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3 weeks in Laos - tips needed

  • stephanieman

    Joined Travelfish
    25th July, 2012
    Posts: 5

    Hi there,

    A girl at the age of 19 is going to Laos as solo traveler this late August. I am very excited about this trip cos it's my first solo trip so I would like to ask for more information from you guys.

    I know these are a lot of questions... but your advice is really important to me

    1. [Luang Prabang] I would like to go to Kuang Si Waterfall & homestay. I have checked with Green Discovery. A 2 day trip with homestay cost me around USD$64 which I find it really expensive.
    Is there any other alternative for me to do so with a lower cost?

    2. I really would love to do Homestay. Is it a good idea to do so in Kuang Si Waterfall & Si Phan Don?
    How could I arrange a homestay myself?

    3. Transportation issue:
    a. Vientiane-->Kong lo village
    May I know how can I get there in the shortest amount of time? Direct bus/ through Bon Khoun Kham?

    b. Don Khong --> Bangkok
    As I have to catch the plane on D21 morning ( I will stay overnight in the airport on D20), what is the fastest route to go from Don Khong to Bangkok?
    (i) Don Khong--> Pakse (bus) & Pakse --> BKK(bus), or
    (ii) Don Khong --> Pakse(bus) & Pakse-->Udon(bus) & Udon-->BKK(train)

    4. As I expect to play with water in Vang Vieng like jumping into the river, may I know how would you manage your valuables like passport, money which is supposed to be in your money belt? Though I may be able to know some friends there, I don't think it's a wise choice to pass my passport to somebody, right?

    Please feel free to comment on my itinerary

    My itinerary: (underland= opinion needed )
    1 : Hong Kong--> Kunming --> Luang Prabang(direct bus)
    2 : (Luang Prabang)arrive at LPB at night
    3. (Luang Prabang)Walk around the city
    4. (Luang Prabang)Kuang Si Waterfall trip (+homestay)
    5. (Luang Prabang)Kuang Si waterfall trip

    6. (Vang Vieng)LPB--> Vang Vieng
    7. (Vang Vieng) Outdoor activities, e.g. Tubing & cave tour & Kayaking
    8. (Vientiane) VV-->Vientiane, Wat Si Saket, Haw Pha Kaew
    9. (Vientiane) Putuxai, Pha That Luang, Buddha Park
    10: Vientiane-->Kong Lo village, Homestay
    11: [Kong Lo Cave]

    12: Pakse --> Don Det
    13-18: enjoy life in Don Det, Don Khon, Don Khong
    19: Don Khong --> Pakse --> Bangkok(overnight bus from Pakse to Bangkok)
    20: Arrive at Bangkok in the morning
    21: Bangkok--> Hong Kong (6:30 am flight)

    Many thanks,

    #1 Posted: 25/7/2012 - 05:25

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  • Rufus

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd April, 2007
    Location Laos
    Posts: 973

    Your first day will kill you with travelling.
    You find $64 for a 2 days and homestay "really" expensive? I find it really cheap. Having said that, I would avoid GD as I and others I know have had bad experiences with them.
    If you must join the Gap year trash and jump in the river, you can purchase plastic covers for your money and passport. As August is still in the wet season, the Nam Song will be flowing fast. I hope you have very good and comprehensive health insurance.
    I have posted on Trip Adviser and Thor Tree on how to get to Kong Lo caves from Vientiane. There is a new bus company that has started up. Look up the posts there.

    #2 Posted: 28/7/2012 - 04:34

  • exacto

    Joined Travelfish
    12th February, 2006
    Location United States
    Posts: 2581
    Total reviews: 47
    Places visited:
    At least 98

    Hi Mo,

    You mentioned twice that you really wanted to do a homestay. That sounds great. If you want to do a homestay so very much, I don't think $64 is too expensive either, particularly when you compare it to the price of your air ticket and all the time and effort it will take to get to Luang Prabang. Why not try a homestay there, and if you like it, you can always do another in Si Phan Don.

    For swimming, I use a water proof plastic box called a water wallet or similar. It is about 15 cm by 10 cm by 3 cm, and is big enough to hold a passport, wallet and cash. They hang on a thick string around your neck. You can get them at travel shops and sporting goods stores here in the United States. I would guess they are available in Europe too. To be extra safe, you could wrap your passport in a plastic cover or ziplock (zipper) plastic bag like Rufus says and then put it inside the water wallet.

    To be really extra safe, you won't drink too much and be careful where you jump into the water in Vang Vieng. We want you to have fun but don't want you to get hurt.

