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Mekong River Boat In Laos - Need to get there from Chaing Mia

Posted by SteveHickey on 20/3/2007 at 20:58

Hi All,

Just looking for a bit of info on the Mekong river boat trip.

I will be in Chiang Mai, and from there I will be looking to head North into Laos to cross the border and head south to Luang Prabang by boat.

What I need to find out is the folllowing:

1) From Chiang Mai, what is the best route to head north and in to Laos in order to take a boat to Luang Prabang along the Mekong - I have heard that it is probably best to go Chiang Khong (how? and how long from Chaing Mai?) where one crosses the border in to Huay Xai??

2) Is Huay Xai the starting point for these trips, and is it easy to organise a boat?

3) How long does it take to get to Luang Prabang?

4) Is the boat trip expensive?

5) Is it easy then to get from Luang Prabang to Vietienne?

Any other details about trying to accomplish this leg of our journey would be greatly appreciated!!

If anyone has done this before, any tips?

Cheers guys,

#1 SteveHickey has been a member since 30/11/2006. Posts: 15
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Posted by prairieox on 21/3/2007 at 13:23

hi Steve,

It's pretty easy to catch public buses from Chiang Mai to Chiang Kong. We did it by catching buying a bus ticket to Chiang Rai, get off the bus there, and get immediately onto another bus for Chiang Kong. It doesn't take that long and is pretty cheap.

From Chiang Kong, you cross the river border into Huay Xai (lots of boats there to take you over, not to worry). We stayed at Huay Xai overnight and took the slow boat to Luang Prabang via Pak Beng the next morning.

If you take the slow boat, it takes 2 days and you have to overnight in Pak Beng. If you take the rocket boat, it takes 6 hours, but at your own risk.

The slow boat was not expensive, about $20US, if I remember correctly.

From Luang Prabang to Vientiane is very easy. There are buses that leave everyday and if you take the early morning bus, it gets you there in the late afternoon. No reservation required, just show up at the bus station going South and buy a ticket to get on. They include lunch and give you water.

Tips-wise, I would say if you're staying in Pak Beng, to not be too picky about accomodation. When we were there, the town was full, and we ended up sleeping on the floor, sharing a mattress with 5 people. But it's only one night, and it's like a rite of passage.

The boat journey is quite beautiful. Have fun!

#2 prairieox has been a member since 30/12/2006. Posts: 13

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Posted by SteveHickey on 21/3/2007 at 16:41

Thanks a million prairieox

Was wondering if you know anything about stopping in Vang Vieng on the way from Luang Prabang to Vietiane? I heard about people stopping there to do some tubing, and I hear it's great craic?

Is it easy to get to VV from LP?

And then is it east to get to Vietiane from VV?

Also, any recommendations on guest houses/hostels in the following?

Chiang Mai
Chiang Rai
Huay Xai
Pak Beng
Luang Prabang
Vang Vieng

Thanks again for all your help?


#3 SteveHickey has been a member since 30/11/2006. Posts: 15
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Posted by sugarplum on 21/3/2007 at 17:32

Hi Steve,

I can't remember the name of the guest house we stayed in in Pak Beng.... but I'll do my best to try and describe how to get there! Most of the places are overpriced flee pits. And I even heard stories of the odd theft!!

As you get off the boat you have to head uphill towards the right. Near the top is a large bill board and for some reason most people continue heading right (although only been there twice!). If you TURN LEFT AT THE BILLBOARD and keep going along here (the Mekong will be on your left) you will see a posh/expensive resort on your right - just past this place on the same side (on the right at the end) is a relatively new place. The rooms were spotless and had bathrooms and I think we got them for about $4-5 for a twin. The staff were fantastic too. On the way there you pass a great Indian restaurant on the left too!

It can sometimes be manic getting everone and luggage off of the boat - I was travelling light so I jumped of with my day pack and legged it up there and booked enough rooms for my group of 7, grabbed the keys and them went back to help with the luggage - hope this helps.

