Night Bus from Luang Prabang, Laos to Chiang Rai, Thailand – Asia Tour 2017

Sleeping Bus from Luang Prabang, Laos to Chang Rai, Thailand – the most comprehensive step by step guide, complete with pictures.

Following a short, busy, stay in Luang Prabang (read about it: What to see and do in Luang Prabang), we went to a roadside tour agency to investigate our transportation possibilities to Thailand.  After careful consideration and weighing the pros and cons, we decided we would lose the least time by taking the sleeping bus from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai. Almost all tour agencies sell the tickets; we paid 270,000 kip per person (USD$32.75). After some intense questioning, and the sales lady getting irritated with us, she presented pictures of a bus with single “bunk beds”, slightly rough looking, but we figured we should be able to sleep.  She frustrated and angrily reconfirmed this was the sleeping bus we would travel on.

Bus Station in Luang Prabang, Laos
Bus Station in Luang Prabang, Laos

The Schedule / How it works:
– Bus leaves to Chang Rai, Thailand Tuesday and Friday
– You are issued a ticket
– You must be at the “mini bus” station by 5:30pm (our tuk tuk cost 15,000 kip per person (USD$1.85))
– Go to counter with your voucher and check in. Here you are issued a real ticket, along with your bus number
– when bus door opens, you are ushered to your seat (?unbeknownst to us, we received a seat number when we checked in)
– Bus Leaves at 6 pm (6:10 pm in our case)
– a helper hands out a package at the start of the trip; water, cake, crackers and drinking box, plus a garbage bag (for garbage or vomit?)
– a blanket is draped over each seat for your use
– trip is supposed to take 17 hours total – ETA 11 am

‼️Reality Shock:‼️ It was NOT a sleeping bus with beds, rather a bus with reclining seats, however, the seats were big and fairly comfortable - at the beginning, not so much by the end.?
The Night Bus from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai
The Night Bus from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai

They kept the bus fairly cool, so make sure you have a sweater along.  Luggage is stored underneath the bus, and there is overhead space for a small backpack.  Our bus was full.

There is no wifi.  There are no lights for reading a book.

Our 1st stop was at 8:45 pm for 15 minutes. Everyone stumbled sleepily off the bus, so I guess I am not the only one who had managed to fall asleep. Toilets here were disgustingly dirty and there is never any soap – be sure to have tissues and hand sanitizer along.  We bought 2 apples and some peanut brittle for 19,000 kip (USD$2.30) and crawled through the ditch back onto the bus. I cut my foot open on a bottle in the ditch. Was this a forewarning of bad things to come? Note to self: be careful of the garbage laying around.

Inside of the Night Bus from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai
Inside of the Night Bus from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai – not what we were promised!

Next stop was at 12:20 am – I briefly woke up and glimpsed out the window; everything was pitch black, so I guess it was a smoke and washroom stretch break. By 12:23 we were on our way again. When the driver stops the bus, lights are turned on, and left on until the bus leaves again.  What I thought originally, to be comfortable seats, quickly became a nightmare; perhaps great for a trip of a few hours, but unpleasant to say the least for a night trip and almost impossible to sleep (nap yes, sleep no).

More stops were made at 1:52 am and 3:00 am (?just so males could relieve themselves in the ditch) and finally again at 5:45 am.  By this time I had to pee so bad, but the washrooms were all locked. Finally, after a lot of jumping around a lady came and opened them. We parked and didn’t leave again until 7:34 am, I am going to assume they were waiting for the border to open.

Early Morning Night Bus Arrival at the Border of Thailand and Laos - (Laos Side)
Early Morning Night Bus Arrival at the Border of Thailand and Laos – (Laos Side)
?Tip: make sure you have mosquito spray along. The door was opened and the bus was turned off leaving us wide open for the dawn mosquito attack!

The border came into view at 7:42 am.  Everybody hopped off the bus and got in line to present our passports to the Laos exit authorities.  You must pay either USD$1 or 10,000 kip to exit, (I think only during off hours or weekends), get your passport exit stamped and re-meet the bus on the other side.

Departure Passport Control, Laos Thai Border on the Night Bus, Laos Side
Departure Passport Control at the Laos Thai Border; Night Bus (Laos Side)
Passport Border Control - Night Bus from Laos to Thailand (Laos Side)
Passport Border Control – Night Bus from Laos to Thailand (Laos Side)

To the left is the shuttle bus counter; at this point, if you need a shuttle you pay for where you want to go. To Chiang Khong (the Thai Border office, because you are not allowed to walk) is 25 baht (USD$0.75) or alternatively to Chiang Rai is 225 baht (USD$6.50).

