Pakbeng is a village in northern Laos located along the Mekong. It is the stop for all slow boats travelling between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang, and is mainly a transit place for most visitors. The one main road is filled with guesthouses, shops and restaurants. Following up the road you even find an ATM. The scenery around the village is actually nice, especially the view from the river. Otherwise I am not sure there is anything that would make me stay more than a night there for the boat trip. However, in the morning I saw several tourists on the other side of the Mekong with some elephants. But before boking any elephant tours please consider the treatment of elephants in captivity.
Arrival / Departure
All boats arrive at the little pier of Pakbeng – be careful you might get wet feet. You can then walk up the guesthouses.
The bus station is located outside of Pakbeng (a common thing in Laos) and you can get to Oudomxai from here.
I stayed at the Pak Beng Guesthouse, the first guesthouse on the left on the main path when coming from the boat landing.
There are many guesthouses in Pakbeng. Please be aware of it when taking the slow boat, as the people on the boat will try to sell rooms for a “special” price (500 Baht) claiming it is difficult to get a room. And when arriving in Pakbeng you will be welcomed by quite a few touts trying to sell rooms as well – often overpriced. It can apparently become very full during the high season, still it might be a good idea to check the room before booking it, as some guesthouses are not very clean or in good conditions.
Food & Drinks
Along the main road you find quite a few food places. Most of them serve traditional Lao food, though there was on Indian restaurant. They all looked similar, and some have special offers like a free shot of Lao Whisky. Some will play Western music. The food I had was actually nice – serving a good Mok Pa.
Breakfast at Pak Beng Guesthouse was ok – the usual omelette dish.
There is also a bakery selling fresh baguette and other tasty looking items in the morning. As it is very busy in the morning try to pre-order the baguette the day before.
What to do
It is a stopover for the boat trip and you can enjoy the view from the boat landing – but that’s it. Otherwise Pakbeng has nothing obvious to offer – though I saw elephants which are seemingly used as tourist attraction.