Travelling from Chiangmai to Laos presents a number of options. You can fly, bus or boat. Flying is obviously the quickest. The bus ride is somewhat slower and arguably less comfortable. The slow boat offers a leisurely way of getting from A to B with 2 nights staying in small towns/villages that you would otherwise overlook. We weren’t in any rush, are on a budget and aren’t keen on lengthy bus journeys so: slow boat.
Pick up arrived an hour early… luckily we were packed and ready so no dramas! (I’ve learned that 10am pickup means anything from 9am-11am). The first day is just driving but we had a break for food and another stop off at the White Temple with enough time for a few photos. Eventually we arrived in Chiang Rong at about 5pm. Packages can be purchased including various levels of accommodation and meals. So we checked into our prearranged guesthouse – Green Inn – and then headed down to YOLO bar for our dinner (included with the package). Having only spent the night there I couldn’t say much for Chiang Rong. My impression is that it’s a border town with a few bars and restaurants and a street market – enough for a night but I wouldn’t know what to do if I was there for longer.
This was border crossing day. Having never crossed a land border before I was apprehensive about how smoothly the day would go. We woke up early and our Thai guide talked us through the whole process, from leaving the guest house to reaching the slow boat in Laos – he even checked we had our US dollars to pay for visas and changed up our remaining baht to kip. The whole border crossing itself was pretty simple, just a fair amount of paperwork. There’s a little waiting around for visas, buses to ferry you between the Thai and Laos immigration, buses to the boat, the boat to be boarded etc. but all in all the day was pretty well organised. We were on the boat by midday and had a full afternoon on the river.
We didn’t reach Pakbeng until just before dark but we’re never bored on the boat. There’s plenty to see as you cruise along the river and with Changs flowing onboard there’s lots of people to chat with. Again we opted for prearranged accommodation so when we disembarked the boat we were ferried on to the back of a pickup, told to sit on the edge and catch any falling backpacks that were piled high…
Our final day of the journey! This was a full day on the river. We boarded at 9am and reached the port of Luang Prabang at around 5pm. Tuk tuks from the port to the city centre were 20,000 kip per person (£3ish) and our hostel was a short walk from the drop off. We stayed at … I’ll be posting about this on my Hostel Hopper series.
So that was my experience on the 3 day slow boat. All in all I felt it was good value for money and a pleasant way to cover a lot of ground. We booked directly through our hostel in Chiangmai but I believe there are lots of places to book online if you prefer.
Will be posting more about my time in Laos soon! To keep an eye on where I am currently follow my insta @abbiemaytravel
Abbie @ AbbieMayTravel