Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Getting From A to B: The Laos Slowboat

We always knew that the travelling from place to place thing was going to be the hardest part of this trip. But the 3 day slow boat from Chiang Mai, Thailand, to Luang Prabang, Laos, exceeded all of our expectations.


We booked our slow boat from North Thailand to Laos back when we were in Bangkok, and we were slightly wary of what to expect on the lead up to going. 'You sit on a wooden bench for 7 hours a day' and 'be prepared to be packed in like sardines' were some of the main things we had said to us, so as you can imagine we weren't exactly looking forward to it. But I can honestly say our experience couldn't have been more opposite. 

Day 1:
Firstly, the '3 day slow boat' is more like 2 days as the first day consists of sitting on a comfy minibus making your way towards the border between Thailand and Laos. We stopped off for lunch, toilet breaks and even a trip to the White Temple which we didn't expect to be included at all. It was such a beautiful day and there wasn't a cloud in sight, so it made the views along the way even better. 


After around a 6 hour drive, we arrived at our place to stay for the night which was in a lovely little hostel/hotel just outside of the boarder in a town called Chang Kong. What made this even better was that it was all included in the slow boat price - we didn't have to pay a single thing extra. What a bonus.

Day 2:
Although this was technically day 2, it was still the first day of our actual slow boat experience so we were still pretty anxious to know what it was like. We got picked up bright and early and headed to the Laos border where we paid for our visas into the county and waited to get onto a coach to take us down to the Mekong River where we began to board. I'd say this was the only negative thing about the trip as we waited around at the border faffing for so so long with hardly any information about where we were supposed to go, but it all got sorted in the end so it wasn't too bad just a little bit annoying. When we actually arrived at the river about 10 different boats were lined up and so we made our way onto them - tucking our bags and luggage underneeth the floorboards and kicking off our flip flops into plastic bags.


To our absolute delight, no wooden seats could be seen but instead rows and rows of car seats that had literally been taken out of cars. A little strange... But we just went along with it anyway. They seem to make a use out of everything out here! The boat was so relaxing and comfortable, and the views along the way were incredible. I can honestly hold my hands up and say I'm not usually one to appreciate nature but I've never seen anything like it - it's hands down the prettiest view I've seen in my life. 

We were on the boat for around 6 hours in total in complete sunshine, before stopping again for the night at a little town on the side of the river called Pak Beng. We arrived to the prettiest sunset and were made to scramble across rocks with 15kg of luggage on our backs (how we didn't fall in the water I don't know) but it was so much fun and all part of the experience. Unfortunately this part of the trip wasn't included, but we already knew this and sorted out a hostel before leaving Chiang Mai. 


Day 3:
After the best nights sleep ever and waking up to an amazing view of the river from our hotel room, we began the third and final day of the trip. We had another early start and got back onto the boats down at the side of the river, before heading off again for another 6-7 hours. This time round the weather wasn't as generous to us and so we got all wrapped up from head to toe in the warmest clothes we'd brought, but it was still a beautiful 7 hours.


The boat is such a good way to get from the North of Thailand into the North of Laos, so I'd 100% recommend doing it over the bus journey or flying. Yeah you get there quicker by plane, but the 3 days travelling by minibus and boat is so worth it for the incredible views you get. I can't really say how much it cost us or who we booked it with as it was all part of a package in Bangkok, but any hostel/hotel can arrange it for you and by the looks of it you all get lead to the same boats anyway. It was well worth the 3 days travelling and I'd hands down do it again. It was so nice just to sit and chill for once compared to the rush rush days we'd had for the last 2 weeks of travelling, just make sure you take plenty of thungs to do to keep you occupied.

I took my kindle, lots of food and my headphones and that saw me through it. Although I do wish I'd had an iPad or something to watch films/programmes on but not to worry - I didn't risk bringing mine for the 3 month trip. You also get chatting to loads of other travellers doing the same route so that passes time too. We arrived in Luang Prabang at around 4pm on the third day ready to explore what the city had to offer!

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