Photo: Classic scenery surrounds Vang Vieng.

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Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang - Need advice

Posted by chopin on 16/8/2011 at 23:24

I am planning to go from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang via slow boat in Chiang Khong/Huay Xai. A few things need your advice:

1. Is it worthwhile to book the slow boat thru an agent at Chiang Mai first, or at Chiang Khong, or just hop on one in Huay Xai? Any chance of being ripped off?

2. What time is the bus leaving Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong? Arrival time? What is the latest fare? Should I take bus or private minivan, or any better options?

3. How long does it take to clear immigration at Huay Xai?

4. If I get the earliest bus from CMai, can I make it to the slow boat avoiding spending a night in HXai?

5. Is the experience any different if I travel the opposite way: LPrabang - HXai by boat?

6. What months to avoid travelling by boat on this route, either when the river is too flooded, or the river is too dry?

Appreciate any feedback.

#1 chopin has been a member since 28/4/2007. Posts: 154
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Posted by Captain_Bob on 17/8/2011 at 01:39

1. Book slow boat package in Chiang Mai for around 1500 baht if you want the convenience factor and to hook up with other travellers before the 2-day boat ride. Or make your own way up to the border and buy a slow boat ticket at the boat ramp for about 900 baht.

2. Best bus option is the 8:30am Green Bus from Chiang Mai Arcade bus station for 292 baht arriving to Chiang Khong around 3pm. Or take a minivan 400 baht (same vans as the "package" deal) which leave CM at 10am and noon.

3. Immigration takes longer during the "rush hour" roughly 8-10am when the majority of people are crossing over. Laos visa on arrival can take up to an hour then, but in the afternoon it's very quiet and just takes a few minutes.

4. No, not enough time. Slow boats leave at 11am and CM-CK is at least 6 hours.

5. LP-HX is generally a lot less crowded than the more popular downstream direction, but it's a bit slower too and you probably end up arriving in HX too late for the border (6pm) and have to spend a night in HX.

6. Only time I've seen the slow boats halted was due to very low water late-Feb to mid-March last year. They otherwise pretty much run year-round, even during record flood levels the past few years in July/August.

#2 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,954

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Posted by chopin on 17/8/2011 at 16:41

Thanks Bob for your speedy reply-great info too. Come to think of it, I might change my sequence and go to Laos first, then enter Thailand thru HX, so that I can have a more spacious boat trip since it's against the flow. If so, would it be the same departure time from LP for the slow boat trip? I guess I can put up with a night spent in HX, since I would have to do the same coming from the other direction anyway. I think the Mekong boat ride would be worth the trouble, would you think so?

The trip from VT to LP, from what I have read so far, there seems to be no boat ride-at least not for budget-conscious backpackers. How would you rate the bus ride? Would it be worth it to travel during daytime for the sights? It's a long trip-10 hours!

#3 chopin has been a member since 28/4/2007. Posts: 154
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Posted by Captain_Bob on 21/8/2011 at 10:11

Vientiane to Luang Prabang bus trip I would do in the daytime for the scenery, and break the trip in Vang Vieng if you have time. Take a bus with open windows so you can see the scenery (sealed aircon buses with dirty windows can be frustrating for those who actually want to see the journey). Vang Vieng to LP is the most scenic (and precariously hilly) section.

In LP go to the boat ramp in town where you buy tickets for the slow boat. Ask the day before what time they leave, but come back next morning to buy the ticket (no need to go through an agent). It won't be the same "schedule" as the downstream version. Grab some extra food & drink, have a seat, remove watch and forget about time (bring a good book).

#4 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,954

Posted by wanderingcat on 22/8/2011 at 08:42

agree with #4. try to get a window seat on the left side of the bus (best views are to the west), though there are some nice views to the east too, & the bus might make a rest stop at the lookout point near Phiengfa restaurant these days.

LPB to Pak Beng slowboat departs ~8.30+am, doesn't hurt to get there earlier. not sure if they can give you an exact departure time as it depends on how much stuff (anything from motorbikes to toilet bowls) there is to load onto the boat.

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Posted by chopin on 22/8/2011 at 19:42

thank you both, great info...

#6 chopin has been a member since 28/4/2007. Posts: 154
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Posted by schubef on 22/8/2011 at 19:43

hi guys. i am a newcomer to this forum and just read about the boat trip on the mekong.i have been thinking about that for a while and doing the same,i am not fusst on what stretch to take. but thanks this threat has given me some food for thought.might see you on one of the boats chopin,i will be there end september.thanks for the invo bob cheers fred

#7 schubef has been a member since 22/8/2011. Posts: 1

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