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Huay Xai to Luang Prabang by slow boat

Posted by Yamahuh on 9/11/2007 at 09:37

We are planning on going from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Huay Xai, Laos and from there to Luang Prabang by slow boat.
We have booked a room in LP but I'm not sure if I can catch the boat at any time of the day or not.
Is it feasible to expect to be able to arrive in Huay Xai from Chiang Mai and catch a boat the same day so that we can arrive in LP the next day?

#1 Yamahuh has been a member since 6/11/2007. Posts: 2

Posted by princessdisaster on 9/11/2007 at 10:03

Short answer No.

The slow boat is a 2 day trip with a night stay in some small town that I can't remember the name of.

I did the trip in March, The slow boat left around 9 in the morning from Huay Xai so I think trying to make the boat from Chang Mai might be a bit much, why not head to Huay Xai the afternoon before have a massage at the Red Cross and have a little sleep in before you catch the boat. Oh and take a cushion

#2 princessdisaster has been a member since 30/11/2006. Posts: 36


Posted by ionaman on 9/11/2007 at 17:17

Yamahuh, a piece of advice, do NOT get the speed boat. My girlfriend and I got the speed boat and it broke down and ended up drifting down the Mekong river for 3 hours!! It ended up being a 2 day trip!!

Also dont forget when you arrive in Chiang Khong you need to cross the border over the river and get the visa which was $35 if i remember correctly. Takes about 30 mins if ur lucky. Also make sure you get your passport stamped on the Thai said to show you exited the country.

So to answer your question it is not possible as far as I know.

#3 ionaman has been a member since 21/10/2007. Posts: 12

Posted by ionaman on 9/11/2007 at 17:18

1 last thing -- princessdisaster is right, you really NEED a cushion!!

#4 ionaman has been a member since 21/10/2007. Posts: 12

Posted by andreahkg on 9/11/2007 at 22:35

Hi Yamahuh
The Chiang Mai vip van leaves Chiang Mai late evening and ends up in Chaing Kong at about 2am and dumps you off at a very primitive guesthouse which no one tells you about. To stay a few hours is about 100THB double with breakfast. They will transport you to the immigration office in the morning about 9am and you will board a water taxi across the river to Huay Xai on the Lao boarder. That slow boat says it will leave at 11am but leaves about 12:30 as it waits for ALL the foreigners to board from all the tour operators/guesthouses. You have a six hour day ...suggest you buy a cushion at the guesthouse as the seats are hard wooden benches. You end up in Pakbeng which is a very primitive village with electricity only from 6-10pm...don't expect hot water anywhere. Although we had a great buffalo steak at Sivalay Restaurant!! You leave the next morning about 9am (on a different and more uncomfortable boat) toward Luang Prabang...a 9 hour journey. And believe me you are thankful for Luang Prabang as it has lovely restaurants, massage and a huge selection of guesthouses. It is a very laid back town but the food/wine is great and if you like french colonial buildings you will enjoy walking around the cobblestone alleyways...feels small villages in France. Make sure you visit JoMa Bakery...they have great breakfasts but also yummy soups, quiche, salads, etc. If you like wine there is a wine bar next to the Pizza restaurant on the main road in LP...great place to hang out...and french wine is inexpensive by our standards. The people are lovely, innocent...enjoy!

#5 andreahkg has been a member since 5/11/2007. Posts: 8

Posted by talesofloriandmark on 10/11/2007 at 13:43

just in Luang Prabang, got of the slow boat yesterday
my suggestion whatever you do fast boat or slow boat do the trip in reverse up the megong. We caught the slow boat from Houyxai bought our ticket at the dock for 730 Bhat and the experience is nothing near authentic it was an overpacked boat with more than 100 whities packed on every seat was doubled up and we had people floped out in the engine area of the back of the boat with the exhaust fumes. As for the fast boat not many of them on the river and there was lots of floating debris, for a real expeience avoid the the path and avoid doing the slow boat down the megong and go up the river the boats heading north are pretty much empty with only 5 or 6 whities as far as I could see.
just a suggestion
lori and mark
www.talesofloriandmark.com

