 hours were too exhausted to argue for a second boat and just wanted to leave, so we did.

    Do NOT fall for the Villa Salika pre-booking scam for a guesthouse in Pakbeng . The room are almost all infested with bed bugs and the price is double what every other place in town charges.
    This is the worst place we stayed on our backpacking trip. We never listen to solicitors or pre-purchase hotels without seeing the rooms first, but unfortunately decided to pre-book this place after a charistmatic character got on the slow boat in Huye Xi before the departure to Pakbeng and raved about the hostel. We considered that it may be a scam, but decided to book anyway because the boat was running 2 hours late and we didn't want to search for accomodations after dark for just one night. DON'T MAKE OUR MISTAKE and warn everyone on the boat if this character comes on to sell rooms!

    Most of the rooms are infested with bed bugs. When you pull back the bed covers, you'll see that the sheets are completely covered with blood stains from previous bug bites. Disgusting! There are also only fans and no A/C at the exorbitant 100,000 kip per night. The Lonely Planet book says 125,000 kip! Someone definitely paid for that listing. Every room we stayed in in Laos at those prices comes with A/C, fresh towels, WiFi and sometimes breakfast. This place is a complete dump and should cost no more than 40,000 kip, if that, if you don't mind bedbugs.

    We ended up not falling asleep, suspecting bedbugs would come out at night and they did. We packed up and went to sit outside until the morning. Then we had to fight with the owner/manager to get refunds for our two rooms. He protested until we threatened to go to the police. In the end, after an hour-long hassle, we got our money back.

    Warning again: DO NOT STAY AT THIS PLACE. Do not believe the hype that there are no rooms. There are plenty and at half the price without bedbugs!

    #130 Posted: 26/4/2011 - 04:46

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    Great post

    To all who take the slow boat it never leaves at the advertised time - if there is one. It leaves at Laos time. And it's always crowded - but that's the fun part. Meet good people, have a few Laos beers, enjoy the scenery. As has been explained in this thread boats are privately owned and owners work on a roster so when it's their turn they pack the boat. Pakbeng is Pakbeng but yeah, never book ahead. Hawkers meet the boat and you can bargain or be first off the boat and check the hotels out first hand. 1000,000 kip is the average but for that we got a clean, comfortable room with a/c. Although with the generators stopping at 10.30pm ish you don't get a/c anyway. Just have a few more beers and sleep like a baby.

    #131 Posted: 26/4/2011 - 08:23

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    Here is my original post on our trip. Been published in a couple of magazines so I guess it must be interesting.

    Numbum Cruise Huay Xai to Luang Prabang

    "Does anybody know when this fecking boat is supposed to leave," says Marcus.
    Marcus is a wild Irishman from Derry: red hair, red skin, red face from Thai whiskey, that he is adding to a can of Coke and consuming at an amazing rate. The vessel in question is the slow boat from Huay Xai - on the Thai/Laos border - to Luang Prabang, the former capital of French Provincial Laos.. It's 11.30AM, 35C, 95% humidity. Some of our fellow travellers have been on board since 8.30AM. Our party, including Marcus, since 10.30AM. Party seems to be the operative word on this vessel. With seats an anorexic super model would cover with her bum and overlap some, a luxury cruise it isn't. If licensed by the MSB, it would carry 50 passengers. I stop counting at 100 and start singing 'Abide With Me', on account of a distinct lack of life jackets – read none.


    We finally get underway at 11.50AM. The scenery on the Mekong is spectacular, the company convivial, and as long as we don't all move to one side of the boat at the same time - cue a small Lao boy who runs up and down the aisle pushing passengers left and right in a vain effort to keep the vessel stable - the day passes in a rosy, if numbum - think numb bum from the seats- bliss. We arrive at our overnight stop in Pakbeng on dust, to a chaotic scene of hotel hawkers, juvenile luggage luggers, no lights. But hey, we survived the day, what's a little hard bargaining in the dark with Basil Fawlty, while fighting off Fagin's apprentices.
    Pakbeng is like Blackpool without the illuminations. If it had a soul it went to Hell years ago. Power is diesel generated, so lights out at 10.30PM, no hot water or a/c. Rooms are rated by the number of rats you hear scurrying about. We have a 10 rat room, but at $7.00 dollars who's complaining. We find an Indian restaurant and spend the meal discussing cricket with a young man from Chennai – he was on his way to Mumbai but took a wrong turn.


    Day two, we wake, take a cold shower, feed the rats, and sally forth. Different boat. life jackets this time. Luxury. We leave at what we now understand is Lao time; in this instance 9.30AM. Yesterday's revellers are decidedly quiet. But soon, the first Lao beer is raised to the sun and another blissful day passes. A group of English girls leads a game that's a variation of truth and dare. Basically you are challenged to tell the truth about your sexual exploits. If you lie you scull a beer. For some so young, these girls have led lives that would put infamous Hollywood sex mistress Heidi Fleiss to shame.


    Finally Luang Prabang hoves into view and the cruise is at an all too abrupt end. We part company with fond memories, and a regret that some enterprising local entrepreneur isn't selling T shirts at the quay inscribed, 'I survived the Numbum Slow Boat'.

