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I’m not so keen on boats, to be honest, but with a refreshing drink in one hand and a book in the other when all the time beautiful nature is passing by? I can’t complain, really. So ditch that plane and take the slow boat to Luang Prabang. You won’t regret it.
Was it all rainbows and butterflies? Nooooooo. But it was fun.
Each day a number of slow boats depart from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, both in Laos. Huay Xai is just over the border of Thailand, a 1-hour drive from Chiang Rai. You can easily book a package at your ho(s)tel or any travel agency for that matter, and then the ride is included.
Row row row your boat
When you finally started sailing, you see that it’s true: nature is really astonishing. Quite different from Thailand, but that contrast is cool. Since it’s a slow boat, you have the time to let everything sink in. Seeing some buffalo’s bath: very impressive.
The boat itself is chill, but nothing fancy or anything. You’re sitting on old car seats that aren’t attached to the boat, so if you are with a group, you can turn the seats towards each other! Handy. There were also a lot of people that brought a cooler full of beers. Hashtag no shame.
The first day, you’re on the boat from 11h30 until 17h, the second day you start at 09h and you arrive close to Luang Prabang at 16h. A tuk-tuk driver will bring you to your hotel. Well, they do if you pay them 20.000 KIP (€ 2).
You don’t sail at night (thank the lord), so you have to sleep somewhere. You’ll spend the night in a place called Pak Beng. Tip: make reservations for a ho(s)tel beforehand. We booked a room in a hotel that someone over there recommended, and we were like ‘yeah sure!’. But it was the worst room ever. Bummer.
It depends whether you arrange it all yourself or not. We booked through a travel agency. This includes the bus ride from the hotel to the border, bus from the border to Huay Xai, tuk-tuk to slow boat and the slow boat itself. This was 1600 baht per person (€40).
- Some boats have fixed places, others don’t. Anyway, it’s only fixed for one day, the second day you sit wherever you want. Sitting in the back is the least pleasant because you are close to the engine aka a lot of noise. The closer to the front, the better.
- Food and drinks are available on the slow boat to Laos but to a limited extent. So it’s best to buy some things in advance.
- Do not be a douche. Don’t get hammered.
- It can cool down on the boat when it rains, a sweater is always useful. Layers folks, layers!!
- The visa-on-arrival in Laos costs $35, but you can pay in different currencies. The exit stamp from Thailand costs you 20 baht.
- If you want to know what to do once you’re in Luang Prabang: check out my mini travel guide.