#6 talesofloriandmark has been a member since 22/10/2007. Posts: 10

Posted by talesofloriandmark on 10/11/2007 at 13:43

just in Luang Prabang, got of the slow boat yesterday
my suggestion whatever you do fast boat or slow boat do the trip in reverse up the megong. We caught the slow boat from Houyxai bought our ticket at the dock for 730 Bhat and the experience is nothing near authentic it was an overpacked boat with more than 100 whities packed on every seat was doubled up and we had people floped out in the engine area of the back of the boat with the exhaust fumes. As for the fast boat not many of them on the river and there was lots of floating debris, for a real expeience avoid the the path and avoid doing the slow boat down the megong and go up the river the boats heading north are pretty much empty with only 5 or 6 whities as far as I could see.
just a suggestion
lori and mark
www.talesofloriandmark.com

#7 talesofloriandmark has been a member since 22/10/2007. Posts: 10

Posted by pauljaymes on 11/11/2007 at 19:08

I did the slow boat last year and really enjoyed it; yes it's wooden seats and crammed with falang, but I met and talked to a lot of people and the scenery is good too. There were a few locals on my boat as well. Beer Lao will help the seats feel softer and the day go quicker :-)

I also enjoyed Pak Beng, which has some nice restaurants and an unusual atmosphere.

#8 pauljaymes has been a member since 10/7/2006. Posts: 75

Posted by Yamahuh on 11/11/2007 at 19:43

Awesome advice guys, thank you so much.
We've heard that the boat south is packed, uncomfortable and slow but our itinerary and time restraints don't allow us the pleasure of doing it the opposite way.
Good thing to keep in mind for future reference though; if LP is as glorious as we've heard from numerous people then we'll be back in the future.

On a different note has anybody stayed at the Xiang Mouane guesthouse?
We've booked a room there but haven't found much info about it outside of the links here at TravelFish.

Thanks again.

#9 Yamahuh has been a member since 6/11/2007. Posts: 2

Posted by paul123456789 on 19/11/2007 at 19:58

Hi - going off on a tangent - I need this answer for a group of school kids:

Is there life vests on the boat? Does everyone get one?

Thanks.

#10 paul123456789 has been a member since 10/7/2007. Posts: 15

Posted by princessdisaster on 20/11/2007 at 07:35

I don't remember seeing life vests on the slow boat, I'm pretty sure it's not even something the locals would even think of.

#11 princessdisaster has been a member since 30/11/2006. Posts: 36

Posted by talesofloriandmark on 20/11/2007 at 11:00

not a life vest to be seen on either boat HouayXai to Pakbang and Pakbang to Luang Pabang

Are you traveling with local kids or farangs?

#12 talesofloriandmark has been a member since 22/10/2007. Posts: 10

Posted by paul123456789 on 20/11/2007 at 18:44

Thanks for that. I rang up today as well and although they have some and some life savers down the back of the boat (behind all the packs) it is true they don't have one for everyone.

It is for a group of farang kids and due to the rules in Farang land they need life jackets to sit on the boat. So it seems I will be buying a whole lot and carting them around.

#13 paul123456789 has been a member since 10/7/2007. Posts: 15

Posted by rocketgirl on 20/11/2007 at 20:53

I just did the slow boat 4 days ago and there were over 120 people on the boat with only about 70 seats. Me and my friends ended up in the engine room on the first day and it was unbearably loud and uncomfortable despite my cusion. We arrived in Pak Beng in 5 half hours though, so don't believe the people trying to sell the speedboat saying it takes 10 hours. The next day thankfully we were given 2 boats and it was really comfortable.

Overall it was a good experience as we met a lot of people, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it if you're taking kids as it was just so uncomfortable & loud that first day. Plus I heard one of these boats sank recently due to there being too many people on board, although i'm not sure if that is just one of those travellers tales that goes around.

#14 rocketgirl has been a member since 1/10/2007. Posts: 22

Posted by somtam2000 on 21/11/2007 at 10:00 admin

Sorry Rocketgirl -- did you say 120 people on the boat!!!

