Around the World in 181 Days

It has been a while since I have written anything on this blog, a combination of writer’s block and an ever increasing backlog of things to possibly write about, which led instead to an effective abandonment of this site.

In my last post I was arriving in Northern Thailand from Laos after a two day river boat journey.

Since then there are countless things I could dedicate entire posts to; I have enjoyed the highlights of Chiang Mai, experienced a sleeper train to Bangkok (which included my first ever shower on a train), had sensory overload in Bangkok, been amazed by the beauty of Singapore, seen paradise in Indonesia, ticked off an item on my bucket list in Malaysia and finally returned to cold reality in Europe!

(click to zoom)

Back in June when I left on this incredible journey I had a vague idea of where I would like to go, but I could never have predicted the opportunities I would have, the extraordinary people I would meet, the spectacular sights I would see and the emotional impact it would all have on me.

Returning to the UK has been a mental shock to the system. Not least of which being the grey skies and cold weather!

It is a surreal feeling of being home but also not quite belonging.

As the map above shows there is a whole world out there and, despite my best efforts this year, there is a huge amount of it still to see.

I have tried to reduce the wanderlust feeling by cooking food from the places I loved. Although I think my attempts at Cambodian curry and Thai soup have only increased my desire to return and have the real thing.

I am not sure what the next step is for me. I am still trying to figure out if it is time to settle back into a routine at home or whether I should immediately find my way out the country again to continue exploring.

I fear my escape from custody may simply have been a release on bail.

Whatever happens next though, nothing will take away from the memories and connections that have been made over the last 6 months as I have travelled through 15 countries over 3 continents (or 4 depending on whether you count Indonesia in Australasia).

To anyone who has read or followed my travels on here on Instagram and has not yet been to South East Asia I hope my trip has inspired you. It is impossible to truly explain the experience and all I can do is to loudly repeat the unmissable opportunities such as breathtaking scenery, exceptionally friendly locals, ridiculously cheap prices and a whole community of fellow travellers who will support, encourage and improve the experience.

I cannot overstate the importance of those I met along the way. Including those from home I had the pleasure of meeting whilst away!

To those who kept me smiling and provided the enthusiasm to continue on during the bad days, those who made the mundane attractions special and turned average places into incredible memories, and to those who inspired me on where and how to travel.

There are too many to name but I hope you all know who you are and how much you mean to me.

If anyone has suggestions on where the next adventure should be all ideas are welcome!

The final stats in miles for this escape are:

Plane – 26,334
Car – 12,442
Bus/Taxi/TukTuk – 2,214
Motorbike – 1,259
Train/Subway – 809
Walk – 430
Boat – 323
Bicycle – 72

Total miles travelled: 43,883

Swimming miles not counted

Slow boat to Thailand from Laos – Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai, or Chiang Rai, on the Mekong River

There are many articles giving advice on how to travel from Thailand to Laos by slow boat but very few cover going the other way so I decided to write this short piece to help those who, like me, chose to do things backwards!

Mekong River from a slow boat

If the idea of paying over £100 for a flight, or sitting in a small sleeper bus designed for Asian-sized people for 16+ hours, doesn’t appeal then there is a cheaper, more comfortable and hopefully more enjoyable way to travel between Luang Prabang and northern Thailand, particularly Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai.

Every day a small fleet of boats travel along the Mekong River shuttling tourists and locals between towns and countries, and it is easier than you think to hop on board and relax as you float along the river passing between mountains and jungles whilst seeing a small part of local Laos life.

The trip involves two days on a slow boat, with an overnight stop on land on Day 1, before arriving at the Thai/Laos border in the evening of Day 2..

Once you’ve crossed the border you can either carry on by private transport (more on this later) or spend the night and catch a bus in the morning to your final stop.

The boats cost 110,000KIP each day and you can either book ahead with your hostel or tour company for a little extra, typical costs between 275-300,000 KIP (around £25 or $33 at time of writing) including hostel tuktuk pickup and transfer to the pier on the first day, or make your own way to the slow boat pier which is 5km out the city and get your ticket on the day.

In high season, or for those who like an easier life, I’d advise to book with someone before hand. It only adds 50-70,000 KIP (about £5) to the price and you get the guarantee of someone picking you and your luggage up from the hostel, taking you to the right place, tickets for the boats on both days and instructions on which boat to get on.

A private tuktuk will set you back around this anyway but you can save a few KIP if you’re on an extreme budget!

I am told that the pier used to be in the city centre but it was moved away to allow tuktuk drivers to make more money, I don’t know how true that is but it wouldn’t surprise me!

I stayed at the Chitlatda Central Bila House in Luang Prabang and they offered the slow boat ticket, including transfer, for 275,000 which was the cheapest price I saw.

Note you’ll see it advertised as slow boat to Huay Xai, this is the Laos border town which the boats will take you to. You then need to arrange your own onward transfer to your Thai destination but this is covered later in the article.

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