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Visas and border crossings forum

Nan overland to Luang Prabang

Posted by bellatrx on 29/10/2009 at 15:27

Any updates on this route overland? We have Lao visas already, but are a bit daunted by the lack of information on how to travel from Nan to Luang Prabang (or even whether it's possible).

Does anyone know what the parts of the journey are, and about how long it'd take? Has anyone done it?

Thanks!

#1 bellatrx has been a member since 18/5/2009. Posts: 13

Posted by bass_ke on 31/10/2009 at 15:46

Bump, I'd love to get some more info on this border crossing.

Heading back to Chiang Mai next week and this would save a fair bit of time for me, although the slow boat could be fun to do again :D

#2 bass_ke has been a member since 23/8/2009. Posts: 18
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Posted by wanderingcat on 31/10/2009 at 16:56

disclaimer: my info is all secondhand.

Nan Thung Chang:
ordinary bus (red colour), departs hourly during daytime

Thung Chang Huay Kon (border):
Tfish site (updated 11/8/09) says 3 songthaews/day from Thung Chang.
but Huay Kon friend of a Pua-based contact + Chiang Klang resort owner both say no more regular transport (Pua & Chiang Klang are towns along the HWY linking Nan & Thung Chang).
they said to either charter a songthaew if there's one available (should be no prob in Thung Chang; if there are none in sight at Huay Kon try asking border guards to give a driver a call), or wait by the road & try my luck getting a paid ride on a passing vehicle. that's what another contact did about a week ago, he hitched a ride from the border all the way to Nan city with some villagers returning from a wedding celebration.
Saturday mornings are best cos the weekly market in Huay Kon means a lot more traffic between HK-TC & HK-Muang Ngeun.

Huay Kon Lao checkpoint:
~1km walk downhill (coming from HK)/uphill (coming from Muang Ngeun). the guy who crossed a week ago got someone with a motorbike to give him a ride uphill for 2000kip.

Lao checkpoint > Muang Ngeun:
~3-4km. but before reaching the turn-off to MN there's at least one guesthouse along the road to Hongsa.

Muang Ngeun > Hongsa:
one daily AM vehicle, ~35,000kip. sometimes another one will pass through on the way from Xieng Khone to Hongsa & Sayabouly town - ask locals. be prepared to ride in back (uncovered) of a Toyota Hilux.
English-speaking falang owner of Jumbo GH in Hongsa is a good source of info.

Hongsa > Tha Souang > LPB:
daily AM songthaew to Tha Souang, then wait by river for passing boat, reach LPB ard evening.

Hongsa > Sayabouly > LPB:
transport timings mean most prob you'll hafta overnight in Sayabouly.

#3 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
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Posted by wanderingcat on 31/10/2009 at 16:59

some of the symbols i typed disappeared for some reason. try again...
first 3 headings are supposed to be

Nan < - > Thung Chang:
Thung Chang < - > Huay Kon (border):
Huay Kon < - > Lao checkpoint:

let's see if the "<", "-" & ">" vanish again...

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Posted by bellatrx on 1/11/2009 at 12:37

Thanks, Wandering Cat! A travel agency in Chiang Mai just told us that the road on the Laos side was closed for two years (?!) -- do you know anything about that?

Bass Ke: do report back if you end up doing the route...we'll do the same.

#5 bellatrx has been a member since 18/5/2009. Posts: 13

Posted by bass_ke on 1/11/2009 at 16:07

Thanks for the help guys!

should be able to let oyu know in the next week or so. Sitting in Colombo airport, Sri Lanka right now waiting for our flight out and up to Chiang Mai .

I'll ask around Chiang Mai a bit as well, but may end up using a southern border around Pakse, still undecided as to which direction we want to go throug Laos again

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Posted by wanderingcat on 1/11/2009 at 17:16

A travel agency in Chiang Mai just told us that the road on the Laos side was closed for two years (?!) -- do you know anything about that?

strange. on Thai travel forums & blog posts i've seen reports of crossings at this border by Thai tourists dating back to ~2005. Thai travel agencies have also been advertising tours to Luang Prabang for Thai tourists via this crossing, & around 2007 or 2008 one agency in Chiangmai obtained special permission for foreigners to cross as part of a tour group & started a Chiangmai-Huay Kon-Hongsa-LPB package. & then this border crossing opened to non-Thai/Lao at the end of December 2008.

