Boat→Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang in Laos is like what we thought Chiang Mai would be like — beautiful, lush, and green without a lot of traffic, just touristy enough yet still charming. The riverside is just gorgeous! Also, it always seems to smell of flowers. Someone told us it's what Chiang Mai used to be like 30 years ago, which is a little sad. Luang Prabang is slightly more expensive than Chiang Mai, but still reasonable. Definitely worth the trip!

1800 baht
3-day by slow boat was the option we took

2500 baht
2-day by speed boat

We did see slightly cheaper prices around town. You can also take an 1-day bus ( 1500 baht ). The speedboat is much smaller and you might have to wear a helmet. We opted for the slow boat and it was a very nice journey.

What to bring :

water & snacks for the car ride
tissue for the toilet
soap & shampoo for the 2-night stay
small change
    since sometimes toilet charge 10 baht
* backpack instead of suitcase =
    much easier to lug around
1 photo: get 6 in Chiang Mai for 100 baht
$40 USD for the Laos visa
5 baht for Thai Immigration
1 USD or 10,000 Lao kip for Lao Immigration
    if you're passing the border on the weekend
Lao kip, although places will accept baht at
    1 baht = 250 kip

D A Y   1

We were picked up by a air-conditioned minibus a little after 10 am. It was pretty cool & comfortable as you can recline the seat back a bit. The minibus took us first out of Chiang Mai, then through windy mountain roads followed by small towns with rice paddies with a hilly backdrop. After driving for just under 3 hours, we arrived at the White Temple ( Wat Rong Khun ), which was built in 1997, 13 km away from the city of Chiang Rai. We were supposed to stop for lunch, but the driver didn't do so for some reason. That's why it's good to bring some water and snacks, just in case.
We spent 30 minutes at the White Temple, just enough time to walk around this gorgeous temple! Inside the temple itself, there were only a few small Buddha statues, along with characters from the Matrix, Kungfu Panda, Batman, and some satellites painted on the wall. A bit odd.
We continued driving for another 2 hours, through windy, bumpy country roads. Quite beautiful green scenery! At around 3 pm, we arrived at Chiang Khong, in the northeast of Chiang Rai Province.

We were taken to Namkhong Resort, a surprisingly nice guesthouse with beautiful wooden buildings and a really pretty garden. In the room, there's a mosquito net over the bed and an oscillating fan blowing directly at the bed, although it's actually pretty chilly at night.

Hot shower rooms and western bathrooms are available — some people even got an ensuite bathroom. Wifi's not the fastest but works. You can pay an extra 50 baht to use the pool and they sell cocktails at 79 baht each.

There's a 7-11 right across the street from the main road out front, a good place to grab some snacks and water as they're at least twice as expensive on the boat.

After checking in, we were told to fill out a visa application form for Laos, along with 1 photo and $40 USD, regardless of nationality. With the visa done, we were able to avoid the long line at immigration before boarding the boat. The guy at reception collected our passports and said he would process it for us so the visa would be ready the next morning, and it was. Phew.
It's only a few minutes to walk down the road to Mekong River. The beautiful riverside is lined with guesthouses but it's very quiet. Chiang Khong was what we had expected Chiang Mai to be like, beautifully green peaceful countryside yet with lots of restaurants around. We walked around until it was time for dinner.
Dinner was included, a self-serve meal at 6:30 pm : rice with 3 dishes of vegetables, curry, and noodles. Pretty good.
D A Y   2   &   3