Pak Beng is a tiny place by the Mekong River and half-way point of the slow boat journey from the Thai/Laos border to Luang Prabang. Before embarking onto the first leg of the boat trip, a travel agent in Huay Xai tried to scare us into booking a guest house in Pak Beng with him. He mentioned things like high-season and walk-in rates of $50 – 70 per night. I had read of this scheme and of the fact that once in Pak Beng rooms will be half price from what they are sold at in Huay Xai. But to avoid the hassle of scrambling for a place to sleep on arrival, we book a double room for 400 Baht.
As expected, on arrival at the pier in Pak Beng there were a number of touts advertising rooms, many at half the price we paid. The walk-in rate for our room at “Donevilasack Guesthouse” would have been only 300 Baht. Oh well…
On check-in we ordered breakfast and lunch sandwiches for two for the morning (about $10 total) and then walked around Pak Beng. I doubt many travellers here stay for more than one night. Tourism in this place seems to be entirely dependent on the slow boat to Luang Prabang stopping here. In less than 10 minutes we walked across the entire village, which basically consists of 2 streets – one to the left and one to the right of the boat pier. There are many guest houses, even some nicer cottages, lots of restaurants, little shops selling snacks, water and the infamous Beer Lao. Even a few bakeries selling baguettes and croissants (welcome to the leftovers of French imperialism). Unlike what we were told in Huay Xai (by the same ‘misinformed’ travel agent), there was an ATM, but we were scared into withdrawing enough in Huay Xai so we didn’t try it.
We had a simple dinner of fried rice and Lao sausage with traditional sticky rice in a bamboo basket, before retreating to our room, which was spacious, clean and had a hot shower. Donevilasack Guesthouse seems to be new (compared to other options) but almost furthest from the river, the beds were comfortable, breakfast and lunch satisfying. A sign says there is an extra charge for the a/c remote, but the fan was more than sufficient. Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi signal wasn’t strong enough to reach into our room, so we had to use it in the communal area.
If you prefer a location closer to the river in more private bungalows, check out Mekong Riverside Lodge. We noticed its nice location and layout while walking through Pak Beng. According to TripAdvisor guests have stayed for between 500 – 800 Baht (later including breakfast).