maybe those 2 years were ~22 years ago when Thailand & Laos were at war over this border :P was that agent trying to sell you a Chiangmai-Chiang Khong-Luang Prabang slowboat package? ;) personally am inclined towards taking what agents say with the contents of an entire saltshaker :P

from Chiangmai there's a direct public bus to Thung Chang (nearest point to border served by regular buses). departs 10AM, arrives 17:15PM. but don't know of accomm options in Thung Chang.

so could take either (1) the CM-Thung Chang bus but alight at Tha Wang Pha or Pua, or (2) the CM-Nan bus & alight at Tha Wang Pha or Nan city.
Tha Wang Pha, Pua & Nan all have accomm + daytime hourly bus to Thung Chang. Nan city is covered by Tfish. Pua accomm with English website: www.greenhillpua.com

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Posted by bass_ke on 3/11/2009 at 17:41

Sin of Your House Guesthouse seems to think that it's very possible and that there is a tourist oriented bus that leaves Chiang Mai at 2000

Still not sure when we are going, will report back as I find out more.

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Posted by wanderingcat on 4/11/2009 at 00:00

there is a tourist oriented bus that leaves Chiang Mai at 2000

sounds like the package that was (still is?) offered by an agency called Aya...overnight minivan from Chiangmai to Huay Kon border > arrive very early in the morning > wait for the border checkpoints to open at 0800 > zoom through Hongsa to Tha Souang > slowboat > arrive Luang Prabang towards evening, having seen as little as possible of Nan & Sayabouly provinces ;)

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Posted by bass_ke on 5/11/2009 at 18:21

Hey guys, dug up a bit more info

according to these guys

http://www.fhutravel.com/index.html

You can get visa on arrival at this border now, I emailed them last night for some info on the crossing and a bit more info about onward transport once in Laos but no reply yet, tried to call them on 3 different phone numbers today but still had no luck.

Still in Chiang Mai and haven't decided which way to go yet

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Posted by wanderingcat on 5/11/2009 at 19:03

what about onward transport in Laos do you want to know?
could try asking here:
http://www.lotuselephant.com/Jumbo_Guesthouse,_Hongsa,_Lao_P.D.R./CONTACT.html

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Posted by somtam2000 on 5/11/2009 at 19:23 admin

bass_ke: that's a great find -- thanks for posting it.

BTW Mr Fhu is a great guy, and I highly recommend doing a trek with him -- a real character.

#12 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,710
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Posted by bellatrx on 8/11/2009 at 18:15

All right, we have successfully navigated the route from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang via the Muang Ngeon/Huay Kon border crossing over 4 days of travel. It's doable enough, if not exactly straightforward. I don't know that I'd recommend this route as a better alternative to the 2 day slow boat right now, but if you want to head this way for whatever reason, it's quite possible. We had a good time, and definitely got a lot of use out of our Thai phrases and Lao phrasebook!

Here's a rough sketch of our itenerary:

DAY 1: CHIANG MAI -> NAN
--Left Chiang Mai bus station in the morning (8 AM, about 250 baht/person), getting to Nan by 1 PM. Spent the afternoon in Nan. We were excited about doing a trek with Mr. Fhu in Nan, but unfortunately (and despite their posted business hours) their shop was shut tight all day. We were very bummed! So if you're interested in this option, be sure to plan ahead.

DAY 2: NAN -> MUANG NGEUN
--Left Nan bus station at 8 AM on a local bus to Thung Chang (85 baht/person). We passed through Thung Chang to the end of the bus line, a tiny collection of houses called Ban Bon, arriving around 10:30 AM. There we asked around about how to get to Ban Huay Kon , and were told that there was one songthaew in town that would be leaving at 12 PM. We sat at the lunch stall along the road and hung out for a few hours, and kept asking whomever we could about the songthaew. "12 PM" became "12 or 1 PM", then "1 or 2 PM." Around 1 PM, a (very full) songthaew arrived from Ban Huay Kon -- the folks who had gone up in the morning (7 AM) and were just coming back. The songthaew driver then explained that he only does an afternoon trip if there are enough passengers, and since it was only us, he probably wouldn't be going back to Ban Huay Kon that evening. We would have to charter our own ride up (300 baht/person, rather than the standard 100) if we wanted to go. (That price may be a result of our persistent questions - we heard someone got stuck paying 1200 baht for the trip) He brought us home with him, ate lunch, switched to a small truck, and loaded us and his wife into the back for a ~1 hour ride. We got to the border around 3 PM.

