My girlfriend (and our 3 year old child) currently live in Seoul, South Korea. I make my living through the Internet so have great flexibility in where I can live.
We're searching for a place in SE Asia where we could spend 2-3 months every year (December - February) that has charming & atmospheric architecture and neighborhoods (reminiscent of old European towns); is surrounded by beautiful nature; offers delicious, affordable cuisine; and just an overall pleasant and enjoyable atmosphere.
I'd personally also enjoy a fitness center and a place to train in Muay Lao (Muay Thai).
Luang Prabang has come up over and over again in my research and I was wondering if:
1. it fits the things we are looking for and
2. if anyone has any insights on spending 2-3 months living in LP.
The other areas I hope to explore is the area around Udon Thani in NE Thailand; Bohol, Baguio, or Vigan in the Philippines.
Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.
#1 placeshifter has been a member since 26/7/2010. Posts: 22
I would recommend Khon Kaen. Here's why:
1. Very good, affordable medical care. Probably the best in NE Thailand.
2. Pretty cosmopolitan. International cuisine available when you want it and some good Jazz bars to relax in.
3. Three month lease on apartments easy to get - although they are small and you'll likely want to rent two. Perhaps with some effort you might find something bigger and more suitable to your needs.
4. Has a rail station as well as an airport providing pretty easy access to BKK.
5. Reasonably close to Laos for visa runs.
If you are interested in less cosmopolitan and more provincial, then I would recommend either Nong Khai or Nakhon Phanom . Both cities have their own charm, with Nakhon Phanom really being off the beaten path (but it does have an airport - which is a plus as BKK is long way away).
#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
If you can find decent accommodation I think L. Prabang fits your wishes very well and the weather s/b near perfect that time of year. There's a very good feeling in Laos these days, more upbeat than Thailand. But there is an appalling lack of quality medical care in LP which means a trip to Thailand to get decent treatment. If you're not on a tight budget you s/b able to easily find accom. in LP, especially if you could live a bit outside of town.
#4 LaoNow has been a member since 14/5/2010. Posts: 38
If you're not on a tight budget you s/b able to easily find accom. in LP, especially if you could live a bit outside of town.[i/]
Ok LaoNow, if you make a blanket statement like this might I suggest that you give the op a few names he can contact, eiher agents or phone numbers of people renting suitable properties? Remember also that the op will need internet access and requested a gym in the vicinity. Just saying you can "easily" find something is a waste of time.
Some reliable rental contacts in Luang Prabang would be great. I saw Mekong Estate might be a possibility although at $700-$900 USD per week, it's out of our budget for longer than a few weeks.
However, the thought of living in a small French colonial-style villa with a courtyard/garden is really appealing. I saw such a place available in Thailand (Gecko Villa) -- although again, at $200+ USD PER NIGHT, it's a bit out of our budget for longer than a week.
I'm not sure if any of you know this, but does high-speed Internet, and more importantly, voice over IP (via Skype e.g.) work reliably and with good voice quality from LP?
#6 placeshifter has been a member since 26/7/2010. Posts: 22
Good grief, where I live you can rent a decent HOUSE for 125 USD a MONTH. 700-900 a WEEK? WTF? We're talking Laos here, not Manhattan.
#7 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Here's Mekong Estate in Luang Prabang:
$900 per week in the high season.
#9 placeshifter has been a member since 26/7/2010. Posts: 22
Placeshifter if you are looking for a place "that has charming & atmospheric architecture and neighborhoods (reminiscent of old European towns" then why dont you go to Europe.
You dont need to come here and tell all us lowly backpackers how successful you are and how much money you have to spend. A lot of people here (I include myself in this) can live on much less than $700 a month for food, acc, booze, transport, etc. NOT A WEEK FOR ACC ONLY).
I think you have come to the wrong site.
#10 hutty has been a member since 4/6/2009. Posts: 19
well, someone has certainly come to the wrong site, but i don't think it is placeshifter. that last post was absolutely unnecessary.
anyway, to get back to the topic, i love luang prabang but unfortunately don't have any specific suggestions on an extended stay there. i'm kind of with MADMAC on this one, since the more i travel in southeast asia the more i lean towards staying in northeast Thailand. my personal favorite is nong khai, partly because i like Thailand's more advanced infrastructure and to be right on the river. but just across that river from nong khai is vientiane, which might have all the charm, food, and architecture placeshifter is seeking, with the possible exception of three-month leases. i wonder how easy it is to get a 90-day visa for Laos, but at least in vientiane it would be easy to pop across the river to nong khai for a day of shopping and a new visa before heading home.
weather wise, i often try to escape to southeast asia during the december to february timeframe too, since the temps are so friendly during then. i can easily see why you'd want out of south korea during the winter. i spent one day in seoul this past january after two months in thailand and laos and almost froze my can off. great city though. cheers.
What's the most pleasant, charming, and atmospheric town/area in NE Thailand in your opinion?
I've heard Nong Khai from several sources and it does sound like a great place...although I haven't heard the same positive reviews of the capital, Vientiane for example. The big advantage of Nong Khai for me is that there appears to be a Muay Thai gym over there, and I've been training in mixed martial arts for a few years now and want to continue it.
Most of Seoul is a concrete nightmare for me. It's why I'd like to get out of there for at least half a year, every year...ideally to a place without so much "modern development" (i.e. concrete high-rises, ugly commie blocks, and paved concrete roads/highways as far as the eye can see).