    #132 Posted: 26/4/2011 - 08:29

  • RACHYPF

    Joined Travelfish
    13th November, 2009
    Posts: 41

    Hi did the slow boat form Thailand to Laos February 2010 and loved it would not have missed this amazing travel experience for any short trip by plane. Definitley overcrowded people sat on the floor and squashed onto seats but such a good vibe from everyone was brilliant.
    Never made it to Pakbeng had to overnight at a small village but were provided with food drinks ( think they knew we were coming?!?!) one of the best nights i had in Laos interacting with the locals from the village especially the kids was wonderful.
    You see so much of Laos from the boat its amazing watching life go by such a beautiful country.
    BUT remember to buy a cushion 2 if you can be arsed carrying them you will not regret if you do but WILL if you dont.
    Take a warm top/jumper in case its cool there are no windows on the boat.
    Take a couple of bottles of Whiskey Lao and a pack of cards to pass the time.
    Toilet paper a must and dont forget the camera fully charged for this brilliant journey.
    PLEAS DO NOT TAKE THE SPEEDBOAT NO MATTER WHAT THE TOUTS TELL YOU VERY DANGEROUS!!

    #133 Posted: 24/6/2011 - 23:17

  • Annna

    Joined Travelfish
    30th April, 2011
    Posts: 1

    Hello,

    Anybody who did the way from North to South? We'll enter form Vietnam and plan to go South and get to Cambodia.

    I hear that from Luang Parabang to Vientiane it is around 10 hours by bus. Anybody who tried it?

    After that we want to head to Pakse. Any recommendation to get there? How long it may take?

    Thanks!

    #134 Posted: 10/7/2011 - 19:12

  • Venture135

    Joined Travelfish
    15th July, 2011
    Location United Kingdom
    Posts: 12
    Total reviews: 2

    I did half and half on summer 2009. We crossed the boarder to late, missed the last slow boat. So it was a toss up between stay a night in Huay Xai or speed boat it to Pak Beng then get the slow boat in the morning. We speed boated it which was madness. There not speed boats, more like canoe's with engines, genuinely terrifying. On the plus side we passed the slow boat on the river, meaning we got first choice on digs! Really rated Pak Beng too, take a walk up the hill through the centre, nice little place.

    #135 Posted: 17/7/2011 - 10:15

  • Tomhamish

    Joined Travelfish
    19th April, 2010
    Posts: 21

    hi

    we are planning on taking the slow boat from LP to Huay Xai in a days time, however we are pushed for time. Will the boat arrive in Huay Xai in time for us to get a bus to Chaing Mai that same day? and does anyone know how long the bus takes?

    thanks

    Tom

    #136 Posted: 27/7/2011 - 15:43

  • giroffle

    Joined Travelfish
    27th July, 2011
    Posts: 41

    Hi Tom

    I found this excellent map on hobotree...here is the link

    http://hobomaps.com/CKHxMap.html

    If you scroll down on the left hand side of the river, you'll see the Bus Station detailed (06:00 09:00 and 11:40 depart for Chiang Mai). I wish there was one of these for the Laos/Cam border crossing. It is Nancy Chandler style illustration, but even clearer...

    Good luck with the interchanges...and hope you make your connections on time

    #137 Posted: 28/7/2011 - 19:50

  • monsterpiggy

    Joined Travelfish
    10th August, 2011
    Posts: 1

    We took the slowboat from LuangPrabang to HuayXia on 15-16 July 2011.

    On 15 Jul, We made sure we reached the LuangPrabang slowboat jetty at 8am sharp. We bought the ticket to PakBeng (110,000K) and boarded the boat immediately. After a round of headcounting by the boat captain, the boat departed at 8.30am sharp.

    It was a "VIP boat" with comfortable soft cushion seats and there were ample space for everyone to move around as the boat carried only 12 backpackers plus 15 locals, excluding the boat captain and his 2 assistants. The boat made a few stops for the local to alight and reached Pakbeng just after 6pm.

    On the next day, we woke up early, boarded the boat no later than 7.45am as advised by the guesthouse owners. There was no ticket-office at the PakBeng slow-boat jetty, so we bought the ticket to Huayxai (110,000K) on the boat itself. It was a different boat from the day before, and thank goodness, it was again a "VIP boat" with comfortable soft cushion seats. All together there were 12 foreign backpackers and 10 locals, excluding the boat captain and his assistants. The boat departed at 8.30am sharp.

    The boat reached Huayxai at 5.30pm.

    We were approached by a tuktuk the moment we disembarked from the boat. We declined the offer and decided to walk to the immigration custom instead. We reached the checkpoint at 5.50pm and the clearance was fast. Each paid 8000K for the boat ride across the river (we did not bother to bargain) and we cleared the custom on the ChiangKong side at 6.10pm.

    We were approached by tout after we cleared the custom. A A/C mini-van (a 10-seater) was leaving ChiangKong at 6.30pm for ChiangMai for 250Baut per pax. Yes, the price looked good to us and we reached ChiangMai at 11pm. The van brought us to its guesthouse and the room rate was reasonable.

    #138 Posted: 10/8/2011 - 19:44

  • onefatmonkey

    Joined Travelfish
    11th July, 2011
    Posts: 6

    Hi all

    Did the slow boat going up river (Luang Prabang > Pakbeng > Huay Xai) in November 2009.

    It's a lot less crowded going this way although most of the boats we passed going the other way also seemed quite quiet. On both days there were about 40 - 50 people on the boat. About 20 tourists and the rest locals.

    If you can get on a quiet boat it makes the trip so much nicer. We moved the short wooden seats apart and spread out on the floor at the back of the boat using life jackets for pillows. Weather wise it was a chilly and very grey but still pleasant. We attempted a silent disco on the 2nd day using iPods much to the amusement of the locals. Yes we'd had quiet a bit of Lao Lao by that point...