#15 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,575
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Posted by annu75 on 21/11/2007 at 13:09

here try them, i just booked through them and they take you from chiang mai all the way to luang prabang...

www.travelhubchiangmai.com

#16 annu75 has been a member since 10/7/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 21

Posted by talesofloriandmark on 23/11/2007 at 16:31

120 sounds about right. . . Somtam
the river is high and they are packing the boats full!!!!
the only way to get a second boat is if people refuse to get on... if enough of the farangs refuse to get on a boat they will put a second boat on. . . politely stand your ground and the second boat will be started. . . this is how a second boat was loaded from HoueyXai.
If there is not a seat refuse to get on !!!
Someone has to notify the National Tourisim Authority in Vientane Laos not that they are an effective body but the boats are government boats and maybe just maybe . . .
The NTA will fix the problem

#17 talesofloriandmark has been a member since 22/10/2007. Posts: 10

Posted by shelld on 26/12/2007 at 18:32

Hello fellow travellers,

Any 'heads up' on accommodation in Pakbeng? We'd like to avoid rats, but mossies don't really scare us coz we come from FNQ & are well armed with DEET!

#18 shelld has been a member since 23/12/2007. Posts: 16

Posted by talesofloriandmark on 26/12/2007 at 23:50

Pakbang isn't that scary, come on. . . If you pick up a bottle of peppermint/eucalyptus oil from a pharmacy in a bigger town before you get there, use the oil by putting the oil on toilet paper in the corners of your room, drip some of the oil on the bed, and on the pillows your room will smell minty fresh and if there are rats about they will be deterred as they don't like the smell of the oils.
My girlfriend and I use this through out SE. Asia after having a dodgy bungalow in Pai we researched aroma therapy solutions on the internet and,by gosh, it worked so well. We never saw another cochroach, spider or bed bug with this method. Now as for accommodation in Pakbang, we arrived from Houxey Xai (down river)just after sun set, be prepared for
it keep your luggage and flash light near by as the village kids jump the boat with offers to help you carry your luggage, you'll be greeted by the the typical guest house touts, and well this is one time when in the dark you can follow a tout
or else you will end up walking around aimlessly
after a long day on the boat. We had a shared bathroom
fan room with net for 100 bhat and weren't required or pressured, to eat at the guesthouse. There is an amazing Indian Restaurant just down the road. Enjoy the experience in Pakbang, for as small and odd as it is I kinda wish I spent another day just to sit an watch town gear up in the evening for the tourist boat to come in.

#19 talesofloriandmark has been a member since 22/10/2007. Posts: 10

Posted by shelld on 28/12/2007 at 22:47

Hi there talesofloriandmark, (what a mouthful!)

Thanks for your post. I'm a bit of a bushy at heart & not too fussy but I'm traveling with 2 men that rarely get out of their comfort zone - I've already warned them that they'll be dumped at the nearest 5 star resort if they cramp my style:) Thanks for the peppermint oil tip. Can you remember to guest house you stayed at?

Cheers

#20 shelld has been a member since 23/12/2007. Posts: 16

Posted by talesofloriandmark on 30/12/2007 at 08:33

Can't remember the name just that is was dark when we got there and followed a female tout after agreeing for a place for 100 bhat. If I remember correctly it is at the top of the hill(not that you will see the hill in the dark, second from the top near the Lonely Planet recommended places. . .don't worry there will always be space for everybody in Pakbang and making reservations there would just give you the headache of having to find the guesthouse, it is not that rough in Pakbang. . .
it is kinda charming and you have to just take it as a "rough" and as the guide books says "you'll e sipping lattes in Luang Pabang by next evening."

#21 talesofloriandmark has been a member since 22/10/2007. Posts: 10

Posted by leolo on 7/1/2008 at 21:34

lori and mark mentioned taking the slow boat north instead of south...

is the route Northern Thailand - Luang Prabang - Vang Vieng - Vientiane as accessible if done in reverse?

from the comments here, it seems like the Mekong leg might more enjoyable.

#22 leolo has been a member since 7/1/2008. Location: Earth. Posts: 7

Posted by talesofloriandmark on 7/1/2008 at 23:14

Can go Luang Prabang to Pakbang and Houy Xai should be very easy and quite empty we saw the boats heading north with smiling farangs. We read that you can take the boat can take the boat from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, however it is supposed to take a week or so. . . don't really know if you can go the other way north.

#23 talesofloriandmark has been a member since 22/10/2007. Posts: 10

Posted by somsai on 8/1/2008 at 05:25

#22 and #23 discussed Luang Prabang /Vang Vien / Vientiane by boat.

First I should mention that Vang Vien isn’t on the Mekong so that is out of the picture.

