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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

There are 3 main options for getting from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai, where the Gibbon Experience is located. You can taken a bus, the fast boat, or the slow boat. I had been traveling almost exclusively by bus for the better part of two months, including all of my transport in Laos. Fast boats take just 6 hours and are known to have accidents, while slow boats take 2 days and cost half of the price of the fast boats. I had given myself a enough of a buffer where I could take the slow boat and make it to Huay Xai in time for my date with the gibbons, so I went for it.
The slow boat leaves Luang Prabang at 8:30 am daily and tickets can be purchased at the dock for $7.50. I checked several travel forums online and read horror stories of overpacked boats and very uncomfortable wooden seats. It is generally less busy going north as I did rather than south as the vast majority of travelers do and July is not high season. My boat had comfortable seats taken from either busses or minivans and there was plenty of room to lay down and nap. The ride itself was scenic and relaxing.
We reached the halfway point, Pakbeng a little after 6 pm. The boat docked and we spent the night there. Pakbeng is a small town consisting of one main street lined with restaurants and guesthouses. Most people stay for just one night like I did. The electricity is spotty and there were a few hours of blackout in the short time I was there. I had some cheap, decent Indian food and stayed at an inexpensive guesthouse that was fine for my needs. People in town try to sell you drugs constantly, especially if you have long hair and a beard. The town shuts down entirely by 10pm, which is unfortunate as I was having a wonderful time with a group of Germans that were headed south and alternated calling me Jesus or Leonidas. There is a big sandwich industry in Pakbeng because of the boats. Travelers need to take food with them for the 9 hour plus boat ride and baguette sandwiches are the most popular item.
The boat from Pakbeng to Huay Xai was also $7.50, left at 8:30 am, and arrived a little after 5 pm. I really enjoyed my time on the boats. It gave me time to relax and reflect on what an incredible trip this has been. I’m very happy I chose to take the slow boat and think it’s the best option for traveling between Luang Prabang and Huay Xai.

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