Shuttle Bus Ticket Sales - Laos Thai Border
Shuttle Bus Ticket Sales – Laos Thai Border

It was included in our ticket, so we hopped back on the bus and within a few minutes it was crossing the Friendship Bridge over the Mekong river to the Thailand border side where we exited the bus once more at to be processed by immigration. Everyone was instructed to take their luggage with them.

Thailand Border - Night Bus from Laos
Thailand Border – Night Bus from Laos

You are given immigration papers to fill out and then you proceed to the Thai customs booth to get entry approval, after which you get your luggage scanned and then you have finally arrived in Thailand.

Humorous Health Sign Inside the Thailand Customs Building
Humorous Health Sign Inside the Thailand Customs Building
Passport Control at the Thailand Border - Arrival by Night Bus from Laos
Passport Control at the Thailand Border – Arrival by Night Bus from Laos
 ?FYI: On the right hand side is an ATM machine so you can easily pick up Thai baht before going any further. Also in a separate building on the right are fairly clean washrooms.

The bus was on the road again by 8:37 AM making the total time to cross the border 56 minutes with a cost of 10,000 kip (USD$1).  For those who are not getting back on the bus / have purchased transport to Chiang Rai, the shuttles are waiting on the right hand side.

Border Shuttle Truck To / From Chiang Rai, Thailand
Border Shuttle Truck To / From Chiang Rai, Thailand

Next stop: Chang Rai, which says is 2 hours – and so it was, almost to the minute.

Mr. Manat, Our Trusty Tuk Tuk Driver - Chiang Rai
Mr. Manat, Our Trusty Tuk Tuk Driver – Chiang Rai
 Worth saying:?our bus driver was amazing. His eyes never left the road and he was constantly scanning and using his mirrors. It felt very safe.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot – The ride was boring and uneventful (thank goodness); I can’t even brag about the wonderful countryside scenery as it was too dark to see anything. Simply winding, twisting and bumping along through the dark with an occasional light sleep in between. But let me tell you about the time the pirates… ?

Links of Possible Interest:
→ Chiang Rai / Photos
.….⇒ Stay: Baan Siri Hotel
…..⇒ Eat: Baan Chivit Mai Bakery & Restaurant
…..⇒ Eat: Lumdee Cafe Restaurant
…..⇒ Eat: Sawaddee Restaurant
…..⇒ Top Things to See and Do in Chiang Rai
…..⇒ Temple Challenge – are you up for it? Fun!

Buddha Park, Laos – Asia Travel 2017

Buddha Park, Vientiane, Laos and How to Get There by Bus, Cheap!

So we decided to take the Vientiane Bus to Buddha Park because, well, it’s cheap. We had read online that some people did it, therefore, how hard could it be?  Well, it wasn’t easy, but it will be for you if you decide to go, because I have documented each step and as long as nothing changes, this can be your fool proof guide!? Photos

Four Armed Lady, Prayer and Offerings - Buddha Park, Vientiane, Laos
Four Armed Lady, Prayer and Offerings

First, get yourself to the Vientiane Center; this place was a shock to us. Everything in Laos seems so not advanced and then here, amongst the dust and dirt was this beautiful oasis of a shopping mall.  Leave yourself some time to explore this monster if you are in need of shopping or just some air conditioned relief.  We walked from our hotel, so it wasn’t too far from the town centre / hotel district.

Vientiane Center, Shopping Mall - Laos
Vientiane Center, Shopping Mall

Beside the mall, you will see the bus station – this is NOT where the bus leaves from, but it is the general area. Turn right towards the street market, watching the side streets on the left. Hopefully, you will spot a big bus with the display panel lights (above the windshield) advertising Buddha Park #14 – ask to make sure and get on to this wonderful air conditioned transport. Warning ⚠️: People lie – they give wrong directions, say there is no bus and try to sell tuk tuk and taxi services.

Public Bus Arrival at Buddha Park - Vientiane, Laos
Public Bus Arrival at Buddha Park

Our bus left at 12:40pm, FULL; not sure if they waited until it was full to leave or if it actually leaves at a scheduled time. The back row of the bus was completely taken by Monks; cool sight.  Don’t worry about paying yet, it will happen later, either with a collector or when you leave.

If you have data on your smartphone, you can load the Lao Bus Navi and map. Here, you can see the bus route, click on it to confirm the price, or choose other routes!? This is advertised on the bus, a little late for our purposes, but lucky you, I wrote it down.

