Coming from the north of Thailand, my initial plan was to actually take a bus from Chiang Rai over the border all the way to Luang Prabang. In the end, Mandy, Jack and James were enough to convince me to change my mind and stick together as a group and do the boat journey instead. This decision turned out to be one of the most pleasant surprises for me this entire year. Rather than hearing about the loud, boring 2 day long slow boat ride to Luang Prabang, I had a really chill and an unexpectedly enjoyable journey. So shortly after crossing the Laos (aka Lao PDR) border to Huay Xai, we boarded the slow boat went on our way.
Laos or officially Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) has only an estimated population of 6.5 million. Of this, an estimated 40% of the population is composed of hilltribes people living in the outskirts or mountainous regions of Laos. I found that the amount of open space seriously rivaled that of Canada and it was really refreshing and relaxing to travel in such a sparsely populated country. I had once heard that the nickname for Laos PDR was Laos, Please Don’t Rush. I wholeheartedly agreed with this nickname! Haha. Everything in the country was rather turtle paced and relatively frozen in time. Although the influx of backpackers were on the rise, it just seemed like it would still take ages for things to change and happen. This was always a positive thing for any country as a backpacker.
Orange brown waters tunnled on either side by super lush greenery with mountains as a backdrop served as the general view for the entirety of the cruise. One of the most beautiful and relaxing times I have had while transitioning from one city to another.
Basics of the slow boat. Loud and crowded. Tip, sit near the front where there is more legroom and away from the chugging engine in the back.
Seriously, what a horrible and disgusting habit to have. Was amazed with the existence of the on-box hazard advertisements, took a pic.
The 2 day slow boat cruise consisted of an overnight stay mid-way in a really small boat town of Pakbeng.
The view from the restaurant overlooking the river.
The view of the morning clouds hanging over the mountains was such a surreal sight. I’ve never seen landscape with such large stretched of land so uninhabited and lush.
The slow boat makes stops at occasional small villages to drop of food and villagers.
Some people started to get as comfortable as they could knowing that day 2 was more of the same slow moving journey.
The clever way to store everything on such a small boat. There were a few times when people needed some things from their packs.
A super cute and human-like baby monkey joined us for the adventure. Here it’s actually eating sticky rice.
Front of the boat.
Nearing the end, the formations started to look reminiscent of Vietnam and south Thailand areas. Still amazing to see though.
From the front of the boat. The slow boat to Luang Prabang was a really good experience and gave everyone a lot of time to chat and meet people. I ended up hearing tons of crazy stories of some Scottish boys and their parties. There were absolutely no families aboard so it was all like-minded backpackers. Also, the accounts of the slow boat being really arduous and difficult to bear were also, false. I really did not regret this decision change and would recommend this method from getting to and from Luang Prabang.
Finally arrived at the UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang.
Stayed at the Xayana Guesthouse.
Cheap, clean (enough), and dorms with lots of space. Good enough for me.
Local and popular bar in town called Utopia. The place was quite well hidden in a series of paths but follow the signs and you should find your way there. The place got crowded quite quickly as the choices in town for bars were few and far in between.
The place had a projector which looped funny Youtube videos. We played a game where everytime someone would look up to watch had to drink. Those who sat FACING the screen were at such a huge disadvantage… let’s just say the game wasn’t so fun for me.
In the city of Luang Prabang, there is a bar curfew. Once 23:30 (11:30pm) hits, everything in town closes with the exception of this bowling alley. Basically, if you plan to stay out, there is no other place to go… literally. All the surrounding tuk-tuks will take you here as this will be the only place open. They serve Beerlao and you can actually play bowling for 20,000 kip (approx. $3 CAD) per person per game.
Some of the nice people that I have met along the way Natasha, Will, Ed, and Liv.
Yea, everyone in town coming here makes it a packed night.
Actually played a few games. Bowling in Laos, huh.
Apparently this bottle of whisky cost something ridiculous like $3 dollars with mixers or something. Tasted like $3 dollar whisky, yay.
The long awaited Kuangsi Waterfalls.
You pass by a cool bear sanctuary going to the falls. So cool.
Sand wich, and shakes time.
Was not good…
First time seeing sequential layered falls, it was unreal. Epic.
Me, Mandy, Jack, James.
Jack and James dealt with some foot injuries so Mandy and I hiked up the mountain to go to the top of the falls where we heard we can actually walk across the falls.
And that we did. Nice view, totally worth it.
Sketchy but good enough fence to prevent people from falling over.
I eventually found out that coming from Guangzhou, Mandy could speak perfect Cantonese. “Mut gum am geh?!” This was an awesome surprise to be able to throw some native Cantonese in while we chatted throughout our trip.
Some of the waterfall stream flooded the paths while we walked down. Thought it was cool.
The awesome rope swing right next to some awesome falls.
Finishing off the day with some BBQ. It was yum and hands down easily the best meal I had in Laos. The disappointing part of it was, this was a Thai style BBQ. Although yums, the Thais just do it much better.
Luang Prabang continues…