Jurassic Park?: My slow boat adventure from Chiang Khong to Luang Prabang

Monday, May 11, 2015 to Tuesday , May 12, 2015


Step by Step description of my slow boat adventure…


Step 1: Get picked up at guest house in Chiang Khong


The night before, I had purchased a slow boat ticket from the owner of the guest house. The ticket included:

  • Bus ride from Laos Immigration to the boat port in Huay Xai
  • Boat ticket

In order to get from the guest house to the Thai border, the owner had arranged transport that would cost 50 baht a person. Not terrible.


Step 2: Exit Thailand


When I arrived in Thailand, along with my entry stamp they had stapled an “Exit Form” to my passport. At the border, I turned this form in and then got another stamp (my exit stamp) 🙂  Piece of cake. This took about 10 minutes.


Step 3: Enter Laos


Once I “exited” Thailand I needed to pay 20 baht to drive the mile across the bridge into Laos.


Slow Boat to Luang Prabang

Waiting for the bus…

Once I arrived at the Immigration Building in Laos, I filled out the “Visa on Arrival” paperwork. I turned in the paperwork and my passport to the windows on the right, and then waited in line for them to process my visa so that I could pay the visa fee ($35 USD for Americans, the price changes based on your citizenship) at the windows on the left. This whole process took me over an hour, lets just say its not the most organized system…

Instead of getting my visa and heading straight to the boat, I needed to wait for everyone else who had signed up for the slow boat, which was 50+ people. So this took another 30-45 minutes.

While waiting, based on the travel agent’s recommendation (the guy running the whole slow boat process) I booked a room in Pak Beng, the halfway point. He made it seem like if I didn’t book right that second I would not find a room when we landed. Not the case, as I find out later. BUT since I was traveling alone, I wanted to make sure I had a room for the night.

By the time everyone had successfully crossed the border it was 11 am…keep in mind we were supposed to be on the boat by 11:30.


Step 4: Drive to the boat port in Huay Xai


The new Immigration Building is VERY far from where you actually board the boat.

But remember, my ticket included the bus ride to the boat port 😉 YAY! During the bus ride, the travel agent (of sorts) collected our passports, which made everyone nervous, but he needed them so that once he bought our boat ticket he could put the ticket in the passport and hand them back out.


Step 5: Boat Port in Huay Xai


After a 20 minute ride (I think, sorry I really should have kept better notes) we got to the boat port. While the travel agent bought our tickets, we all bought sandwiches, snacks, and water for the boat ride. Many of the others bought an excess of alcohol, but I stuck to water 🙂



By the time we bought our food, the tickets were ready and we could board the boat, which was ALREADY PACKED WITH PEOPLE.


Step 6: 6 hour boat ride


We finally casted off by 12:30 (we were supposed to leave by 11:30), which meant some people had been on the boat for over an hour waiting for us!

Some scenes along the way….



Step 7: Pak Beng


We arrived in Pak Beng and it was CHAOS! Everyone was trying to get to their bags in order to get off the boat as quickly as possible. By the time you finally get off the boat there are a million locals trying to get you to stay at their guesthouse.


Slow Boat to Luang Prabang


There were PLENTY of rooms.

But, o well, I had pre-booked, and found the people representing my guest house. About 10-15 of us squeezed on a tiny truck and drove up the hill to the guest house.



Pulling into the guest house, I was shocked. I knew it wasn’t going to be the nicest place ever, but….

I wasn’t really expecting what I got…



I booked a room for just myself (safety first ladies) so I got a room with a single bed. Unlocking my room, I went to turn the light on, and…. no luck, no lights. The room also had the slight stench of stale pee. Wonderful. After about 15 minutes, I finally got someone to turn on the generator so that I could have lights.

Sidenote: While waiting for my lights to come on, I witnessed an INSANE fight between a couple of travelers. Long-story short, girl gets very very very drunk, girl annoys/upsets the boys she is traveling with, boys kick girl out of room, girl GOES CRAZY! I’m talking kicking door, screaming, crying, crazy. The nasty side affects of alcohol, y’all. One of the guys running the place was taking a video and if he posted it, I am pretty sure he would have called it, “Crazy White Girl”.

Anyway, once the generator was going, I could take a shower yay! Once I was showered I had dinner, an excellent buffalo stir-fry (sorry no pictures, WAY too dark, and I was WAY too tired).

Going to bed, I turned the fan on power ranger mode (If you don’t get this reference check out this video, beware of cuss words!), and closed the bathroom door (to minimize the pee smell), and passed out! I slept great until I woke up sweating around 7 am…

Guess what?