On arrival, we exited the front door, like everybody else, and paid the driver 6,000 kip per person (USD$0.73)? one way; entrance to Buddha Park was free. FYI: Our bus took 1 hour for the trip, but most certainly it varies as the bus makes many stops. I think, based on observing, you can flag it down anywhere along the route.

Buddha Park from the Top of the Pumpkin - Vientiane, Laos
Buddha Park from the Top of the Pumpkin

We spent a leisurely 1.5 hours in the park. ?Tip: take a lunch & do not forget water! There are a few stores and a restaurant there, but we did not purchase anything, so I cannot tell you how the prices were.  You catch the bus back to Vientiane on opposite side of the road . Last bus is at 4:45pm.

Local Bus to Buddha Park - Vientiane, Laos
Local Bus to Buddha Park

This time, a money collector came through and collected the bus fare money, another 6,000 kip.  ?Note: Make sure they do not rip you off – they will try; either have the exact amount or make sure you get your proper change back!

For more photos of the mystical Buddha Park, click here.

Q & A:
Q. Should I go to Buddha Park / Is it worth it?
A. Definitely! How often will you see so many Buddhas in one place?
Q. How long does it take to get to Buddha Park?
A. Our bus took one hour. It varies depending on how many stops the bus makes.
Q. How much does the bus to Buddha Park cost?
A. It cost us 6000 kip each
Q. How much is the entrance fee to Buddha Park?
A. I have seen all kinds of different prices on the internet, but there was no charge when we arrived… maybe only in the morning, I don’t know. For us it was free.
Q. Is there somewhere to eat at Buddha Park?
A. Yes, there is a restaurant, as well as a souvenir store.
Q. How much time will I need at the Park?
A. I think 2 hours should be generously more than enough, unless you plan on having a picnic!
Q. What time is the last bus back to Vientiane, Laos?
A. The last bus is at 4:45 pm.

Please use the comments section below if you have further suggestions, questions or tips as well as any changes in the above info.  Thanks!

Ancient Capital, Luang Prabang, Laos | Asia Tour 2017

Destination Luang Prabang, the little city in the limestone mountains of Laos, boasting the reverent Alms Giving Ceremony of the monks, the incredibly beautiful Kuang Si Falls, Temples and quaint cafe lined cobblestone side streets waiting to be explored.

We took the 9am VIP bus from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang for 80,000 kip (approx. €9) per person. Read about our transfer experience and how to HERE.

Street Old Quarter - Luang Prabang
Street Old Quarter

We arrived at Villa Aphay and negotiated a high price of 172,000 kip (USD$21.25 per day) for the “big” supposedly last room left. ?If you are in 3, the price looks a whole lot better! It had a king size bed as well as a single bed. The older man running it is a little creepy – he asked me several times if I was married to my husband then said my husband is too young for me ??. When you leave the hotel, he makes you leave the key behind in a basket. Heading out the room door it says to turn the lights off when you go out, so we turned all the lights out but left the fan on to try to keep the air a little cooler (no air conditioning at our price). When we came back the fan was off, so we know he came into our room while we were gone.? The room itself was very clean, the bathroom, as usual in Laos, was not so clean.

Our Cabin at Riverside Garden Bungalows - Vang Vieng, Laos
Our Cabin at Riverside Garden Bungalows

We showered and headed to Canadian ? themed Utopia, a tip from our Korean friends. Nice groove, great music, soft lighting and a back garden overlooking the river.  Ordered a large Beerlao and a Somersby cider with a pizza to share as an appetizer. Pizza was American style thick crust, not our thing, but maybe yours; flat flavour – after a few bites, we set it aside. Then we ordered chicken poppers and loaded fries, also to share and again, they failed to impress. I think, if we come back for a second chance, we will stick to drinking only. Our bill was a whopping 186,000 kip (USD$23.00) – ?our most expensive meal in Laos.

Utopia Pizza - Luang Prabang, Laos
Utopia Pizza – FAIL!

At 6:00am the following morning, we headed to the Main Street to observe the Alms Giving Ceremony of the Monks. It was a wonderful, humbling experience to watch the monk procession. There were quite a few people there, many disrespecting the etiquette/ courtesy rules of the ceremony.

Mekong by Morning Light - Luang Prabang, Laos
Mekong by early Morning Light

Note Ceremony Etiquette: Be there BEFORE the monks arrive. Do not intrude in the ceremony in any way, keep a distance. No flash on cameras. Do not follow the procession. Ladies cover shoulders and knees, keep head lower than monk (I sat in crouching position).

Monks Alms Giving Ceremony - Luang Prabang, Laos
Monks – Alms Giving Ceremony

On our way back, we bought 2 fried bananas for 2,000 kip (USD$0.25) – delicious! Definitely try this.

