I'm interested in traveling from the Thai border at Huay Xai further north on the Mekong to Xieng Kok
Has anybody done / heard of this trip upstream? I'd be interested in any details anyone may know.
I'd be happy to hire a full boat for the trip if necessary. Departure time anticipated Early August
#1 riverspot has been a member since 3/1/2008. Posts: 25
I did it in reverse. The landing for the fast boat was at a wat about four of five kilometers upstream from Huay Xai. I believe you can also take a sawngtheaw (pickup truck transportation) up to Muang Mom which is half way there across the river from "golden triangle" tourist destination in Thailand.
In anycase if you are willing to be patient and happily wait for other passengers your fare might well be much less. When people seem in a big hurry boat drivers smell blood in the water.
Another consideration is that as of the last couple of months I've read reports in the Bankok Post of serious problems on the Thai/Lao portion of the river above Huay Xai. That would be below Muang Mom, so by road to that point might well be an even better idea.
Not sure what the fuss was about but it seems to have involved a Chinese casino operating in Burma without paying the protection money to the Burmese. First some Chinese army guys then a boat full of civilians were shot and killed.
No mention in the press since that time. It's probably ancient history by now but wouldn't hurt to check with people in Huay Xai and see what the general concensus is on that section of river.
Best boat ride in Laos. Makea all others seem tame. Big rapids, narrow river, fast water.
Thanks for that - I might have to go and do my research again. I assumed the mighty Mekong was the same torpid creature that we saw at Luang Prabang. As energising as it must be, I certainly had not planned on going upstream through rapids. And yet I remember reading somewhere that someone had hired a slowboat to go upstream on that section of the river .... maybe I misunderstood.
#3 riverspot has been a member since 3/1/2008. Posts: 25
There are larger boats that go from the Thai side all the way to Jihong in China, but you can't get off in Xienkok. I've never seen one but believe them to be faster and more powerful than the typical "slowboat". No international customs in Xiengkok, (except for Burmese and Chinese) We also passed many Chinese freighters on that section, I think they go only to the golden triangle, then back upstream.
I've also heard that the water level is lower this year than ever before, don't know what if any affect this would have. A channel has been blasted for the freighters. I've also heard that the water released from upstream dams is timed so to assist the larger boats on down the river.
If you do wander up that way perhaps you could send an email and tell what you saw to,,
Now you really have me confused Somchai / Somsai (?)
"Best boat ride in Laos. Makea all others seem tame. Big rapids, narrow river, fast water....." and later
"There are larger boats that go from the Thai side all the way to Jihong in China ......"
Do both these comments refer to the same section of the Mekong above Huay Xai?
As an aside I have read your blog and found it fascinating. The detail of your travel and the personal reflections you make are very illuminating. I'm happy to email you about what we see but ... maybe won't get to your lofty standards.
#5 riverspot has been a member since 3/1/2008. Posts: 25
Yes that’s the same section. There are all kinds of rapids in the world, the shallow kind where you are in danger of running into rocks and also the big kind with turbulent water, these are the latter of the two. The Chinese freighters seem huge for that part of the river. The boat captains must be very skilled.
I’ve also taken boats upstream from Vientiane to Paklai in Xayabouli Province. The Mekong is a powerful river everywhere, up and downstream of Luang Prabang also. Slow boats on the way south from Huay Xai have ended up on the rocks. Even seemingly listless slow sections have a lot of movement. That section above Golden Triangle to Xiengkok is the most roller coaster for the money though.
People used to catch the freighters headed downstream from Jihong. I’ve heard you are now directed towards a specific passenger boat.
Fast boats seem to make the Xiengkok - Muang Mom run once or twice a day according to demand. There is a steady trickle of people back and forth.
Please do drop a note if you do head up that way, even if it’s just a cut and paste or cc from email to other. Always interested in hearing what is going on up in that section of Laos. Xiengkok has been on the map for quite a while yet not so many go there. There are obvious travel difficulties.
I just re read the Travelfish descriptions, I hope you’ve already looked there, if not check it out, better than any of the guides I know of. There’s even a map of Xiengkok!
Once again I am in your debt for expanding my knowledge of "rapids" In my own defence (lest I appear to be a dill), in my part of the world "rapids" refers to the former rather than the latter. Hence my question seeking some clarification. Yes indeed, those Chinese Captains must be highly skilled!
Yes I have read the Travelfish contribution and found it concentrated on the downstream travel from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang - have I missed anything?? With so many links it is easy to miss out on a significant section.
You are indeed on the email list and I apologise in advance for the pedestrian content.
#7 riverspot has been a member since 3/1/2008. Posts: 25
Well we did it!
Three and a half hours (I think) of the best fun since I don't know when! And worth every ruble.
The river was up and the obstacles down (except for the flotsam) and the trip was fantastic.