Have fun,

#4 sugarplum has been a member since 26/1/2007. Posts: 16

Posted by prairieox on 21/3/2007 at 22:01

hi Steve,

Yeap, many people get off at Vang Vieng on the bus to Vientiane. You just buy a ticket for Vang Vieng when you get to the bus station. Similarly, from Vang Vieng to Vientiane, there are many buses (you can probably buy tickets from the guesthouse or in town). We didn't stop at Vang Vieng, headed to Southern Laos instead.

In terms of guesthouses:
Chiang Mai - we stayed at CM Blue House, there's reviews of it on Travelfish here. It was nice, had a good vibe to it.
Huay Xai - Arimid Guesthouse. Really friendly and informative proprietor. She speaks many languages, and will be able to guide you to the boat to Luang Prabang. The guesthouse itself was a bit dark and dank (but clean), but since it was just 1 night, we didn't mind. It's right up the pier from the slow boat.
Pak Beng - I think Luke covered it all. :)
Luang Prabang - Jaliya Guesthouse, again, had a really informative proprietor. Good location off the main tourist area, easy walk to anywhere. It was very clean and is not far from the Southern Bus Terminal where you take your bus to Vientiane/Vang Vieng.
Vientiane - we stayed at Mali Namphu. Great hotel-type service and breakfasts, but I'd have to say that the plumbing wasn't great in the room we were at (slow to drain, which results in very humid in-room conditions).

I think there's reviews of all these places on Travelfish.

#5 prairieox has been a member since 30/12/2006. Posts: 13

Posted by SteveHickey on 21/3/2007 at 22:54


Thanks so much for all your help. I'm so looking forward to getting to SE Asia. Not long now, April 16th we get in to Bangkok.

One more thing - how long did you spend in Laos.. I was thinking (hoping) we could do all this in 10 days? ie Huay Xai to Vietiane via the boat trip to LP, and then bus to VV and on to Vietiane? Do you reckon it is doable?

Being a bit cheeky here, but we want to fly from Vietiane to Hanoi, has anyone got an idea of the cheapest or most reliable airlines?

Thanks guys!!!!


#6 SteveHickey has been a member since 30/11/2006. Posts: 15
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Posted by somtam2000 on 22/3/2007 at 05:48 admin

Hi Steve,

The cheapest flight from Vientiane to Hanoi will be with Lao Airlines. They're a pretty reliable affair.

#7 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,943
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Posted by sugarplum on 22/3/2007 at 15:13

It's do-able in 10 days - but you're missing out on a great country! We stayed for 7 weeks.

You may want to note that the day you arrive in Bangkok is their (and Laos/Cambodia) New Year............

#8 sugarplum has been a member since 26/1/2007. Posts: 16

Posted by LancasterLad on 22/3/2007 at 17:35

Someone mentioned the Mali Namphu G/H in Vientiane. Stayed there in early November, having booked by e-mail a couple of weeks earlier. On arrival, and despite the booking we got the only 2 rooms left, which is fair enough I suppose, but the rooms were dire. Ours (me and Mrs) was Room 109, it had no window, it was small, in need of a good lick of paint, but worst of all it was mozzie infested. My brother's room was on the 4th floor, and he had to negotiate 69 steep steps to it.

During our stay tour groups came and went. It seemed to me that they were the preferred clients and so got the best rooms.

Apart from the rooms the mali Namphu was a very pleasant place to stay. The stay were very (almost too) attentive, the breakfast menu changed every day, and the courtyard garden was a refreshing place for a coffee or a couple of beerlaos.

Overall I'd say the Mali Namphu is worth the $16 a night, but only if you get a decent room.

#9 LancasterLad has been a member since 13/9/2006. Posts: 62

Posted by LancasterLad on 22/3/2007 at 17:44

Ref my message above, on the 2nd line of the penultimate para "stay" should read "staff". The breakfast was very acceptable btw!

#10 LancasterLad has been a member since 13/9/2006. Posts: 62

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