Hello! After much thought, I've decided to get the three day Mekong Delta boat experience to get from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang (partially for scenery; partially to save money). Plan to arrive in Bangkok Feb 1st, head to Chiang Mai Feb 3rd via overnight bus/train, and leave Chiang Mai approx 3 days after.
Question for you well-seasoned travelers...
1) Should I book the Mekong trip in Bangkok (i.e. are there more reliable companies/is it necessary to book more than a couple days in advance)? If so, do you recommend any tour operators?
2) If I can book in Chiang Mai when I arrive, are there any recommendations of who to book through or who/what to avoid?
From the many forums, there seem to be a LOT of options (and opportunities for scams/pay far more than needed), so I want to just make it as easy and cheap as possible! Thanks for your help!
#1 smillertime78 has been a member since 18/9/2010. Posts: 21
Are you referring specifically to the Maekhong Delta Travel Agency? http://www.maekhongtravel.com
Or are you just seeking a regular slow boat to Luang Prabang? This would be the cheapest option by far as it's only about 200,000 kip (25USD) for the 2-day boat ticket. And for this you can buy directly at the boat ramp in Huay Xai and depart the same morning around 11am every day. You can also buy in Chiang Mai but you'll more likely then get a package deal for about 1700 baht (55USD) that includes 6-hour minivan to the border, a night at a guesthouse, 3 meals, all transfers and the boat ticket. Don't buy it in Bangkok - you'll get overcharged by someone who doesn't know what they're selling.
Hello! Thanks for the advice; I did mean just the regular slow boat :) So are you suggesting I find my own way to Huay Xai from Chaing Mai, then buy the boat ticket there? Is it pretty easy to get to Huay Xai? Good to know about Bangkok; it's pretty much what I figured, so I'm happy to have the confirmation!!
If I do book a package in Chiang Mai, does anyone have a suggestion for a reputable agency? Or are they all pretty much similar?
#3 smillertime78 has been a member since 18/9/2010. Posts: 21
You can buy the Laos slow boat package at pretty much any agent in Chiang Mai , again around 1700 baht. There are basically two companies running this: Namkhong Tours do the daytime 10am and noon minivans and Aya Tours have one overnight minivan. Also there are direct buses to the border from the Chiang Mai Arcade bus station (830am "Green Bus" is my prefered). So you get to Chiang Khong first (6hours from Chiang Mai) then cross the river/border to Laos, get a visa on arrival and maybe change some Thai baht/dollars/etc. for Laos kip (good rates at the Laos side of the border). Walk less than 1km up to the slow boat ramp where you can buy the ticket same morning for 200,000 kip (or it will be included if you by the package deal). Have a seat and the boat departs at 11am, takes 6 hours to Pakbeng where there are dozens of guesthouses and restaurants all catering to the slow boat business. Then next day go another 6 hours to Luang Prabang where you'll be greeted by many touts displaying photos and directions to the many guesthouses and hotels.
So now I'm your tour guide - send me $5 for information ;-)
Seriously though it's very easy to do the above - ask around when you get to Chiang Mai (my current home too).
Thanks, Captain Bob and others! I am in Chiang Mai now (just in time for the flower festival--yaaay!!), and we might try to check out some tour companies. Looks like it's pretty easy to do on one's own (rather than buy the package)...thanks so much for the help!
(I'll happily pay the $5 fee/buy you a beer...but one more question: what's your FAVORITE restaurant and/or bar in Chiang Mai?)
#6 smillertime78 has been a member since 18/9/2010. Posts: 21