We arrived in Chang Rai as a stop over to get to Laos. ALl of the travel agents only had trips over the border into Laos via long tail boat which took 2 days. We wanted to go by bus as it doesnt take as long but apparently a worse journey, but we weighed our options up and decided to go by bus and do it alone instead of something organised through a travel agent.
We headed to the local bus station for the bus that takes you to the border for thailnd, Chang Khong. The bus took 3 hours and only cost avout 60pence, a few local people got on and off along the way and the bus kept stopping and leaving random parcels by the side of countryside roads or in the little villages we passed. Was a bit odd as they didnt have any writing on them to say who they were for, no idea what was in them. The end of the bus journey was on new roads that were being laid. We then had to get a tuk tuk to the actual border crossing by the Mekong River. We had our passports checked then got a wooden long tail boat to cross the Mekong river from thailand to laos....this took about 3 mins! On the boat was a family from laos, the parents lived in amercica and their son still lived in Laos and he was getting married. They were very friendly and offered us some food which they were eating, it looked like a garlic bulb that you peeled with a long stem. No idea what it is called but it was delicious, tasted across between a turnip and potatoe.
We got off the boat and were now in Laos! Immigration was just a little office where we had to fill out visa form out. We helped the Laos family fill there's out aswell as they either couldnt read english or basically didnt know what to do, so we filled about 4 of the visa forms for them. Passport control was just a little hut by the side of the road! that also sold bus and boat tickets haha.....this is when i realised laos was going to be very laid back!
we booked out bus ticket and headed for the bus station for the long overnight bus journey to Luang Prabang which was meant to be 12 hours (all overnight bus journeys seem to be 12 hours for some reason!). This turned out to be a nightmare journey! the bus was totally cramped and full with foreigners and locals and unfortunatly 5 very annoying loud essex girls! (luckily later on they got some valium and after taking a few they were sleeping). We were driving in the pitch black through the mountains stopping every so often for toilet breaks (yes behined the bus again!). It was a bit of an eventful bus journey as at one point there was a very loud bang then smell of burning rubber, we had a burst tyre which had to be changed and then also hit some kind of animal! The bus journey took a total of 15 hours!! From leaving Chang Rai to getting to Luang Prabang took 21 hours altogther! the longest journey yet!