Laos – Slow Boat down the Mekong River 

After spending about a week in Chiang Mai, I headed up to Pai for a few days. Much smaller and laid back than Chiang Mai, it was a nice escape for a few days.
I then made my way in Laos via a slow boat on the Mekong River! I’ve read a few blogs that reccomend it as a “must do” – a 2 day boat ride from Chiang Khong (in Thailand) to Luang Prabang in Laos. The Mekong River runs all throughout Southeast Asia, starting in Tibet and ending in the South China Sea, south of Cambodia.

You can organize everything on your own, but I paid for all my transportation at once and joined a small group. We were still very much on our own, but nice to figure it out with other people.

We took a 7 hour minivan ride from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong, stopping in Chiang Rai to see the infamous white temple. It was filled with tourists so I didn’t take any photos – very gorgeous though!

We then stayed the night in Chiang Khong, which is essentially just a border town. 

Accommodation at a small guesthouse was included and we got breakfast the next day. We made sure to stock up the night before on snacks at 7-11 (they are everywhere here!). 

That morning they drove us about 10 minutes to the Thai border (via pick up truck) to get our exit stamp. After a short shuttle ride we arrived at the Laos border to get our Laos visa. 

After having done so many border crossings in Africa, it was nice to know the process. It was so quick and only took about 10 minutes.
Getting the visa was quick but then we had to wait at the Laos immigration for almost 2 hours, where we loaded onto another bus that took us to the Mekong River to get on the boat. We didn’t have a guide at this point and didn’t really know what to do, but it worked out!
There are 3 other girls all traveling solo that did the slow boat and were all staying at the same hostel in Luang Prabang, so it was nice to be with them.

The boat ride was gorgeous! The scenery was really pretty and much more green then Thailand. The river is surrounded by mountains and small villages.

We opted to sit in the middle area which was a wooden floor, instead of cushioned seats, but it was nice to spread out a bit. I didn’t realize how “luxury” this was considered until the next day (more below!). We all just tossed our luggage there – not really any rhyme or reason to anything here. 🙂

The first day was 6 hours, and we stayed the night in a small town called Pakbeng. This accommodation was on our own, but I shared a room with one of the girls I met.

The next morning we were on the boat by 9am for another full 7 hours, before arriving at our final destination – Luang Prabang!

On the way to Pakbeng we were on 2 boats, but the second day we all shoved onto 1 boat. It was so cramped but at least we got a seat. People were sitting all over the floor, but I guess they figured if the people can fit somehow, it works! At least it was a boat so it was open and there was fresh air all day.

In Luang Prabang the boat drops you off 10k from town, so we had to get a tuk tuk to our hostel, but we finally made it! 

Overall, it was a great way to see some of the country and much better than just sitting on a bus. Not everyone has the time to spend 2 full days on a boat, but I loved it!


3 thoughts on “Laos – Slow Boat down the Mekong River 

  1. What an adventure!! Boy, they really packed you into that boat! The scenery looks gorgeous. I’m sure you got to see some interesting sights that can only be seen from the river. How nice you were able to meet up with some other fellow travelers and figure out things together. And the fact they were staying at the same hostel as you; it really is a small world! We took some tuk tuks when we were in Thailand; quite the way to get around. Enjoy your stay for the next few days before you leave for Vietnam.


  2. How cool that you were able to hook up with some other girls that you met. That’s always been one of my favorite aspects about traveling- the people you meet. You meet the most interesting people on the road. What countries where these other girls from?
    Your pictures are excellent as always. Looked like a tight fit on that boat but that’s OK, that’s how they travel in that part of the world. What a good idea to take the slow boat. Not too many people get a chance to do that in their lifetimes.
    Enjoy your stay in Luang Prabang. And keep those pictures coming!
    Love you!


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