I am planning to spend a month in Cambodia followed by a month in Laos later this year (Oct/Nov). Bangkok is where I will fly into and out of the region. I would like to find a balance between seeing as much as I can in these two countries whilst not rushing through every town.
I have never travelled before, let alone to the region, so I was wondering if anyone experienced would be able to suggest a good route to take for this trip and which places are good to spend a little time in and which are not that worthwhile.
Before we can help, we need to understand what sort of trip you are after. What interests you - temples, beaches, trekking, nature and wildlife, shopping and big city life, moon parties? What is not worthwhile to you could be very worthwhile to me.
There is a wealth of info on this website and in the forums - but it can be overwhelming at first. I would suggest that you start here: http://www.travelfish.org/trip_planner/ and browse through some of the suggested itineraries. You will soon discover what grabs your interests and can go from there. At the bottom of each itinerary is a table of travel times between locations for trains, buses and flights - invaluable to get an idea of how much travel time you will need to allow for.
The key thing is - don't try to do too much. A month in Laos and a month in Cambodia is a great and will allow you to do it a a reasonable relaxed pace.
I myself am planning a month in Laos in Oct as well. I could share my plans with you - but with possible differences in age, interests, etc I don't know how much help it would be. For example, I have absolutely no interest in going to Vang Vieng so going there would probably be a waste of time - ie not worthwhile. But if you are a younger 20-something who likes to party it up, it may be worthwhile.
Check out the itineraries in the link above, and tell us a bit more about what you are looking for - and we can all chip in to give you some ideaas.
Thanks for your thoughtful response. I am a little overwhelmed, yeah. Want to make the best of things when I'm over there. Not really interested in partying too much. Can get drunk here at home! lol... Want to see the main sights of course and beyond that would be nice to immerse myself in the cultures of the region a little bit. Interested in the people, the temples, and the history of the place. Also want to spend some time in areas of natural beauty; river cruising, jungle trekking, etc.
Captain_Bob and I gave a reply to someone thinking about Laos for 15 days, and put a North and a South Itinerary on the board - I gave a really rushed highlight option as well:
If you're coming in from the South you will first want to stop at 4,000 Islands to relax for a few nights, you could then spend a couple nights at Champasake - it is a very nice, friendly, laid-back town that happens to sit between the Mekong river and ancient Wat Phu. Some relaxing time in Pakse and a trip into the Bolaven Plateau will slow your roll down a little - you can rent a motorbike and the trip is not that difficult. Maybe even make a new friend to take along with you before you go. If you just want the highlights you could do the short loop from Tad Lo to Paksong and see some nice waterfalls.
Some old Travelfish guides for Champasake Province and the Remote South - a little outdated on information but the basics are all there:
Since you have a month you could stop in Savannakhet on the way up to Vientiane for a night or two - and from there you've got the North to explore. Depending on if you want to enter Thailand from the North (sounds like no - better to enter near Vientiane and head straight back to BKK) you can station yourself to see different things from Luang Prabang. Heading up to Luang Nam Tha for some trekking or to Nong Kiaow and Muang Ngoi for more relaxing river side towns (closer to your BKK return as well). I also highly recommend Phonsovan, but that's because I'm into history, you can read my review of the place on this site. VV I can't say anything about.
Really, with a rough idea of what there is to see you should be fine with a month so long as you set yourself a few signpost dates to make sure you're not lallygagging too much in one spot.