Im just trying to work out what the best forms of transport for doing this trip are!?
The last bit is simple as we will be taking the sleeper train between Lao Cai & Hanoi but its the sections up to there we are trying to work out!
One possibility we were looking at was taking the boat from Luang Prabang up the Nam Ou to Nong Khiaw or perhaps even Muang Khoua where we would stop overnight. How long would this boat journey take and would the whole journey be doable in 1 day, also what would the approx cost be?
The next stage would be from Muang Khoua to the border crossing at Tay Trang (we will be arranging our visa in Bangkok in advance!) then onto Sapa by bus. How long will this trip take, is it possible to do in a day and again what would the approx cost be?
Sorry for all the questions but i just want to make sure we use the best route to get there!
#1 mlr has been a member since 3/5/2009. Posts: 31
taking the boat from Luang Prabang up the Nam Ou to Nong Khiaw or perhaps even Muang Khoua where we would stop overnight. How long would this boat journey take and would the whole journey be doable in 1 day, also what would the approx cost be
LPB > Nong Khiaw : slowboat = 1 day, bus/songthaew = 3+h (~35,000kip/pax)
Nong Khiaw > Muang Khua : slowboat = 1 day
slowboat cost: approx 1 million kip for each sector, divided by no. of passengers. boats run on demand, depart only when driver is paid enough for the journey to be worth all his input (incl fuel costs).
not sure about speedboats (which would allow you to get from LPB to Muang Khua in a day), as of Sept 2009 info on speedboat fares for journeys along the Nam Ou had been removed from the signboard at the speedboat landing in LPB. best to ask around in LPB.
NK > MK stretch of Nam Ou supposedly the prettier of these two sectors.
from Muang Khoua to the border crossing at Tay Trang (we will be arranging our visa in Bangkok in advance!) then onto Sapa by bus.
I can offer an update to Wanderingcat's info about boats up the Nam Ou and the other aspects of your proposed journey, as I've just done the same trip myself (with a side journey to Oudomxay and Phongsali).
The Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw trip doesn't have to be a charter divided by number of passengers - at the moment, at least. Two weeks ago it was a set price of 110,000 kip direct from the boat office or 120,000 kip via travel agents. The boat travelled on time (ish) even though it wasn't full (only six people on board, ten is the max at the moment). It took seven hours and was a fantastic journey, one of the highlights of my time in northern Laos. The bus is quicker and cheaper but if you're bothering to come this way then I strongly recommend going by river! Note that these comments may only be relevant for a limited time, as the options for travelling on the Nam Ou vary with the river level (and probably demand).
I did not travel by boat from Nong Khiaw to Muang Khua , but I met others who did and they also said it was no problem doing that journey (cost about 100,000 kip). A bus would be quicker and cheaper, but you would still have to overnight in Muang Khua because the onward bus to Dien Bien Phu leaves early in the morning. Note that it would be a shame not to stop in Nong Khiaw for a day or three - it's lovely.
Muang Khua is nice but not special, no matter how you get there just one night is probably enough. The onward bus to Dien Bien Phu now operates daily, it's scheduled to leave at 6am but in practice it will leave about half an hour after the first longtail takes passengers across the river (6.35am for my trip). To clarify that comment, all the accomodation in Muang Khua is on the opposite side of the river from which the bus to DBP leaves. As there is no bridge you have to be boated across or use the cargo ferry, neither will operate until it's light enough to see where they're going.
The bus journey from Muang Khua to Dien Bien Phu is slow and bumpy and will probably have more locals on it that tourists; it's a quite nice trip. Roads improve enormously on the Vietnam side, but not the road safety! You'll arrive in DBP early in the afternoon, and you shouldn't need any more than the rest of the day to see that town. I booked a local bus the next morning from DBP to Sapa departing 6am, cost 140,000 VND. It was scheduled to take 8-9 hours, though a minibus might also be available that's quicker. Note that the advice to break the journey in Lai Chau is well worth considering, otherwise you'll be spending most of your time on boats or buses...
Re road safely in Vietnam: the driver of my bus from DBP to Sapa was a complete maniac. Overtaking at high speed around blind corners, flying through villages and generally being a reckless idiot. We had two very near misses with trucks that were too close for my comfort, and I actually got off the bus after an hour and waited for another to come later (and in the end decided to go back to DBP and fly to Hanoi, but that's another story). Be warned: the road from DBP to Sapa is winding, often narrow and steep, and scary bus journeys are apparently not unusual in Vietnam.
Not sure when you plan to travel, but hope some of this helps.
#3 damienm has been a member since 13/12/2009. Posts: 5