For most, traveling by slow boat from the Thai/Laos border to Luang Prabang is not to be missed.
However, by doing this you are possibly missing one of the best adventures in Laos - heading up the Nam Tha in a long tail boat!
From Huay Xai (at the Thai/Laos border) you can take public transport to Luang Nam Tha, taking around 6 hours, but that's the boring way.
For real adventure, I recommend taking a 2-day trip via a small boat from the border to Na Le, and then continuing to Luang Nam Tha via local transport. This trip can also be reversed.
Regularly scheduled trips do not run up the Nam Tha. Instead, you will have to charter a boat, or go through a tour operator, which will be more expensive. Green Discovery, a reputable Laos tour company, can charter a boat on your behalf. If you choose to do it independently the best way is to go to the boatmen directly. The price is not set, so you will have to negotiate. On average though, there is a maximum capacity of 6 people/boat, and the total cost to hire the boat will be approximately 150 Euros/boat.
Accommodation is at the boatman's house, in a village enroute. Dinner should also be provided. Upon arrival, there are 2 guesthouses in Na Le, offering food and accommodation at very reasonable prices. The village and surrounding area is well worth staying a few days to explore a relatively untouched part of the country. From Na Le, it is easy and cheap to find a truck or 'taxi' to Luang Nam Tha.
For many Laotians, life exists and revolves around the vast river systems winding their way through the country, and in many villages, roads do not exist.
Exploring Laos on the river, is simply, the best way to discover Laos.
For more information, visit www.theboatlanding.com
or message me. I'd be happy to help.
Written and contributed by Tossed Sallard