The next country on my agenda was Laos. The only way of getting to Laos and to the town I wanted to visit (Luang Prabang) from Chiang Mai had to be by a rather long 3 day journey.
I chose the slow boat option over the night bus option, so from Pai I had to do the 3 hour, 762 turn journey back to Chiang Mai and from there a 6 hour mini bus journey to a town on the Thai border- Chiang kong. Accommodation that night was arranged by the travel agent and included in my trip price so I was a bit worried about it!
We turned up just after midnight and were assigned rooms in the guesthouse which looked more like a motel. Because I was travelling on my own I had to share with another girl from Chile who had been on the mini bus but it was literally a case of a shower and then straight to bed, the beds were pretty uncomfortable and there were quite a few bugs around and I woke in the middle of the night to see a huge cockroach in the bathroom but it could have been a lot worse! We had to be up at just before 7.00am so I didn’t get a great sleep but also included in the price was breakfast so I went to check that out and it ended up being some Asian style soup which was a no no for me so I settled for a bag of crisps id brought the day before.. Not so healthy!
We left the guesthouse and headed for the Thai border where the guide on this side advised us not to pay for anything as we had already paid for all the services and not to put our money for our Laos visa in our passport as passport control on the Thai side would just keep it when stamping the passport! We got stamped out of Thailand no problem and then got in another mini bus to the Laos border control. This was a lot easier than I thought. We completed a form and an arrival card, handed in a passport photo and $35 USD for the visa and within a minute the visa was put in the passport and stamped for 30 days in Laos! Easy!
Next we got taken to the pier in another mini bus, had a few minutes to grab some sandwiches and snacks from the shop and got onto the boat.
The slow boats are basically very long long tail boats popular in this area and had mini bus van type seats in rows throughout the boat, they aren’t attached to the floor but it wasn’t much of a problem and I got a seat by the river.
It wasn’t the comfiest of journeys, just like being in a mini bus really but at least we had a breeze coming through and could get up and walk around a bit although towards the end we got more of a breeze than we wanted as it started raining which started coming through that open sides of the boat but it soon stopped.
7 hours later at 18.00 we started seeing a few building on the side of the river and people waiting to sell us accommodation which is where we stopped for the night. I didn’t have a clue where to stay in the town but as I walked onto the pier there was a women with a sign and some pictures so I asked the price which was good enough for me and headed off with her with the presumption that all the accommodation will be roughly the same price and standard anyway as this town gets it’s tourism income purely from these 1 night stays.
I was really pleased with my choice. It was a nice room with a huge comfy double bed so I got some dinner, watched a film on my laptop and got a well needed early night.
The next morning we had to be back down at the pier by 8.30 although the boat wasn’t due to leave until 9.30 but I got a decent seat again and the day was pretty much the same as the before, eating, reading and staring out at the river. We arrived in Luang Prabang an hour earlier than expected which was a pleasant surprise and doesn’t happen very often in Asia!
It was a long trip but it was scenic and it’s not everyday you get to go down to Mekong river which runs down from China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and finally Vietnam and holds a lot of history so all in all I’m glad i did it this way and it wasn’t as bad as i thought it would be!