    It can be "boring" but I found if you actually pay attention to the scenery its a lot more rewarding - it's not just jungle, jungle, jungle, rock, rock, jungle... it varies hugely over short distances. I even saw what looked like a giant wicker chicken on the bank (no lie and no I hadn't been drinking!). Try to sit up front for a bit if you can. I sat on some big bags of clothes by the doorway where you board with my iPod in for a few hours on the 2nd day and loved it.

    Pakbeng was fine and we found an 'Indian restaurant'. It wasn't bad for the middle of the jungle and their interpretation of a 'cheese naan' (bread with a cheese triangle spread over it) was hilarious.

    Do get there early to source a good seat on the boat and also remember to take some food. The 1st day we had food and there were also pot noodles full of E numbers and crisps on the 1st boat. So my mate decided we didn't need food the next day - we'd survive on the noodles. Big mistake. The 2nd boat didn't have anything so we went very hungry!

    The trip isn't for everyone but if you want to sit and chill, meet a few locals and watch the world go by I personally recommend it.

    #139 Posted: 17/8/2011 - 20:28

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    It's great to read new reviews on the slow boat - brings back some great memories, including the Indian restaurant where we talked cricket with the owner over a great meal.

    Must be an age thing but I'd do the trip again FOR the scenery. I'd take chilling out on the Mekong any day compared to the lunatic goings on at Vang Vieng - how can such a beautiful place be ruined by a bunch of yobbos?

    Anyway. If you're thinking about the trip, do it. Either HX to LP or reverse. It's a journey you'll never forget.

    #140 Posted: 18/8/2011 - 06:09

  • Shaneo88

    Joined Travelfish
    11th July, 2011
    Location United States
    Posts: 17

    Hi i know this has been posted before but the prices seem to be a bit dated. I am in chiang rai right now and I will be heading to Luang prabang. Ive been checking around with tour companies and have found the bus to Chiang kong, the ferry over to laos, and the slow boat for 1490 baht. Can someone tell me if that is a good price or should i just arrange everything myself to save some money? ive definitely been spending more than i thought i would haha

    #141 Posted: 6/9/2011 - 14:53

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    You are being ripped off. Get the bus to Chiang Khong . Walk or catch a tuk tuk to Thai customs. Go through the prodecure - very quick. Pay the boatman to take you across the Mekong (30 baht in 09). Go through Laos customs. Don't know if you have a visa but it's a simple process. Fee + US$1 dollar for the guards. Then walk through Huay Xai and any number of agencies will sell you a ticket or continue to the wharf - about 1 km and buy a ticket there. Can't remember what the exact price was in 09 but around 140000 kip (525 baht).

    If you need to overnight Chiang Khong is friendlier than Huay Xai. Boat times are flexible but normally leaves Huay Xai around 11.00am.

    Hope this helps.

    #142 Posted: 6/9/2011 - 18:15

  • altmtl

    Click here to learn more about altmtl
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    I was planning to go from LP up to Huay Xai, I hear this way is cheaper than coming in from Thailand? How much would the trip be these days? I also heard that there were a few "package" scams, which you don't need to be fooled by... and drug runners on speedboats!!!

    Found this interesting blog article that may be of use: "The Slooooooooooow Boat to Luang Prabang... http://www.surroundedbythesound.com/?p=975

    To some people this seems to be the experience of a lifetime, to others it's the boat from HELL! - lol
    Hmmm... debating if I should forget about the boat?

    #143 Posted: 14/11/2011 - 03:01

  • Phiddy

    Joined Travelfish
    1st December, 2011
    Posts: 64

    I've just been reading this through and a couple of people mentioned a slightly more luxurious version of the slow boat... I was just wondering how much more expensive this was than the normal one.. ? And also do many backpackers take this route? I will be on my own so it would be cool to meet people and the standard one sounds a bit painful. I will be travelling in February (I think), I have no idea what this means in terms of crowds and prices.

    #144 Posted: 18/12/2011 - 16:17

  • Phiddy

    Joined Travelfish
    1st December, 2011
    Posts: 64

    I've just been reading this through and a couple of people mentioned a slightly more luxurious version of the slow boat... I was just wondering how much more expensive this was than the normal one.. ? And also do many backpackers take this route? I will be on my own so it would be cool to meet people and the standard one sounds a bit painful. I will be travelling in February (I think), I have no idea what this means in terms of crowds and prices.

    #145 Posted: 18/12/2011 - 16:17

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    Take the slow boat. It's a ball and you'll meet plenty of backpackers, singles and groups. It's a two day party. Prices don't change according to seasons. In Feb the problem can be river levels - read through thread for details.

    Nagi of Mekong is a private boat run by a guy named Adisak - nagiofmekong.com. I doesn't run daily and it is expensive - nearly 10 times the slow boat price.

    Up to you but my advice is take the slow boat.

    #146 Posted: 18/12/2011 - 19:42

  • altmtl

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    I've decided not to take the slow boat and return to Thailand by train from V.

    #147 Posted: 18/12/2011 - 20:30

  • droors414

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd December, 2011
    Posts: 1

    I just took the boat about four days ago from Huay Xai. I paid 900 baht from ticket office, and I think that is better than from an agent. When we got on the boat, we had close to 100 people on the boat, when suddenly another 60 people showed up on the steps to the boat trying to get on. I immediately started protesting with the help of my girlfriend and a Montreal friend and let them know we would not let another person on the boat. They finally relented and got another boat.

    We found a guest house in Pakbeng up the hill with double bed and shared bathroom for 40,000kip and found decent food for cheap further up the hill. The hive bar was fun as well...
    The next day, they tried taking the close to 200 people from the two boats and putting us on to one boat, claiming it was bigger (it was the same boat). I started another protest as this was not only uncomfortable but unsafe. It was hard to get others to join the protest, but about 40 of the 180 of us refused to get off the dock and on to the the overstuffed boat. After almost an hour of refusing to board and more and more people giving in, they finally chartered another boat.

