Last time I went to Laos I organized everything myself and did only one day on the slow boat. Than I took a bus up North. This time I did want to spend as much time as possible in Pai. So I booked a ticket with AYA Service. The mini bus at 18:30 to Chiang Khong for one night. Breakfast the next morning. Than transportation to the border and to the boat. Two days of boating down to Luang Prabang. The only thing you have to pay for is your hotel in Pakbeng.
The ticket is 1750 Thai Bath and that price did not change for a long time now.
If you want to do that trip check out the pictures so you know what you get!
The usual AYA Service mini bus. Quite new, clean and comfortable. I have no clue why we leave at 18:30 in the evening. There is not that much traffic anyhow so that does not make sense? We arrived at the guesthouse at 1:50 and the transportation to the breakfast place is at 7:00 in the morning. That means less than 5 hours of sleep!
We stopped at the Baanchomkhong guesthouse. It was much better than everybody in the bus had expected! You will have to share your room – there are no single rooms. Guess if you pay extra on the spot you can have one. Very comfortable mattress, clean towels and a bottle of water. A glass bottle that was!
Private bathroom with hot shower and toilet. The only downside was the super thin walls so you will hear everything that happens in the next room. Everybody was super tired and after a quick wifi session the whole hotel was quite.
Woke up at 6:30, took a quick shower and waited for the others to get ready. The view from the guesthouse balcony. The Mekong and Laos on the other side. A bit after 7 the owner of the guesthouse took us to another hotel. We had a basic breakfast and she offered to change US $ for the border. Than another small taxi drove us to the border. The good old times when you walked down the river to get to the immigration and crossed to Houay Xai are over since they build the Friendship Bride 4.
You walk to the immigration and get your departure stamp. Than a big bus (for 20 Bath) ships you to the Lao immigration. You fill out the immigration form and hand it together with your passport to one of the guys working there.
After a while a guy on the left window calls your name and gives you the passport in exchange for US $. If you do not have US $ you can pay in Thai Bath but the rate is very poor. There is also a little exchange where you could get US $. You have to find out what you have to pay since it depends on the passport you travel with. For me it was 35 $.
Next it is waiting for everyone that has a ticket for the slow boat. If you make your way over the border on your own and arrive early you can get a ticket here and it includes the bus transport to the boat.
Much later you will board another bus that brings you to Houay Xai. Your passport goes again to a little office for more paperwork. This is the time to go shopping for food, water and beer. You should go up the road a bit away from the water since everything gets much cheaper even after less than a minute walking. The beer and baguette were only 10.000 Kip each where I got it. The last few shops next to the water sell it for 15.000 each.
As soon as you have your passport again you should go to the boat to get a seat in the front if possible. In the back the noise of the engine is really loud and if you really unlucky there is no seat for you at all. The bag goes in the lower compartment so you have to get everything that you might need out of the big bag!
Than the fun starts! A lot of drinking and laughing. Music and everybody talks to everybody!
My seat neighbors – a family that is from Thailand but left for Hollywood in California.
There where even a few locals on the boat.
Mia and Tim
This guy is a consultant for a big company that tries to have big boats transport goods from the North to the South when the river has high water. He told me that the water level changes between 9 and 11 meters in the rainy season.
From time to time a speedboat passes
Passing time with games
Passing time with drinks
More guitar action
Smoke on the water…
Burning Season in the North – it looked like that all the time. Not really nice.
We did reach Packbeng before sunset and i found a guesthouse for 150 Bath. A very simple room with a big bed, towel and a fan.
You should get up early to get a good seat again. Had the alarm at 7 and that is the view from my balcony towards the left.
Donevilasak Guesthouse view from the balcony down the road towards the river.
On the way to the boat docking you should get food and water again. They do sell a few snacks on the boat but everything is kind of expensive.
Sunrise with more smoke on the water
Waiting for the last passengers. And yes that ship is smaller than the one from last day. Since I got there early I got a seat in the front again. Sweet!
The village from the water
This looks quite similar to our boat. In fact they all do.
The second day is boooring. Everybody is still slow from the party day before.
Some Henna tattoo action
Another scam: The Boat stop outside of Luang Prabang. Not to long ago the boat took you all the way downtown. And they still park there but they stop far from town now. And you have to get a bus to get downtown now for 20.000 Kip. And to walk it is really far. And it was too hot as well. Welcome in Luang Prabang!