I suppose I'll just need to parachute into the region and look/ask around.
#12 placeshifter has been a member since 26/7/2010. Posts: 22
Lose the attitude. That post comes off as one of those idiot backpacker kids I was posting about previously. The guy is just looking for a place to stay with certain qualities. There's nothing wrong with that.
I haven't been to Nong Khai - but I have heard nice things about it.
The one knock on Thai cities is I am afraid they are almost all architectural monstrosities. One concrete shophouse after another. Their appeal lies in the people and the easy going nature of the place - plus the fact that it's cheap. There is some architectural beauty, but not a lot. Sad, but true.
#13 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Nong Khai is a nice place. lived there for 4 months in 2008 and about 2 months last year.
You should be able to rent a small house for about $200 - $250 a month.
Internet connections are good at some places but not always fast enough (works for skype though).
There is indeed a Muay Thai gym about 5km west of town but it's been really quiet there, I got no idea who you have to talk to, to get in.
I can recommend Nong Khai as a nice clean friendly town with very affordable living. It was rated one of the world's best places to live a few years ago and is my favorite place to cycle. You can get quickly out of town and cycle thru rice fields and around the swamps where there is much wildlife. The locals are friendly and there is an expat comminity that seems a bit on the aged side. Good hospital and medical facilities and a big Tesco Lotus supermarket. A sleepy Mekong riverside town with not much nightlife.
#15 LaoNow has been a member since 14/5/2010. Posts: 38
Thanks for your input everyone. It sounds like Luang Prabang for the French colonial + Lao charm, and NE Thailand for the amenities and some comforts of modernity.
How's the "countryside" and "nature" in the immediately vicinity of Nong Kha / Udon Thani by the way? Sounds very pleasant and rural without eyesore developments...which is exactly what I'm looking for.
Quite looking forward to this trip.
#16 placeshifter has been a member since 26/7/2010. Posts: 22
Don't really agree with the nightlife cause there is a lot of it(bar nan discotheque, riverside country club, another country club, some karaoke bars). Ok It's not the same as you see in bigger places but nightlife still goes on in Nong Khai as well.
Placeshifer: once you get out of town from Nong Khai or Udon thani you are immediately in the beautiful countrysides with nice relaxing places and nature which is amazing. You don't have to do a trip for 3 hours to get to some places, just get a bike or motorbike and drive out of town, it's amazing how fast you'll see the changes between city and rural places.
as for Luang Prabang, I'd love the idea of living there as well (nature of course) but I'm not sure about all the facilities there.
Once you are settled post something here and let us know what it's like.
Wine is really expensive in Thailand because they tax the crap out of it. In this area, Laos has it all over Thailand.
"How's the "countryside" and "nature" in the immediately vicinity of Nong Kha / Udon Thani by the way? Sounds very pleasant and rural without eyesore developments...which is exactly what I'm looking for."
If you leave city environs, internet becomes a problem. In most rural locations, high speed internet is not available. Given your job requirements, I would assume that's a problem.
#20 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
yes Placeshifter, the food is excellent. There are a couple of very good places in LP as well, eg Le Elephant, but there are far more in Vientiane . Vientiane is also cheaper than LP.
By the way, I hear a lot of comments about rudimentary health care here. Well, yes....but the French Embassy Clinic is excellent as is the Oz Embassy Clinic. The French Embassy Clinic does pathology tests and gives results while you are there. Better than in Australia. Also if you live here you will come across some very good foreign trained lao doctor as well. there is a Japanese trained one in our village for example. he regularly gives lecture tours o/seas.
Also wine is MUCH cheaper than in Thailand. there is an excellent range which will get even better when the new shop specialising in Australian wines opens up in a week or so. I believe their wine consultant is outstanding and really knows his stuff.
The more I look at Luang Prabang , the more it seems like it could be the perfect fit.
I was curious if renting a small house or villa would be easier if we stayed 6 months?
Also, what 6 months would be the best, weather-wise? I heard something about farmers burning bushes which starts in March and lasts until May?
And off-topic, what would be the most affordable and convenient way to arrive into Luang Prabang with a child from South Korea?
I see a Seoul -> Hanoi -> Luang Prabang flight...but quite expensive.
#23 placeshifter has been a member since 26/7/2010. Posts: 22
I would fly from Seoul to BKK and BKK, then take the train from BKK to Nong Khai, and then cross to Vientiane and then perhaps fly from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. This would allow you to take your time. If there were a connecting flight from BKK to Laung Prabang of course you might explore that. Not sure how reasonable costs would be, as air travel with Laos airlines is not cheap.
#24 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I would go with October to March - but that has as much to do with avoiding South Korean winter as it does with the weather in Laos.
#26 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Looking into flights now. A bit concerned about all the "luxury resort" development that I've been reading about in regards to Luang Prabang but hopefully, it'll still maintain its peaceful, local character for a long time.
#27 placeshifter has been a member since 26/7/2010. Posts: 22
Hi Placeshifter...I know this post was a while back but I am very curious as to how things turned out. Did you end up in LP? It's funny because my husband and I have been in Seoul for 3+ years and have been looking at Luang Prabang as our next place.
Please reply as it would be great to communicate with you about this.
#28 bigchange has been a member since 10/10/2011. Posts: 1