Just wanted to write to let people know about my day has I know from my experience that for people that are traveling for the first time this can be very stressful. Especially reading other peoples stories while getting ready to make your own .
I am currently writing this in my clean room with electricity,hot water and wifi in pakbeng, if this is the whole of Laos then I can't wait to see the beautiful parts.
Firstly I would like to rehiterate you do not need to book anything prior to the slow boat everything is easy enough, don't let any bucket shops scare you into booking with them promising you special badges to get you through custom, and that if you miss the boat you'll have to pay twice etc
It all down to opinion but this is what I think is the best way.
Get the public bus to chiang khong, we went to chiang rai before so it cost us 65 baht from chiang rai. The previous bus from chiang Mai to chiang rai was 185baht,
From there you have 2 choices stay the night in chiang khong or cross the border depending on the time ( border closes at 6pm).
We opted to stay in chiang khong then got up extra early to go to the bridge cost us 100baht in a taxi.
The earlier you get up the less stress you will have we got to the bridge at 7.15 and was on the first bus over. Make sure you get your bus ticket from the front desk 25baht.
Once across the bridge Laos immigration does open till 8 but it's more like 8.30 (like Greece) so if you ask nicely while it's quiet early you can get your papers from passport control and get them ready.
Stand to the left window where you give your passport in then move to the right window to get your visa pay and get your passport back.
Then that it your through to the amazing country of Laos.
Sounds easy well it was for us. Biggest tip make sure you get up nice and early.
Once on the other side we jumped a taxi to the pier and paid our ticket 900baht again got good seat as we were early had a bit of breaky at the cafe and were off about 1.5hours late (I can see a recurring theme here) at around 12.30.
The boat is such a mix of ages, nationalities and cultures enjoying this while winding down the Mekong is a day that will stay with me forever, but make sure you buy some beer in cause they run out with us today.
The price of a beer is £1.50 on our boat throughout the day never went up like some people have experienced????
We arrived in Pakbang around six and after reading every ones posts I was pumped up and ready to tell the locals ' I didn't want a room, weed, coke, ampet, mushrooms and to stay away from my bag'.
But it was nothing like this I didn't feel uneasy once nobody offered to carry my bag and only one guy offered me a room I was expecting them flying at me like piranha.
We walked up found a guest house £9 a night and went for food, and oh my god what food it was. Make sure you eat in the Indian here and go early to make sure you get a table it's mega.
So there it is, my day most importantly don't waste all that money buying the trip it is easy enough and a lot cheaper, don't believe all the negative comments you read on line and make sure you eat at the Indian. Also they take dollars and baht here
For people following on through Laos I hope this helps and makes you fell easier about your up coming experience. There nothing to worry about be happy!!