Please a word of warning, do not book through Terminal Green travel agency in Pai for the 'VIP' bus to Luang Prabang in Laos. It is a total scam! the picture of the bus is completely different to the bus you will get on the other side, which is the local broke down bus. And there is no proper support during the visa/border process so you don't know where you are going next, who is meeting you on the other side etc...the 'hotel' you stay at the night before is AWFUL... No email address or website to send a complaint through so the scam keeps on going on more unsuspecting tourists....you have been warned!
#1 evie_eve has been a member since 11/3/2014. Posts: 1
Here's a similar warning. Don't book buses through travel agents. Buy directly at the bus station with a government-licensed operator. In Pai this also includes the Prempracha minivans to Chiang Mai which run very frequently all day. Also in most cases try to avoid booking transport as a package deal with multiple changes including border crossings. There is little or no accountability once you get across the border, as if you're going to go all the way back to Pai to complain that the Laos bus didn't match their photo. It's kind of common sense for the region, but the warning is worth repeating.
Just fly and save all the hassle. Getting an old bus might be a ripoff but its not a scam. You just got a poor product.
Best not to use agents in backpacker ghettos like pai and ksr. When will bps learn?
Normal agents in proper hotels and other areas are fine.
#3 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
Yes well common sense and proper research went out the window and picked what I thought was the easy option, as I didn't really know what I was doing re the border crossing and just wanted it to all be arranged in one go (as many people did by booking the slow boat package etc). I've realised now that anything with multiple changes of transport can result in you not finding out until later you didn't get what you paid for (and means there is not one person guiding you all the way through the process). I asked them specifically if I was getting the one bus all the way through, however, and they said yes. Naively I accepted that answer. I have now learnt to buy tickets from the local bus station as they are of course a lot cheaper. As travellers rarely go back to the same place in a short amount of time to complain about the service, that's how the agents keep getting away with it, though I've found even when you do complain, there is some excuse given or the language barrier comes up conveniently.
As for Pai being a backpacker 'ghetto', I don't think this is fair or true. Have you been to Pai? It's a lovely quaint place! And 'proper hotels' don't seem to exist there, mainly guesthouses and the like. I didn't choose to fly because the flights were ridiculously expensive considering the short distance plus I fancied a bit of scenery from the bus. Funnily enough, I actually ended up enjoying the experience as there were a bunch of us who refused to get on the local bus due to its dilapidated state and ended up getting on a different local bus that was better, leaving earlier and allowed us to see amazing scenes on the way. I just wanted to warn people on here that the bus is not just different to the picture, they are worlds apart! The local bus actually looked like it was going to break apart then and there, no word of a lie. We actually laughed as we thought it was a joke. Whereas the VIP bus in the picture was of a massive swanky looking coach. If that's not a scam, I don't know what it is - depends on your meaning of the word I guess...but rip-off, scam - same thing. It was extremely false advertising, plain and simple.
#4 eve1eve has been a member since 20/11/2013. Posts: 4
Have u been there?
Pai was a ghetto 10 years ago. Bps out number locals 2 to 1. Thats a ghetto.
#5 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
Given the OP got a bus from Pai I think it's fair to assume they have been to Pai Leonard.
Pai sees more Thai tourists than international visitors and it is far from a ghetto, but you like oh so much to beat that drum.
Eve1eve - thanks for the post/headsup re your experience. Now you know
We've all had those kinds of experiences, so don't let it worry you too much. Besides, it sounds like you got a pretty good story out of it and a good laugh with the people travelling with you. Like Captain Bob says, those multiple transport packages, particularly the ones that cross an international border, can be sketchy. So for you and anyone else reading this, follow Bob's advice on booking directly with the carrier if you can, but even then, remember that once you buy your ticket, you are working for the transport company and not the other way around.
Also, I hope we'll hear more from you about the full range of your experiences and not just this negative one. Be sure to leave restaurant and hotel and place reviews too. For example, it sounds like you had a great time in Pai and I'd love to read more about what you enjoyed there under the places reviews for each location. Travelfish is a community of thousands of different independent travellers, and the more people share their experiences - both good and bad - the clearer a picture will emerge, based on lots of input and not just the people shouting the loudest, for others to use in their travels.
How is Luang Prabang? Regards.
How do u know it gets more thai tourists?
When i was there farangs easily outnumbered thais and most thais were working there.
Only 3000 thais live in pai town. The ratios of farangs to thais is very high.
#8 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
I read a Southeast Asian Studies academic paper on tourism development in Pai. Thais make up the majority of inbound tourists to Pai.
There has been quite a bit written about it because it makes for an interesting case study in the shift of tourism over a relatively short period of time - from trailblazers (1980s) to drug tourism (80s/90s), to more mainstream trekking (late 90s) as infrastructure improved (2000s) and now, most recently over the last 3-5 years, thanks to it being featured in numerous Thai soaps and movies, it is seeing a surge in popularity among Thais - especially young urbanites looking to escape Bangkok and with plenty of disposable income to burn.
Where is the link to the study?
#10 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
Wiki is not a credible source of accurate info. Wiki claims since 2006 thais have outnumbered farangs but provides no proof of this.
I visited pai since then and saw with my own eyes that farangs dominated.
#12 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
It's always good to know of these places and things one needs to avoid when traveling. I've taken serious note of rip-offs that happen with transport buses arranged with some travel agencies. I'll just have to be careful if and when I need to deal with these in Cambodia or Thailand.