Visoun Restaurant was our breakfast choice as not many places are open this early in the morning.  We ordered 2 iced coffees and one chicken sandwich; the sandwich arrived after 15 minutes, and you guessed it, no coffee ?. We were supposed to leave with our friends at 8:30, so we gave up on the coffee, paid for the sandwich and left.

Swimming at Kuang Si Falls - Luang Prabang, Laos
Swimming at Kuang Si Falls

Our group of 7 took a tuk tuk for 30,000 per person (USD$3.70) to Kuang Si Falls; a 20,000 kip (USD$2.50) entrance fee included the Bear rescue centre, Tat Kuang Si. I have mixed feelings regarding the bear sanctuary, really in the end you are swapping one cage for another?!?

Three Bears - Luang Prabang Bear Sanctuary, Laos
Three Bears – Luang Prabang Bear Sanctuary

The falls are a picture paradise. There are a few areas where you can swim, so bring your swimsuit. You can hike to the top, but it is slippery and sometimes steep, so make sure you have sturdy shoes along. I climbed halfway before making the precarious journey back down. All I could think is “if I fall, there are NO hospitals around“.?

People Enjoy Kuang Si Falls - Luang Prabang, Laos
People Enjoy Kuang Si Falls

We ate at Aliya Restaurant on the market street leaving the falls. Prices are fair whether you are beside the falls or just outside in the market street.  Our order was chicken, fried rice, chicken noodles, spring rolls and a large Beerlao; received the beer, noodles and spring rolls ?! Delicious and it was good they didn’t bring our complete order as we were full! 69,000 kip (USD$8.50)

Lunch at Aliya Restaurant - Luang Prabang, Laos
Lunch at Aliya Restaurant

Arrived safely back in town and went to a bar for an Iced coffee and a Somersby cider. Waiter brought a Heineken and an iced coffee? which was promptly corrected. Starting to see a pattern here…

Group Fun in the Tuk Tuk - Laos
Group Fun in the Tuk Tuk – Laos

Second chance at Utopia, where we met up with friends. Ordered 2 beer, 1 7up and a glass with ice for the 7up; our waiter set our drinks on the table along with a bucket of ice. I took two ice pieces for my soda, and later we were charged for a bucket of ice ⁉️ !!!!!! Several people who were sitting with and around us promptly came to our defence and although the staff demanded payment for the ice, we only paid for our drinks and walked out.?

The evening found us walking to and through the night market. Unremarkably similar to all Asian night markets; lots of food stalls, crafts and clothing.  Rather than eating at the market, we strolled to the waterfront where we had a dinner of spring rolls and pad thai washed down with Beerlao at restaurant Lamache.

Backpackers Enjoy the Night Market Food - Luang Prabang, Laos
Backpackers Enjoy the Night Market Food

As is always the case, on our last full day, we discovered the Bamboo RestaurantDO eat here! It is a cute, clean and relaxing place with great prices as well as very tasty food located almost in front of Wat Visoun.  The huge portions of chicken fried rice with egg, Pad Kee Mao, mixed fruit shake and Iced coffee came to a grand total of 50,000 kip (USD$6.15)!

Pad Kee Mow, Bamboo Restaurant - Luang Prabang, Laos
Pad Kee Mao, Bamboo Restaurant

Our last day found us rushing to visit the sites which we hadn’t had the time to visit before.  Our first stop was the 100 meter climb up the sacred Mount Phousi, home to the Wat Tham Phou Si, around half way up, and the Wat Chom Si (Phousi Stupa) on the highest peak.  The views are incredible; from the top peak you have views of the city, the Mekong River and the Nam Khan River.

Hazy View from Phousi Mountain - Luang Prabang
Hazy View from Mount Phousi

We headed back down the mountain on the opposite side, which led to the picturesque Old Quarter of Luang Prabang. The Ha Pha Bang Temple, which is conveniently located at the Royal Museum was the first building to greet our eyes on the way down.  I really appreciated the simple beauty of this specific temple.

Haw Pha Bang Temple - Luang Prabang, Laos
Haw Pha Bang Temple

Lunch found us with friends back at the Bamboo restaurant where we feasted on a huge bowl of Tom yum Luang Prabang Soup, a dish of Pad Kee Mow, the Chicken Fried Rice with an egg on top, Beerlao and fresh squeezed lemonade.  This time our total came to 78,000 (USD$9.65). Knowing we would be travelling all night, it was worth filling up. ?

