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j Jul 14th, 2009 05:01 PM

HCMC/PP/SR and Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai
Thank you all for your input into our itinerary. I added a day to HCMC as suggested. DH wants to add several days to go from LP to Chiang Mai and I so don't want to fly there. Any recommendations or experience with travel by bus, boat, or car from LP to Chiang Mai? Also - suggestions for going from HCMC to Phnom Penh and then to Siem Reap by bus, boat or car? We've got a few days to play with so "slow" travel (that's reasonably comfortable) sounds good. Thanks!

Kathie Jul 14th, 2009 05:09 PM

You have options for boat travel from HCMC to PP, car is usually recommended from PP to Siem Reap. From LP you can take a boat to a town north of CM (the name escapes me for now). There are a number of options, the one you don't want is the "fast boat."

Take a look at for lots of good info on overland travel.

crellston Jul 14th, 2009 11:27 PM

I don't know whether it is feasible (or possible) to get from LP to CM by car or bus - the roads in Lao have improved in recent years but not sure how much. The usual way would be by boat from LP to HoueiSay, breaking the journey overnight in Pakbeng (nothing special!). At HoueiSay you would then go through immigration and cross the river into Chiang Saen. It is then an hours drive to Chiang Rai and maybe 3 to Chiang Mai.
I first did the trip about 10 years back by renting a local boat and boatman (his wife came along for the ride and to do the cooking - excellent food!). The usual way would be to get berths on one of the regular cruises like Luangsay.
The trip itself was great with pristine rainforest and stopping off at nice little riverbank village along the way. But things change and when we did the trip in reverse in 2007 there had been a HUGE amount of deforestation. Plus, take care with your travel dates. We travelled in April when they were burning the forest and it was like sailing through a bonfire for two days!

j Jul 15th, 2009 07:46 PM

Kathie, can you let me know why a car is recommended over a boat from PP to SR?
Crellston, do you think the Luangsay is an interesting way to spend 2 days, despite the changes you've seen?
Thank you both so much for the info.

offwego Jul 16th, 2009 05:29 PM

I'm not a fan of the boat from PP to SR-it's not scenic, usually overcrowded, not very comfortable and many of them not particularly safe. Also depending on the time of year, can take quite a long time.

The bus is the best way to go. Far cheaper ($12) and more comfortable than a taxi. That drive actually is quite scenic and only 5-6 hours in a comfortable and modern bus on a good road.

I guess the only advantage to a taxi is if there are places along the way you want to stop, which I assume you don't if you're considering the boat.

crellston Jul 16th, 2009 10:47 PM

j- I haven't actually used the Luangsay but it is supposed to be a nice boat and quite luxurious. As for the journey itself; interesting? Yes, but don't expect pristine rainforest and unspoiled villages along the way. All things considered, I would probably go by bus and stop along the way or maybe rent a car & driver.

j Jul 17th, 2009 03:31 PM

Thank you for all the good information. I love this board!

Scotters Jul 17th, 2009 03:52 PM

I might suggest the following options.
From Saigon to Phnom Penh there are a few way you can take.

Bus (Mekong Express is excellent) that will cost less than $15 and takes around 6hrs including boarder procedures.

Taxi to Moc Bai boarder crossing and then another taxi to PP. Time 5hrs and costing around $70

Take land transportation to Chau Doc and then take a boat to Phnom Penh.

Tour - normal is 3day/2night. This can be costly.

From PP to SR take the bus as recommends. Again Mekong Express is great at $12. The boat is overpriced at $35 and most of the trip is boring especially while crossing the lake and is really only interesting when in the river part..Plus once in the SR port you still have to get to the town. You either sit inside the a/c cabin with its dirty windows and loud music or sit on the deck in the heat. Once on deck it is near impossible to get into the cabin. It takes 5+ hrs the same as a bus or taxi if not more. Most of the trip is boring especially while crossing the lake and is only interesting when in the river part.

From LP to Huay Xai/Chiang Khong/ the most common way is by boat. You have 4 options

First there is the luxury 2day/1night cruise that is very pricy at around $413 per person in high season. While enjoyable, comfortable and the lodgings good but not outstanding, it is way overprice in my opinion.

Then there is the Nagi of Mekong boat which used to operate as a day boat but that has been suspended due to low water levels. It now offers a 2 or 3 day cruise. The 2 day cruise leaves on Sunday and Wednesday and cost is 4200 baht (around $125. The boat has upholstered reclining seats, lots of leg room, a spotless bathroom and excellent staff. They provide snacks, a meal and drinks. Just as good as the luxury boat with the exception of hotel accommodation which is 2 star.

There is the cheap slow boat that also takes 2 days and cost around 1200 baht ($35) plus your accommodation. But it is not that comfortable on the hard seats so it is essential to bring some cushions in case none are provided. Also bring snacks as only beer and soft drinks can be purchased. This option is very popular with the young crowd.

The fast speedboat will get you there in a day (around 6+hrs) but it is considered quite dangerous. You certainly will need earplugs and you will not see much as it travels too fast. Not recommended.

If you had four or 5 days, you could go by a combination of boat and bus and see the beautiful northern countryside. Bus or boat to Nong Kiau. Nice up-market guesthouse here. Then bus to Louang Nam Tha through Oudomxai. Good accomodion here at the Boathouse. And finally on to Thai boarder at Chiang Khong/HuaXai and then to Chiang Rai..

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