The Beautiful Slow Boat Journey to Luang Prabang Laos
A 3D/2N journey down one of the world’s most untamed waterways, the almighty Mekong River. Situated between Thailand and Laos, I cruised down the Mekong on a slow boat going no more than 8mph. Little did I know that I would be completely blown away by what my eyes were about to see.
I was on my way to Laos and so many people recommended me to take the slow boat. I had time, why not? I walked around Chiang Mai and got an idea about how much the slow boat ticket was going for. Average price was $52-59usd for the whole three days/two night journey. I bought the “Morning Package A” for $52usd which included: the bus from Chiang Mai to the border with a stop at the white temple, first night accommodation at a guest house, one dinner, one breakfast, one lunch, and two days on the slow boat down the Mekong River to our final destination of Luang Prabang, Laos.
Day 1: Chiang Mai to the border
9am— Pick-up in a mini van full with about 10 people down a windy road. We stopped every hour and a half: food, temple, toilet.
4pm— We got to “Nomad Guest House”. Super basic room with two twin beds, a fan but no AC. Free dinner was served at 6:30pm, It was chicken curry, veggies, and rice. It was good!
Day 2: Seven hours of beauty
8am— Free breakfast was served, it was egg omelet on sliced white bread & tea/coffee. It was ok. The guest house helped us exchange money for Laos Kip currency and provided us with passport photos for $3usd. We also got our free lunch which was tofu pad thai. It was yummy!
9am— We did the whole border thing which went quite well and faster than I thought it’d be. Super simple, no scams. 30 day visa cost $35 for US citizens.
11am—Stocked up on food and drinks at the market right up top the hill where you board the slow boat. (FYI: the lady had us give her our passports after immigration so she could organize our boat tickets. We were skeptical, but everyone ended up giving her their passport. It was returned to us safe and sound). As soon as you get your passport back, get on the boat asap so you can get a good seat. Also, the lady will try to sell accommodation for the second night. Don’t buy it from her, rip off. Just wait until you get to Pakbeng. I’ll tell you more later.
As for the 6-8 hour boat ride, we got lucky with good weather and a good speed tempo. The boat stopped about 4-5 times to pick-up/drop off locals and took us roughly seven hours total. The views though, it was amazing! I had downloaded three movies and five podcasts in anticipation of boredom, but ended up staring out my window and blasting Jai Wolf on repeat. Simply perfection.
6pm— We arrived in Pakbeng. As soon as you get off the boat, there are tons of locals trying to sell their guesthouse. Average price was $5/6usd. We went with Donevilasack Guest House for $5usd (The people who bought the guesthouse from the lady spent $10-12usd!). It was a super basic room. As usual, you should always check the furniture for bed bugs. Of course, we found bed bugs in our first room. We decided to just move rooms if the second room didn’t have bed bugs. It was good, so we stayed. Remember, it’s still a third world country. Don’t expect it to be a Hyatt. Silly. It’s all a part of the experience.
Day 3: Another seven, even more beauty
With a 7am alarm clock, we rush down the the river by 8am to be early for the 9am departure. With as full as the boat was on Day 2, we didn’t want to end up with a shitty seat for seven hours. An hour before departure, I got a great window seat near the front. Boom shakalaka!
Put our stuff down then went to grab a tray (or two. but actually three) of Laos mangos before we took off. OMG. If you never had a Laos mango, I suggest you try a Laos mango. So freaking delicious.
Anyway, onward and upward. Another seven hours on the Mekong River; cruising through beautiful landscape and a cool breeze. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Murky brown river water contrasted against the Gibbon-filled green trees. Every turn just kept getting better and better until we finally reached Luang Prabang.
The boat dropped us off at a small dock 15 minutes away from downtown so we all had to pay $3/each for a tuk-tuk ride to town. Once in town, I checked into Downtown Backpackers hostel for $6/night. It was in a perfect location; walking distance to the night market, Mount Phousi, & tons of temples.
If you are traveling from Thailand to Laos and you have time to take the slow boat, I’d highly recommend it. It was the perfect entrance to such a beautiful country. ENJOY! XOXO MEL