Have just got back from there and not a lot has changed as far as accommodation goes. Sam Neua does have a bunch of new places along the river, but they're all same same really. 60-80k per night. Vieng Xai hasn't changed except to say that the place across the road from the caves office is the pick of the bunch. Naxay 2 from memory. Get in there for sure.
Eating in Sam Neua is dire. You'll go a bit hungry if you stay too long - local stuff not too filling unless you get into one of the bbqs and there is only one tourist restaurant operating.
Vieng Xai has an Indian/Lao place running next to the bus station and is the best bet in town. The guy makes a mean Indian tea and the curries are not bad either. Vieng Xai is a top spot and I would get there before staying too long in Sam Neua.
Stayed there for two nights in mid-October. Sam Neua hotel still seems to be the best bet, with 100k for a single room, which was comfortable and clean enough and even had a bit of style. I will post some pictures on tripadvisor in the next days. Apart from that a place called Mixouk (?) Guesthouse looked good, too, but i think it was even more "expensive". Eating is true, there are no "falang" places to eat and the food can be really medicore.
As for Vieng Xai: The mentioned guesthouse looked okay from the outside. I tried to get some food, as it was recommended to me for having probably the best food in town, but there was nobody to cook it.
#3 3drazor has been a member since 13/10/2011. Posts: 16
Thank you for your answers ! My experience confirms the points you made : Vieng Xai really great (not only the cave tour), very quiet, very beautiful little place, Naxay II (opposite the cave office) very clean and peaceful, you will end up to the Indian restaurant (lao food,too) if you get hungry after 6:00 pm and probably join the other falangs there. If you are not an early sleeper - bring a book with you (if traveling solo, like me). Sam Neua - lots of places to stay, no problem. Most of them in walking distance, easy to check, early November no vacancy problems at all. I didn't find much to do after dark. Don't forget your jacket!