    Remember that getting from place to place in Laos takes longer than in other countries, so don't try to plan too much or rush around, or you will spend all your time in a bus and not enough doing fun stuff. Take care.

    #3 Posted: 28/7/2012 - 09:05

  • stephanieman

    Joined Travelfish
    25th July, 2012
    Posts: 5

    Thanks for all the warm replies.

    I thought homestay is around USD$10...
    I will see.

    I thought jumping into the river is just an easy thing..
    Nevermind, i guess tubing is safe, right?
    haha, afterall, I am going solo. Safety comes first.

    #4 Posted: 28/7/2012 - 09:12

  • busylizzy

    Joined Travelfish
    31st December, 2007
    Location New Zealand
    Posts: 2155
    Total reviews: 20
    Places visited:
    At least 107

    Nevermind, i guess tubing is safe, right?

    Are you kidding? I'd suggest that you do some research on this - google 'death vang vieng' and see what comes up! First article says that they had 27 deaths last year. Keep sober and you will have a better chance of survival. Seriously, it's people getting drunk, think that they are invincible, doing stupid things that leads them to dying. Not to mention sub-standard safety conditions, etc. Water and booze don't mix. Having given you the mini-lecture, go along and have fun - but don't just assume it's safe. You will need to take care.

    You will be able to find accommodation in the much cheaper price range, but it may not be a 'homestay'. Not sure if you used that word intentionally or not? A homestay would typically include meals, etc. There are many family run places around though in Laos that are very reasonably (cheaply) priced - although I'm not sure if you will find them that cheap in Luang Prabang itself. I stayed in 'flashpacker' style accom there for about US$25/night which was nice, clean, etc - but stayed in much cheaper accom in Muang Ngoi for about $5/night that was also pretty decent.

    Another thing - don't organise your accom through a travel agent. There is no need to. Contact the guesthouse directly. Email them before you leave home, or maybe call with Skype to find out their rates. Or better yet, just walk in to get the best rates (usually).

    WIth respect to carrying your passport around while in the water. It depends on what sort of place you are staying in maybe, but personally, I wouldn't carry it with me. If you are out on the river drinking, having fun, etc there is a good chance you will lose track of it. Instead, I'd leave it locked up in my backpack back in the room. (I'd be less tempted to do that if I was in a shared dorm, though).

    I usually carry a small waterproof pouch that I use for my small point and shoot camera when I go snorkelling. If you are intent on taking your passport down the river with you, this would be a good option. You could put your money, passport and camera into it and wear it around your neck. BTW - It's not a great option for taking photos underwater in the end - photos don't come out well, it's difficult to zoom, etc. But for use as a waterproof bag!

    #5 Posted: 28/7/2012 - 16:32

  • Rufus

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd April, 2007
    Location Laos
    Posts: 973

    Tubing is not safe and jumping into the river is not safe. In Aug/Sept theNam Song will be high as it is the end of the monsoon. I don't think you will get a homestay for less than $30pn. You do realise they are feeding you as well? The plastic covers Exacto mentioned are the same as those I posted about. You can get them everywhere in Vang Vieng, you don't need to buy it in Europe.
    I really think you need to do a lot more research if you want to get the most out of your trip.

    #6 Posted: 28/7/2012 - 19:24

  • stephanieman

    Joined Travelfish
    25th July, 2012
    Posts: 5

    thanks for all the genuine advice
    i have heard those dying case of tubing
    i thought it gonna be fine cos i personally dun drink any alcohol
    but it seems that it wont be a nice idea anyway due to the monsoon.

    for the homestay, i meant to stay in villages. i guess i have soke misunderstanding while reading LP.
    will check out the price with the local agents


    #7 Posted: 28/7/2012 - 20:42

  • stephanieman

    Joined Travelfish
    25th July, 2012
    Posts: 5

    as now the alternative would be skipping vang vieng due to the weather concern.
    so i happen to have 2 more days and i can reduce the time of staying in 4000island.

    i wonder if i can go to angkor wat for 3 days as i have been dreaming to go.
    but as i saw a lot of scam news abt the transportation from 4000 islands to siem reap. like dropping ppl in the midway.
    is laos-cambodia a desirable route? if no.. i gonna leave it for next time.

    any recommendation? thanks so much!!!:-)

    #8 Posted: 28/7/2012 - 21:00

  • Rufus

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd April, 2007
    Location Laos
    Posts: 973

    There have been scams on this trip; I don't know if there still are.
    We don't mean to put you off Vang Vieng. The scenery there is quite stunning if you like caves and karst landscapes. However Angkor Wat would definitely be worthwhile.

    #9 Posted: 28/7/2012 - 22:24

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