Mekong Cargo Boats


Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
If you're on a big bike and dont want to ride up the jungle road, from Huay Sai to Luang Nam Tha, then the option is to put your bike on a cargo boat and go from Huay Sai to Pak Beng, or even Luang Prabang. (From Pak Beng it is dirt / asphalt to Udom Sai. From Luang Prabang, you are on asphalt roads, all the way to Vientiane / Phonsavan / Udom Sai.)

Now it aint easy getting your bike into the boat through the small doors, and there are a couple of tricks to note.
(1) Put your bike in backwards (so it is easier to get out). Lift the bike up & slide it into the boat sideways, turn it round, then stand it up once inside the boat.
(2) Get a boat with a decent sized door. Not all the boats have the same size door, & it once took us 45 mins to juggle my bike (Africa Twin) into a boat. With a good crew & decent sized door, it can only take 15-20 minutes maximum.

I did a recent survey of boat doors on the boats berthed at Huay Sai on 1st Feb 2003, and here are the DOOR specs for the boats I had measured then.

Town Rego - Nos. - Width - Height
1. Udom Sai # 003 W 98 x H 128 cms
2. Udom Sai # 037 W 110 x H 140 cms
3. Luang Prabang # 038 W 80 x H 100 cms
4. Oudom Sai # 065 W 150 x H 90 cms
5. Sayabuli # 219 W 200 x H 90 cms
6. Oudom Sai # 034 W 60 x H 140 cms
7. Oudom Sai # 059 W 90 x H 140 cms
8. Luang Prabang # 026 W 100 x H 115 cms
9. Luang Prabang # 005 W 90 x H 120 cms
10. Luang Prabang # 041 W 90 x H 110 cms
11. Sayaburi # 220 W 90 x H 110 cms
12. Luang Prabang # 072 W 90 x H 140 cms
13. Luang Prabang # 027 W 50 x H 100 cms
14. Luang Prabang # 028 W 120 x H 140 cms
15. Oudom Sai # 050 W 60 x H 120 cms
16. Luang Prabang # 076 W 100 x H 120 cms
17. Muang Nan # 047 W 165 x H 93 cms
18. Luang Prabang # 057 W 180 x H 95 cms
19. Oudom Sai # 021 W 200 x H 110 cms
20. Bokeo # 115 W 190 x H 92 cms
21. Sayaburi # 219 W 200 x H 100 cms
22. Sayaburi # 179 W 56 x H 143 cms
23. Oudom Sai # 014 W 380 x H 110 cms
24. Oudom Sai # 002 W 340 x H 92 cms
25. Oudom Sai # 033 W 106 x H 90 cms
26. Luang Prabang # 068 W 150 x H 100 cms
27. Luang Prabang # 042 W 70 x H 140 cms
28. Oudom Sai # 062 W 70 x H 140 cms

Take a look at ... ameSet.htm
to see some images of the boats. Images 3 - 5 are of my Africa Twin on board one of the cargo boats. Images 73, 86 & 87 are pics of how NOT to do it. I had a terrible time with the crew on this boat & had to let them load the bike on the wrong way to see how stupid it was & then get them to take it off & stow it inside the proper way!

It's the luck of the game which boats are in on the day, so be patient, take your time and have a good look at the boat doors.
My fave boat & skipper is Luang Prabang boat # 68.
Hire cost in Feb 2003 was 3,500 baht for the whole boat.
Boat # 68, is a small cargo boat, with a relatively shallow draft. The deck is not too far below the door, so it is not difficult to drop the bike down onto the floor, and then get it out. Some of the bigger cargo boats have a significant drop from the door to the floor. This makes it considerably more work getting the bike into and out of the boat - believe me.

If all this sounds too much, then take a look at
Khun Yuam
for a trip with your bike on a speed boat up the Mekong from Luang Prabang - Huay Say = wild stuff.

Happy sailing - the Mekong river between Pak Beng and Huay Sai is beautiful.

Keep the power on


May 6, 2003
David, good to meet you in Pai, thanks again for the updated map. I hope you managed to get rid of the older one I swapped with you. The info on the cargo boats looks bloody thorough!
Did the Mae Hong Son loop this time on a Hond Steed 400cc chopper style bike. Took this option this time (did it last year on the Honda A1 250cc) as I had my girlfriend with me and two-up on anything else was a non-starter. Easy enough all the way round though short on power pretty often and we are a pretty skinny couple probably totalling 130kgs. Came off going up to Inthanon on a tight bend, too much spewing oil from those cabbage truck exhausts and then a bit of rain and that was it. Fortunately I was going very slow but we still managed to slide approx. 8 metres thankfully on a clear road. Small cuts and bruises but nothing else, and the bike was fine save for a few things to bend back into shape. Spoilt the day but did not spoil the trip, and after a few beers and a good night's kip it was saddle up time again and all OK. Fab place to stay a few kms before the fork to Inthanon NP where you have to pay at the barrier from the Chiang Mai side(sorry am now in Perth and my map is not). You turn right up a road and there's a smart place to stay wher bird watchers go (me neither) and there's another place next door with a house that looks like it should be in the swiss alps. It's near where the barbeque restaurants are on the left-hand side of the road before you fork right to go to Doi Int NP. Clear as mud eh? Met Pirip in Laos and he mentioned he had one of your old bikes. He's a busy boy, lots of interesting postings.