Bicycle Adventures logo

Slow boat to Luang Prabang

One interesting journey in Laos is to take a boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang. There are three ways: slow boat, speed boat and luxury cruise. The speed boat is usually taken by the locals while the slow boat is almost entirely occupied by backpackers.

Slow boat from Xuay Xai to Luang Prabang

Slow boat to Luang Prabang... don't count on comfort ...

I did this journey years ago during my first visit to Laos. Although it is really a tourist trap, it is still worth the effort to do.

It took me two days, starting in  Huay Xai (also spelled as Houay Xai). The first day the boat, maybe slow but still making a lot of noise, goes to Pak Beng.

Pak Ou Caves Luang Prabang
Pak Ou Caves near Luang Prabang

The next day the journey continues to Luang Prabang with a stop at the Pak Ou caves, a series of caves filled with Buddha statues.

The boats usually leave from 8 to 9 AM. Although the journey is scenic, the noise of the motor makes it far less rustic then you really want. Even chitchatting in the boat is difficult.

The journey travels on the Mekong river from Huay Xai to Pak Beng. Here are several guesthouses. As the guesthouses solely depend on the boat travelers, there's always room available. The river is for the village people the main way to travel as there is no road to Luang Prabang,  although there is a road to Oudomxai (highway 2, although I doubt it's even a paved road, but I have not done this road).

Wedding in Pak Beng Laos 
Hoover your mouse over the photos to get a better view

Wedding in Pak Beng Laos Wedding in Laos Wedding in Pak Beng Laos Wedding in Pak Beng Laos

Wedding in Pakbeng
Wedding in Pak Beng Laos

When I did the trip I was lucky enough to enjoy a local wedding. The backpackers were not exactly invited but as the whole village showed up, so did we for an hour or two. It was quite a party.

Selling at the boats in the Mekong river Minority lady in Laos
Taking the slow boat to Luang Prabang you will see plenty of minority people

During the journey to Luang Prabang the boat stops at several places, giving the locals a chance to sell food and drinks.

In my opinion, despite being a tourist trap, this is certainly worth the 2 days you need by taking the slow boat to Luang Prabanang from Huay Xai to Pak Beng. The only disadvantage is the noise of the motor.

Other pages about Laos:

North Laos Central Laos South Laos

Back to the top

Back to cycling in Laos

Return to homepage

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Author Peter van der Lans | Privacy policy | Disclaimer | Sitemap

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

footer for bicycle adventures page

The road to Huay Xai

The road from Luang Namtha to Houay Xai is nowadays upgraded but the last time I did this journey it looked very different.

The road from Luang Nam Tha to Huay Xai

Plain of Jars & Phonsavan

It's a hard bike ride to Phonsavan to see the Plain of Jars but a very rewarding one.

Plain of Jars & Phonsavan

Map of Laos

Our Laos map, click here to enlarge

Muang Sing 

Without a doubt around Muang Sing you will find the most diverse and colorful people in Laos. In the valley that borders China, live many different minorities. Not surprising it's a prime travel destination, if you ask me.

Muang Sing