    I apologize if this is long, but the main point is stand up for yourself and DEMAND another boat if there is more than 100 people for your comfort and safety. Speak up and encourage others to do the same. We had a great time on the boat, made a lot of friends, played cards and drank, and the scenery was spectacular. I wouldn't have traveled any other way....

    #148 Posted: 22/12/2011 - 04:35

  • altmtl

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    Thanks for the report, all the more reason for me to take a pass - :) Glad you had a good time however.

    #149 Posted: 22/12/2011 - 06:08

  • gorkreg

    Joined Travelfish
    20th October, 2011
    Posts: 15

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    I am planning to do the slow boat from LP to HX in January (looking forward). Most people on this post talk about bringing pillows for the seats but one particular poster says that they used the VIP boat. Are there two types then (regular and VIP)? If so, what are the prices roughly?
    Thanks :-)

    #150 Posted: 27/12/2011 - 21:35

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    There are three kinds of boats. Luxury - includes overnight accom and is several hundred US dollars - Nagi of Mekong - run by a guy called Adisak: see my post 5 articles back - and the slow boat. Nagi is dearer than the slow boat and doesn't run every day.Slow boats have a mixture of seating - whatever the owner can find - the one we travelled on had 6 rows of aircraft style seats, the rest small hard benches so we needed a cushion for the numb bum.

    LP to HX carries far less passengers than HX to LP so seating shouldn't be a problem and anyway you spend as much time standing and talking as sitting.

    So my advice take the slow boat. It's a ball of fun.

    #151 Posted: 28/12/2011 - 15:19

  • ashitaka2405

    Joined Travelfish
    7th July, 2012
    Posts: 3

    There is a new boat cruise company named Shompoocruise. They offer a good service and much cheaper than LuangSay cruise. Nagi: never heard about them.
    Avoid public slow boat: boat always full and very not confortable.

    #152 Posted: 7/7/2012 - 04:18

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    The slow boat is one on travels great experiences. Have you ever travelled on it? You seem to know a lot about Shompoocruise. You wouldn't be involved with them would you? And everybody on this thread has heard of Nagi. Read back a few posts. I smell a rat, Holmes. If it smells like a rat it is rat: Elementary my dear Watson

    #153 Posted: 8/7/2012 - 02:44

  • Captain_Cou-
    rageous

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    The chompoo cruise mentioned by ashitaka2405 costs US$145 Huay Xai to LP and US$95 from LP to HX. Overnight accommodation in Pakbeng and meals are not included.
    Another difference between chompoo and the Nagi is the Nagi crusie visits two villages, while chompoo visit only one.

    " Nagi: never heard about them."
    You must be one of the very few who haven't.

    #154 Posted: 12/7/2012 - 04:33

  • mgjade

    Joined Travelfish
    31st July, 2012
    Posts: 1

    Hello, any truth to the rumour about a slowboat from Huai Xai to Luang Nam Tha ??? I want to do the slowboat but if I go from Thai direction from Chaing Kong to Luang Probang I would then kind of have to go back on myself to see the Luang Nam Tha region?!

    Other option to experience thw slowboat in Laos? Is there a rumoured one from Pakse to Si Phan Don four thousand islands?
    Thank you in advance ;) sorry if someone has a.lready asked but i did look and didnt see anything concrete...

    #155 Posted: 31/7/2012 - 16:31

  • letmeinplz

    Joined Travelfish
    6th August, 2012
    Posts: 15

    Hi,
    I will be traveling in June for a little less than 3 weeks. I plan on spending time in Luang Prabang--I'm curious if you all think taking the slow boat would be a good use of 2 of my (too few!) days in the region. I don't mind spending the money to fly either. Thanks for your advice!

    #156 Posted: 7/8/2012 - 06:29

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    Depends where your journey starts and ends. My advice take the slow boat. It is a great trip you will remember forever. Give more info on your itinerary and the forum can give you more advice.

    #157 Posted: 7/8/2012 - 06:45

  • letmeinplz

    Joined Travelfish
    6th August, 2012
    Posts: 15

    Hi SBE,

    thank you for your quick answer!
    By road it will probably take you 1,5 days. One day from huay xai to udomxai (11 hours by bus) and 5 hours from undomxai to lp. We were thingking of making kind of a round trip: huay xai - luang nam tha - udomxai - pak beng - luang prabang.

    #158 Posted: 8/8/2012 - 06:29

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    To mgjade

    When I last travelled from Pakse to Si Phan Don there were no boats. You catch a bus - booked through any travel agency in Pakse - and it drops you off at the Mekong opposite the island. From there you catch a long tail boat. very easy.

    #159 Posted: 8/8/2012 - 10:16

  • chopin

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2007
    Posts: 154
    Total reviews: 2

    Hi, just did the slow boat trip in early October. We took the opposite direction: from LPB to PB, then PB to HX. Since this is low season, and we were on the reverse direction, there are not many people in both trips - about 40 people. The fares are 110,000 kips on each trip. The seats are all padded (like in buses), we did buy air cushions and never had to use them.

    Had to stay one night in Pak Beng, there are quite a few places there to stay. The best one is Monsavanh Guesthouse at 80,000 kips but it was full, we took another one on the same row with the Indian restaurant but a few doors away uphill (can't remember name), at 60,000 kips, the room is clean, with hot shower and fan.

    This is a great boat trip - do it if you have time!

