Getting there and away
There is no bus station or official bus stop in Xieng Kok, and only one road in or out -- to Muang Long and Muang Sing. Arriving buses usually stop near the boat landing and border checkpoint, which is about halfway between the two best guesthouse options in town: the Xieng Kok Resort and Khemkhong Guesthouse.
Departing buses will drive through town looking for passengers, so the general rule is to stand out on the street until one comes past. The one minibus departing Xieng Kok daily is scheduled to depart at 07:00, but in reality drives around the block looking for enough passengers to make the journey worthwhile. If there are no passengers and you have no time to wait, then an option is to pay for the whole bus. Negotiation skills will influence the price you pay, as will the cost of petrol, the number of other passengers, and the likelihood of picking up more on the way.
Sample fares on the public bus include Muang Long for 20,000 kip (taking 50 minutes) and Muang Sing for 50,000 kip (taking 3 hours with a change of buses in Muang Long).
The scenery along the way of emerald paddy and small Akha villages is some of the most lovely in Laos. Both on the bus and beside the road are plenty of locals dressed in their traditional outfits.
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The boat ride to Huay Xai on the Mekong River is beautiful, but the rocket boats that do the journey are considered quite dangerous and at the time of writing had stopped completely. This means that the only option is to catch a passing slow boat, which will more than likely have cargo onboard. To get a boat you have to go down to the landing and wait for the boat to arrive, at which point you have to negotiate a price. Given that your options at this point are limited, bank on about 150,000 kip per person to get to the small village of Ban Mom, which is connected by paved road to Huay Xai. The journey should take about five hours.
A sign at the Muang Long Tourist Office indicates that speedboats depart daily from Xieng Kok and cost 800 baht per person to Ban Mom or 4,000 baht for the whole boat. When we enquired about these prices in Ban Mom we were informed that the standard fee is 7,000 baht when the boats are running, which at the time of writing they were not. Our advice is to arrive at the dock and ask around for a speedboat, but be warned that one may not be available and a slow boat may be your only option. The reason given for speedboat drivers not wanting to carry passengers is that there have been a spate of recent attacks by armed gangs on the Burmese side of the river.
It is not possible for foreigners to cross into China or Burma from Xieng Kok. Additionally, make sure the slow boat you take will drop you off at Ban Mom and not on the Thai or Burmese side of the river. There is a small guesthouse in Ban Mom should you get stuck there for the night.
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