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Laos forum

itinerary check

Posted by tazgirl on 5/5/2009 at 17:25

First up, this site has been so helpful, I've even gotten my travel agent addicted to checking it out!
I'm planning on travelling around Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for 2 months in June/July 09. So far my rough itinerary is:
Fly into Hanoi - spend about a week here, Halong Bay trip, cooking classes etc.
Fly Hanoi to Luang Prabang
next day or same day - board boat to travel upriver to Luang Nam Tha
Spend a few days in LNT, then slowly back to LP and further south, taking about 10 days.
Overland crossing into Cambodia.
~2 weeks in Cambodia
Got to meet someone in Ho Chi Minh City on 19 July, and then planning to wander around southern Vietnam for ~2 weeks.

And that's as far as my itinerary has gotten. Is this a ridiculously vague plan?

#1 tazgirl has been a member since 30/4/2009. Posts: 6

Posted by brucemoon on 6/5/2009 at 07:17

tazgirl

NO, hell NO! Having an open plan is great.

There are a couple of questions I have that if you can answer, may serve to help you.

But, trying to see too much, defining a detailed itinerary BEFORE you depart is (IMHO) silly.

- - - -

The HaNoi bit...

If you spend a week there, can you describe the travelling things that may interest you?

For example, try this...

day 1
Fly in, check into accommodation, wander around and get oriented...

day 2
Sightsee, maybe check out Halong Bay options with travel agents (hopefully book something today, if not, tomorrow).

day 3
Sightsee / cooking class, confirm halong trip

day 4
to Halong (ON Halong)

day 5
ON Halong

day 6
Return HaNoi

then????

I DO NOT want to suggest you do this, but it's an idea that sort of fashions how you might spend your time, and how much time you'd like to allocate.

- - - - -

As for Luang Prabang , it WILL be a major contrast to HaNoi. Nearly everything that HaNoi is, LP is the opposite. It's a lovely city - but its just that, a city.

You say you want to go to Luang Nam Tha by boat. Sorry, not possible. You can go to Huay Xai by boat (2 days), then by bus to Nam Tha (5 hours). Or you can go by bus from LP to Nam Tha (9 hours).

An alternative is to go to Nam Tha by bus (9 hours) do your thing in Nam Tha, and return to LP from Nam Tha by going by bus Nam Tha - Oudom Xay, change to Oudom Xay - Nong Khiaw. Staying overnight at Nong Khiaw and taking the boat down the Nam Ou to Luang Prabang (pleasant trip, that).

But, why do you want to go to Nam Tha?

Answering that question may offer alternative ideas that make your journey equally as good, but with less time actually travelling (the bane of any good journey).

- - - -

Also, what is you'd like to do in Cambodia?

- - - - - - - -

So, from starting off saying "Hell, NO. Having an open plan is great", I'm now suggesting you try and describe what it is you want to see / do.

The reason is that when you do start to assess the detail, you start to pick up on the hurdles you face, the issues you'll have to address, and that will help you narrow down (to some degree) the time you'll need at a minimum in each place.

I suppose I've seen too many people just hang out in SE Asia and not really achieve what they wanted. And, in so doing, they finish up meeting and talking to fellow western travellers, going to western food places, partying, etc., and not actually experiencing all the attributes that make SE Asia such a great contrast to western ideas / lifestyles / bigotries / etc.

- - - -

Hope the planning can get you to really have an open plan. Only with an open plan - that follows the planning in detail - are you really in a position to make good (or at least better) choices.

Cheers

#2 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941


Posted by tazgirl on 6/5/2009 at 09:33

Thanks for the tips brucemoon, especially for the bus/boat trip LNT-LP. I should specify that my time in Hanoi is taken care of - spending time with family.
My reason for going to Luang Nam Tha is to check out the Protected Area (I'm an ecologist) and because it seems wonderfully out of the way. The website for the Boat Landing Guesthouse in LNT talks about how you can get on a boat from Luang Prabang to Pak Tha, and then get another boat to take you up the NamTha River to Luang Nam Tha. Is this true?

Onto Cambodia - I've heard of a temple complex outside of Angkor Wat that pre-dates AW and is much less visited. Can you give any tips on that?

I'm looking into volunteer programs in both Laos and Cambodia and also thinking of going the homestay options. I'm very much into wandering around villages and checking out small temples and finding the restaurant where there seems to be lots of locals eating, doing the occasional tour with a local guide, avoiding backpacker hostels and western-style eateries.

