a VirtualTourist member from Cairns
I am planning on heading to LP from Chiang Mai and someone suggested getting to the border from Chiang Mai and then getting a slow boat down the Mekong to LP with one stopover along the way....any advice on this would be appreciated...
I'm not sure what your travel preferences are, but the boat tends to be full of early-20 party kids more concerned with how drunk they can get than the country they're travelling through.
That said, a Mekong River trip is a quintessential part of SE Asian travel.
Damn, thats not exactly how I'd picture an idyllic journey..thanks for that Fluffy B! :)
As Fluffy Bunny accurately stated above, these things tend to carry mostly single 20-somethings keen on getting hammered and puking in the river. Sometimes. It's luck of the draw, of course. I got a mekong boat ride around Luang Prabang which was magical - my friends and I were the only ones on the boat.
Which leads me to my next piece of advice: the further you go from the major town of Vientiane and the party town of Vang Vieng, the higher chance of that idyllic experience you are hoping for.
Start in Luang Prabang and go either North or East from there. Fly from Bangkok to Luang Prabang and back.
Boats leave daily from Huay Xai stopping the night at Pakbeng and continuing to LP the next morning. There are also speed boats you could catch from Pakbeng at a significantly higher price and you may be deaf and exhausted by the time you reach your destination. Yes, there are a few young drunks on board as the beer and Lao Lao is very cheap in Laos, but you may be able to avoid them by sitting at the other end of the boat, they are quite big.
To reach Huay Xai you must reach Chiang Khong on the Thai side of the river and cross for a few baht ($1 i think) then complete the immigration procedures on the Lao side. The boats to LP leave about a km or so west of where you cros the river and land in Laos, but there are a few agencies selling tickets for the trip which should cost in the region of 250,000 kip, $25+.
The boats can be extremely crowded so if you arrive late you may not get a seat and if you arrive early you must hang around for a few hours before leaving. I think the boats may leave at 11 am.
Well, I took the slow boat from Houay Xai to Luang Prabang three years ago and I am hardly a drunken 20-something. My friend and I (both in our 40s!) were quite happy on our boat--mind you, we shelled out a bit more than the average and stayed in a really nice place at the halfway point, but in all it was a really nice trip. The boat stopped at a couple of villages along the way, plus the cave with all the Buddha statues, and it was a lot of fun and very relaxing. Unfortunately I don't recall who we booked with (my friend was the one who did all the arrangements for that trip), but it was some tour agency based in Thailand.
I just looked up the place where we stayed at Pakbeng; it was Luang Say Lodge. I believe our boat was affiliated with the hotel. We booked in advance rather than just showing up at the dock (which is what you do if you want to go cheap and with a lot of 20-somethings and a lot of Beer Lao).
Hello there Isabella. I have done this trip twice once quite a few years ago and once in 2010. I found a huge difference in the two trips. I am not sure how current the information you are gettin ghere is without checking members individual pages.
The first time I did it (2001?) it was indeed a party boat and a bit mad. All the backp0ackers sat on the roof and got very drunk (myself included) and play4d silly games, sang songs and had a great time. However, on my return, things have changed considerably. I think there were a couple of casualties and the government decided to crack down. After all, dead tourists are not good for business.
On my second trip, sitting on the roof which was ne of the great attractions of the trip, was completely forbidden, there were no rowdy backpackers, probably due to the price of drink on the boat! We didn't stop at villages like we did first time and pick up supplies of the local booze which certainly fuleeled some of our excesses. The infrastructure in Lao has much improved recently and there are very few places solely reliant on the river to supply them as was previously the case.
The boats are now effectively tourist boats and I saw little in the way of cargo or local p0eople which were so evident on my first trip. However, as mentioned above, this two day trip is an absolute "must do" for any traveller to Lao. The scenery whilst drifting down one of the major rivers of the world is quite stunning and the glimpses of riverside life are wonderful. Watch out for the fishermen perched on the rocks along the bank. These travelogues may give some impression of what to expect and ar3e probably more eloquent than me in describing it. Please do not hesitate to do this amazing trip.
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these cfontrast my two experiences there. As a final piece of advice, do not ever consider getting a fast boat under any circumstances. They are deathtraps, destroy the environment and, frankly, look like no fun at all. Really, do this trip and then come back and update us on how it went.
Hope this assists,
Thanks for that information, yes I have been to Van Vieng so I know what you're talking about there. I don't intend to go beyond Luang Prabang as I'm going specifically to visit a project a friend is running...I would rather fly than 'endure' the 20 something year olds' puking and getting off their faces...thanks for your input. :)
I have taken note of all your helpful details, no way will I do the fast boat, it's hardly the type of travel I had in mind, much preferring the slow, visual experience. I don't even want to be near the party animals, so the rear of the boat wouldn't be far enough away for me. lol....if that's the option I'll fly :) thanks for your help....I'm still considering it all :)
that's great info travelmad, I've taken note of the place you stayed at...I agree with paying a little extra. I had that experience when doing HaLong Bay, my friend and I chose the 'luxury' price and it was well worth it despite it not being luxury as we know it lol...it sounds like paying a little more might avoid the budget travellers which in my experience are often the ones that like to partake in the local cheap drinks...so my notes are growing , thank you :)
Hi Fergy, thanks for taking the trouble to give so much useful info...having done one trip already down or was it up the Mekong from Luang Prabang I would be very disappointed if I didn't experience that again...provided of course it was without the distraction of noise from fast boats, loud voices etc...I would much prefere to only hear the sloshing of the water as we glide along that mighty river....oh and the laughter of children laying on the river's edges. I am aware of the tragedies that have been the undoing of several young adventurers and it was only a matter of time with the Vang Vieng tubing games....it also heartening to think that things have been tightened up in Lao as I did think it would be a long time coming as it was such a money spinner...anyway I am pleased to hear of the difference in your Mekong experiences so I'm back to thinking I will do it rather than fly as I did think earlier....I'll probably just decide once I get to Chiang Mai and armed with the info I have received here I will be well armed..so thanks again for taking the time...ciao