Back on the boat, we were ready for the final stretch of our journey from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang. The sky to the north – and in front of us to the east – was picture-perfect for the ride. But, creeping over the top of the Buddha Cave karst was a dark, foreboding storm. For most of our trip, we had evaded rain only enduring a few, short passing showers. When we set sail from the caves, however, a black cloud was following us and there was no way to outrun the downpour.
Whipping wind blew huge drops of rain into both sides of the boat. We hauled bags away from the windows and positioned ourselves in the center of the boat for stability and the captain calmly steered us closer to shore. The fast-moving storm quickly diminished visibility; the mountains we saw so clearly a few minutes before were shrouded by a deluge of water.
The captain seemed unfazed by the sporadic weather; his entire life has been spent on the Mekong. Just as rapidly as the storm approached, it dissipated. And, a few minutes later as the captain docked the slow boat in Luang Prabang, the sun was shining again.
To take the cheap Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang Bus, you can find some details here, but it will be best to ask around for current schedules and information before you go.
It is possible with a little bit of effort to travel from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang via public bus and public slow boat, which costs less than a luxury slow boat cruise. The boat won’t make stops in villages or at the caves and there is no provided lunch. Your hotel can help arrange the specific details, but this postanswers some common questions about the public slow boat option.