Finally, it was a time to cross the border with Thailand and start our adventure in the last country on our list during this trip. We knew that it’s not possible to take a bus in one go from Nong Khiaw to the border with Thailand, 400km further. Therefore, we took a minivan to Luang Namtha and from there, with the help of a travel agency, we crossed the border in one day, finally arriving in Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. More details further in the post.
Luang Namtha didn’t look like particularly interesting town but we just decided to stay there 1 day and not rush too much to the next place. We didn’t book anything in advance and after 1 hour of walk we ended up in the guesthouse, just in front of the entrance to the night market (very basic market). The next day we rented mountain bikes and cycled to the surrounding villages, making a loop of 27km around the city, see map below. We saw a local temple, Samakkhixay Stupa, people working on the fields, a school full of kids, animals running everywhere. It was very quiet, we observed everyday life of the local community and had a nice dinner afterwards at Lai’s Place. It always a nice feeling when kids are greetings us everywhere really loud and run after our bikes with their big smiles :)
There were two options for crossing the border with Thailand, do this on our own or with the help of travel agency. The first option means taking a bus to Huay Xai, then a tuk-tuk to the Friendship Bridge, crossing the bridge with another bus, another tuk-tuk to Chiang Khong, (probably spend a night there) and take a local bus to Chiang Rai. We couldn’t find the bus schedule from Chiang Khong to Chiang Rai and actually wanted to get to Chiang Rai as fast as possible. So we decided to purchase a combined ticket from one of the travel agencies. All in all it was very smooth ride, tuk-tuk drivers were waiting for us, everything was well organised, we didn’t have to wait very long between switching between different transport modes. Crossing the border itself was also very easy, no corruption, no extra fees, nice! :D
We arrived at the bus station in Chiang Rai just after 5pm. Where we were very happy to discover that the hostel we booked was located nearby be as well as a night market which turned out to be very nice place for the evening walks!
Of course if you do everything by yourself it’s likely going to be a half the price for the tickets and it might be possible to do this in one day as well if you are lucky. You would have to start with an early bus to Huay Xai at 8.30am, after around 4.5h of drive you are at your destination. We noticed the prices of some tickets, e.g. local bus from Chiang Khong to Chiang Rai was 120BTH (4$), tuk-tuk to the bridge 40BTH and bus crossing the bridge was again 40BTH. While getting on the local bus to Chiang Rai, we saw a schedule of the buses and they also operate in the afternoons.
- minivan to Luang Namtha from Nong Khiaw - 6.5h, 70k KIP per person
- crossing the border with Thailand with the assistance of travel agency (Gat Way Tour travel agency) - 200k KIP per person
- tuk-tuk from bus station to city center of Nong Khiaw - 15k KIP per person (8km)
- renting a mountain bike - 20k KIP per person,
- lunch/dinner - 50k-70k KIP for both of us, we recommend Lai’s Place Restaurant
- guesthouse - 60k KIP per night
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