Towns running south from Luang Prabang are Thadua, Xayabouli, Pak Lai, then Vientiane. As of last year there was still a regularly scheduled slow boat, 4 times a week on the Pak Lai / Vientiane portion, the rest of the trip is now serviced by bus and fast boats. When asked a fast boat driver in Vientiane reported the trip to Luang Prabang can be made from Vientiane in a long day.

Boat landing outside Vientiane is at Gah Leeow past the airport, below Luang Prabang at a Wat off the road to the Kuan Sii falls.

Anywhere a boat goes up river they also go down, otherwise one would end up with a bunch of boats at one end or the other.;-)

#24 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 568

Posted by leolo on 8/1/2008 at 12:28

Thanks for the advice. I didn't make myself clear when I posted the route, I only intend to take a slow boat from Houy Xai to Luang Prabang and then travel on to Vang Vieng and Vientiane by overland routes. But now I'm considering reversing the route to avoid the overcrowded boats heading south from Houy Xai. That is, start in Vientiane and head to Luang Prabang via roads and then catch a boat there to Houy Xai. I was just wondering if travel from South to North through Laos is as easy as going North to South, but as somsai pointed out anything heading one way is bond to head back. thanks for the input, guys.

#25 leolo has been a member since 7/1/2008. Location: Earth. Posts: 7

Posted by thegrailer on 21/5/2008 at 20:07

Is there any recent news about the trip north from LP to Houy Xai? We need to get to Houy Xai as a starting point for our GibbonX trek and are looking for ways to avoid flying from VTE.
A 1-2 day boat trip north from LP would be a lot more interesting than flying from VTE (which would merely be used as an airport stop)

#26 thegrailer has been a member since 5/5/2008. Posts: 12

Posted by paul123456789 on 21/5/2008 at 21:17

As far as I know you should have no problem getting a boat from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai.

#27 paul123456789 has been a member since 10/7/2007. Posts: 15

Posted by thegrailer on 22/5/2008 at 19:24

Thanks -
Is the trip north a ~2 day trip just like the trip south?

#28 thegrailer has been a member since 5/5/2008. Posts: 12

Posted by annu75 on 22/5/2008 at 22:31

downwards is a day faster than up the river...

#29 annu75 has been a member since 10/7/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 21

Posted by wanderingcat on 22/5/2008 at 23:45

as far as i know, ordinary slowboat (not the private 'cruise' run by some company using their own boat) takes 2 days for both upriver & downriver directions...just that downriver usually takes a shorter no. of hours per day, but still a night spent in Pak Beng.

think one of the private 'cruises' does the downriver trip in one day flat with an early start from Huayxai.

#30 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
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Posted by thegrailer on 23/5/2008 at 08:27

Thanks - we're committing the cardinal sin of Laos travel, trying to set a schedule. We are planning on going to GibbonX and were trying to narrow the ball park date down a bit

Is there any particular place/dock to catch an upriver boat?

FYI: Frommer's SE Asia 5th Edition, pg. 260 "The chug upriver from Luang Prabang takes up to 3 days and is not recommended."

Cheers

#31 thegrailer has been a member since 5/5/2008. Posts: 12

Posted by wanderingcat on 24/5/2008 at 06:52

Is there any particular place/dock to catch an upriver boat?
___________________________________

In Luang Prabang? In Dec 2006 slowboat office was at river directly behind Royal Palace Museum, little wooden shack with signboard listing destination & price. Ask around, slowboat to Pak Beng, locals will know (speedboat leaves from elsewhere). Only sold tickets to Pak Beng, buy ticket to Huayxai in Pak Beng. Was 95,000K for each sector, might/should have gone up a bit, fuel prices have risen.

Upriver can take up to 9h X 2 days. Guidebooks can be outdated by the time they hit the press. There are rivers in Laos more beautiful & interesting than that section of the Mekong. But if you don't fly to Huayxai, it's long journey(s) by bus or boat.

#32 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
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Posted by thegrailer on 24/5/2008 at 22:22

Is there a better way to get from LPQ to HOE? I didn't see any flights on Lao Airlines website.

Thanks

#33 thegrailer has been a member since 5/5/2008. Posts: 12

Posted by leosandy on 1/6/2008 at 09:24

We plan to go from Huay Xai to LP by slow boat. Does anyone know if the boats operate everyday? some of the bookings are only on Mondays and Fridays. do we have to book in advance or just turn up at the pier? are there any recommendations of tour sites that I can book on?

