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From Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang by bus

Posted by Banana17 on 24/11/2011 at 18:49

Hello community,

i have been getting some great information from this site lately, but I still have this open question. Me and a friend will be traveling from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang sometime in May (low - budget).

I haven't found any real information as to how long the trip would take.

I would appreciate any advice especially concerning possible routes. Are there any sites worth seeing for a day? We do not have that much time to spend, so I am definitely looking at staying overnight somewhere on the way for no more than 1 night.


I have read about the possible route over Huay Xai and Pakbeng, but here on Travelfish I saw that it supposedly takes 1 whole day to get from Huay Xai to Pakbeng. Is that true? I saw that the two places are around 30 km apart, and that you have to take a boat.
We are open to seeing anything (everything [img]smileys/tongue.gif[/img]).

#1 Banana17 has been a member since 24/11/2011. Posts: 3

Posted by wanderingcat on 24/11/2011 at 20:44

it supposedly takes 1 whole day to get from Huay Xai to Pakbeng. Is that true?

by slowboat yes.
by speedboat approx 3h.
there's now an unpaved road via Pak Tha & Pha Oudom but not heard of any public transport plying it.

We do not have that much time to spend
Are there any sites worth seeing for a day?
staying overnight somewhere on the way for no more than 1 night.

if you have only one night then you don't have (much) time to see any of the sights along the way. that one night will be spent either in Chiang Khong /Huay Xai or on the overnight bus to Luang Prabang .

Chiang Mai > Chiang Khong (6h bus)
then
Huay Xai > Luang Prabang (13+++h bus)
or
overnight in Huay Xai & ~6h speedboat to Luang Prabang next morning.
fly if you can get a reasonable fare from travel agents in Chiangmai (May should be off season).

#2 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
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Posted by MADMAC on 24/11/2011 at 22:21

Does the word "hell" mean anything to you. This is the bus ride from that particular place.

#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by Banana17 on 25/11/2011 at 09:09

Thanks for the great info wanderingcat.

I just have a couple more questions. Do you know the price difference between the slow boat and the speed boat? Does the slow boat have any advantages except the price?

What about the price for the speedboat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang?

It would be very helpful to know about these prices roughly so that we can compare them to the airfare once we are in Chiang Mai.

Thanks for the help.

#4 Banana17 has been a member since 24/11/2011. Posts: 3

Posted by wanderingcat on 25/11/2011 at 09:25

http://laomeow.blogspot.com/2011/02/bokeo-province-transport-information.html

usual warning = prices can increase especially when price of fuel rises.
think Captain Bob might be able to give you a rough idea of the CNX-LPQ airfare.

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Posted by Captain_Bob on 27/11/2011 at 10:00

"I saw that it supposedly takes 1 whole day to get from Huay Xai to Pakbeng . Is that true? I saw that the two places are around 30 km apart, and that you have to take a boat."

Huay Xai to Pakbeng by river is about 125km and takes about 6-7 hours by slowboat or 3 hours by speedboat. There's a dirt road that follows the Mekong but as WSC writes no reliable transport for tourists along that route.

Expect to pay about 200,000 kip (equal to 800 Thai Baht) for a slow boat ticket (or 100,000 kip to Pakbeng) or 1500 Baht for speedboat (based on 6 passengers per boatload, essentially 9000 Baht for the whole boat) to Luang Prabang .

Lao Airlines flight daily 3pm 1 hour from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang cost in low season (April-Oct) this year was about 4300-4500 baht at travel agents in Chiang Mai, then went up in Nov to about 5300 baht. Hopefully back down again next May.

#6 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,918

Posted by asia4life on 8/12/2011 at 01:08

Posted from within Vietnam.

Sinnce you are not going until May, I like to give you my experience, so you have the time to re-think and re-schedule if necessary.

Arriving in Chiang Mai in late September this year, we also checked the flight option to Luang Prabang, and aslo the option Chiang Mai to Udan Tani - and from there to Vientiane and so on.

But first we had 30 days to spend in Thailand, and they were mostly spend in Chiang Rai Province, extremely cheap, good weather, fresh air, nice people.....

Our planned 5 nights in Chiang Khong became 15 nights, and on our day of departure we had still not decided to go for the ferry (5 minutes, 40 baht) or go by public bus back to CM and the head for a flight. Trying to a little green in our travelling, we took the ferry, planned to go by the 12:30 bus to Luang Namtha, but instead we jumped on the overprized minibus (130.000kip) leaving immediately. 2.5hour later we had reach Luang Namtha, and there we stayed almots 3 weeks. We never made it to Luang Prabang, instead we fly to Vientiane and spend our last week comfortable there. And if you litteraly want a good view of Laos, flying is perfct with the small propeller machine and you can follow the landscape. Of course you do not meet and talk to many locals this way, but on the otherhand, how often do you interact with those on a "backpacker" bus???

