I know this topic has been covered, and i've been reading lots, but i have questions, and my time is running out:
I'm in Chiang Rai and I'd like to get to Luang Prabang.
It seems like my options are (and im not including speed boat as an option):
Normal Slow Boat (leaves every day)
Luang Say Slow boat (very expensive, leaves on thursdays, sundays, and mondays)
The naga? I can't get confirmation that this exists and i've read loads about it
And then flying from Chiang Mai to LP.
Originally I was going to fly but as of right now it seems like Lao Airlines won't book less than 3 days in advance, and they appear to not have a flight on thursday so I could book for Friday but its $230 and the website seems very unreliable. Is there any way I can purchase a ticket tomorrow (tuesday) for wednesday?
Im very interested in doing to mekong boat, but I don't want to do the normal slow boat and be packed to the gills with 100 other drunk backpackers and have to deal with the mad rush in PB (im travelling by myself, so from what i've read i'll get left with a craphole since all those in groups send someone up to get housing and get the good spots).
The Luang Say looks a bit touristy and expensive for me, but is that the only other option?
Basically what I would like is a comfortable boat with real seats that is not overcrowded with guaranteed booking at a decent guesthouse in PB so I don't have any stress. food service on board is a plus but not necessary.
Is the Luang Say my only non-normal-boat option?
I would really like any advice - i really want to get out of Chiang Rai as fast as I can, I've seen what I need to see here, but I had no idea it would be this confusing to get to LP.
#1 TheNewGuy8 has been a member since 8/9/2010. Posts: 35
Luang Say is the only regular passenger boat other than the slow boat that I know of. The other option is to meet halfway and try to rustle up 10-20 bods and charter your own slowboat. I don;t recall the prices off the top of my head, but it is possible and from memory was priced about half way to Luang Say. Challenge of course is getting the people together, but this time of year should be a bit easier as it is season.
This topic is also covered here (albeit from Chiang Mai):
#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,764
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Although I usually bad mouth the slow boat trip from Huay Xai to Pak Beng I think in your case it's the best option. There are plenty of upscale rooms available in Pak Beng if the Thai tour groups gobble up the affordable ones and your boat should arrive before the one going upstream from LP does due to the fast flow of the Mekong this time of year. Try the Suntisuk if the others are full, I had to pay 150,000 kip last week but it was a nice room and it's still a bargain by western standards. There are a lot of falang on this slow boat but they often don't sell beer on the boat and they do try to take a 2nd boat if there are more than 100 PAX signed in. The other option is a bus trip from Huay Xai to LP but that takes about 12 hours or more and there probably still is much road construction around Oudom Xai and the Boten junction. Buses leave Huay Xai at 08:30, 09:00 & 13:00 and I suggest the 08:30 local bus to Oudom Xai with a switchover to another local bus from there to LP that s/b waiting for the first bus to arrive. This bus lets you rub elbows with the locals and you'd probably be the only tourist on it.
#3 LaoNow has been a member since 14/5/2010. Posts: 38
I agree you should get the slow boat. Just get a bus from the old terminal1 in town to Chiang Khong and make your way over to the Laos side in Huay Xai. Slow boats leave at 11am and cost about 210,000kip (800 baht) at the boat ramp (more from any agents along the way). This is low season and particualrly quiet this year. I normally would be selling one slow boat ticket per day now I'm lucky to sell one per week (travel agent in Chiang Mai). It's quiet now!
Some of the slow boats even have bolted down car seats but it's a total lottery as to which boat you actually get. Still I doubt it'll be packed full and usually you don't get much drunkeness on these boats (relative lack of beer available unless someone brings their own cratefull) and feel free to throw anyone overboard who gets out of hand ;-)
In Pakbeng there are basically two ways to go from the boat ramp: 1) go straight up the paved road like almost everyone else, or 2) go left up the dirt road to the Petsokxai Hotel which has bunches of rooms and is of a higher class than most of the cheapie guesthouses but still affordable. The low number of people going this time of year almost guarantees you a decent room without rushing.