Southern Vietnam - I want to check out the Mekong Delta area, and apparently we have to spend some time in Mui Ne to go kiteboarding.

So I guess my plan isn't totally open, but you have gotten me onto putting a bit more effort into sorting out the specific sites/sights I may want to check out. Thank you again.

Cheerio

#3 tazgirl has been a member since 30/4/2009. Posts: 6

Posted by brucemoon on 6/5/2009 at 09:46

Tazgirl

It was because of my Environmental Science background that took me to Nam Tha.

There's so much feedback I'd love to give you to help you 'do your thing'. But, as we could ramble on here forever, and the conversation may not assist others.

Perhaps better if you emailed me direct. In the first instance, try:

bfm@australia.edu

Cheers

#4 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by wanderingcat on 6/5/2009 at 11:25

The website for the Boat Landing Guesthouse in LNT talks about how you can get on a boat from Luang Prabang to Pak Tha , and then get another boat to take you up the NamTha River to Luang Nam Tha. Is this true?
_____________________________________________

Luang Prabang - Pak Beng (1 day, daily slowboat, 110,000kip)
Pak Beng - Pak Tha (more than half a day, daily slowboat,

#5 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
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Posted by wanderingcat on 6/5/2009 at 11:26

hmm...most of my post went missing...

____________________________________________

The website for the Boat Landing Guesthouse in LNT talks about how you can get on a boat from Luang Prabang to Pak Tha , and then get another boat to take you up the NamTha River to Luang Nam Tha. Is this true?
_____________________________________________

Luang Prabang - Pak Beng (1 day, daily slowboat, 110,000kip)
Pak Beng - Pak Tha (more than half a day, daily slowboat,

#6 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
 Where has wanderingcat been?   Website 

Posted by wanderingcat on 6/5/2009 at 11:27

hmm...most of my post went missing...again *GRRRRR*

____________________________________________

The website for the Boat Landing Guesthouse in LNT talks about how you can get on a boat from Luang Prabang to Pak Tha , and then get another boat to take you up the NamTha River to Luang Nam Tha. Is this true?
_____________________________________________

Luang Prabang - Pak Beng (1 day, daily slowboat, 110,000kip)
Pak Beng - Pak Tha (more than half a day, daily slowboat, less than 110,000kip)
Pak Tha - Nalae (more than 1 day?, chartered boat)
Nalae - Luang Namtha (songthaew)
(may be possible to charter boats all the way up from Pak Tha to Luang Namtha)

In theory, it's possible, if you have enough time + a lot of $$$ + Nam Tha river levels are high enough. Have you seen the 2007 estimated costs for doing Pak Tha-Nalae/Luang Namtha by boat on the Boat Landing GH's website? Once at Pak Tha, you're pretty much on your own when it comes to negotiating to charter boats upriver, & won't be easy to find anyone else to share & split costs.

Best to contact Boat Landing GH & check with them on latest info & conditions. China has been up to some dam building work in the area - don't know the effects on river levels, river transport, & if certain villages along that river have been relocated as planned. The Chinese & Lao have also been cutting a new road (think it's linking Pak Beng-Pha Oudom-Pak Tha) & improving road links around Pha Oudom & Nalae . Changes like these can decrease demand & availability of river travel options.

- fellow biologist :)

#7 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
 Where has wanderingcat been?   Website 

Posted by brucemoon on 6/5/2009 at 11:42

Hay 'cat

I know how it feels to see the 'work' go...

I very much doubt Nam Tha would be navigable in late June. While the heavens may have opened, the garbage coming down would make for a suss up-river journey (unless in a hovercraft).

I was not overly impressed with the (lack of relevant information from the) Boat Landing GH. I got the feeling that they started off with the greatest intentions, and tried to assist the mid$$$ to high$$$ traveller, but haven't really succeeded in making the profit they'd hoped for. As a consequence, the people they appear to need to 'update/upgrade' their information either haven't been employed (to so do) or haven't been around.

