From the border crossing at Chiang Khong (Thailand) there are three ways to get to Luang Prabang, Laos – bus, speed boat (more expensive and less safe than the slow boat) and slow boat. We liked the sound of the two-day slow boat journey as it was a chance to hang out with other travellers, have a few beers and take in the scenery, so we went for this option. We were a bit unsure of what it would be like as the information online was from a few years back but in the end it was a simple process to get the boat.
We arrived at the dock and bought breakfast and lunch for the journey from the shops lined along the dock (15000 kip for a baguette, 20000 kip for crisps, 5000 kip for water), we also got cash out from the ATM at the start of the street (before the shops start on the left – there is a high fee for using it however).
We bought the boat ticket from the office located at the top of the concrete steps on the left-hand side of the dock and it cost us 210,000 KIP each for the 2 day journey. We chose seats at the front of the slow boat as although there were seat numbers on the ticket there were none on the seats and no one was paying attention to this.
A guide came on board to give information about the trip and sold some rooms in Pakbeng to those who had yet to book (100,000 kip for a 2 bed fan room – he had six available). The boat was scheduled for 11:30am but it left closer to 12:30pm. The boat was full (approx. 100 people) but everyone got a seat, though some of them were at the back where the engine was really loud.
There was a good vibe with everyone chatting and playing cards and sharing beers and snacks and nobody got too loud or drunk.
The journey was very peaceful with scenes of rural life passing by: children playing in the river and waving enthusiastically, water buffalo grazing on the banks, fisherman taking out their small boats.
We arrived at Pakbeng at 5:00pm, the dock which is a bit tricky to get off and lots of people were there advertising rooms or offering lifts. A group of men started taking luggage off the boat but the guide said to get your own bag so it did not get lost.
Our guest house ‘Meksavanh Guesthouse’ was about 5 minutes walk from the dock. It was expensive for what it was at 120,000 kip a night but it was quiet, had hot water and the bed was comfortable and clean. Travellers we had made friends with had not pre-booked and got a room up the hill for 50,000 kip for a double fan room but they said it was unclean and loud.
We ate at the only restaurant that looked like a restaurant– Hasaan’s – and the food was really nice even if the owners were a bit unfriendly. It was really busy with other travellers from the boat and the meal came to 116,000 kip which is more than we had been spending on dinner previously but after a day on the boat we needed a good meal.
We decided to go early again the next day so got up at 7:00am and bought more snacks for the boat (much nicer than the day before but similar price) and got on the boat for 8:00am. We could have gone a bit later and still got good seats as there were two boats this time, but we definitely got the better one which had tables (perfect for playing cards) and nicer facilities and snacks. Again it was worth sacrificing the lie in. We left at 9:00am and reached Luang Prabang at 4:00pm (this included a few stops to deliver goods and pick up locals, including a pig!) The scenery the second day was even better than the first!
When we arrived at the dock some passengers tried to stay on to go to the next stop in town. We had read about this before taking the trip so knew we had to get off, unfortunately the others did not believe us! We disembarked straight away and got on the shared Tuk-Tuk which cost 20,000 kip per person to get in to town and all of us were dropped off by the tourist information centre near the night market.
Overall, we are really happy we took the slow boat as we had a good laugh with other travellers and played lots of cards and enjoyed the food and beer. The scenery was also amazing, the seats were comfortable and it was a relaxing journey. We can highly recommend based on our own experience.
Have you taken the two day slow boat journey? If so leave us a comment 🙂
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