Hi. I'm visiting Laos for the first time later this month, arriving in Vientiane early on 15 November and flying out of Luang Prabang early on 26 November. I'm thinking of an itinerary like this:
Day 1-3: Vientiane
Day 4: travel to Vang Vieng
Day 5: Vang Vieng
Day 6: travel to Luang Prabang
Day 7-11: Luang Prabang
Day 12: leave Luang Prabang for Cambodia
I'm 29, travelling on my own, and interested in art, architecture, history, food and mountain scenery -- and trying to get as much insight into Lao/hill tribe culture as I can in the limited time available. Does this itinerary make sense?
I'm keen to travel north of Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw / Muang Ngoi to see somewhere slightly off the beaten track and do a day/overnight trek. Is it worth sacrificing time in and around Luang Prabang or moving faster through Vientiane or Vang Vieng to do this? Or will this make everything too rushed?
(i) I like to buy masks as souvenirs. Do they feature much in Lao/minority culture? Is Luang Prabang the best place to get souvenirs / Christmas presents (and how does it compare in this respect to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh where I'll be later)?
(ii) Will I struggle to meet similar travellers with the pace of this itinerary and/or if I pick accommodation that falls more into Travelfish's 'flashpacker' rather than 'backpacker' category?
(iii) Is late November sufficiently into high season that I should pre-book accommodation in Luang Prabang?
Many thanks in advance.
if you had more time then might want to consider going all the way north to Muang Sing for the Boun That Xieng Tung festival that falls on the same date (21 Nov 2010) as Boun That Luang in VTE.
but even with your itinerary, plenty of opportunities to explore your interests.
masks - see here:
best to book accomm for VTE this Nov - plenty of activities & visitors for the 450th anniversary celebrations.
I don't recall much of hill-tribe action going on in the flood plain of the delta around Luang Prabang. You'd certainly want to head farther north if you want hill-tribe visits. It takes a good day to get up to Muang Sing but there is much more off the track than Muang Ngoi /NongKhiao - last time I was there Muang Ngoi had basically turned into a guest-house and spa street. Fine to visit if you have more time, but what you're looking for sounds farther afield than that.
You really seem keen on culture, so I might recommend skipping VV and heading straight to LP for two days. Then head up north into Luang Nam Tha /Muang Sing for 4 days (including travel time there and back). Then on your last days in LP you can hit up the night market and try to avoid all the China-junk, stocking up on gifts at the end of the trip - if time allows still take a pleasant day trip to a waterfall in the area.
Someone may want to correct me on the one day trip to Luang Nam Tha from Luang Pra Bang.