Hi im in the process of planning our Laos leg of our SE Asia backpacking trip and im a little stumped on Laos.
1) My girlfriend and I arn't all that keen on Vang Vieng but can't find out much about any alternative stops between Vientiane and luang prabang. Any Ideas? or should we just make the bus trip from vientiane to luang prabang in one hit.
2) We are having some trouble finding quality accom in luang prabang within our price range of roughly $15 per night (a few dollars give or take is fine). Do you get less bang for your buck in Luang Prabang compared to thailand, cambodia etc or are we missing some stuff.(we would like a room not dorm)
3) From luang prabang we planned on heading towards chiang rai, is this an advised route? is the slowboat to theborder the best form of transport? and are we missing anything in between?
We are on a backpackers budget so would prefer not to fly unless any of these routes are extremely cheap, Iknow its a lot of questions but any answers would be appreciated, thankyou
#1 magoo23 has been a member since 10/4/2011. Posts: 5
1. Stops between Vientiane and Luang Prabang . Vang Vieng just makes the most sense with so many guesthouses and good scenery. No one's forcing you to "do" the place as per hundreds of drunk 19-21 year kids on the riverside bars. Just stay slightly on the edge of town and enjoy bicycling, kayaking, caving etc. it's a beautiful area and worth getting started early before the "things" wake up hungover at 1pm. There are a few other basic guesthouses in small towns like Kasi and Phou Khoun but you'll probably be the only "falang" around after the buses stop running (!!!)
2. Someone else answer, I usually stay in $35-50 places in LP lately
3. From Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai you basically have to go via Huay Xai / Chiang Khong by river or road. Bus LP-HX takes about 12-14 hours, slow boat takes 2 days (overnight in Pakbeng) and speed boat takes about 6-7 hours. Then frequent buses Chiang Khong to Chiang Rai take about 2.5 hrs.
2. When I stayed in Luang Prabang I was at Cold River - liked it so much I went right back there when I came through again. The family that runs the place was really nice, a great little spot to sit out front, cool little quiet location - and well, just check out the description here:
note - shared bathroom, but you can get a private room.
3. The other option would be to go up to Nong Kiaow via boat - which I thought was a great spot for a night in a pretty little town. Then you could overland to Luang Nam Tha for some hiking since you got a boat trip in already and then overland down to Huay Xai --- just as another option.
Hey Casey - if I have 6-7 nights all up allocated to Luang Prabang area. Within that timeframe, I plan to go by boat at least one way (maybe both) to Nong Kiaow. Is one night in NK enough, or is there enough there to warrant 2 nights?
The other thing is that I do a bit of kayaking here at home, and would like the opportunity to do some there. Do you know if kayaks are readily available for hire? I'm not looking at a group tour, but more just a bit of quiet, independent exploration....
Lizzy - I got in very late to NK when I arrived so I actually spent two nights there. As well, a third night when coming back from Mung Ngoi. The last night was really nice as there was a little party on the west side of town, so I wasn't bored. It is a very pretty spot, but I really didn't explore much other than a small cave a short walk east of the ctiy and otherwise laze about and look at the bridge. I'd recommend save yourself a little time by going upriver overland, as early in the day as possible and then do the boat downstream back to LP.
Mung Ngoi was a very interesting place when I was there a few years ago, but in essence it was a boat accessible only tourist street of guesthouses and spas . . . however, there was a lot of nice countryside to wander about during the day - so if you want to go from NK to there then you'd want to add more time. If the weather is nice it also offered a place to swim if you'd like that - a small sandy beach near the temple on the north end of town.
I didn't have my eye open for any kayaks when I was there so I don't recall seeing any in Laos.
Thanks Casey. I did forget to mention that I had been thinking of a night in Muang Ngoi as well. Basically I'm just looking forward to some nice time spent exploring the villages, chatting to locals, wandering through the countryside and 'staring at the bridge'. Sounds idyllic!
So - a good plan is:
LP - NK (by bus) and stay the night in NK.
NK - NM (by boat) and stay the night in NM.
NM - LP (by boat) - is this doable in a slow leisurely day? Is it one boat the whole way back, or would I have to time it to meet a boat in NK?
Apologies to Magoo for highjacking your thread. Hopefully this is useful to you too!
thankyou all for the advice = ), Casey do you remember how much you paid for a room at the cold river roughly? thanks
#7 magoo23 has been a member since 10/4/2011. Posts: 5
Prefacing that I was there back in 2007 -
Lizzy - So long as there is an early bus so you have a good chunk of day in NK that one night is good. The next morning you'll get up and settle into Muang Ngoi within an hour of getting on the boat, but I would almost think two nights to give yourself more time to explore the surrounding area and relax, especially if you're going to try and do MN-NK-LP in a one day return. The only option that was there in 2007 was to take a morning boat first to MN-NK and then catch the boat down to LP . . . sometimes you'd miss the late morning boat though and be stuck for a night in NK. You can probably avoid this problem by asking around NK when you get there to make sure how many boats are running and maybe pre-book your return boat ticket as when I was there in February boats and buses in NK were filling up fast.
Magoo - I'm thinking around 70,000 KIP for a private at the time which was 7 dollars . . . though I've heard prices in LP have been going up like rockets since 2007, and now the exchange rate is down to 8,000 KIP per USD.