The power had gone out 😉

Using a flashlight, I took a quick shower, packed my stuff up, and went to have breakfast.



The morning views… Straight out of Jurassic Park, right?!?



The rest of the group at the guest house was leaving at 8:30 to drive down to the boat, but I wanted to take some pictures so I left at 8 and walked down.



I am so glad I did, because the boat was already full! Everyone else showed up at 9 am (guess they were running behind) and some people ended up with a terrible seat or no seat at all. We promptly left Pak Beng at 9:30 am.


Slow Boat to Luang Prabang

New, smaller boat already packed by 8:30!



Step 8: 7 hour boat ride


Even though this ride was just one hour longer, IT FELT LIKE FOREVER. The scenery was the same as the day before, which meant I was less entertained, and we were going slower, so we had way less wind, which meant this ride was WAY warmer.

Some shots along the way…




By the time we arrived at the Luang Prabang Port I WAS SO READY TO GET OFF THE BOAT. No one was really paying attention to the fact that we had arrived, so my seat-mate and I borderline sprinted to the back so that we could be the first ones to get our bags. Unfortunately, my bag was literally at the VERY BOTTOM of a VERY LARGE pile. Trying to uncover my bag, I started moving bags around, and suggested that we start an assembly line where we would move bags out of the room (all the bags were in the back of the boat in a very tiny, very claustrophobic room) and towards the front of the boat where everyone was sitting. Um. Yeah. No one moved. So, I just threw bags around until I found mine, and then left, so that the next person could do exactly the same thing. So stupid.


One of the first ones off!

One of the first ones off!


Step 9: Luang Prabang Port


Already exhausted and profusely sweating from uncovering my book bag, I got off the boat and realized I need to climbed a set of steep steps. FML.


Slow Boat to Luang Prabang


At the top you buy a ticket for a tuk tuk ride to the center of town for 20, 000 kip (Laos currency now, about 2.5 USD).


Step 10: Find your hostel


We got dropped off in the middle of the city, and had no idea where to go. So, I bought a map and found a coffee shop with wifi and looked up where I needed to go. Once at the hostel, I IMMEDIATELY took a shower, and then met up with my new American friend, Anita, for dinner at the night market (Pictures in next post 😉 ).




Do I regret my decision to take the slow boat, NO.

Do I want/need to do it again, NO.

What do I recommend? Well, depends on your budget and timing…

  • If you are trying to save money where ever you can, this is a great option
  • If you have some money you are willing to spend try Nagi of Mekong, smaller group, more comfortable, and it includes…
    • Transfer from hotel in Chiang Khong (including ferry ticket) or Houi Xai to the boat, visa / immigration assistance and luggage handling
    • Hot lunch on both days of journey, tea & coffee, fruits in season.
    • Room and breakfasts at Petsokxai hotel or similar in Pak Bang.
    • English speaking staff & admission fee at Pak Ou cave (we passed this on the way to Luang Prabang)
    • All this for about $154 dollars

**FYI: Nagi of Mekong only runs on certain days and may not even run in slow season. Another factor to keep in mind.


What did I spend??

  • Ticket = 1250 baht
    • This was for the slow boat and for the bus from Laos Immigration to the boat
  • Taxi to Thai Border = 50 baht
  • Lunch/Snack Day One = 25, 000 kip (105 baht)
  • Pak Beng Room = 400 baht (not as nice as a room as you would get with Nagi)
  • Dinner = 45, 000 kip (189 baht)
  • Breakfast = 15,000 kip (63 baht)
  • Lunch/Snack Day Two= 30,000 kip (126 baht)

About $72 dollars for what is included in the private tour….


So consider my story, consider the pros and cons, and make the best decision for you! Like I said, I absolutely do not regret my decision, but if I could do it all over again, I would maybe consider splurging and going for the private boat…



My favorite shot…

Slow Boat to Luang Prabang



Love always, Arianna the Wandering Pipette





Article Name
Jurassic Park?: My slow boat adventure from Chiang Khong to Luang Prabang
Summary of the slow boat ride from Chiang Khong to Luang Prabang.

2 thoughts on “Jurassic Park?: My slow boat adventure from Chiang Khong to Luang Prabang

  1. Hi Arianna. My friends and I are planning for our Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang trip for next year and we are leaning towards taking Nagi of Mekong. So its really great that I stumbled upon your article. Really helpful. So I guess we will be taking the Nagi after all.

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