Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang

Laos scenery by bus

After searching frantically for where to go next after such an amazing stay at the Temple in Fang, Edwin and I decided on Luang Prabang. My plan was Bali, with visions of peaceful bliss, sitting on a deck chair sipping on cocktails. Instead we decided to see what Laos has to offer, with promises from fellow travellers of gorgeous Temples, amazing scenery and even better food.

We scoped out travel information on how to get there with our options being;

  •  Fly – which would take 1 hour and cost £100,
  •  Bus and slow boat – which would take a few days, time that we didn’t have seen as I had already booked the hotel
  • Bus – which would take 22 hours, give or take.

We went for the bus option. Mainly because not only was it cheaper at 1,500 baht but also allowed us to take in the views of Laos as we travelled through.

So, if you wish to take a bus here is what you do. You can’t book your seat online, so you will need to go to the main bus station in Chiang Mai. There, ask the information desk and they will point you to the Luang Prabang booth. There you will choose your seat (depending on what seats are left of course) and provide your passport information. You are advised to be at the bus station for 7.30am with the intention to leave around 8am. Remember this is Thailand and everything is on Thai time. After taking our seats on the single-decker bus, the driver then gave out blankets, water, iced coffee and snacks which meant that we left at 8.45am. The toilet at the rear of the bus is kept clean by the bus attendant. You will be given snacks here and there and are provided with lunch from 7-11. Mine was chilli prawns and rice which was actually very tasty. There were 3 stops along the way so you can stretch your legs, with the last stop being somewhere remote in Laos where you can buy dinner from one of the many restaurants. This stop was around 7pm, so be prepared to wait a long time in the journey to have a proper dinner, especially as the 7-11 dinner is a small. If you have a big appetite, you will get hungry. If this is the case, bring your own snacks to keep hunger at bay.

For your visa

Most of us on board did not have a visa for Laos. I had read somewhere through my research beforehand, that the bus does not wait for people to get their visa. With this in mind, unnecessary panic came over us when we arrived at immigration, making us practically run off the bus to get our visa in fear of being left behind in no-mans land. Do not worry. When you get to the Thai boarder you will go with the many other travellers to have your passport stamped as leaving Thailand. You then board the bus to be taken a few minutes along the road to Laos immigration. There you will fill in a form, provide one passport photo (have a few photos handy as on the form they state 3 copies are needed but they only took one) and pay $35. It is a fairly quick process, depending of course on the number of travellers there. The bus drivers will wait for you and as always with the wonderful world of bus travel in Thailand, they will do a final count before they continue on the journey, just to ensure no one gets left behind. You will be given a one month visa, which is very pretty in your passport and deserves a photo opportunity.

Once aboard, be prepared for the next stretch of the journey. Not only will the scenery take your breath away but you will also be just a little shit scared at the drops that plummet on either side of the narrow road. Of course, research shows that these are dangerous roads, so if you can knock yourself out on a sleeping tablet then all the better. The great thing about this journey is you sleep through the night, arriving at 6.30am so ‘jet’ lag is kept to a minimum.

The journey is incredibly bumpy and uncomfortable, especially though the night from around 12am to 6am, where I felt myself being lifted from my seat with every bump in the road. It is by no means a comfortable journey but it is cheap and you do get to see the amazing scenery and I especially loved the drive past the village homes, where our driver threw chocolate bars and sweets out to the children.

Laos village on route to Luang Prabang

You get to see the great rivers, misty mountains and vast jungle on your long journey before arriving in Luang Prabang. There be prepared to pay 100 baht to the tuk-tuk who will take you to your final destination, which for us was the khammany Inn, where we could recoup from the journey.

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