My husband and I are due to travel around SE Asia in November, starting in Bangkok to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, then back to Bangkok.
There is a wealth of information available on travel which is both helpful and confusing! So to hope for some simple and useful advise..
Bangkok to Laos Luang Prabang seems a tiresome journey combination of boat and bus. Flying is not really an option so what would you advise on the best and most easiest way (if there is one) to get to Laos. I am ok with the train to Chian Mai and Bus to Chiang Rai .
I understand that Chiang Rai is the hub to get to laos, how? Mekong River slow boat!
Or can anyone recommend any agent which we can book this leg of the journey through?
also is it best to book tickets in advance??
Thanks in advance
#1 Pan18 has been a member since 28/8/2013. Posts: 4
Easiest way to get to Laos or Luang Prabang ? Not the same thing.
Easiest way - not flying - to get to Laos is overnight train or bus (depending on your preference) to Nong Khai, which is just across the river from Vientiane. From there it's another aruous bus journey to Laung Prabang, if that's where your going. If you want to get to Luang Prabang from Bangkok, it's going to suck if you don't fly.
Chiang Mai isn't anywhere near Laos. Laos is about 150 km from Chiang Mai. It's the hub to get to Chiang Rai or Pai.
#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Thanks. Yes sorry we are travelling from Bangkok to Luang Prabang and then onto to Vientiane. Sure, I guess my thoughts on Chiang Mai was getting the slow boat. so going to Chaing Kong then boat trip down the Mekong
There seems to be various variations of the route either via Pakbeng or HX...
#3 Pan18 has been a member since 28/8/2013. Posts: 4
Yes, but they are all long and they all suck. There's just no getting around it. Most people who are interested in the Chiang Mai variation are so because they want to go to Chiang Mai and maybe Pai or Loei along the way... if you take a couple of weeks then I could see as it would be pleasant. But if you just want to get to Laung Prabang and not fly - then it's basically going to be about 36 hours of gutting it out (with I'd guess about 24 of those hours actually sitting on a shitty ass bus).
#4 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
From Bangkok to Luang Prabang via Chiang Mai by train/bus then slow boat would take at least three full days plus any time you want to spend in Chiang Mai and/or Chiang Rai. There is no reason to book slow boat before you get to Chiang Mai. Every agent in town here does the inclusive package deal for around 1600 baht, or get a bus/minivan to Chiang Khong, cross to Laos and buy the ticket directly at the boat ramp for around 220,000 kip (about 900THB). There are also buses from the border town (Huai Xai) to Luang Prabang that take about 14-16 hours. Speed boats do the trip in half the time but are not everyone's cup of tea.
You have a few options. Pretty much what Captain Bob says but here is some more detail.
1) Travel north to Chiang Mai , Chiang Mai is a great place and anyone could easily spend 3-4 days here as there are so many things to see and do. If you weren't going to see Chiang Mai I recommend this way just so you don't miss out on it.
1A) After seeing Chiang Mai you could then take bus to Chiang Rai and look around for a day or two there. Chiang Rai itself isn't that amazing but it has a couple neat sights. White temple is really nice and black house is kind of neat/strange, both are just out of town on opposite ends so transportation can be a little tricky but White House is definitely worth seeing if in Chiang Rai. Scenery around Chiang Rai is fairly nice too and there is a nice waterfall not too far either. A good somewhat cheap way to see these would be to rent a scooter, could easily see White House and waterfall in a day. If you happen to be in Chiang Rai on the weekend can check out the walking street night market. Sunday walking street is best imo but Saturday was decent too. Night bazaar is ok but not great and nowhere near Chiang Mai's night bazaar. Can then take early bus to Chiang Khong which gives enough time to get to slow boat if you decide to do that(boat doesn't leave till around noon).
1B) If you opt to skip Chiang Rai you can take bus directly to Chiang Khong(border crossing into Laos) and stay the night there. Baanrimtaling guesthouse is a good place to stay, decent rooms and offer free pick up at bus station and free drop off at ferry.
1C) The next day again have more options if you want to take boat. You can either take slow boat to Luang Prabang which takes 2 days and stops in Pakbeng (if go this route don't buy accommodation before hand on boat etc, lots of rooms in Pakbeng). Slow boat was ok, sit at the front though as back is noisy from engine. Decent scenery on the trip and can meet other travellers although this is a little difficult due to seating(not much room to move around but if want can sit on floor at front and there will be a group of travellers up there). Alternatively could take speed boat, I didn't do it but know it is supposedly uncomfortable and very loud. Does get you to Luang Prabang in 1 day though and might be fun for the first while. Yet another boat alternative would be to take slow boat for part of trip and then speed boat for other part if you really want to try it(river between Huay Xai and Pakbeng is smoother if concerned about safety).
1D) Alternative to boat can take bus up around Luang Namtha, Oudomsay and then Luang Prabang. Bus takes a long time and probably isn't as comfortable as boat so unless you plan on stopping at least at Luang Namtha I wouldn't recommend bus over boat.
2) And if you choose not to go through Chiang Mai then take night train from Bangkok to Nong Khai then shuttle bus to border and then into Vientiane . Obviously it makes more sense to spend your time in Vientiane before travelling onward up to Luang Prabang. Bus to Luang Prabang is quite a long trip so might want to consider stopping in Vang Vieng.
Thankyou all for your suggestions and recommendations, I think it case of looking at the options and seeing what will be the best for us. This has been really helpful much appreciated
#7 Pan18 has been a member since 28/8/2013. Posts: 4
Just thought I'd add something - excluding flying, if you want to get to Luang Prabang from Bangkok relatively quickly and comfortably then I would suggest this route:
Take night train from Bangkok Hualamphong Station to Nongkhai, between 12 - 14 hours, 2nd class sleeper is quite comfortable. You can then continue on to Thanaleng Station in Lao which is just outside Vientiane via a shuttle train which only takes a few minutes. A tuktuk / minivan at the station will then bring you into Vientiane for a reasonable price, and this will take another 30 mins.
Once you arrive in Vientiane you can book bus tickets for Luang Prabang either at the bus station or at your accommodation. It is definitely advisable to avoid minivans as they can be very uncomfortable on the winding mountain roads, much better to get a coach. I believe if your accommodation arranges your tickets it is likely to be a minivan, so it could be better to go to the bus station yourself to inquire about transport options. The journey to LP will take around 12 - 13 hours.
Or you could avoid all of the above and fly. Buying tickets through travel agents can sometimes be cheaper than booking online (I flew from LP to Vientiane in June for about €45, bought ticket from agent in LP).
#8 JaiYen88 has been a member since 25/4/2012. Posts: 110
Thank you all for your recommendation been really useful
#9 Pan18 has been a member since 28/8/2013. Posts: 4