I am planning to spend some time in both Thailand and Laos in May, combining to two by travelling on the Mekong from Chiang Kong to Luang Prabang and then leaving Laos by plane back to Bangkok. I have some questions i am really struggling to find the answers to, so if anyone can help, i would be so grateful!
1. What is the best and fastest way to get to Chiang Kong from Chiang Mai?
2. Does anyone know of any safe longboat operators - where can i find them? should i book ahead or just turn up?
3. What does the journey consist of, and how long does it take?
4. Is this a good idea or not?? I'd like to have a scenic journey that isn't dangerous and that is easy to sort out...?
Thanks for reading, any help gratefuly received!
#1 cellabella has been a member since 23/2/2007. Posts: 10
1. By bus from Chiang Mai. Try to stay the night in Chiang Khong, it's a really nice place. You can wake up early the next morning to catch an early boat.
2. Don't think you really have a choice — you should just turn up. Agents in Chiang Khong itself will try to sell you a boat ticket at 1200-1500 baht (they say this includes lunch and all transport to the boat + boat is faster; don't believe them), and also offer to arrange your visa beforehand. you don't need to do all that. Just show up, cross to Huay Xai yourself, and choose your own boat. You can get your visa done at Lao immigration too. No need to book ahead, best to show up and pick your own boat.
3. The journey consists of 8 hours on the boat on the first day + a stop in Pak Beng on the first night (find your own accomm) + getting up the next morning to get on the longtail for the remaining 8 hours to Luang Prabang.
4. Definitely do this, quite a nice boat ride. The slow boat isn't too dangerous. I did the fast one. I really loved it.
Thank you so much Skinnylatte! Very valuable information indeed!
#3 cellabella has been a member since 23/2/2007. Posts: 10
One more thing — about leaving Laos by plane for Bangkok. From Luang Prabang to Vientiane by bus is only 7-8 hours. I can wholly recommend going to Vientiane to spend at least a day or two. Crossing the border from Vientiane into Nong Khai is a cinch, really easy to do. Nong Khai is a nice place in which you can spend some time. From Nong Khai there are daily trains to Bangkok — the overnight train is the best bet, you can book a nice sleeper berth in the train for about 650 baht. Much cheaper than the ridiculous prices for flying (within and) out of Laos. Do think about that if you can afford the time.
Cool, that sounds great. May well do that. The plan at the moment in Thailand is to spend a few days in Bangkok, followed by trekking in the North around the Lisu villages, followed by the Laos expedition, then back to spend a bit of time on our backsides on the beach at Koh Tao - if i can do the time difference, will definitely go by train.
Looked at your popaghandi site - very cool! Have already taken your tip of The Nest (was thinking of staying at v expensive Lisu Lodge, but perhaps this will be good too...). Any other tips you can lend me, much appreciated. Especially islands-wise...Is koh Tao the best place to go in May (want to try and avoid the crowds)?
Thanks again for the help...
#5 cellabella has been a member since 23/2/2007. Posts: 10
Koh Tao is a pretty good option for your beach getaway, especially considering that it's May (monsoons, for some islands) — stick to the eastern islands of Koh Tao/Phangan/Samui, and you'll be fine. Phangan is not a bad option too; don't let the full moon party and backpacker crowd scare you off, there are plenty of gorgeous places outside of the crowded areas where you can get a good mix of bumming on the beach in comparative isolation (e.g. the Bottle Beach, Thansadet, Thong nai pan noi areas). There's always a place and beach you're bound to like more than others — and Thai islands offer great variety, whether it's Koh Tao, or Koh Phangan.