Fast Boat Down the Mighty Mekong to Luang Prabang, Laos

fast boat to laos luang prabang laos on mekong river

Good day,

I write this to you from the city of Luang Prabang in Laos. I took the fast boat from Chiang Khong, Thailand in a most egregious fashion, it’s true.

The border crossing is odd, I have plenty of videos I will share with you later. The fast boat is 1600 baht, the slow boat 1000 baht. The fast boat was a trip, let me tell you.

Tip: Bring $US to pay your visa, you need a photo, but you don’t. I didn’t have one. They charge you 40baht as a peanlty.

If you take the fast boat this will probably be the series of stages you go through on your most interesting journey. The fast boat just seemed like a fun once in a life time experience, it most certainly was. It’s exhilarating and you truly feel alive. It’s one of the top handful of moments on this trip I’ll probably never forget.


I have lots of footage, a full vlog to come.

These are the stages on the fast boat:

Hour 1: WOW! This thing is sick, WOOOHOOO “So LONG SUCKERS” as you blaze past numerous slow boats.

Hour 2: This place is beautiful, I’m not so comfy.

Hour 3: When are we stopping for lunch, my knees are throbbing.

Stop for Lunch: You get to the place where the slow boat stops, you’re like ok, this place is cool for about 30 minutes.

Hour 4: My knees are killing me, really killing.

Hour 5: FML!!! As you move around trying to get comfortable, but to no avail.

Hour 6: Wow, This is going to be over soon, I surrender to the pain, ignore ignore. The sun is setting, wow this place is beautiful. I’m glad it’s over but that was a fun ride. I will never forget my drag race down the Mekong.

Hour 7: Ahhh I’m in Luang Prabang, now what am I going to do!?

Tip: GET YOUR HUSTLE ON! Make sure you sit in the front, you can extend your legs.

You see, those are the stages you go through on the most epic adventure that is the fast boat to Laos. Do I regret it? NO WAY. I figure that I will have plenty of opporunities to take slow boats in the future. Furthermore, whenever I go on a long road trip, I am always in the fast lane, occasionally maxing out all that my kompressor can do, to be in the slow lane would be like going on a trip to visit grandma when I was a kid. I will note, a friend ofm ine who is a linebacker said it was h3llish, I can imagine. This guy is 6’3… I’m only 5’10 and it was still really tight. I can’t imagine how he did it, I salute him.

fast boat pakbeng laos on mekong river

I will note that our “fast boat” broke down, I told the captain that if the slow boat passed us, I’d have an aneurysm, it did pass us, horrible. We made up the time quickly though. It’s NOT as crazy as everyone says. The fast boat is crazy because it’s a long boat with a car motor on the back, ha. Therefor it’s just like a big open canoe kinda. Also if you did hit a rock you’d be screwed but it’s not like “joe driver” has that in mind, he is “one with the river” or wahtever… Going through the rapids was exhilirating. I feel like I got from point a-b, went to a theme park, broke my knees all over again and went white water rafting all in one day. Also lots of fishing going on, the Mekong has the world’s largest catfish, I’d love to pull in one of those lunkers and have a “shore lunch” that could feed a small city.

The slow boat was actually quite empty, I’d be a liar and not true to the “Stop Having a Boring Life” manifesto that I haven’t written yet if I didn’t say there were times that I looked at the slow boat and fantasized about being in it. That said, the grass is always greener, had I been in the slow boat, I’d of been like man, this boat sucks I wish I was in the fast boat. Supposedly however, day 2 they send way less slow boats so it’s crowded to all h3ll, who knows though? I have no clue how many KM the trip is but it goes on forever and ever and ever.

sun set on the mekong river laos near luang prabang

My boat was 2 Israeli guys who looked like they were going to die in the first half, these 2 Swedes who I have concluded are a couple, despite one of them having grey hair and the other being younger than myself and some guy from the Netherlands.