    (post #138, 139, and 148 are great about this trip.)

    #160 Posted: 12/11/2012 - 01:36

  • allofthelig-
    hts

    Joined Travelfish
    10th November, 2012
    Posts: 9

    I've done the alternative - the fast boat - basically a tiny wooden hull with an oversized overboard engine. You save a day, which might or might not matter to you, but there are downsides. It's hardly very comfortable: in my case it was fine enough until Pak Beng, when additional passengers came aboard. I could then no longer stretch my legs. Secondly, safety is of course an issue. When you get helmets - and the local passengers put them on - you know it's slightly dodgy. No regrets about the trip, not sure if I would do it again.

    This video appears rather accurate.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=kiU2H8uWVqE#t=11s

    #161 Posted: 12/11/2012 - 07:41

  • anewromantic

    Joined Travelfish
    6th January, 2013
    Posts: 9

    can anyone tell me of a more third class option to enjoy this trip from huay xai to luang prabang via slowboat? I cannot afford to fork out $150 for the trip, If there is a company you have taken that you are happy with and charged less than that I would really appreciate the name of it. Thanks alot! p.s. travel fish kicks way more ass than lonely planet , especially lately ...I say we should get all the disgruntled SEA thorn tree members signed up over here haha

    #162 Posted: 8/1/2013 - 16:26

  • somtam2000

    admin
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    @Anewromantic - thanks :) The public boat is the cheap option -- 110,000 kip (about $12) according to Chopin a couple of posts up.

    #163 Posted: 8/1/2013 - 20:19

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    Yep slow boat is the way to go. 140,000 kip now (about US$15.00). Plenty of info in earlier posts including my trip report. You will love it. Happy travelling.

    #164 Posted: 9/1/2013 - 18:23

  • nella

    Joined Travelfish
    10th January, 2013
    Posts: 2

    Just done slow boat trip - January 2013. It was easy and comfortable enough, totally safe for girls traveling alone. Sure, many tourists, but many boats as well. They leave until noon. All boats I've seen had soft car seats. There were plenty of seats, most people travelling alone had two seats to spread out. Package from Chiang Mai cost 1800 BHT, not necessary, and they take you to a dreary guesthouse. If you do it yourself - 400 BHT minibus from Chiang Mai (it is cheaper by local bus but takes longer) + 150 BHT guesthouse in Chiang Khong (I recommend Baanrimtaling Home Stay) + 40BHT crossing river to Laos + whatever you can bargain for tuk-tuk from Laos immigration to slow boat ferry (about 50BHT) + 220 000KIP (about 800 BHT) ticket for slow boat. Everything easy, plenty of time, plenty of tickets even in the high season. There is HEAPS of accommodation in Pak Beng, don't believe a guy trying to sell you overpriced rooms on the boat. The trip was lovely! Plenty of photo opportunities.

    #165 Posted: 10/1/2013 - 21:11

  • nella

    Joined Travelfish
    10th January, 2013
    Posts: 2

    Just done slow boat trip - January 2013. It was easy and comfortable enough, totally safe for girls traveling alone. Sure, many tourists, but many boats as well. They leave until noon. All boats I've seen had soft car seats. There were plenty of seats, most people travelling alone had two seats to spread out. Package from Chiang Mai cost 1800 BHT, not necessary, and they take you to a dreary guesthouse. If you do it yourself - 400 BHT minibus from Chiang Mai (it is cheaper by local bus but takes longer) + 150 BHT guesthouse in Chiang Khong (I recommend Baanrimtaling Home Stay) + 40BHT crossing river to Laos + whatever you can bargain for tuk-tuk from Laos immigration to slow boat ferry (about 50BHT) + 220 000KIP (about 800 BHT) ticket for slow boat. Everything easy, plenty of time, plenty of tickets even in the high season. There is HEAPS of accommodation in Pak Beng, don't believe a guy trying to sell you overpriced rooms on the boat. The trip was lovely! Plenty of photo opportunities.

    #166 Posted: 10/1/2013 - 21:14

  • freiburger

    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2012
    Posts: 110

    I did the tour with Nagi of Mekong in December and had a real pleasant trip. I had a long report on TT, but that is gone.

    4600 Baht is alot of money, but remembering the trip, it was worth every single cent.

    Starting from te guesthouse in Chiang Khong we were guided somehow through the "express lane" to Laos. In Hua Xai we were drivven to the boat. There is not one Nagi, but a couple of them. Our boat had real comfortable soft leather seats and we had a table to put laptop on and eat on. The food for lunch was cooked onboard and was more or less delicous. Spiced tourist style but the basic fod was really good and you could spyce up. There was a choise of 4 or 5 dished. All day long fruits and water included. We were about 12 people on the boat from europe and thailand, nice mix. We had an english speaking guide who guided us through 2 local villages and the Pak Ou caves. The whole team on the boat was very nice.
    For the night we staid in a nice hotel with riverview. The room was clean and had wood tiles on the walls and the ceiling. Teak house feeling. We arrived around 4 PM at Luang Prabang. Even there they were really helpfull unloading the suitcases, carrying the things up and helping with accomodation. And not for money, they really helped the poeple finding their booked guetshouses and made lots of alternative suggestions, independently.