#34 leosandy has been a member since 1/6/2008. Posts: 4

Posted by pheang on 2/6/2008 at 14:49

Hi Leosandy,

The boat from Houay Xai to LPQ is operated everyday even on Sunday. It departs on 10.00 hr, the visa is available on arrival. Visa fee start from 30 US$ to 42US$ depends on nationality. But after 16.00 hr , weekend and official holiday have to pay 1US$ (they call overtime charge)also for these days mention to please prepare possport stamped fee 5 THB in Thai side and 20 THB or 5000 kib in Laos side. Immigration both side open from 8.00 - 16.00 hr. Thai immigration check point is 2 km far from the main bus station in Chiang Khong. Boat ticket can book in advance or just turn up at the pier, price is 800-1000 THB depends on what including with.

#35 pheang has been a member since 2/6/2008. Posts: 1

Posted by leosandy on 2/6/2008 at 15:03

Thanks Pheang, the information is very helpful. Does anybody know how one can get a chartered boat booked in advance? I read that it cost US$100 for the boat to be shared by the passengers? as the long boat ride seems to sound uncomfortable, we are thinking of this option.

What is the kip to USD exchange rate these days?

#36 leosandy has been a member since 1/6/2008. Posts: 4

Posted by annu75 on 2/6/2008 at 22:54

hi leosandy,

i booked through them...they were cheap and efficient...but be careful, because they love to make as much money as they can by packing too many people from chiang mai to houay xai in their minivan. so maybe you can just get there on your own and also the place they put you in houay xai is very very shitty...it's one of those 3dollars a night places...so here is their website, overall i was quite happy with them because i didn't have to worry about anything myself... they basically brought me from chiang mai to luang prabang.

http://www.travelhubchiangmai.com/

#37 annu75 has been a member since 10/7/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 21

Posted by maggiebsfc929 on 4/6/2008 at 14:51

Hello to all :) Please, I really need help. I am going to Hanoi (Vietnam)but would like to visit Luang Prabang (Laos). Can anyone tell me the best and safest border crossing to take. Are there buses from Hanoi that can take us there?

also, from Luang Prabang (Laos) I plan to visit Chang Mai (Thailand). what are the best and safest border crossings?

thanks very much to anyone who could give me any information. :)

#38 maggiebsfc929 has been a member since 4/6/2008. Posts: 2

Posted by SBE on 4/6/2008 at 18:13

"Plus I heard one of these boats sank recently due to there being too many people on board, although i'm not sure if that is just one of those travellers tales that goes around."

No, not a myth, it does happen. The boat I was on sank an hour or so before Pak Beng because of overloading.., this was few years ago though. At least 120 people on board!

#39 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,020
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Posted by leosandy on 4/6/2008 at 18:14

Annu75, I was in contact with TravelHub and they said the boat typically carries 30-50 people. Is that true? Relative to size of boat, is that comfortable or tight? How are the seats and facilites, any food?

Is it different from the 120 people type of boat?
Am basically trying to find a more comfortable slow boat option.

#40 leosandy has been a member since 1/6/2008. Posts: 4

Posted by annu75 on 4/6/2008 at 22:31

hi leosandy, it's not true that there are only 35-50 people on board, there were a lot more, but everyone had a seat, i did not feel unsafe at all. but make sure you have a pillow and that there are safety vests on board. also if you book through travelhub, ask them if they still put 30 people in their 9person minivan and about the accommodation in chiang kong, sorry i wrote houay xai befre accidently, but no, they let you sleep on the thai side not the laotian. also travelhub can take care of your laos visa, so you don't have to worry about it in the morning.

good luck

#41 annu75 has been a member since 10/7/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 21

Posted by leosandy on 4/6/2008 at 22:54

Thanks Annu75. I think I have reached my decision now. Cheers!

#42 leosandy has been a member since 1/6/2008. Posts: 4

Posted by dgpugh on 23/6/2008 at 16:16

so...have read the thread but will ask anyways. for Huay Xai to Luang Prabang am i nuts to do it with two little boys 1 3/4yrs and 3 1/2yrs....the active types!?

#43 dgpugh has been a member since 13/1/2008. Posts: 1

Posted by somtam2000 on 23/6/2008 at 17:49 admin

Well, I guess it would be better than the speedboat!

#44 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,575
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