Pakse is a nice town along the Mekong River, Motorbike loop through the Bolavan Plateau, Champasak a quaint town and Wat Phu a great warm-up to Siem Reap area, 4,000 Islands to lounge around in. I spent around 3 weeks just in southern Laos and enjoyed the whole time.
Visa fee. Cross back into Thailand, pay for a new visa.
Of course, lounging around and doing nothing is not something I do very well. I like something faster paced. For me Southern Laos holds no interest. But if you're into the rural, it might well be for you.
Have you seen said Lotus Lake? My experience with Thai lakes (SE Asian lakes) is they tend to be muddy and funky. Tropics...
#5 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
1) Make sure you are going from October - March . . . not sure how late in March, as the internet says that is when the blooms are in season.
2) I didn't say it was just relaxing - I mean . . isn't all of SE Asia if you want it to be? There is plenty to do and I consider the Bolavan motorbike trip a must experience in Southern Laos - and Champasak is easily a good 2/3 nights well spent with Wat Phu. Since Lotus Lake is so close to Vientiane you could also (if willing to buy another Lao Visa) re-enter around Pakse to explore a little of what Southern Laos has to offer before heading into Cambodia via 4,000 Islands.
Imo skip it... I just got back and had altered my route to go through southern Laos instead of going through Thailand like originally planned. Southern Laos imo held very little of value and is a fair distance to travel not to mention they rip you off at the Cambodian border.
Konglor cave was ok. Thakek and Savannakhet had nothing. Pakse had nothing. Bolaven plateau was decent but fairly boring compared to many other locations in SEA. Don Det was ok but nothing special unless you got the hippy thing going on.
In short there were a couple decent areas but most of it is lacking in stuff to see and do and there are better options in other parts of SEA imo. I didn't travel through the Isaan region but the rest of Thailand has much better food, accommodation and transportation and that alone would make me stick to Thailand if I were to do it again.
Alternatives to the good aspects of southern Laos.
Phong Nha Cave and Paradise Cave in Vietnam > Konglor Cave.
Northern Thailand, Luang Prabang, Battambang, Kampot, Dalat > Bolaven plateau for sight seeing on a scooter.
Koh Tonsay or Koh Rong in Cambodia > Don Det.
Southern Laos has held some of the best times for me during my current 9 week trip throughout SE Asia. A couple of must do's (in my books) would be:
-4000 Islands / Don Det (Spent 5 days, which for me is quite some time, lounging around in a hammock, riding bicycles around the island and visiting the beautiful waterfalls nearby. Kind of touristy but more in the backpacker sense. Everything is "happy" but it's truly a remarkable place with or without an altered perception!)
-Thakeak Loop / Konglor Cave (Didn't complete the whole loop, but rented bikes with friends I had met on Don Det and drove for 2 days in total. Beautiful guesthouse close to Konglor Cave called Sala Konglor Guesthouse has absolutely remarkable views of the river and sits right across the water from a large karst. I don't suggest trying the Ginger Chicken from their in house restaurant; 3 bite sized pieces of chicken and a plate full of shredded ginger was interesting to say the least! The cave is about a 185km drive from Thakeak and the scenery is breathtaking)
If I could do it all again I would stay on Don Det for at least a week (and probably longer) and complete the whole Thakeak loop. Wonderful part of the world that I'm sure will be innundated with bus loads of tourists and lose it's current vibe in the very near future!
#9 jokalla has been a member since 21/1/2013. Posts: 6
"Thakeak Loop / Konglor Cave (Didn't complete the whole loop, but rented bikes with friends I had met on Don Det and drove for 2 days in total."
What "loop" extends from Thakek? The roads east of Thakek are horrible. The drive from Thakek to east to nowhere, unless you want to enter Vitenam (and even then) are crap. Ahh, you lost me when you referenced the "Thakek Loop". There ain't no loop.
#10 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Bad roads... but sounded scenic. Thanks for the post Casey.
#12 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Fly if you can, I think there are flights from Vientiane to Cambodia.
Most of southern Laos can't be appreciated by 99% of tourists anyway. How thrilling is lying on a hammock on 4000 backpacker island? Pakse becomes boring for most people after half a day. Up on the Boloven? To see what exactly?
Of course I just say this to keep the place to myself and like minded others. I'm afraid that for every thousand tourist in Pakse or Backpecker Island ten of fifteen will slip on over to Attapeau, or Sekong, and I want to keep those places to myself. For every ten people who make it to Paksong some will actually make it out onto the plateau.
Nothing to see, totally boring.
Yep - easy read for me. Good memory Casey.
#15 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957