    So again, 4600 Baht is alot of money, but I enjoyed the trip so much, I don't regret to have spend the money :-)

    #167 Posted: 11/1/2013 - 02:56

  • SaltwaterGem

    Joined Travelfish
    4th January, 2013
    Posts: 20

    In Luang Prabang now... Took slow boat. But went a new route... Instead of Huay Xai/Pakse, went from Chiang Mai through Nan to Huay Kon I believe the name was... Crossed Lao border, and stayed overnight in border town Nan Ngeun. Got up in the morning, was shuttled to pier, and took slow boat to Luang Prabang... Very comfortable less than 20 people on boat. I think this is a relatively new border opening... Got visa in arrival, didn't even charge me for not having a photo. Costed 1700 baht for bus from Chiang Mai to border, shuttle to guesthouse, one nights stay, breakfast, shuttle to pier, and slow boat trip. Maybe can be found for cheaper... One whole less day of travel compared to old route.

    #168 Posted: 16/1/2013 - 22:25

  • chopin

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2007
    Posts: 154
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    There are at least 3 different boat trips: a) speedboat, b) slow boat, and c) luxurious cruise.

    option a is not recommended by most people due to safety issues.

    Options b and c both will take 2 days to travel between LPB and HX. The difference is: the cruise (c) will only be taking only tourists (mostly westerners), no locals can afford it, will have very comfy seats, have special guesthouses arranged for them so won't be crowding together with the backpackers and the locals. This will cost a lot too, maybe 4500 Baht as mentioned by some posts above.

    On the other hand, the slow boat (b) is a lot cheaper (220,000 kip as of October 2012, or 110,000 kip for halfway to Pak Beng), will have to mingle with the locals, have to hunt for your own guesthouse in Pak Beng, boats not too clean (honestly they have improved a lot). But that's the plus point for us: your expereince will be closer to the locals'. Those of us who have taken this mostly won't regret the trip which is unforgettable.

    Travellers can make you own choice based on what suits you best. Whichever option you take, this trip will be the highlight of your Laos experience.

    p/s If possible, I'd recommend doing the direction LPB -> PB -> HX as I did, as most people are taking the other way, so this way will be less crowded, and it will take almost the same amount of time.

    #169 Posted: 25/1/2013 - 08:43

  • chopin

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2007
    Posts: 154
    Total reviews: 2

    Just need to clarify with somtam, anewromantic, and robmacca on the fare of the slow boat:

    As of October 2012, the cost was: 110,000 kips (LPB-PB), and 110,000 kpis (PB-HX), in total 220,000 kips.

    robmacca: did they increase the fare to 150,000 kips lately?

    also, I found posts #138, 139, 148, 167, and 168 to be very informative about this trip.

    #170 Posted: 25/1/2013 - 20:25

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2009
    Posts: 27

    You are right about the price Chopin. My fingers got ahead of my brain. Sorry.

    #171 Posted: 28/1/2013 - 19:57

  • eoincasey1

    Joined Travelfish
    7th September, 2012
    Posts: 6

    My girlfriend and I took the slow boat up river from Luang Prabang to Pakbeng to Huay Xai earlier this month (February 2013) before travelling onwards to Chiang Mai .

    The trip was definitely an enjoyable experience. We bought a ticket in LP the day before the slow boat departure from All Lao Travel for 130,000 kip, although in hindsight we could have bought a ticket from the pier or on the boat when leaving for 110,000 kip. Having read reports of overcrowding we got to the boat 1 hour before departure (at 7.30am), but the overcrowding doesn't seem to apply to this route. The next people got on at 8am and the boat left at 8.45am still with some empty seats. The seats were airplane/car seats and the journey to Pakbeng was very comfortable. We had bought croissants and bread rolls, etc from a bakery 50m from the pier on the riverfront, although on this boat they were selling some snacks and drinks.

    On arriving in Pakbeng at 6pm we made our way up the hill to the right. Monsavanh Guesthouse was full so we continued up the hill and stopped at the guesthouse on the other side of street called Maksavanh Guesthouse. It was basic but clean and only 80,000 kip (or 300 baht if you want to pay in Baht) for a large ensuite room with 2 double beds. There was an Indian restaurant back towards the pier which had very nice cheap food and beer.

    At 7.30 am we made our way back down the hill to the pier. There are plenty of stalls for snacks and we got take away sandwiches made in the bakery across from Monsavanh Guesthouse. Once on board the boat we bought our ticket to Huay Xai for 110,000 kip and left at 8.45am. There were 3 boats in total at the pier - 1 for HX and 2 going the other direction to Luang Prabang, they were definitely each more full than our boat so would ensure to arrive early if travelling that route.

    Again the journey was comfortable, although there were some engine issues in the afternoon but the captain soon sorted these and we were on our way again. Again the boat had snacks to buy. We arrived in Huay Xai at 6.15pm and had already booked to stay in Huay Xai Riverside, about 1km from the slow boat landing. A tuk tuk cost 5,000 kip per person. The hotel was comfortable and very close to the pier for getting the boat across to Chiang Khong the next morning (10,000 kip per person) from 8am. On arrival in CK we got a tuk tuk to the bus station - specified price written on the board, can't recall now how much. The bus stations for Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai are slightly different so specify before going. We decided to get the 9am bus to Chiang Rai for 30 baht, arriving at 11.30 am and then the Green Bus to Chiang Mai at 12.15 arriving at 4pm for 185 baht. The direct bus to Chiang Mai leaves at 10.30 and would probably be cheaper combined but the break in travel was good and Green Bus very comfortable.

    In all, the slow boat trip was very enjoyable and relaxing and I would make sure to either bring a book (or two) or plenty of beer to keep you entertained!

    #172 Posted: 17/2/2013 - 02:34

  • robmacca

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 27

    Excellent report Eion. Yes the LP-HX trip is less crowded than HX-LP. Most people start in Thailiand then gravitate to Laos. Have to say having spent extensive time in both countries Laos wins hands down.