Still having some time to kill, we went across the road to the Wat Aham Temple, Wat Visoun Narat, and Wat Wisunalat.

Wat Wisunalat - Luang Prabang, Laos
Wat Wisunalat

Our friends graciously offered us their room to shower and change before sadly saying our goodbyes. Thanks again guys!!!  A tuk tuk for 30,000 kip (USD$3.70) took us to the mini bus station where we were to meet our booked night bus to Chiang Rai, Thailand! Bus ticket: 270,000 kip per person (USD$33.50).

Read HOW to take the night bus from Luang Prabang, Laos to Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Visit our Luang Prabang Photo Album Here!

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Costs for 3 nights, 2 persons:
 Transportations: USD$11.10  Excluding transportation to and out of Luang Prabang
 Entertainment / Excursions: USD$5
 Lodging: USD$63.75
 Food and Drink: USD$52
 Laundry: USD$3.70 (3 kg)

Total Cost: (2 persons):  USD$135 or $45 per day

Bus Transfer from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang

Step by Step Experience report on how to transfer from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang with Bus.

After lots of questions, and promises, we booked the 9 am VIP bus transfer from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang for 80,000 kip (approx. €9; USD$10) per person. Pictures were shown of a huge coach bus with reclining seats and a washroom along with reassurances of VIP comfort. The sales lady actually got a little angry at the fact that we were not trusting her!

Incredible View of a River - Laos
Beautiful View of a River

They lied!  We were picked up late and driven to the “bus”.  The “station” was 15 minutes out of town, basically in the middle of nowhere. Our VIP transport was a crappy little bus which was already packed full, leaving us the middle jump seat and a wheel well bump seat. Due to the location, we had little choice but to bite our tongue and sit down.  We later discovered everyone on the bus had paid different prices and booked anything from van to bus to VIP bus and told it would take anywhere from 4 hours to 8 hours.

The Bus, complete with Motorcycle on top - Laos
The Bus, complete with Motorcycle on top

Our first stop, for 1/2 hour, was at 11:30 am.  You could, if you chose to, buy something to eat, go to the washroom and stretch your legs. I definitely needed to stretch my legs, as they were stuck in my neck from the cramped position on the bump.  After double relief, we reluctantly crawled back onto the bus as the driver started beeping the horn, signalling time to leave.

Washroom Break - Laos
Washroom Break – EEK!

The bus slowly snaked it’s way up, down and twisting around the mountains, as too many fellow passengers slept and watched movies, oblivious to the beauty around them.  I caught myself holding my breath every time we passed a slower moving truck, gasping in awe at the incredible, breathtaking scenery. Tiny villages built on stilts perched precariously on the sides of the mountains, kids walking and riding bicycles carelessly on the side of the narrow road, dust and dirt mixing with the occasional nauseating smell of tar where road sections were being repaired. Bumping, grinding, winding up, down and around the mountains. Not a place for those with motion sickness!

Countryside Village - Laos
Countryside Village

The next stop was at 2:45 pm at some questionable place which demanded 2,000 kip (.25 cents) for the very disgustingly dirty toilet. We bought 2 sandwiches for 30,000 (15,000 each / USD$1.75) and the bus hit the road again by 3 pm.  The driver informed us (or so we all thought) it would take about 2 more hours.

Vegetable Farm - Laos
Vegetable Farm

Pretty much as forecasted by the driver, we arrived in Luang Prabang at 5:30 pm. We negotiated 20,000 kip (USD$2.50) per person (pre-pay) with a local for a tuk tuk to town, and were subsequently led to our transportation which was filled with people and were off. In retrospect, we should have walked out the gates where there were a lot of tuk tuks and we probably could have gotten a much better price – live and learn. Hind sight is fore sight!

Kids by the Road in Laos - Black and White
Kids by the Road in Laos

?Tip: several people told us there is no VIP bus, so keep that in mind

More Photos! (Click)
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After note:  We bumped into pack friends later who had taken the mini van. They said it took 4 hours, but almost everyone was sick... they felt it was the combination of windy, bumpy & fast = sick?!


Photos | Bus Trip from Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, Laos

The bus from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang, Laos slowly snaked it’s way up, down and twisting around the mountains, as too many fellow passengers slept and watched movies, oblivious to the beauty around them.  I caught myself holding my breath every time we passed a slower moving truck, gasping in awe at the incredible, breathtaking scenery. Tiny villages built on stilts perched precariously on the sides of the mountains, kids walking and riding bicycles carelessly on the side of the narrow road, dust and dirt mixing with the occasional nauseating smell of tar where road sections were being repaired.

Check out our other Asia Travels!

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