After debating with myself, whether to spend two days on a slow boat on the Mekong vs. whether to fly from Thailand to Laos, I decided to fly. Why?
- Money. Crossing via land is nowhere near as cheap as it used to be. To be honest, all the latest blogs I had read had all paid different fees, not to mention the ‘extra’ fees at the boarder if you happened to be there on a Sunday, too late, at their lunch break or I guess if they just feel like it. I had tossed up the pros and cons but flying came out the winner. We flew;
Chiang Rai to Bangkok – $20 (two day lay over)
Bangkok to Vientiane – $60
When I started to enquire about the slow-boat in Chiang Mai, I was being quoted upwards of 1500 Baht. This included your bus to the boarder, the slow-boat ticket and a night’s accommodation half way down the river. I started researching the individual tickets for buses, tuk tuks and boats rather than the package, but from what I could see, I was only saving about 500 baht. Making the long boat option half the price of the flight. If you are on a very tight budget, then the slow-boat is probably the best option for you. This current trip I had a little more than a shoe string budget, so I went with the flight.
- Time. There’s nothing more gut wrenching than realising the time you set aside to visit the country is halved because you spend every second day on a 10-hour bus journey. And I was well aware that Laos was one of these slow-moving countries. I did think about the experience, and how beautiful the scenery would be on the long boat. But to be honest I’ve already spent a lot of time on a boat down the Mekong, so I decided this time to give it a miss.
- Visiting Bangkok. As I’ve mentioned before Bangkok is not my favourite place to travel to, however in my previous visit I didn’t tick off everything on my list. I also was very curious about how the city was reacting with the King’s passing, and couldn’t help but be inquisitive in this monumental time. Rowan had also never been to Bangkok and Dylan hardly left his hotel room on his previous visit, so they were both keen to check it out.
- Location. Luang Prabang is right in the middle of Laos, which means travelling around would mean backtracking through Luang Prabang at some stage. I wanted to work my way from one side to another. My first thought was to cross the border at Chiang Rai and head to Luang Namtha in the East and eventually make my way down to Vientiane and If I had the time, down through to 1000 islands. Or if I flew into Vientiane I could work my way up to Luang Namtha, which is the idea I’m currently running with. Which concluded my decision to fly to Vientiane.
Now, let me get to the flight… I’ve never screamed on a flight… until now… I’m not the best flyer, my palms are sweaty before we even hit the runway, but a few deep breaths and you’re in the air before you know it… right?
Our flight took off and instantly started with a hard turn, (so the plane took off into the opposite direction, sure okay that’s normal) after reaching a full 180 degree turn around we continued to hook into another hard turn, (you know the type of hard turns where you’re either looking at the ground or the sun and you’re not entirely sure which direction you’re heading) this is where I started to get a little more nervous. Why on earth does this plane have to circle back in the direction that it came from!? We hit turbulence… it started off gently and started shaking a little harder, then came the drops. You would know what I’m talking about if you’ve felt one. Where it feels like the plane is falling from the sky, but your stomach is still up there. Then came our nose dive, where instead of just falling from the sky, my body was thrown forward and the plane was thrown down. Now let me tell you, I wasn’t the only person who screamed! Now when I boarded this flight, I thought it would be a 2-hour flight. (I had read the itinerary wrong) After 45 minutes the captain speaks, “Please move your chair back to the upright position, open you window shutters and prepare for landing.”
Dylan : What? Why? Why are we so low? Are we landing?! Where are we landing? I thought we still had an hour to go. Jade isn’t this flight two hours? What’s happening?!
Jade: Yeah… I thought it was… I’m not sure… Are you okay? I thought you liked flying? Remember you said, “turbulence, it’s just like being on a rollercoaster.”
Dylan: No. No. Not anymore. I’m like you now. This plane is small. This plane is too small. Excuse me, Excuse me! *talking to flight attendant* Ahh what is happening?
Flight attendant: We are landing Sir.
Dylan: We are landing?? In Vientiane??
Flight attendant: Yes Sir.
Dylan: Ahhhh I see. Thank you.
I look at Dylan and shrug. The plane’s weight sways one side to the other as we decent in our windy landing. Finally the wheels hit the ground and the heartrate decreases.
Dylan: Well, that’s it, looks like I’m living in Laos now.
Rowan: Haha what do you mean? You’re not flying again?
Dylan: Nope. Laos for life.
We went through immigration, and Dylan and I paid $30 USD for our visa on arrival, (make sure you have a passport photo and US dollars, which is all you need to purchase your visa on arrival) Rowan paid $35 USD for his as his passport is UK.
We walked through to the exit where a line of travellers were waiting to purchase transport to the city. I tried to look for a tuk tuk, bus or shared minivan, but from what I could see this was the only way. We paid 55 000 Kip for a private van to our accommodation which was a 10-minute journey. (The price was a little steep but we weren’t too sure what the alternative was.)
So all in all, I paid an extra $40, saved myself a few days and experienced a small heart attack.. Maybe next time I should take the boat? Haha.
Have you had an experience travelling between Thailand and Laos? I’d love to hear about it!