I took a tuk tuk with my boat to the city center after the gents managed to haggle the driver down a full 60%, I will say I respect how he got the price lower but what he had to go through was nuts, it was also really awkward to watch / be involved in. Having said that, I now realize that I typically cave in way too fast, then again for $0.50 I typically just don’t care… I like helping stimulate local economies via over-priced tuk tuks, significant numbers of skewers, shakes and anything else that whet’s my appetite. It kinda makes me a quasi-philantropist, ok I’m reaching here.

We arrived and one of the Swedes pulled out a lonely planet, I went and asked these hippies where the good places are. They told me, I walked back and told the crew “Over here near the bakery is where all the good / cheap places are” they ignored me and all crowded around a guide book, snore. I just kept walking as I told them, didn’t even really break my step to be honest.

My guest house is nice, really nice, really really nice for 70,000Kip(sp?) a night. That’s ~$9US, no wifi though. Being here, you realize how Thailand is actually VERY modernized. Thailand is the BOMB, it’s like the perfect blend. Singapore is more modern than back home and the price shows that. Thailand has everything that you want AND MORE at a huge discount compared to the Western World.

I was wondering what was going on with the slow boat and how my French friend was doing while eating an oversized chicken skewer for ~$0.70. I saw these 2 gorgeous twins so I went over and made some ridiculous small talk. Then I realized they were French and loved that I spoke French. We eat dinner together etc… Knowing French is awesome, I’m glad I’m fluent.

Tips hat,

P.S: Jworthy – The book is “Revolutionary Wealth” it’s a good one. Typically I get shy around big books as they are intimidating, this one I wish was longer and you read a few pages then just think about it, digesting if you will.

 mekong river laos near luang prabang old school gas pump

7 Comments

  1. lindsay

    February 3, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    great post– glad all went well– looking forward to hearing more about laos

  2. Luc

    December 1, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Hey, I’m in Bangkok right now and about to go to chiang Mai and onto Laos. What was the name of the guest house, if you can remember, that you stayed at? It sounds good and relaxing. By the way I just stumbled upon your blog and it’s taking alot of my uncertainties away from the next few weeks.

    Thanks,
    Luc

  3. Rob

    December 1, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Not sure the name but. When you are at the street that turns into the market, (can’t miss it) walk towards the 4 way intersection.

    Go through the 4 way intersection and on right there is a small street near bakery or bakery on corner . It’s on the left about ~3-5 hotels down. The guy who works front desk I went fishing with is Pat.

    Dark wood patio it has with some tables and the staircase to get up is center or left. Right to the left of the building if you’re facing it is a small lane like a driveway or something to some government or municipal building. Think that building is yellow perhaps.

    Really nice beds but the bathroom facilities weren’t so hot. Another one that my friends stayed at was go to the end of that street and turn left. It’s right on the river.

    I trust this helps,

  4. mumun

    January 14, 2012 at 4:34 am

    Hei there,

    Me and my friends are considering to take the fast boat, but a bit terrified since we heard there are accidents every year. I’m from Indonesia and taking journeys on dodgy boats are not a hard deal, however I don’t know what kind of standards you have there. What do reckon, should we do it and take that change?

    • Rob

      January 14, 2012 at 5:50 am

      Take it and enjoy it for what it is.

  5. Anthony

    December 3, 2014 at 11:30 am

    My friend and I will be in Southeast Asia this February and are planning on taking the fast boat to Luang Prabang as well.

    Logistics question: Did you cross the border into Laos the night before, stay the night in Huay Xai and head to the fast boat pier in the morning? Or did you stay in Chiang Khong and in the morning cross into Laos and head to the pier?

    Mostly, I’m curious what time the fast boats tend to leave and whether we’re okay getting there in the morning if we crash in Chiang Khong.

    Also, did you book through a tour or agent or just through yourself? Thanks for the help, man!

    • Rob

      December 3, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      Stayed in Thailand right at the border. Just get there, you’ll find a guesthouse and everything else you need will unfold then.

      Don’t book through an agent, don’t worry about planning this is an old route done daily by people just showing up; show up and enjoy the ride.

      Cheers!

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