Chiang Mai Pai

How to take the slow boat from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang

How to: Pai, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang 2014 prices

So I thought I would write a post showing how easy, fun and demonstate what an experience it turned out to be to help out any fellow travellers!  This is the DIY option, you can book a tour to do it for you and not stop in soe of these places, but this is what we did and how we did it, including 2014 October prices.

So we actually visited Pai as you may have already read. Originally we were going to go straight from Chiang Mai, however if you get the chance to go to Pai, its a lovely place to visit. Unfortunately, although in Pai you are half way between Chiang MaIand Chiang Rai, there is no direct route from Pai to Chiang Rai. Therefore we had to travel back to Chiang Mai.

We took an AYA bus back which was the same price as the public bus. It was 150 baht each. We stayed in Chiang Mai over night at a guest house for 200 baht a room at the Chiang Rai Guest house…can just add here that the internet was the fastest we have come across!

We then took a taxi to the Chiang Rai bus station for 20 baht each. From here we got on the green bus to Chiang Rai. There are lots of them and they come every half hour. It was 150 baht each for a seat on the bus. The bus was actually really nice, deep reclining seats and air conditioning. The lady was very helpful too and told us where we needed to get off. We did not get off at the first Chiang Rai bus stop, but the second. There are 2. Iwould recommend that you get off at the second one as it is more central and there were much more buses. The bus took around 3.5 hours.

Our room for the night as 350 baht each, although this did include breakfast.  We stayed at a lovely new hostel call Happinest.  The next morning we got up and set off on the local red bus to Chiang Khong. It took about 2.5 hours, although our bus driver did have to stop to change his tyre, which was literally bald! The bus is nothing like the green bus, fans and open doors for air conditioning and the most upright seats ever, however the journey went fast and it was not too bad at all. Especially for 65 baht each!

We were then dropped at the tuk tuk drop off in Chang Khong. From here we got a tuk tuk to the border. It was 50 baht each, and we couldn’t argue with the price as its on the sign and there are not any other options! The tuk tuks were the most stylish yet, fancy little power bike at the front! It takes about 5 mins to the border.

We then got to the boarder where a man will ask to see your departure card. Now 3 of us had safely kept ours although Nkosi and Tanisha misplaced theirs. They made a point of making them empty their bags to check they did not have it and then explained the importance of keeping hold of it as it can mean a fine in Thailand! After a 5 min lecture it was fine and they got new one to complete, Ithink he was just making a point. We then walked through and got our passport stamped in a matter of seconds.

Once through, you have to get on a bus to actually cross over to Laos. You cross to Laos via a bridge called the “Friendship Bridge” it takes about 5 minutes and you are in Laos. The bus costs 20baht per person. The woman will also say that you can change your baht for dollars otherwise you will be charged extra to the other side. The exchange rate she offers is weak, so if you can get dollars before, do so. She will also say it is more when you reach Laos, Iam not sure how true this is as we did not need to use this service. You can also purchase your passport pics here for 100 baht if you do not have these either.

We then had to fill out our entry cards and wait to receive our Laos visas. It took abut 10 minutes for us but we were not in peak season so not sure when it is busier on this time scale. At this point you pay for your visa which is 35 USA Dollars and give in a single passport picture. in return you receive your 30 day Laos visa. You can then walk through and your in Laos!

Outside waiting is taxis to take you to Huay Xai town. It cost 25,000 kip each or 100 baht. Again, no negotiation allowed and no other options either. The taxi then drops you in the village it took about 20mins. We stopped at a guest house for 70,000 kip each for two people. All of them were around the same price. Its a cute village and not much going on. Some people stay here to for the original Flight of the Gibbons, although we decided to bypass this as it is a little pricey. There s a night bazaar with some gambling tables and street food, not much else that we could find though.

The next morning we walked 15 mins to the port to catch the boat.  We bought our ticket directly from the boat office.  It was 220,000 kip each.  We got there early at 9am to make sure we got good seats, and it was worth doing.  We also preordered sandwiches from the hostel to take on the boat which was the best idea as not many options on the boat, plus IF you want beers then buy them before the boat too as they are more expensive.  We were told to buy pillows too, which we did, as we were warned about wooden seats.  However these were not necessary as the seats, although not fixed to the floor were actually like coach seats ripped out and put on a boat.

So yes, we got there early and was worth it as it meant we were the front away from a very loud engine.  It also meant we could push the seats forward to secure more leg space.  The boat is meant to leave at 11am.  However due to a large portion of the boat being on an organised tour, they were delayed crossing the boarder which delayed our boat leaving so didn’t leaving until 11:45am.  

The boat trip I was dreading actually turned out to be lots of fun.We met lots of people.  Had lots of laughs and conversation flowed.  It meant that the time flew!  The boat was meant to take 7 hour but actually only took 6.  We got to Pak Beng just before sunset.  A lovely little town.  Loads of options to stay in places, we just stayed in a little guesthouse which was clean for 100 baht each or 25,000 kip each.  We all went for a meal together after the boat, and chose the AMAZING INDIAN!  The nicest indian I have ever had!  Just what Ineeded after 3 weeks of ThaIfood!  

The next morning you head to the port and you get on the boat, same seating principle applied, first come first served and again preordered sandwiches from hostel.  The second day Iwas ready to get off the boat by the 5th hour.  It took 6.5 hours and you do not get the boat to Luang Prabang.  There is absolutely no point in trying to argue with the driver to take you into Luang Prabang, he will just make you sit there and eventually throw your bags off, so you literally are wasting your time.  Ihave not heard one success story of people having a successful sit off with the driver.  We got off and you have to get a tuk tuk to Luang Prabang for 20,000 kip each, and there wasn’t really any room for negotiation.  Its a scam set up and you have to just accept it as part and parcel of the trip, or you can walk as some people did but it took an hour and a half, which Iwas not doing.

In Luang Prabang hostel prices vary. we were very lucky securing a guest-house for 60000 for a private room with hot water and a fan.  we went to one hostel who wanted 45,000 kip each for a dorm.  We were lucky though as we arrived the first week October and whilst staying here the room rates doubled as it entered high season.

All in all, slow boat is a great way to see an amazing jungle, spot monkeys, elephants and buffalos on the way in their natural habitat. Would Ido it again, of curse!  What a way to travel and an experience.  Hope this helps, and enjoy your experience!



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