But, that said, it's so laid back in Nam Tha that even with the best of data, it'd still take time to get the facts out.

ps. Tazgirl, if you don't want to contqact, that's OK, I just wanted to save miles of conversation, etc. blocking up ideas on Travelfish.

cheers

#8 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by wanderingcat on 6/5/2009 at 13:20

I was not overly impressed with the (lack of relevant information from the) Boat Landing GH. I got the feeling that they started off with the greatest intentions, and tried to assist the mid$$$ to high$$$ traveller, but haven't really succeeded in making the profit they'd hoped for. As a consequence, the people they appear to need to 'update/upgrade' their information either haven't been employed (to so do) or haven't been around.
_______________________________________________

I believe it might have something to do with what happened to their owner...

http://laobumpkin.blogspot.com/2008/02/missing-in-laos-pawn-still-gone.html
http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=6938
http://www.wausaudailyherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/99999999/WDH0101/80226065/0/theme

Not long after that, I noticed a change to their website - the removal of an article detailing the massive flooding (worst since 1964) that inundated LNT & their GH, & what the author felt were the causes of such flooding...Making such info public doesn't go down well with those in power...Anyway I think that's why most of their website content appears to be 'frozen' in 2007. The owner's wife & staff are probably trying their best to hold everything together - family, GH business - while hoping against hope that they will see him again. The 'incriminating' article's still available here:
http://rspas.anu.edu.au/rmap/newmandala/?attachment_id=223

Proposed Nam Tha 1 hydropower project in Nalae district:
http://rspas.anu.edu.au/rmap/newmandala/2007/09/30/the-nam-tha-dam/

#9 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
 Where has wanderingcat been?   Website 

Posted by brucemoon on 6/5/2009 at 14:08

'cat

Thanks very much for the 'posts'.

When raeding these informative articles, they, like many I spoke to, kept on saying the trees being planted are rubber trees.

I saw some rubber tree plantations - some more than 20 years old. I also saw some rubber plantations being removed. I also noticed that the (ex) rubber processing operations on Hwy 3 (east of old Nam Tha) were in a state of ruin. I got the feeling that it hadn't been used for several decades.

My observation of the trees being planted is that they are softwood and being planted for one of two purposes...

1/.

for locals to use as wood-fire feedstock (at least the smaller branches as a management outcome to 'enhance' trunk growth), and if large enough, as construction material for roof beams, etc (maybe the ones I saw were of unknown origin [ie 'theft'!]).

2/.

as feedstock for Chinese paper making. On this I have no evidence. I'm just making a huge logical leap by asking "who would have the money to fund villagers to plant, and then reap a return some one or two decades later (certainly not the Lao).

I'm more inclined with 2 than 1.

- - - -

Some of the stats used in the Nam Tha dam article are 'interesting'. For example, it was asserted that the tail of the dam will be some 110km.

The distance between Nalae to L. Nam Tha is approximately 60 kilometres (on a twisty road - so probably only 50 k). The proposed 110km ‘flood’ tail would thus appear to reach beyond Nam Tha (on a straight line basis). But, as the topography upstream of Nam Tha rises quickly and significantly, if 110km WAS to be the distance, it’d be a MASSIVE dam.


Claimed also was that the Chinese know how to deal with turbidity (an indicator of siltation).

I’m not sure the Chinese know how to deal with siltation (the cause of turbidity). The ‘mighty’ 3 Gorges dam will have a life of only 50 years precisely because the Chinese don’t know how to address the impact of siltation on the dam floor.

- - - -

The articles really do show that any 'naturalness' in the Nam Tha region won't be around for much longer.

- - - -

There is also another 'side' issue to this, and that is the potential outcome for Jacques and his Gibbon Experience now that the Bokeo provincial chief wants to log his concession area.

He's in the courts, but I suspect that even if he wins, he may suffer the same indignity others have suffered when they stand in the way of 'progress'.

Cheers

#10 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by tazgirl on 7/5/2009 at 10:21

Thank you very much for the background info. So is the Boat Landing GH still operating?

This sort of information makes me want to get up into that area even more now, see it before it disappears.

#11 tazgirl has been a member since 30/4/2009. Posts: 6

Posted by brucemoon on 7/5/2009 at 10:43

tazgirl

Yes, the Boat Landing GH is still operating, but it is pale shell of what it used to be. Also, it's a long way from town - where there are options that are just as good.

How long are you planning to be there for, and (given the earlier comments) how are you thinking of getting there, and what appears to be the primary interest. Maybe go check my blog for my comments on my experiences in that area...

www.travelblog/Bloggers/brucemoon/

Cheers

#12 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941


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