    Glad to see the Indian restaurant still thriving. had a great meal there and talked cricket with the owner. What he was doing in Pakbeng when he comes from Chennai heaven only knows. But he must like it. He has been there over 5 years.

    #173 Posted: 17/2/2013 - 18:26

  • franks2k

    Joined Travelfish
    17th January, 2011
    Posts: 10

    Ive taken the speedboat 2 times in Laos and never encountered safety issues. There's usually 2 boats following each other with foreigners and some locals.. yes the seats are not that comfy but for a 6 hour trip split in 3 hour apart it was way better that the Slowboat. there's more chances of getting hit by a bike or car in Hanoi than crashing on the speedboat. The only time i would be careful taking the speedboat is when the water is very low in hot seasons.

    Foreign travelers take the speedboat everyday...ill repeat everyday!!! My 2 cents.

    #174 Posted: 20/2/2013 - 10:14

  • SaltwaterGem

    Joined Travelfish
    4th January, 2013
    Posts: 20

    The speedboat may not be as assuredly fatal as most would have you believe, but rocketing down the Mekong with a crash helmet on while your tail-bone is being ground into a fine powder from slamming against the seat does not seem worth saving the extra 3 hours... this is enough reason to avoid it, IMO

    #175 Posted: 20/2/2013 - 12:57

  • chopin

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2007
    Posts: 154
    Total reviews: 2

    if you are in such a great hurry, or enjoy the adrenaline rush, take the speedboat by all means. for those who have time, the slow boat trip might be a better way to enjoy the Mekong River in a more relaxed way.

    #176 Posted: 22/2/2013 - 03:47

  • JuleE

    Joined Travelfish
    5th April, 2013
    Posts: 1

    Hi, all I just boarded the slow boat from Luang Prabang to Pakbeng. It does NOT leave from the pier in town!!! You need to take tuk tuk for about 20 min out of town to new "pier". There is tuk tuk mafia waiting for wandering tourist along the river. We were told 80000 for two but some hard haggleing took it down to 50(25pp). It really seems like tuk tuks wanted more bussiness.There office at the new "pier" selling tickets for 110000pp to pakbeng.Its 8:54 and the boat is leaving now so only 20min late, not bad:) The boat is not overcrowded but full(might be something to do with songkran in thailand).

    #177 Posted: 9/4/2013 - 21:01

  • dcl8405

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 1
    Total reviews: 4
    Places visited:
    At least 30

    Just arrived in Luang Prabang, took the slow boat down from Huay Xai. I bought a ticket at the pier. 220,000 kip. Our boat was packed. 1st day our engine cut out, was not a big deal, we were back cruising down the river with in 25 minutes. Pakbeng was all its cracked up to be, I thought it was perfect. Second day it got a little dicey as the Mekong got a little angry. We found ourselves in a big storm, the roof blew off our boat, the captain ran us ashore and everyone piled out and ran up into the hills. We spent some time hanging out in the pouring rain. I opted to go for a swim as I figured I wouldn't have many more chances to enjoy my own little spot of the river. I thought it a welcome break and who doesn't want a little action?
    Overall the experience was great, a little crowded on both legs but scenery is really beautiful.

    #178 Posted: 28/4/2013 - 20:25

  • arvi1222

    Joined Travelfish
    1st May, 2013
    Posts: 1

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Took the slow boat from Huay Xai to " Luang Prabang "2 weeks ago. The cruise went by as I had expected: gorgeous scenery, lots of time to meet other travelers, etc. But to end the trip, the boat no longer docks in Luang Prabang but outside of the city. The "tourist police" station then forces each person to pay 20,000 kip to get packed into tuktuk through an ugly village to get into town. You aren't even allowed to barter for a better price for the tuktuk. This tainted what would have been a really excellent experience.

    If you plan to take the slow boat, I suggest alerting all of the other passengers about this beforehand and make a plan to demand a free or at least discounted tuktuk ride into town for not being dropped where you are supposed to.

    #179 Posted: 1/5/2013 - 13:13

  • Spring090

    Joined Travelfish
    20th May, 2013
    Posts: 2

    Our slow boat experience was almost nothing like the horror stories described by other travelers-our boat felt like luxury. We did what most people do to get there-we stayed overnight at a beautiful and cheap guesthouse in Chiang Khong. We were planning on getting up super early to be the first ones at the border crossing, but our guesthouse owner advised us to get there a little later, around 9:15. He said that the border is crazy when it first opens every day: there is a long line of trucks waiting to deliver their goods across the border, and they're let through first. Next, the locals who live in Thailand but work in Laos are let through. So it takes about an hour or so for things to calm down before they start allowing tourists through.

    Our guesthouse provided transport to the Mekong River, and it was the easiest border crossing I've ever been through. You need your departure card, a passport photo, and passport, you hand it to an official, then he gives it all back to you and gestures toward the small boats. You pay 40 kipp for a boat ticket, hop in a tiny boat, and one minute later, you've docked in Laos. There, you fill out the necessary paperwork, you pay $35 for a visa (if you're American-and they want the money in American dollars), and then you're in. There's a money exchange spot right there, and surprisingly, they actually had a fantastic exchange rate, so I would advise to exchange your money there.

    Once through, you'll have tons of people trying to sell you sandwiches and drinks and slow boat tickets. All the food and water is overpriced, so try to barter. We got a big water at 20 baht, but another girl bought her water for 40 baht.