So my suggestion is, really consider why you need to go Chiang Mai - Luang Prabang? How long will you be travelling, what do you want to experience? What is most important, budget or time? Maybe one contry this time and an other country next time??? Please also read under Features, and How do I, where you have a detailed description of your question as well.

#7 asia4life has been a member since 30/11/2011. Location: Sweden. Posts: 19
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Posted by wanderingcat on 8/12/2011 at 19:44

#7:
curious to know, how did you spend your time in Chiang Khong & Luang Namtha? not heard of tourists spending that many days there!

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Posted by rmachall on 9/12/2011 at 04:19

If you go up river the boat will most likely be less crowded. But up or down book your midway accommodations in advance and avoid the mad dash up the steep embankment.This place is a transit point with almost no return business, so if the lunch they sell you makes you sick two hours down river they will never even know .The Indian Restaurant seems to be the only place with a wider outlook.The speed boats have a poor reputation for safety,getting bashed around at high speed is only fun for the first hour and why hurry through what could be the very best part of your trip?

#9 rmachall has been a member since 9/12/2011. Posts: 1

Posted by Geezy on 9/12/2011 at 05:29

Banana17, I done the Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang (slowbat) trip just over a month ago. I had just 3 weeks for my trip and fully understood that this would take a large chunk of my time but it was well well worth it.

Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai took about 4 hours on a mini bus (with stop off at some amazing temple made of metal)
Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong took about 3 hours (where you stay for the night with your group and basically have some food buy a cushion and drink :-))
Next morning we were took to the river which is literally 5 minute drive from Chiang Khong where you get a little boat across the river to the immigration point. Get your passport stamped then we headed to a travel agency place where the guy tried to scare the **** out of us by basically telling us the the slow boat will have to stop in the middle of the Meekong if it rains and we will get eaten to death by mozzies. This was all in an attempt to get us to pay more and take the 'safer' option which was the bus that just happened to cost more money on top of what we had already paid. This was of course a load of bullshit. Although we did book our stay in Pak Beng with this guy which worked out well.

He took us to the slow boat which was a bout 10 minutes drive away and then took off down the meekong for about 7 hours on the 1st day. Some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen in my life! Really chilled out and they sell food and beer at the back of the boat. sweet.

Pak Beng - stayed there for one night, had some amazing food and there is a bar at the top of the hill that closes pretty early but its great to meet your fellow travellers who you will be stuck with for another 2 days.

Day 2 Slow boat - this was a hard day as it was a 10 hours journey this time and according to 'Laos time' left 2 hours later than it was supposed to due to the fact that the boat was about 20 seats smaller than the previous day. This is all well and good but we had the same amount of people as the day before. We refused en masse to get on until they put more seats on... they did.

All in all this was an amazing experience because you meet so many ace people and you see the same people around Luang Prabang which is good. I absolutely loved this trip as you spend 2 days floating down the meekong river which is a massive win for your life. I would definately recommend this trip.

Geezy

#10 Geezy has been a member since 27/7/2009. Posts: 48

Posted by asia4life on 6/1/2012 at 01:40

Posted from within Vietnam.

as a reply to Wanderingcat #8

No problem spending long time anywhere, just follow these steps.
1. Find your ultimate place of living (your home away from home). The demand and requirements differ from place to place, but it must be clean, quite and give (according to your own opinion) value for money

2. Go for the many small adventure everyday instead of rush away for the BIG (and expensive) adventure. Spending a few hours in the local markets, with the kids and their mammy leraning their kids how to greet in a western way, is good enough for me.

3 Rent a bicycle. Good for environment, good for you, and you can not get too long in one day, and need more days to explore

4. Stop and talk to locals when ever they approach you. Do as they do, sit or sleep in the shadow for a while and just take it easy.

#11 asia4life has been a member since 30/11/2011. Location: Sweden. Posts: 19
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Posted by MADMAC on 6/1/2012 at 22:28

Asia
A few hours at the local markets? Good God. They usually stink to high heaven. Go there to shop and move on, OK. Hang out? Not if you olfactory senses are working.

I agree on the idea of taking your time and the small adventure. But let's not get carried away. Sleeping under a tree? Renting a bicycle instead of a motorcycle? And you never mentioned any kind of nightlife at all.

Well, different strokes for different folks. Glad it worked for you. I do agree that slowing down and checking out some less travelled places is not a bad idea.

#12 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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