We have three weeks. We will be travelling to Bangkok on 5th June. We would like to go to Cambodia and from there to Laos and then to come back down to Thailand for the Phi Ta Khon Festival in Dan Sai on 23rd June (leaving from Bangkok again on 27th June). We would first like to know if this is feasible and if so can anyone suggest an itinerary including means of transport through the various stages. We are used to roughing it and therefore would prefer to bus, train or cycle rather than fly, if that means seeing more of the countries we visit but, without losing time on endless journeys and queues for visas, seeing as our time span is limited on this trip. All answers will be greatly appreciated. Thanks
#1 babel has been a member since 29/5/2012. Posts: 2
Tough to say as it depends, entirely, on what you want to see and do in each country.
If you would like to spend several days at Angkor then move up to Southern Laos to Si Phan Don, Pakse, then head straight up to Vientiane (all by bus) where you can cross back into Thailand (by train, bus, or songthaew), then you can probably do it without having to hump it too much. You won't have time to explore Phnom Penh. Nor will you have much time to spend around Pakse, or anywhere in between there and Vientiane. You will also not have time to go up to Luang Prabang , or to any other areas in the north of Laos, and then back south again to Vientiane if you want to be in Dan Sai for the festival.
Well, you could probably make time for some of these spots, but you'd be spending every other day making full-day or full-night bus trips and will only be able to stay in each place for a day, or so. Not much.
Two countries, especially just Thailand and Laos, would be much better in my opinion. But if Angkor is an absolute must, then it is an absolute must and you'll find a way to make it work. But make your visit worthwhile and stay for as long as possible.
One route you might want to take into consideration would be to head to Northern Thailand (bus or train to Chiangmai or bus to Chiangrai), explore some of that area for a week, or so, then cross over into Laos at Huay Xai (boat), then go to Luang Prabang (bus or boat), then south to Vientiane (bus) and back into Thailand at Nong Khai (bus, train or songthaew).
Another one would be to take the night train to Ubon Ratchathani, then take the International Bus over to Pakse, Laos. From there you can visit Si Phan Don (bus), the Bolaven Plateau (rented motorbike), and Champasak (songthaew or rented motorbike), then head north along the Mekong to Vientiane (overnight bus) and then over to Nong Khai (bus, songthaew or train).
FYI, Dan Sai is a very small, fairly remote place, and there is not much transport between there and too many major centres. The easiest way to get there would be on the bus that runs between Udon Thani and Uttaradit. It's possible to get onto this bus in a number of places, depending on where you are approaching from.
If you are going to be in Nong Khai, you could go down to Udon Thani (about 1 hour south by bus) and then catch the bus on the same day. Or, you could travel west along the Mekong to either Sangkhom or Chiang Khan, stay in one of those places for a few days, and then catch a bus to Loei. The bus between Uttaradit and Udon Thani stops here and it's possible to get on.
If you are approaching from somewhere else, you can get the bus as it heads in the other direction towards Udon Thani. There's not much to see or do in Uttaradit (though there's a crazy market there), so I'd recommend spending a little time in Sukhothai and then catching the bus in Phitsanulok . Dan Sai is about half-way between Phitsanulok and Loei.
This festival is extremely popular so you should try and have a reservation for a place to stay, and get there a couple of days before as transport to and from will be packed. Though it's possible extra buses and songthaews will be put on duty.
Dan Sai is a nice town in a gorgeous area.
Thanks Tilapia for your precious advice. I'll look it all over and probably not go to Angkor on this trip. I think we'd both prefer to see the festival and surrounding areas. My only concerns with the North are the weather and mosquitoes at this time of year. We don't usually take malarials but opt for repellents. However, since I've been looking at this great site I have started to wonder, because of the season? Anyway I know it's not the right forum so thanks again and take care.
#3 babel has been a member since 29/5/2012. Posts: 2