We decided to opt for the 2 day slow boat from Thailand into Laos, rather than the usual bus! From Chiang Mai we were going to get a bus to Chiang Khong and organise the trip solo however after doing some research we found a 3 day package which picked us up from our guesthouse in Chiang Mai. We drove to Chiang Rai and visited the White temple then had overnight accommodation in Chiang Khong at the Thai – Laos border as well as the 2 day long boat included to Luang Prabang. We were really happy with this package as we had heard it can be a pain organising the visa on arrival at the border.
We were picked up by mini bus and straight away got chatting to the other people on the bus. In no time we were in Chiang Rai, which we had originally planned to visit for 2 days so glad we weren’t completely missing out. We stopped at the White temple in Chiang Rai for 30 minutes, it was an incredible temple but also very strange. It shone so bright in the sun but when you looked closer there were hands appearing from the ground – a little strange. We all went in the entrance and I was stopped, I was wearing shorts and a top, the lady asked whether I had a scarf to cover my legs, I didn’t. She said I could go and buy one so I could enter but I wasn’t too bothered so sat outside enjoying the sun whilst the rest went inside. Looking at the people within the temple there were men and women both with shorter shorts than I was wearing which was a little annoying.
Conor and the rest came out of the temple and said I hadn’t missed much, it was just as strange inside as out. Conor explained how there were random pictures of 80s and 90s films such as the matrix and even a picture of the twin towers being blown up – very odd.
The drive from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong wasn’t too far, we were booked into a guesthouse with dinner and breakfast included. We couldn’t complain although the room wasn’t great, we had a mosquito nets which had holes in luckily I had my own so we stuck that up. We then realised there was a infestation of ants in the room as the walls were all made of wood, we quickly moved all our stuff away from them. At breakfast we saw they were selling pillows for the boat so expected it to be a uncomfortable so we both bought a pillow, 50p each. Chiang Khong is on the Thai – Laos border and on the other side of the Mekong river. It only took 5 minutes to drive to the border from the guesthouse. We arrived at the border and had lots of papers to fill in, we then had to pay $35 each for our visa on arrival for 30 days in Laos.
We eventually bordered the boat at about 10.30am, I was pleasantly surprised to find the chairs weren’t as bad as I expected and we really didn’t need the pillow but we used it to sleep. The boat left at 11am and we were told it would take about 7 hours each day with a stop over night at a village. We were left to make our own entertain and luckily for Conor and I we had the must annoying French children in front of us. For some reason none of the chairs were nailed to the floor so every time you moved they moved backwards and forwards. The one plus side was the scenery, sailing down the Mekong river there was incredible scenery and many villages on the side of the river. It was easy to watch as we passed village after village. Every now and again the boat would stop at what seems a random place on the side of the river and local people would get off with huge bags.
It didn’t seem to take long and we were mooring up at a village on the side of a hill, we got off the boat and were bombarded with people offering us guesthouses for the night. We walked up the street which was literally one street with a couple of restaurants and guesthouses. We found a guesthouse which was super cheap so decided to take a look, funnily enough the electricity wasn’t working so the lady showed us the room with a torch. It looked fine so we arranged, it was only one night after all. After about 5 minutes the electricity came back on and we were faced with what we just paid for. A shack, the put it nicely. The walls didn’t reach the roof so we could hear everything our neighbours were saying. We sat on the bed for a couple of minutes and we both heard a squealing noise, what’s that I said to Conor? It’s probably a rat he said, sounds like it’s on the roof or above us, I looked up and there was a massive hole in our ceiling – great! We vowed the spend as much time out that night so we could spend as little time as possible in room and that we did! We joined the rest of the group we’d met and all went for dinner in one of the local restaurants. We then followed some more of the people from the boat to a bar, happy bar! The bar was filled with everyone from the boat, it was a really good laugh and we didn’t end up returning to the awful room until 1am.
The next morning the boat was leaving at 9am so we set our alarm early and got some breakfast and headed back to the boat. Another 7 hours crammed onto the boat wasn’t a pleasant thought. We set off again , this time we were no were near the children, thank god. I slept mostly all the way to Luang Prabang, we got off the boat and were greeted again by people offering us guesthouses. There was a sign saying that the bus was 20,000 kip per person to the centre of Luang Prabang, there was no other option but to buy the ticket so we did. Fair enough the bus did take us straight into the centre of Luang Prabang, however we later got told that the boat drops off all the tourists just outside the centre and then continues closer to the centre to drop off the locals!