We’ve heard, second hand, of a confirmed independent crossing at the Thailand/Laos border crossing at Ban Huay Kon / Muang Ngoen.
The border had been open for ages to Thais doing 4WD “adventure tours” up to Luang Prabang but we’d been told by the TAT that “there were no plans whatsoever for the crossing to be opened to foreigners at any time in the forseeable future“.
So we assume somebody changed their mind!
What this means is that after spending time exploring Nan, you can cross at Ban Huay Kon, head northeast to the village of Hong Sa and jump aboard a slow boat heading either south to Luang Prabang or north to Pak Beng and Huay Xai — what a terrific new way to enter Laos!
As I mentioned, we got this news second hand (a couple of European backpackers related their trip to a friend of ours while on the slow boat in early May, 2008), so it comes with no guarantees whatsoever and our agent on the boat forgot to ask then if visa-on-arrival was available… just can’t get good help these days!