An Overland Journey on the Slow Boat from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai | Adventure Laos

An Overland Journey on the Slow Boat from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai

Luang Prabang- Chiang Mai boat

Including flying or taking a bus and ferry combination, there are a number of options available to travel from Luang Prabang, Laos, to Chiang Mai, Thailand. But it is a great option to take the slow boat up the Mekong to the Laos/Thai border if you are not on a tight schedule and want to do a little cruising. While moving you along on your travel itinerary, the 2 ½ day trip gives you a chance to ride the mighty Mekong, cast your eyes on some of the most charming riverside villages. Indochina tours Laos

Luang Prabang to Pak Beng

A typical slow boat on the Mekong at Pak Beng

A typical slow boat on the Mekong at Pak Beng source: internet

If traveling by slow-boat trip to/from Luang Prabang, Pak Beng is where most passengers will have to stop over-night. En route to the north, you can also choose to arrive by speedboat. You will have the option of choosing a guesthouse and showering with no queues as you will arrive before the slow boat, however, it is much more uncomfortable than the slow boat. Another means of transportation to reach this place is by bus– this is a long and rough option.

With sharp jagged rocks jutting out of the water, mountains framing the riverbanks, a river that twisted and turned around the corners, fish traps set up hoping to catch the day’s dinner and sandy shorelines where children might be seen playing, the impressively beautiful scenery leaves you wondering what might appear on the other side. The early mornings and evenings are cool, sometimes even downright cold while the days might be hot! Laos travel tours

Pak Beng to Huay Xai

Slow boat on the Mekong River

Slow boat on the Mekong River- source: internet

To cover the distance of 300 kilometers between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang, it takes you a 2-day slow boat trip, which costs about 220,000 kip. Sometimes by passenger consensus, the boat can make a stop at Pak Ou caves (near Luang Prabang). You will be required to buy your own entrance ticket, and occasionally in order to stop, boat staff required an extra payment of $1 per person. For 110,000 kip, you can also do only one leg of the journey.

According to various factors including river speed – a journey heading upstream is longer — but generally takes place between 08:00 AM and 09:30 AM, departure times vary. To depart, a requirement is a minimum of about 20 travelers, which is often not a problem. Sometimes packed into one boat are as many as 80 people. Even though there is usually a small snack shop on board selling beer, Pringles and noodles in a cup, there is nowhere to stop or buy lunch along the way. You can make bookings at many guesthouses and any travel agents in Huay Xai and Luang Prabang. Also, tickets are available in Chiang Khong in Thailand, however, the price is much higher as these package deals include accommodation in Chiang Mai. The best option is to head down to the dock and get your ticket at the ticket office for the best deal.

Luang Prabang- Chiang Mai boat

Luang Prabang- Chiang Mai boat- source: internet

Unlike the backpacker option, the Luangsay Cruise, which includes accommodation at the stunning Luangsay Lodge together with all meals, stops at Pak Ou Caves and ethnic villages and assistance and transport crossing the border to Thailand, is a more expensive but luxurious way to travel this route. Depending on the season, price varies from $400 to $700.

You can also choose rocket boat to make the journey between Luang Prabang and Huay Xai, Pakbeng. These speedboats, a faster but noisier and more dangerous option, can do both legs of the journey, each of which in 2.5-3.5 hours. Most passengers wear lifejackets for protection from the sun and biting wind and helmets to fight the noise as well as for safety.

Luang Say Cruise

Luang Say Cruise- source: internet

In spite of departing from distinct piers in Huay Xai and Luang Prabang, (transport to the pier is not included in the ticket price), speedboats and slow boats in Pakbeng leave the same pier. When the boat is full — six passengers or eight Laotians, they will leave. You can pay extra to cover the full price of chartering the whole boat if the boat is not full.

It costs 340,000 kip per person (2,040,000 kip to charter the boat) for the full journey between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang and 170,000 kip per person (about 1,020,000 kip for the whole boat) for one leg either way to or from Pakbeng. A bus from Udomxai with other passengers wishing to use a speedboat often arrives in Pakbeng by midday so if you don’t want to hire an entire boat, it is a good idea to wait around! Don’t end up heading back to Luang Prabang! Make sure to double check you are on the right boat!

Getting to Chiang Mai

Pretty good condition road to Chiang Mai

Pretty good condition road to Chiang Mai- source: internet

The drive down to Chiang Mai is comfortable and smooth. Beautifully smooth, paved-roads, with clear traffic signs posted along the way, the quality of roads in Thailand will immediately impress you. Including a 30 min rest stop to eat some lunch, expect a 4-hour drive.

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