After almost a week spent in Bangkok waiting for our laptop to be repaired we boarded an overnight bus to the border town of Chiang Khong.This wasn’t our first time on an overnight bus, but our longest thus far. Thailand government buses were always a good deal & reliable. Buying through the website ThaiTicketMajor ensured we were actually getting a government bus, and we only got tricked once when buying in Koh Lak. There is only a slight difference in seat size and no time difference between the 1st class & VIP buses so no need to waste your money getting a VIP ticket. This was an easy way to save money. Additionally, we know there is some debate about overnight vs. daytime travel. We found that saving on a nights lodging and having an extra day in the arrival city was worth a slightly uncomfortable sleep.
Once arriving in Chiang Khong we were herded into Tuk Tuks at the old boat crossing area which is about 10km past where the new friendship bridge is located. Ask the bus driver to drop you at the new crossing to save a few bucks. After a long bus ride it’s annoying to deal with being took by a tuk tuk driver. The border crossing was extremely easy both on the Thailand side as well as Laos. Once in Laos we grabbed another Tuk Tuk to the slow boat dock and loaded up on supplies. Although it was 10 am we got a few large Beer Lao, sandwiches for lunch time & waited for the boat to depart.
The boat tickets have seat numbers but we were 2 of 5 people who actually tried to sit in their assigned seats. Contrary to what we heard most boats we saw including the one we were on were old minivan seats and pretty comfortable. All the passengers that had been pushed to buy cushions regretted it. Jess explored the boat before take off while Gil guarded our ideal seats in the middle of the boat away from the engine room.
Just like that we were off on a 2 day boat ride(10-12 hours total) down the Mekong River. Soaking up the beautiful surroundings & chatting with fellow travelers it was the start of our adventure in a new country and the moment Jess had been waiting for, no cars, no one selling us anything, just the peacefulness of this once in a lifetime experience
The first night the boat arrived in Pakbeng. Rowdy travellers who had just finished a few bottles of Lao whisky helped distribute the luggage (90% backpacks) from under the boat to the deboarded passengers, and all 100 of us launched into action looking for a room to stay in for the night. After what was now 24 hours of travel we were some of the first to secure a room, our guesthouse, Meksavanh Guesthouse, which was listed in our Rough Guide to Southeast Asia book . Unfortunately the neighbors didn't know how much we needed our sleep, and spent most the night burning trash outside our window. This quaint tourist focused town was made up of two small streets & luckily the place we had in mind for dinner was just a few doors down,Sabaidee Sivilay Restaurant. We ordered the traditional Lao dish Larb with water buffalo & a Lao fish curry both of which were delicious. The menus were also full of awesome art work & poems from around the globe (a must read while you wait for your meal, which will be awhile now that you're on Lao time).
We awoke bright and early to the smell of more burning and the hustle and bustle of this two street town that runs on what seems like 5-6 hours sleep. We grabbed some more sandwiches and fresh baked pastries, and boarded the boat 30 minutes prior to departure time. There were many rumors around town of what time the boat would depart. Sadly for some dutch girls & a few americans, arriving only 3 minutes after the right departure time meant they were left on land! Luckily for them another boat had some extra room & they arrived in Luang Prabang just 20 minutes after us.
Day 2 on the boat was extremely picturesque and we were delighted to meet two fellow travelers who were like minded & wonderful conversationalist from the Northeast of Canada. The day seemed to fly by and before we knew it we were getting dropped off at the new dock just 10km outside of Luang Prabang. Many fellow boaters including us hadn’t heard of this and weren't thrilled about having to get yet another Tuk Tuk into town. After the other passengers finally gave in and got off the boat, we grabbed our bags and headed into town. With a sore last impression on the boat & a bit of confusion, our adventure moseying down the mekong river was complete.