An overnight river stop

Pakbeng sits midway between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang on the Mekong. As the river was once the only major transport route in the country, Pakbeng developed as an overnight stop for both cargo and passenger ferries. Set in a scenic spot where the Nam Beng flows into the Mekong (Pak means mouth and Beng is the name of the river), the town itself doesn’t have a lot to offer except a number of guesthouses and restaurants that have sprung up catering to travellers who almost all depart early the next morning.

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The slow boat journey down the Mekong from Chiang Khong on the Thai border is spectacular and it remains a popular transport route and bucket list experience with backpackers, so Pakbeng is flourishing with no signs of letting up and we think the recent addition of two upscale lodges is a good thing. Road travel in Laos is notoriously challenging and the slow boat allows for more people — young or old, budget or comfort seekers — to see the country instead of being limited to flying in and out of one city.

Rest your sea legs. : Cindy Fan.
Rest your sea legs. Photo: Cindy Fan

But don’t dismiss Pakbeng as simply a transit point to get to Thailand or Luang Prabang. For those looking to go further afield in Laos, the town is a corridor to interesting possibilities. It’s a relatively easy bus ride to Udomxai, gateway to the north: Muang La, Muang Khua, Phongsali and Nong Kiaow. Just across the river is Sayaboury province and a one-hour boat ride plus one-hour by road delivers you to Hongsa, famed for its ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 700 words.)

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