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Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang

  • Nokka

    Joined Travelfish
    6th April, 2009
    Location United Kingdom
    Posts: 259

    I’ve got stuck and keep changing my mind, so thought I would ask you guys.

    My wife & I are travelling from Northern Thailand to Northern Laos later this year. We have a total of 18 nights from arriving on the night train in Chiang Mai from Bangkok to flying out of Vientiane to Saigon.

    When planning this part of our trip the first thing we put on our scheduler was the trip down the Mekong to Luang Prabang. We had watched on TV a British travel journo do the trip from Houei Xai on a boat, stopping at little villages on the way. In my memory the boat was a local boat, but on which you could sleep. When I started my research and found that the ‘local boat’ was in fact the slow boat you all know and love, I was disappointed, but undeterred. Further research found the Nagi of Mekong, which although was the same kind of boat, at least had some comfort and wasn’t overcrowded. I had also been influenced by Tiziano Terzano’s book ‘A fortune teller told me’. The writer, an Italian journalist, is warned by a fortune teller not to fly one particular year, so he does his job as correspondent for Das Spiegel without flying. He travels around SEA by land and uncovers so much by not flying.

    Now the no fly plan soon hit the dust due to huge distances, which is a shame, but there you go.

    Anyway, I digress. Here is our dilemma.

    At present our plan is as follows:

    2 nights Chiang Dao
    3 nights Chiang Mai
    Bus to Chiang Khong and overnight
    Trip on Nagi of Makong, overnight PakBeng (2 days on boat)
    3 nights Luang Prabang
    3 nights Nong Kiaow
    We the have 5 more nights in Laos we wish to keep flexible before flying out of Vientiane.

    Sitting in the UK doing research on where to go it is easy to want to do EVERYTHING, to go EVERYWHERE. But in practice, I know we will really want to slow down a bit.

    So, should we skip the bit from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong to LP ? Its 3 days travelling pretty much non-stop. Is 3 nights Chiang Dao, 3 nights Chiang Mai, flight and 4 nights LP a better option ? Is the trip down the Mekong a must – do, or should we forget it. After all we can go by boat up to Nong Kiaow.

    Your thoughts would be much appreciated and apologies for the ridiculously long post.

    #1 Posted: 19/7/2009 - 16:03

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  • crellston

    Joined Travelfish
    18th July, 2009
    Posts: 5
    Places visited:
    At least 2

    We have done this Mekong trip twice, once in each direction. The first time was 10+ years ago and it was great - pristine rainforest and unspoilt villages the whole way. The last time was in 2005 nad I could not beleive the amount of deforestation that had taken place. Plus the farmers were burning teh forest at the time (April) ant it was like sitting next to a giant bonfire for 2 days. So no, I dont think its a must do. Spend teh extra time in LP and get out and about from their or, better still try and work in a trip to the far north around muang Sing or Phongsali

    #2 Posted: 19/7/2009 - 20:57

  • crellston

    Joined Travelfish
    18th July, 2009
    Posts: 5
    Places visited:
    At least 2

    We have done this Mekong trip twice, once in each direction. The first time was 10+ years ago and it was great - pristine rainforest and unspoilt villages the whole way. The last time was in 2005 nad I could not beleive the amount of deforestation that had taken place. Plus the farmers were burning teh forest at the time (April) ant it was like sitting next to a giant bonfire for 2 days. So no, I dont think its a must do. Spend teh extra time in LP and get out and about from their or, better still try and work in a trip to the far north around muang Sing or Phongsali

    #3 Posted: 19/7/2009 - 20:57

  • BruceMoon

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

    Nokka

    I'm not a fan of the 2 day mighty Mekong trip. 2 days stuck cramped into a boat where the scenery is boring isn't my kind of fun.

    You indicate you want to go to Nong Khiaw. I assume that will be by boat. If so, that may suffice to satisfy your boat urges. On this, I wrote about it here.

    From Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang, one can fly, one can do the Mekong boat trip, travel entirely by road, or do a mostly road with a boat trip leg. I've done the (whole) road trip and I enjoyed it. Then, again, I was on a high from the Gibbon Experience, and had a blast when at Luang Nam Tha (an overnight or more on the road route).

    On the road trip, I contributed at #9 here and you may like to look at that.

    An alternative road/bus route is Chiang Mai > Chiang Khong > Huay Xai > Luang Nam Tha > OudomXai > Nong Khiaw >(change to boat[/]) Luang Prabang.

    Trekking at Nong Khiaw would be a great contrast to Chiang Dao. And, if contact with minority groups interests you, then time spent at Luang Nam Tha (especially if you get yourself to Muang Sing) would so allow. Another great trekking opportunity is at Vieng Phouka (between Huay Xai and Luang Nam Tha) and within the Luang Nam Tha NPA with H!Mong guides.

    Cheers

    #4 Posted: 20/7/2009 - 05:15

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