    We had a bunch if people try to sell us slow boat tickets for 950 baht, but we decided to walk to the actual ticket office (right by the dock) for the best price. To get to the office, you walk up the short hill past immigration, then turn left on the main road. It's a 10-15 minute walk. Veer to the left when the road curves, and you'll start walking down toward the boats. It's super easy. Near the end of the road, the ticket office is on your left up a staircase. We bought our tickets for 900 baht there. We realized after, though, that if we had paid in kipp, it would have been $2-$3 cheaper, so it's a good idea to exchange your money at the border in order to get the cheapest ticket.

    Contrary to things we read on forums, there is only one slow boat that leaves the dock every day, and it leaves at 11:00 AM. We rushed there because we had read you need to be early to get a good seat, but there were twice as many seats than people on our boat. The seats were also cushioned and super comfy. One of the captains announced that if we did not yet have a guesthouse in Pak Beng (the town you dock at for the night), he could reserve one for you, but he was asking for 100,000 kipp, and it's easy to find a guesthouse there for 50,000.

    The 6-hour ride to Pak Beng was lovely, serene, and beautiful. Bring snacks because the chips and beers they sell on the boat are drastically overpriced. Once we arrived, we were greeted by guesthouse owners, who were all very nice. We hopped in one of their trucks, and we were driven 2 minutes up the hill to a great room, equipped with private bathroom and wifi, for 50,000 kipp.

    We were instructed to show up by 9:00 AM for the boat the next day. The 2nd boat was smaller than the first one and less luxurious, though still much nicer than everything we had read. We got there around 8:15 to get a good seat-would highly recommend boarding around then so you can sit with your travel partners and get a good view. We thought the journey would be 10 hours, but it was about 8.5 until we got to Luang Prabang.

    Once there, we were again bombarded by guesthouse owners and tuk tuk drivers. We thought the city center was close to our drop off point, so we walked past all the tuk tuks and an official-looking tuk tuk ticket building (since when do tuk tuks sell tickets?!) but after walking for a few minutes, we realized it was several kms into town. Luckily, tuk tuks were pulling up to us and charging us half of what the office was selling tickets for (10,000 kipp instead of 20,000) so we learned to never buy at those official ticket offices, and to do some walking instead of taking the first prices offered, and we hopped in. It was at least a 15-minute tuk tuk drive, so we were very happy to have gotten a ride.

    We later spoke to some people who had taken the slow boats a few days before we did, and they were so jealous of our trip-they had had the cramped experience that most people have written about online. So we're not sure how often they have the cramped boats versus the nice ones, but we saw a lot of nice ones parked at the docks. Guess it's the luck of the draw!

    Anyways, it was an awesome experience. It's definitely a looooong boat ride and feels tedious at times, but the beauty and serenity of the river makes it all worth it.

    #180 Posted: 20/5/2013 - 02:31

  • chopin

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2007
    Posts: 154
    Total reviews: 2

    Hi Spring090, thanks for a detailed and vivid write up on the Mekong River boat trip. We too had a very pleasant trip late last year. However, we did it in the opposite direction: from LPB to PB to HX, main reason because most tourists will choose to do HX - LPB, so the other way round will have less people which we did witness.

    "Contrary to things we read on forums, there is only one slow boat that leaves the dock every day, and it leaves at 11:00 AM. " - Hmm... I beg to differ here. I think there are more than a few boats that do the trip every day, since this is a very busy route. The reason why you only saw one, and that there were so few people on board was most probably because the others were on earlier boats already, especially those who stayed the previous night in HX and not in Chiang Khong.

    It was unfortunately that they have moved the pier to somewhere out of town in LPB. As late as last October, the boats would stop in the heart of LPB's tourist zone and you could practically walk on foot to shop for the hotels/guest houses right off the boat. Now it seems they make tourists difficult by moving it a few KMs away and make the tuk tuks happy to earn some extra bucks. Wondering if this decision is made by the government out of genuine logistics considerations, or it is by local cartels - anyone have any insight on this?

    #181 Posted: 20/5/2013 - 09:12

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
    14th September, 2012
    Posts: 540
    Places visited:
    At least 42

    From what I saw there is only one boat. People sit in Huay Xai for hours and even if they start filling a 2nd boat it sits there until both take off.

    Not sure what this new boat pier you are talking about is. I was there around new years and they dropped off as close to center of town as really possible and it was easy walking distance to guest houses. I believe the speed boats stop further up river though.

    For me the slow boat was too touristy and the boats although comfortable enough were too loud and boring to make for a special trip. To me it was like riding a bus, nothing really special but it gets you where you want to go. The boat rides up by Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi were much more scenic and interesting compared to the tourist barges the slow boats have become.

    #182 Posted: 21/5/2013 - 01:02

  • Wreed100

    Joined Travelfish
    31st January, 2014
    Posts: 2

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    I am planning to go by local boat on the Mekong River and associated river systems as far as possible. I am starting in Can Tho in Vietnam, on the delta, to ChauDoc where I will cross the border into Cambodia. From Can Tho I had to charter a boat since there is not ferry service anymore, all displaced by bus routes. From ChauDoc to Phonom Penh is a regular fast ferry ride. Then upriver from there travel is prevented by a set of falls that do not have a navigable bypass. Above the falls I will again try to get on local boats for the trip to Laos and eventually to Vietiane. Anybody know about this stretch of the river? Then the regular boats everybody else does from Vietiane farther upriver. I may have to hire boats to make parts of the trip on the lower river reaches if ferries do not run, but we'll see, that is the adventure. Maybe I can buy a boat instead of a motorcycle! Any knowledge of the lower Mekong and rivers to Vietiane would be very much appreciated.

    #183 Posted: 31/1/2014 - 02:33

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