I will be visiting Laos in August, coming overland from Chiang Rai. I will have approx 11 nights as I have a flight out of Vientiane.
So want to use my time wisely as this is my last stop before heading to KL to home (Australia).
So thinking Luang Prabang seems to be where I want to spend the most time in. I am thinking 4 nights. I do want an honest opinion on the trek over the border from Thailand. Will I need to make a pit stop for the night, or is it a straight journey from Thai border to LP?
I dont mind doing the whole trek in one go...
I was going to skip Vang Vieng. Reason being I am not into the party scene at all. I know that the place may be beautiful, but I dont like the thought of being surrounded by young backpackers drinking during the day and taking substances and tubing wasted. I would rather spend my time else where. But honestly am i stereotyping the place? I am 26 years old and it is just not my scene that's all (a bit of a health freak some would say, my party days are behind me).
My last stop is Vientiane. Where i would like to spend 3 nights. Obviously I have a few spare nights. But I can spread this time elsewhere on my trip. But the pro in stopping in VV is breaking up the journey from LP to Vientiane.
What are everyone's thoughts?
#1 misstahlia has been a member since 16/11/2012. Posts: 15
Man the word "trek" is really being used for just about any movement at all now.
You don't need to decide how long you are going to spend at one place now. Where are you going to do your border crossing? You didn't specify, but I get the impression it will be somewhere north of Vientiane. Out of Nan province?
Assuming Luang Prabang is your first city after crossing and then you are heading south, you can stop in VV and if you don't like it, the next day move on. Perhaps you'll get to Luang Prabang and like it so much you spend all 11 days there. I mean, there's no reason to make that decision now.
#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
"trek over the border from Thailand. Will I need to make a pit stop for the night, or is it a straight journey from Thai border to LP?"
Get a local bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong, 2.5 hours going every 30 minutes. The border (river crossing to Huay Xai ) is open 8am-6pm. Boat costs 50 baht, then get your Laos visa at the Immigration building on arrival (Aussies pay $30USD but with Thai baht they charge more). There is a currency exchange window in the same building and two ATMs at the top of the boat ramp. Independent travellers tend to get hassled to buy a ticket on the spot, but just decide which way you want to go and get a tuk tuk to the relevant point and buy the ticket directly at the pier/station.
From Huay Xai your options to Luang Prabang are 1) Slow boat 220,000 Lao Kip, 2 days, overnight halfway in Pakbeng town, 2) Speed boat around 1500 baht, 7 hours including a lunch stop at Pakbeng, or 3) Bus 120,000 Kip, about 14 hours to Luang Prabang.
More info here
As for Vang Vieng, stop for a day or two and decide if it's your cup of tea. Whatever party scene is easily avoided. Focus on the positives. The road between LP and VV is very scenic.
From what I understand, the party scene in VV has been cleaned up for the most part. I'm a slightly older traveler who avoids the party crowds and I'd now consider stopping off if I were going through now where as I did avoid it 2 years ago.
From LP you could consider Nong Khiaow but decide as you go. Also I liked Vientiane so think that 3 nights there is a good move.
I agree with MM, you don't need to over plan now.
We have just been in VV, i would definitely go there again, we loved it, and we are 40, not there to party.
The surroundings are so beautifull, and as capt Bob stated, you can easily avoid the party, which is hardly there anymore. You see an older crowd there already, peole who just want to enjoy the scenery. We only saw one guy really drunk, saw more of them in Vientiane, you don't see all the "happy" signs anymore, the place is changing fast, and for the better.
We also tubed, which was really relaxed in beautifull surroundings. Only one bar still remains along the river, which you don't have to stop at.
Get a cheap motorbike for the day and explore the countrysde, you won't regret it, if it's within you budget you should also consider the hot air balloon ride ($80), such a nice view from up there.
#5 bascanvas has been a member since 18/9/2011. Posts: 14
Which does beg the question where is the party scene going to move to? Down south or out of Laos altoegther and stay in Thailand? I'll be curious to see where this goes. I know a place between That Phanom and Mukdahan that has a scene like this but it's all young Thais. Right on the river. I wonder...
#6 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Wherever the "New Vang Vieng " is, one of the requirements is it has to be relatively convenient to get to and not too far off the banana pancake trail. That pretty much disqualifies most of Isaan. I thought it might be Don Det once they got 24-hour electricity, but even that is too far off the "SE Asia in five weeks" gap-year kid circuit. Pai was once a contender and it fulfills another requirement of having a user-friendly river running through it, but it's not really a drinking party vibe and it goes dead quiet after around 9pm. Also new construction is tightly controlled and it would be nearly impossible to put in some river bars but I have done self-made group tubing on the river. Anyway, I think many of the "tubing" party crowd will simply skip Laos as there is now "nothing to do" there. I previously had countless young people arriving here in Chiang Mai with only one question: "How do I get to Vang Vieng as quickly as possible?" but that has died out and instead it's "How do I get to Ko Phangan as quickly as possible?" Had Rin FMP etc. is still the de facto party spot for that crowd, and unlike V V the local authorities have not seen the wisdom of cracking down or otherwise controlling it.
I'm also thinking FMP will dominate that kind of scene too. It has to be somewhere, because there is money to be made in it. You are probably right that the place I am thinking of (I should take a video of it - it's called Kaeng Ka Bao) is not on the way to anywhere or from anywhere (which is why no backpackers come to Muk - or almost no). But it would fill the bill and I could see some enterprising guys developing what's already there. Especially with guesthouses already available in That Phanom, a stones throw away.
#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Appreciate all of your replies. I guess I could use the word Journey instead of trek?!
Captain Bob- that was a great reply on the border crossing. So detailed and helpful! I am coming from Chiang Rai, sorry should have specified that in the first post.
Yeah I agree. I don't want to over plan but as I do have a flight out, I did want a fair idea on where to spend my time. And by the sounds of it, I would be silly to miss VV. I am happy that the scene has died down there. And I can avoid it anyway as was mentioned. So I will be adding VV into my trip. And as you say- i can move on if it is not my cup of tea!
#9 misstahlia has been a member since 16/11/2012. Posts: 15
Have a great trip. Let us know how it goes. Always nice to get feedback.
#10 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957