How to Travel Down the Mekong On A Slow Boat
Mekong slow boat travel from Huay Xai to Luang Pra Bang Laos through stunning untouched countryside stopping at remote villages along the way. This article looks at how you can travel down the Mekong on a slow boat.
The Mekong river source is the Lasagongma Spring high in the Tibetan Plateau and runs through China’s Yunnan Province, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam ending it’s 4350 km journey in the South China Sea at the Mekong Delta.
The journey from Huay Xai to Luang Pra Bang Laos takes 2 days and travels through stunning jungle and past small villages accessible only by boat. All boats stop at Pak Beng overnight which is a tiny village that has sprung up to service the boats plying the river. Pak Beng has an ATM and a selection of restaurant serving tasty meals.
The boats are long thin affairs with shallow drafts to cope with the river when it is low.
Most travellers choose the down river trip entering Laos from Thailand at the new bridge and customs building.
There are three ways you can travel on a Mekong Slow Boat
The Public Mekong Slow Boat
Not for the feint hearted the public ferry is a very simple affair with basic seating (I have heard stories of planks of wood) and a hole at the back posing as a toilet. In the peak of the season (Dec-Feb) the public ferry can be over crowded. Bring your own food / water and a cushion to sit on. To access this boat you will need to get to Huay Xai under your own steam and purchase tickets at the boat. If travelling in high season it is a good idea to be there early to secure a seat. At Pak Beng you will need to secure your own hotel room.
Mid Range Mekong Slow Boat
The mid range option for a Mekong Slow Boat is excellent and in my mind good value. The Nagi of Mekong is a popular boat in this category and provides an excellent service. You can organise to be collected from your hotel in the town of Chiang Khong and taken to the boat via cutoms and immigration. The boat is very comfortable, the food is excellent and the accommodation at Pak Beng perfectly fine. Another mid-range boat plying this route is the Shampoo Cruises.
These Mekong Slow Boats all stop at a minority village and at the Pak Ou Caves where the Tham Ting (lower cave) and the Tham Theung (upper cave) houses a multitude of buddha statues.
This slow boats arrives at Luang Prabang around 5pm on the evening of the second day.
Posh Luxury Mekong Slow Boat
The Luang Say is a top end Mekong Slow Boat that travels the same course as the above two. It is fitted out a little more luxe and generally appeals to an older clientele. This boat also stops at a minority village and at the Pak Ou Caves.