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Travelbug 10 Sep 2008 09:30

Golden Triangle Speedboats

can someone help me with information on the speedboats from Chiang Rai area (Thailand) to Louangphrabang (Laos)?

* Very busy? Waiting time?

* How long does the ride take?

* What is the cost?

* Many other people on board?

* Dangerous and strenuous as described by some?

Many thanks,

pecha72 10 Sep 2008 09:58

You mean from Houai Xai to LP or Vientiane, I suppose?

I wouldnt recommend them. Sure they are fast, something like 30-40 knots, but Mekong is no walk in the park in that area, its got a very fast current, twists and turns in a mountain canyon, and underneath the murky water there are lots of deadly, sharp rocks and sandbanks which you simply cannot see.

Because of the current, everything moves around under the surface, and water level changes, too, so any maps are of no use. In fact the skippers ´read´ the water surface and they know where they shouldnt go... normally! That kind of boat will surely be blown to pieces, if it hits a rock at such speed, and if you get knocked out in the process, you are very much likely to drown. These accidents do happen.

We went upstream on a bigger slow-boat, and that was exciting enough sometimes, as they had to make a quick shutdown of the engine to prevent hitting the rocks. They needed to get it back on quickly, too, because the current made the boat go reverse in an eyeblink. Fast boats were entertaining to watch, I can tell you that, they sometimes had to shut the throttle to enter the bends, just like a racecar or bike on a track! Still I´d recommend to use the slower boats. Its a really beautiful area, and better appreciated, when moving slowly.

Oh, and if you decide to go by one, do note that there´s a very remote village about half way between Houai Xai and Louangphrabang (Pak Beng, maybe?) where those slower boats usually spend the night. There they may try to sell you all sorts of illegal stuff thats smuggled up and down the river, but stay away from those. They may set you up with the police, or at least claim they will, and rip you off.

Travelbug 10 Sep 2008 11:11

Thanks for the info Pecha72,

yes, it's about Houai Xai to LP.

Because we are pressed for time, I think we will have to take the risk of using the speedboats.

Any further info about these would be much appreciated.

pecha72 10 Sep 2008 11:35

They insist everyone on speedboat uses a helmet, that should tell you something. I mean, in the countryside they´re happy to ride around with bikes without helmets of any sort, yet with these they will make you wear one.

If I still remember correct, slow boats do this trip in 2 days, and speedboats can do it in one... so consider carefully, if its really worth the extra risks.

But sure you´ll make your own decisions for your own trip, Im not telling you what you should do, just be warned. People use old airplanes in Africa and South America, and they use rusty ferryboats in Indonesia, knowing that there are accidents. And I´m sure the drivers and salesmen of those boats will tell you they´re the safest thing around.

Travelbug 10 Sep 2008 12:20

OK, thank you!

wanderingscotsman 11 Sep 2008 13:21

I’d just second the stuff that’s been said already. I was kindof tempted to take the speedboat as well but ended up taking the slow boat. I realise you have your constraints but I’d take the slow one. As said many people do take the fast option but accidents happen. Much better to take the slow boat, hopefully you’ll get one that’s not jam packed and be able to take in the scenery, fall asleep, and drink lao lao brew while playing cards like I did :-)
If you can get the extra time there’s the Gibbon Experience to see around Houai Xai…I thought it was elsewhere and missed it…arg. (see someone else's trip report here)
Good treks around there…. Enjoy wherever you end up – I miss my time in Laos.

As an aside you can rent Honda Bajas in a few places around Laos. A couple of years ago they were $25-$25 a day depending where you were at. There’s definitely places in Luang Prabang, Vientiene and the other place further south around the coffee plantations. You could do a nice circuit over a few days from Luang Prabang to Phonsovan up to Xam Nua (Sam Nua) then back around the top to Luang Prabang….great villages to pass through (also much cooler around Sam Nua).

Me in Laos - motorbike pics at the top - only my second time on a bike :-) - Wandering Scotsman in Laos:

Salween 11 Sep 2008 14:52

speed boat - slow boat
dont take the speed boat, apart from being fairly dangerous, you won't be able to hear for 3 days and your back will hurt for much longer! take the advice of the people who did the trip and go for the slow boat, stay overnight at pak beng. or go by bus, takes a day from huay xay to luang prabang

Travelbug 12 Sep 2008 08:34

Thank you for all your input.

I know that it is relatively dangerous and uncomfortable, but I think of taking the speedboat.

Still, I don't know exactly how much time they need ("One day" = how many hours?)

And I'd be keen to hear about the price. My idea is to book the whole boat for my small group. At least, then we may have a small input on the driver's style and speed...

dommiek 13 Sep 2008 18:00

Take the slow boat
I was strongly advised by numerous people NOT to take a speed boat from Hua Xai to Luang Probang on the grounds of safety. I took the slow boat (2 days and one night) had a great time, met lots of good people and was able to take in all the scenery along the Mekong, have a beer etc.....
Whilst in LP i heard the day, that a speed boat hit a rock and the passengers spent the night in the jungle untill the next days slow boat picked them up. Take the advice of everyone else posting here.......


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