To cross the border and go to Laos, we elected to take the slow boat. The other options included the fast boat, which was apperently dangerous and loud beyond reason, and the bus, which was bumpy, slow, and vomit-inducing. The 2-day slow boat ride is described as slow and uncomfortable, but relaxing with great scenery. Given the options, we took the slow boat.
To initially cross the boarder, we took a bus to Chiang Khong, stamped out of Thailand and paid $36 for a Laos visa on arrival ($1 for a “weekend tax”). We crossed “Friendship Bridge #4” with a neutral bus, then headed over to the boats for the long ride to Laos. If you ever take these boats, remember to bring food,since they don't feed you, and remember to bring a sitting pad, unless they tell you that you don't need one (you can buy them at the boat dock).
The slow boat was, in the end more, comfortable than expected but about as nice as a long plane ride. From the boat we saw fishing villages, kids playing in the river, monks, temples, elephants, fish, bison, and sweeping views of beautiful mountains and karsts. The scenery was stellar and I'm glad I saw them, but everyone was antsy by the end of the ride.
After two days, we finally arrived in Luang Prabang and immediately started wandering around the city. Luang Prabang felt like a small town to us, but it is one of the biggest in Laos due to the population. It has 5 bars, all in one area, that close at 11:30, but if you walk 1 mile away, you're out of the city limit and there is a late night bowling venue. Ha. The prices are a little higher here (about 50-75% more than Thailand) but if you work hard, you'll still make your budget. The first night, in order to save our money, we visited buffet alley (see picture) and had some pretty awful cold food, which is never a good idea.
The first morning we immediately negotiated for a motorbike and headed to Kwang Si Waterfall. This waterfall takes the cake so far for coolest waterfall visited ever. The electric blue water cascades over dozens of individual terraces ranging from 1 to 30 meters. Several pools are available for swimming, and several are closed to preserve their function and beauty.
Before the waterfall, there is a moon bear reserve and a butterfly park. This was a great first stop to start Laos right.
The next day we ventured in a random direction, spat seeds into the river, and lounged on a make-shift beach. That night we learn a few new card games from a group of Canadians (31, Oh Hell, and Asshole), and prepared for the jump to Nong Khiew, our next destination.
See you there.
Grant and Danielle