Hello. First time poster.
I am currently living and teaching in Nan province, Thailand. My contract is up February 28th, 2013 and I want to travel to Luang Prabang by slow boat, but want to use the closer border crossing of Nam Ngen (I've seen it spelled different ways) to Pak Beng and then do the one day slow boat to Luang Prabang. From there, the dreaded 24 hour bus ride to Hanoi, Vietnam.
First off, does anyone have any information on getting to Pak Beng from Nan? And information about the Nam Ngen border crossing?
Secondly, is it possible to board a one day boat from Pak Beng to Luang Prabang or do you have to start at Huay Xai?
#1 2ndPathToRight has been a member since 22/1/2013. Posts: 4
Second question first, as it is easier: Yes you can get on the boat wherever you want (as long as you can flag it down!).
First question: Do you mean the crossing at Ban Huay Kon (at northern tip of Nan province?) If so the main issue is public transport on the far side (you can get to Ban Huay Kon by songthaew or minibus Nan -> Pua -> Ban Huay Kon I believe). I've not crossed at this border but have read elsewhere there are road connections to both Luang Prabang and Pakbeng from there.
If nobody chimes in with a better answer, check gt-rider.com -- their forums very good on this area
Thanks for the quick response. We are actually 14 kms south of Pua so getting up there sounds easy.
Do you have any information on the border crossing itself? Foreigners are for sure allowed? And is there a visa on arrival?
I've read that there are minivans from Pakbeng to the border crossing so they must go back the other way...
#3 2ndPathToRight has been a member since 22/1/2013. Posts: 4
Yes the border is open to independent travel and yes you can get visa on arrival there now. Cross from Huai Kon on the Thai side to Muang Ngeun on the Laos side and then get a ride to the Mekong near Pakbeng . There's a bridge building site there but for now you just take a quick boat ride across. Doubtful if you could leave home and make a slow boat from Pakbeng same day. You could alternatively go by road to Hongsa and onward by dirt road to Luang Prabang. Maybe ask Monica at Jumbo Guesthouse for more details. https://www.facebook.com/jumbo.guesthouse
The border crossing (Ban Huay Kon - Muang Ngeun) is definitively open for foreigners, VOA easy. No regular transport between the two checkpoints (but probably you'll find something, otherwise you walk - 1km no man's land).
From Muang Ngeun onward transport to Hongsa by songthaew, something like 2 hours-if I remember correctly. Bring USD for the visa, and Baht for your first transactions in Laos, as money exchange can be a little tricky (there is an ATM in Muang Ngeun, but in Nov.2012 didn't work for visa cards - I crossed on a Sunday and exchanged money in a stand opposite of the market - rate OK)
Didn't notice any transport options Muang Ngeun - Pakbeng, but from Hongsa you can get a songthaew to Mekong/Tasuang (a bit further on the Pakbeng-Luang Prabang route) and take the slow boat from there (the boat will wait), it's about 6 hours to LPB. That is, if you don't want to take the bus Hongsa-Luang Prabang. I don't think it's doable in 1 day
The regular slow boats leave Pak Beng for Luang Prabang early in the morning, so an overnight stay in Pak Beng is the most likely option.To be honest, Pak Beng is a bit of a circus. It could be a great little town, but there really is no incentive for the locals to do anything make it a better place -- people stay there in their hundreds anyway and only for one night. During the day you'll be lucky to see another foreigner.