The speedboat driver was highly professional and exceptionally skilled - he's the man!!
#8 riverspot has been a member since 3/1/2008. Posts: 25
Thanks for the report back. Any details on price and time taken? Would be handy so I can update the relevant sections.
The price for the whole boat was 5500 Baht and organised through the travel agent about ten doors down on the left hand side of the main street after you emerge from the side street border entry point to Laos. I have the guy's card salted away somewhere and will post name and business details when (or if) I stumble across it. He was good to deal with.
There were two of us on the speedboat and we split the price and was well worth the money for the thrill value alone.
The boat trip itself took about three and a half hours for what I estimated to be 120km. This time included a twenty minute refueling stop about half way up.
The driver was superb - highly skilled and I did not feel in danger at any point on the trip despite carving our way through some pretty heavy flotsam at times. The boat was very stable and the driver handled the few rough spots with ease. It rained for much of the time going upstream and the level of the river was quite high. We saw some turbulent waters which might have indicated the presence of rocks / rapids had the water been lower but we simply sailed over the top. Even so, there was one particularly rough patch which the driver negotiated at a slower speed with excellent throttle control.
A memorable experience
#10 riverspot has been a member since 3/1/2008. Posts: 25
Thanks for the report back riverspot -- much appreciated.
For anyone not familiar with the speedboats, here's a YouTube video of a typical trip:
1.Has anybody done this upstream trip around February?Is the level of the river is high enough that time of the year? I intend to be there in two weeks' time.
2.Does anybody know how and where I can get to one of these speedboats (or other boats - if available)for going upstream to Xieng Kok?
3.Any information about the communication further on by road from Xiang Kok to Muang Sing?
Thanks for any information
#13 ruvik has been a member since 30/1/2010. Posts: 4
I should be doing it in about ten days -- I'll post back and let you know.
From Xieng Kok to Muang SIng is a straightforward road trip - no difficulties.
Thanks,this information will be much appreciated
#15 ruvik has been a member since 30/1/2010. Posts: 4
Hi, from Muang Sing I intend to travel through Luang Namtha down Nam Tha river to Pak Tha in last 10 days of this February.
1.Anybody knows if this can be done - concidering the level of the Nam Tha river this time of the year? How to do i, how much time it takes and what are the expences involved?
2.I would like to travel down the Mekong to Luang Prabang starting in Pak Tha. Can I easily catch there a boat (eather a slow or a fast one)on its way from Houei Xai,or I need to trace all the way back to Houei Xai? If positive, what are approximate prices? We are two people travelling together.
#16 ruvik has been a member since 30/1/2010. Posts: 4
Hi ruvik, we did the speedboat ride from The Peung to Xieng Kok on first of january. There wasn't that much water and a lot of rocks looked out of the water, but we had a very good driver so we felt safe on the boat.
You can also arrange the trip from Huay Xai on, there is a travel agency. I don't know how much it costs from Huay Xai on. We opt to take a bus/pick-up from Huay Xai (they depart from the market) to The Peung because we hoped to be able to take a slow boat from there. The Peung is on the lao side of the golden triangle and the road from HX to there is a dust road, so be prepared to have orange dusty clothes afterwards. In The Peung, we weren't able to take a slow boat, because the locals were very eager to sell us a speed boat trip and told us there were no slow boats. But on our ride we saw a few of them on the river... We paid 120 dollar for the ride and it took us about 3 hours.
Then in Xieng Kok, you will have to be patient to get the bus to Muang Long (there you must change to the bus to Muang Sing). In Xieng Kok, there are 2 people who speak a little bit english. One is the boss of the wood factory and the other is the brother of the girl who runs the restaurant at the crossing. Anyhow, some people told us the bus would leave at 7, some told at 8... Actually it's like that that if somebody wants to go from Muang Long to Xieng Kok, the bus will come, if not, it won't and you will have to wait until next day. I'm sorry I can't tell you at what time, but it will be in the morning. Our arrived at about 9.30. We were lucky, because on that day the bus took passengers to another village and the bus driver actually didn't want to come to Xieng Kok. But then the boss of the wood factory called him and told him there were three people waiting for him, so he finally came and picked us up. So, if you do the speed boat ride to Xieng Kok, enjoy the ride on the young and still wild Mekong!
#17 sea2010 has been a member since 19/9/2009. Posts: 4
@sea2010 thanks for the great report thanks!
I also received the following by email the other day:
"Was told today by a Huay Xai resident (now working here in Namtha) that the Mekong boat trip HX-Xieng Kok would be a bad idea at present water levels."
So best to ask around.
I wonder if the freighters are still running from Golden Triangle to Jihong. That channel they blasted must have quite a bit of depth, those boats carry 40 or 50 tons fully loaded and draw a couple of meters.
Thanks to both sea2010 and sostam 2000.
#20 ruvik has been a member since 30/1/2010. Posts: 4