This section of the route was probably the stickiest. There is nowhere to stay in Ban Bon, and not a lot of traffic going through the city that's not a motorbike. If for some reason you couldn't get to Ban Huay Kon, you might have to go back to Nan for the night.

Once at the Ban Huay Kon border crossing, we went through Thai immigrations, took a 1 km motorbike ride (20 baht/person) to Lao immigration, and entered Laos. All officials were incredibly nice, and the Lao official did say there was now visa on arrival (although I personally wouldn't risk it!)

We then walked ~4 km into Muang Ngeun (couldn't get a ride) and were in town by 5 PM. You walk past a bunch of guesthouses, and when the road forks, went left to get to the bus station. We stayed at a fine guesthouse near the bus station, about 5 minutes walk toward the border on the same side of the street.

DAY 3: MUANG NGEUN -> HONGSA
--One songthaew a day, leaves the bus station at 8. Arrive at 8 when the bus station opens to buy your ticket (25,000 to 35,000 kip/person); our bus left around 9 AM. We arrived in Hongsa by 10:30. We walked about five minutes over to Jumbo Guesthouse; Monica the owner was a great resource. (Be careful of her offered "extras", though, such as tea and breakfast -- they were tasty but unexpectedly pricy.) Spent the day in Hongsa on a stunningly gorgeous walking loop that Monica recommended.

DAY 4: HONGSA -> LUANG PRABANG
--Again, one songthaew per day, leaves the bus station at 8 or 9 or so (25,000 kip). We got to Tha Suang on the Mekong around 10:30. Here we walked down to the water where a Lao gentleman sold us the boat ticket and put us on the first boat that arrived for Luang Prabang (the tourist boat, 90,000 kip) We were on the water by 11:00am and in Luang Prabang by 5 PM.

Good luck!

#13 bellatrx has been a member since 18/5/2009. Posts: 13

Posted by bass_ke on 8/11/2009 at 21:11

No worries Somtam2000!

Belltrx, nice work!

We didn't end up making it through that way, I really wanted to go back to LP and checkout a bit of Nan but being that we are starting to get a little pressed for time and we want to spend a while exploring southern Laos we are back in BKK

Heading out to Ubon Rachathani tommorrow night

Some of the walks/treks offered by the Jumbo guesthouse look really nice! Hopefully next time we are back in Thailand I can get in contact with Mr Fhu and do some travelling around Nan

Cheer's
Nate

#14 bass_ke has been a member since 23/8/2009. Posts: 18
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Posted by wanderingcat on 8/11/2009 at 23:55

bellatrx - thank you lots for all the details!

may i know what day of the week was your Day 2? was it a Saturday?

If for some reason you couldn't get to Ban Huay Kon, you might have to go back to Nan for the night.

don't need to go all the way back to Nan, there's accomm in Pua (Greenhill resort, Oopkaew resort & Parichat GH).

Be careful of her offered "extras", though, such as tea and breakfast -- they were tasty but unexpectedly pricy.

the guy who crossed 2 weeks ago complained about dinn + bfast there costing him 100,000kip :P

once again, thanks for reporting back :)

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Posted by somtam2000 on 9/11/2009 at 19:05 admin

bellatrx - thanks for the great and very useful report.

Have just popped a complimentary Laos Pack in your Travelfish Guides -- perhaps will be of use for the rest if your time in Laos.

Cheers

#16 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,710
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Posted by bellatrx on 20/11/2009 at 08:36

Wandering Cat -- Day 2 was a Wednesday.

Somtam -- Thanks so much for the Laos pack! Unfortunately, we left Laos the day I got your message (back at work now, sigh...). Hopefully I'll have an excuse to use it very soon again.

#17 bellatrx has been a member since 18/5/2009. Posts: 13

Posted by wanderingcat on 21/11/2009 at 11:11

Thank you so much bellatrx!

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Posted by Archmichael on 24/11/2009 at 08:59

Great detail here, and thanks for it! I've been looking at traveling the Chiang Mai-Nan-Luang Prabang route next trip and this is very helpful.

Happy Travels!

#19 Archmichael has been a member since 23/7/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 396
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