When the way is the destination – Slow boat from Thailand to Laos

Slow boat Laos

As we all know by now, the transportation in SEA is not the best. This counts especially for Cambodia and Laos. Proper Motorways are non-existing, and flights are costly. I was in the north of Thailand and wanted to go to Laos. There are three possibilities to make that journey. The fastest is a flight, but the costs are around 150 euro for a 45 mins flight, and then you need a taxi to the airport and from the airport what adds even more charges. The second option is an 18 hours bus which was no option at all – uncomfortable buses, extreme bumpy roads and that for 18 hours is not fun at all. The third option is a two-day slow boat along the Mekong river from the border between Laos and Thailand to Luang Prabang. I finally decided myself for this option and paid 45 euros excluding food and accommodation for the night.

Slow Boat Laos

Even though I needed two full days I’m glad I choose this option, the way was an adventure itself and to my surprise not even that uncomfortable. I booked the journey through an agency which turned out to be a good choice as well. There is an option to organize everything by yourself, but that can be stressful, and if you got unlucky it would take you even a day longer, and only to save 5 euros, it’s not worth it. Here is how the journey went.

Slow Boat Laos

First Day: Crossing the border

The first morning at 6 am I got picked up by a car from my Hostel in Chiang Rai. We picked up two other people and drove two hours to the border of Thailand and Laos. I was surprised because we didn’t get a shitty minibus as I was expecting; instead, we got a pretty nice pickup car and had good comfort. Arriving at the border, we got a form to fill out, which was supposed for the immigration office of Laos. First, we had to officially exit Thailand – an easy prosses. We waited then for a bus which took us to the Border of Laos. There you can find an ATM and an exchange office which offered surprisingly good rates – unfortunately, I exchanged already the day before for a pretty lousy rate. The line at the border was long, and there was only one officer working what meant we had to stand in line for over one hour. Finally trough, we got into a Tuk-tuk, and they drove us to their office. There they only tried to sell us overpriced Hotel rooms for the first night – don’t take them! You get way better prices arriving there. And also, don’t book online wait to arrive in the village.

Slow Boat Laos

Finally, on the boat, it was a little chaos because they overfilled the boat and there were not enough seats resulting in the fact that the locals had to move in the area behind the engine and sit on the floor. At around 11 am the boat finally started, and we drove along the Thai-Laos border. It was impressive to see the difference between both countries in such a real environment. On the Thai side, we could see some beautiful and modern buildings while the Laos side had only a few old houses build from wood.

Slow Boat Laos

The seats on the boat are the same seats as you can find in a minibus, they are pretty comfortable, but you sit very tight to each other. For me, sleeping was no option because I was sitting on a seat next to the middle way of the boat and people constantly bumped into my chair as they were moving on the boat. On the back are two toilets, a small bar to buy snacks, drinks and beer and an area to smoke. After a while on the boat people started talking to each other and I also got to know my neighbors, three friends from France. And so the boat took it’s way – for around 6 hours – up to the small village Pakbeng where we stopped for the night.

Slow Boat Laos

The night in Pakbeng

As I already told you, you don’t need to take any preparations for your night in Pakbeng. When the boat arrives, a bunch of people are waiting for you and shouting prices at you, holding signs up and try to put you in their tuk-tuk. I got a room with two other guys for only 25.000 LAK per person (2,5 Euro). Ok, to be honest, it was one of the worst places I had so far, but it was still ok for one night and for that price. And as I found out later the Hostels and Hostels in Laos, in general, are far worse than in the rest of Southeast Asia. The village is small and only has Hotels, shops, and restaurants for tourists. We decided us for a Laos/Indian restaurant and had an excellent dinner there. After that, there are two bars where you can spend the night until 11 when everything shuts down. 

Slow boat Laos

Second Day: arriving in Luang Prabang 

The second day we got a better boat, it had the same seat but with tables and we were sitting in groups of 6. I was sitting with an interesting couple who could speak German, and so we talk most of the 8 hours drive about nature and our perspectives on the world. At around 5 pm we arrived in Luang Prabang. However not in the city center but about 8 km away. We were forced to take a ticket for 20.000 LAK to get with a Tuk-tuk to the city. The driver was really friendly and drove us to our Hostels and Hotels, and I arrived at 5.30 pm finally at my wished destination.

Slow Boat Laos

It took me one car, one bus, 5 Tuk-tuk rides and 15 hours of boat ride to get from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang but I think it was the best option I could have taken. The total costs were 47 Euro including the accommodation and excluding the food for the two days (Food was about 20 euros for the two days). Overall I could make the first impressions of Laos – a lot of nature but poor living standards – and that should be the lasting image of the country.

Slow Boat Laos

Total countries I visited until now: 33

WorldTravel:

  • Planes: 7
  • Busses: 34
  • Trains: 14
  • Boats: 13
  • Km running: 1216

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Author: Flo

Hey everybody, I took the decision of my life and will start my worldtravel on the 1. October 2018. Hope you'll follow my journey and enjoy all the posts.

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