While I was in Chiang Rai I was able to sort out my route to Luang Prabang. There are all sorts of companies that offer packages that include pickup from Chiang Rai, bus to Huay Xai, Laos, and then take a two day slow boat to Luang Prabang. I’ve heard the slow boat can be very scenic, but I wasn’t much interested in 2 days on a boat. Instead my plan was to take a local bus to somewhere near the Thai/Laos border, walk across the border, and then take an overnight bus from the other side. The overnight bus was scheduled to leave at 6:00PM, and should arrive in Luang Prabang around 6:00-7:00AM.
I departed my hostel just after 8:00AM with plans of getting some food and then catching the 9:00AM bus. But at as I was walking through the bus station I saw an 8:30AM bus. I had snacks in my bag so I decided to take this one.
It was a local bus, and I was the only foreigner on it. Space was tight, there wasn’t enough leg room to sit properly, so I had to sit with my legs to the side. Fortunately there weren’t too many passengers so I didn’t have anyone next to me.
The bus dropped me off at the side of the road outside of Chiang Kong, Thailand. There was a tuk tuk driver waiting to bring me to the border.
Nobody else was around when I arrived so I had my pick of Visa and Immigration agents. It didn’t take long and in no time I had exited Thailand. From there it’s a quick shuttle across the bridge to enter into Laos. Again, there was almost nobody else there and I was officially in Laos.
I made my way to the bus station to book a ticket for the overnight bus. The bus station wasn’t far from the border and before noon I had my bus ticket in hand. I was hungry so I had a tuk tuk driver take me to the morning market. It was a happening place, but there wasn’t much in the way of prepared food, so I walked towards the main street to find some food. I killed the early part of the afternoon at a couple of cafe’s with wifi and eventually made my way to the bus for around 5:30PM.
The bus was supposed to leave at 6:00PM, and at that time the bus was only about 1/3 full. I was looking forward to a bus journey where I could stretch out. I wasn’t so lucky, we didn’t leave until almost 7:00PM, and in that time shuttle buses coming from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai had filled just about every spot on the bus. Just before we finally departed I took a gravol, I wanted the drowsy effects and had heard the ride was full of twists and turns.
Surprisingly I was able to dose off now and again over the first part of the journey. The ride was just as advertised, very twisty, and the ride was cramped. I must admit that for the really bad part of the trip I was mostly asleep. I like to join in the complaining about it, but really I didn’t feel most of the negative effects. That part of the journey I’ve pieced together from others on the bus. Some time around 1AM our bus go stuck in the mud. The driver tried to work his way out but we were in it deep. (I can say that I did know we were stuck in the mud. I woke up and the bus wasn’t moving. I assumed it was a bathroom stop so I got off the bus to pee. When I stepped out of the bus I was in mud. I assumed we just pulled off into a field, and went back to my seat and fell back to sleep). The driver eventually had to put chains in the wheels. This took about an hour, and then another hour to get them off on the other side after we made it through the mud. For those who couldn’t sleep it made a long bus journey even longer.
Things were relatively uneventful after the mud until around 6:00AM when the sun rose. This is when I woke up for good. It was nice to see the scenery, but it was not so nice to see the route the driver was taking us on. We were screaming around corners, pushing smaller oncoming vehicles to the shoulder as we swung wide. To add insult to injury the road wasn’t exactly in tip-top condition. The driver was nice enough to use the horn quite liberally as he approached blind corners to warn on-comers of the looming threat. We raced through small villages, and up and down mountains. I can only imagine this is how the driver drove the whole time, fortunately we just couldn’t see the threat at night.
We did make it to Luang Prabang, and in one piece, just after 9:00AM. This was 2-3 hours behind schedule, and without much quality sleep. My plan was to find a hostel and crash for the day.