We want to travel overland from Chang Mai to Luang Prabang during December, allowing three or so days.
Is this a realistic timescale, allowing for the best route and stop-offs? Once you've crossed the border, how long is the boat trip from to Luang Prabang?
What are the must-sees on the way?
Any advice on the route would be welcome, thanks!
#1 steiny has been a member since 26/9/2006. Posts: 11
Welcome to Travelfish!
The boat trip takes two full days (you overnight at Pakbeng). The only other spot you can stop at along the way is Pak Tha, which is a blip of a village between Huay Xai and Pak Beng -- I wouldn't call it a must see though!
Otherwise you'll be spending time just hanging out in Luang Prabang, doing a trip to Pak Ou caves and other surrounding points -- if you've only got three days in total, you may want to look into squeezing a few extra days out of your itinerary for Luang Prabang, or else perhaps look at flying there from Chiang Mai so you have more time there. Exacto wrote an excellent trip report about Luang Prabang -- it might be worth a read.
Thanks very much for your helpful reply - this is a great website by the way!
Doesn't sound like we want to miss out on any time in Luang Prabang from what everybody says, but it sounds like three days for the journey there should do it OK, one day direct Chang Mai to Chiang Khong/Huay Xai then two days on the river via Pak Beng.
We just wanted to make sure there were no essential places we should be stopping off on the way.
Don't want to fly if we can help it and this sounds like a journey worth doing!
#3 steiny has been a member since 26/9/2006. Posts: 11
Make sure you catch the bus to Chiang Rai then to Chiang Khong. The direct bus from Chiang Mai - Chiang Khong takes a circuitous route which can add an hour or two to your journey.
#4 marianwarren has been a member since 12/3/2006. Posts: 270
Thanks Marian, that's really helpful info!
Do you recommend stopping off in Chang Rai?
All the best,
#5 steiny has been a member since 26/9/2006. Posts: 11
I spent 8 days in Chiang Rai a few years ago and enjoyed it a lot, hired a car for part of the time and used it as a base for day trips, definitely a much slower pace than Chiang Mai. But it depends how much time you have - I wouldn't cut short my time in CM to fit in CR - there's more to do in CM, better to have an extra day or two there to absorb the atmosphere and chill out.
#6 marianwarren has been a member since 12/3/2006. Posts: 270
That's just the kind of advice I need. We're holidaying, not travelling, so have limited time and think we'll maximise our time in Chang Mai and Luang Prabang.
#7 steiny has been a member since 26/9/2006. Posts: 11
Another thought steiny!
If you want to overnight in Huay Xai you need to leave CM early as the border closes at 1800 (CM - CR 4 hrs) ... buses leave for CK every 30 mins but maybe allow leeway in case of timing hiccup (CR - CK 2 hrs). If you overnight in CK you have to get moving early. From what I've gathered from other posts on this site the slow boats leave around 0900 - or whenever they're full (Border opens at 0800 - allow time to clear customs plus 5 mins to cross river)
#8 marianwarren has been a member since 12/3/2006. Posts: 270