Does anyone have information on how to do this border crossing. I want to connect from Laos to loop into Sa Pa. The travel guides I've looked at have said it is pretty difficult, and travelers I've met in Vietnam have said that friends of theirs did it successfully but with much difficulty. I'm thinking it might be much simpler and quicker to fly from Luang Prabang to Hanoi and then just take the train.
There exist nothing difficulties and they all have no useful and practical informations. Taht'all.
If you are ready to choose any route by any direct bus for going to Ha Noi from Luang Prabang, now you have 3 options by overland as below.
①ＬPB→Oudomxai→ Muang Khua （1 overnight)→PangHoak(new)/TayTarng border→Dien BienPhu(1 overnight) → Sapa (local bus from DBP to Sapa) or taking a nighty Vip express bus(4～5 buses every night to Ha Noi and then go to Lao Cai & Sapa
*In dry season, normally it takes about 7 hours with no delaying from Muang Khua to DBP by direct bus, but now it's rainy season now and the road condition, especially in Lao side, it's acsend road from Muang Khua to Lao border, so sometimes, especially just after continuos heavy raining, the road will become
extreamly bad in my memory and worse than it,the new road is now under construction besides it for avoiding bad condition and your bus will be stopped for a while in each--i know it because i crossed 4 times this border including Jan.this year from both sides and some travellers also reported it quite recently. His direct bus took 11 hours quite recently from DBP to Muang Khua though the road is descent road from Lao border to Muang Khua.
But fortunately i've never experienced for my self and heard that direct bus couldn't reach to each destination---DBP & Muang Khua in rainy season now too.
From DBP to Sapa by local bus , normaly it takes 10～11hours but this road is also probably under re-construction for widing at some points but you can surely reach to Sapa in a day.
②LPB→( Phonsavan →) NamKhan/NamCan border→ Vinh →Ha Noi
*Now direct bus service from LPB south bus station to Vinh(VN) is operated with 2 buses a week(Thurday & Sunday).Departute time is 18:30pm and the bus fare is 175,000Kip(Apr.2010).
It takes about 24 hours from LPB to Vinh so this direct bus arrives Vinh around noon next day.
*And another one more direct bus service is operated from Phonsavan to Vinh with 4 buses a week(Tues, Thus, Fri, Sun--not daily)/138000Kip, so if you intend to take this direct bus at Phonsavan(at Shieng Khouang bus station-4km from touristy area), you may take a local bus from LPB to Phonsavan first and then take a direct bus after arriving Phonsavan but i'm not sure whether those 2 buses are connected well successfully same day. From Phonsavan to Vinh, normally it takes about 11hours.
*From LPB to Phonsavan, it takes 8～9 hours by local bus.
*If you take a direct bus from Phonsavan to Vinh, your bus arrives Vinh bus station around 19:30～20:00pm and you can take a nighty Vip bus going to Ha Noi-My Dinh bus station(arrives 04:30am next morning). It's departure time is 22:00pm at Vinh, and other local nighty buses going to Ha Noi are also available.Dep.time is around 21:00～22:00pm but it's slow. Of course, train from Vinh to Ha Noi is avalable but it's not many.
③LPB→ Sam Neua →NamXoi/NaMeo border→ Thanh Hoa →Ha Noi
Now "daily" direct bus service is avalable from Sam Neua to Thanh Hoa besides other direct buses that leave Sam Neua East or South bus station with 3～4 buses a week(not daily service).
*From LPB to Sam Neua, it takes 12～14 hours by local bus.
*From Sam Neua to Thanh Hoa by above direct bus(daily), it takes about 10 hours, and after arriving Thanh Hoa, you can easily catch a exptress bus going to Ha Noi Ｎｏｉ onＮＲ.1 at one of several pick up points for express bus that run on NR1(bus driver & local people know it well). From Thanh Hoa to Ha Noi, about 3.5 hours by express bus/about 3.5～4USD. So if you take a daily direct bus at Sam Neua, you can reach to Ha Noi in a day after leaving Sam Neua city center at 08:00am morning same day.
About this "daily" direct bus service(recently i used itin my trip),
please check my recent post here in travelfisf as below, and be awere of no VOA for entering into Viet Nam at any border.
(As for me, "Travelling by flight" is never interesting to me, espeially in Laos.)
Good luck, Bye!
#2 tf_geckozy has been a member since 2/9/2008. Posts: 82
I did this trip from Sapa to Dien Bien Phu and then across the border into Northern Laos on a Minsk a couple of months ago. The roads all the way from Sapa down do Lai Chau are all under construction and were difficult in long stretches so I would imagine it an uncomfortable bus ride. The Roads in the North of Laos are very bad too and like tf_geckozy has pointed out, when it rains these roads become dangerous. Up towards the border crossing from Muang Mai the roads are all under construction which means at times traffic has to wait hours until the road is cleared ahead. It was tough on the bike but makes for some interesting stories and it was one hell of an adventure.
I too wouldn't take a flight, where's the fun in that. get a bike it's more fun. Taking a bus will be hot and sweaty and a long trip but a lot more adventurous than flying.
If your interested here is the border crossing story with photos of what the roads were like http://jimislost.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/crossing-the-border/
Whatever you do, take care and enjoy yourself.