Posted by: adventuressetravels | October 26, 2012

Slow Boat to Laos

Float at Loy Krathong festival in Chiang Mai

After living it up in Chiang Mai for almost a week of festivals, national parks, cooking classes and tiger kingdoms I was ready to leave. I knew that I wanted to go to Laos.  That was for sure, but how to get there, now that was the question… When I did a little research there are a number of ways of getting to Luang Prabang from Chiang Mai.

My guest house, just like every other guest house and travel agency, offered 3 options:

The 18-hour bus ride to Luang Prabang, Laos 1300 Baht ($41 USD).  Though this was the fastest and (painfully expensive) cheapest way, I did not relish the idea of spending 18 hours on a bus of questionable comfort.  Being stuck on any bus for 18 hours doesn’t sound like fun, and if the bus dated back to the late 70s this proposition could make hell look luxurious.  Why on earth would I do that to myself when other, more interesting options were available?

The slow boat was a 3 day 2 night boat ride down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang for 1600 baht ($51 USD).  Sure, it was a little more, but the price included bus pickup at your hotel, a stop in Chiang Rai’s White Temple, one night’s hotel, breakfast, helping you across the border, and a scenic boat ride.

The speed boat is the most expensive option at 1700 ($54 USD).  This way not only can travelers get a taste of boating down the Mekong, but they can make good time as well.  The speed boat also offered several meals and accommodation for one night, same deal as the slow boat but you didn’t have to commit to quite so much time.

I talked to the guest house owner, and rather than press me to take the more expensive speed boat, she highly recommended the slow boat if I had the time.  The slow boat was more traditional, and it gave passengers a better introduction to the slow-paced easy going Laos.

As I had the time and hate rushing through countries, the kindly middle-aged Thai woman didn’t have to do much convincing.  It may have been a bit expensive, but getting to float down the Mekong at a leisurely pace was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

 

Day 1 – Off to the border

The 10-person white van picked me up at my guest house at 10:15, 15 minutes later than the scheduled pickup time, but I didn’t mind.  By 10:30 we had picked up the last of the passengers, the van was full, and we were on the road out of Chiang Mai.  By 12:00 we stopped at one of the simple roadside restaurants common in Thailand with basic selection of pre-made pad Thai, chicken stir-fried rice and veggie stir-fried rice.

At 2:00 the blindingly white spires of Chaing Rai’s White temple greeted us, as we stopped to take in the magnificently pristine buildings of one of the most stunning temples I have seen.  The monks’ bright orange robes made a stunning contrast with the stark structures.  When we left, half an hour later, the wonder had not begun to wear off.

We pulled into our guest house, in the border town Chiang Khong by 4:30.  The long wooden building segmented into rooms looked like cabins at a summer camp.  Each room was a double and as I was traveling alone Caroline, a Belgian girl also traveling alone ended up being my “bunkmate”.

At 6:00 we were called for dinner, which was also included, and ate the basic vegetable rice stir-fry watching the sun set on the banks of the Mekong.

 

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