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My turn for an Itinerary review!

  • mamatwiga

    Joined Travelfish
    9th July, 2009
    Posts: 6

    Hello all,

    As many have already said, I'm amazed by how helpful everyone is on these message boards. Thank you in advance ... SEA is a new frontier for me so I appreciate any and all advice!

    My boyfriend and I are travelling for 3 weeks in August and have just recently cut down our itinerary after reading the advice posted on here. I realize that it's likely still too packed, but we'll see what feedback we get.

    As of now, we're planning:

    Aug 3: Fly into Bangkok
    Aug 4: Bangkok
    Aug 5: Fly out of Bangkok to Luang Prabang (not sure on price/scheduling for this flight)
    Aug 6: Luang Prabang
    Aug 7: Luang Prabang
    Aug 8: Luang Prabang
    Aug 9: Luang Prabang
    Aug 10: bus to Vang Vieng
    Aug 11: Vang Vieng
    Aug 12: Vang Vieng
    Aug 13: Vang Vieng
    Aug 13/14?: Get to Siem Reap (via Vientiane?)
    Aug 15: Siem Reap
    Aug 15: Siem Reap
    Aug 16: Fly to Phuket en route to Koh Phi Phi
    Aug 17: Koh Phi Phi
    Aug 18: Koh Phi Phi
    Aug 19: Koh Phi Phi
    Aug 20: Koh Phi Phi
    Aug 21: Koh Phi Phi
    Aug 22: back to Bangkok
    Aug 23: depart Bangkok

    We removed Chiang Mai from the front end of our trip in hopes that we could do some trekking from Luang Prabang and streamline the trip a bit more.

    Any and all recommendations would be welcome. I feel like a bit of a chump for not being better planned at this stage!

    Thank you, thank you...

    #1 Posted: 9/7/2009 - 10:36

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  • BruceMoon

    Click here to learn more about BruceMoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    mamatwiga

    Yes, you'll have to bus it to Vientiane from VV. There are airlines that do the Vientiane - Siem Reap connection: principally Laos Airlines. But, their website is hopeless, so either use a third party (eg. www.amadeus.net) or better, your local (good) travel agent.

    Your itinerary is heavily oriented to the young adult seeking to party. There's nothing inherently wrong with this.

    I suggest you're planning too much time at VV (one full day is enough, max 2), and not enough at Siem Reap (read what I say on this elsewhere on Travelfish).

    If you are planning to trek, where are you thinking, and how do you plan for that to occur?

    Cheers

    #2 Posted: 9/7/2009 - 11:35

  • Rufus

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd April, 2007
    Location Laos
    Posts: 951

    Far too much time in Vang Vieng. I suggest you spend a couple of days in Vientaine. There is a lot to do and see there.

    #3 Posted: 9/7/2009 - 15:49

  • BruceMoon

    Click here to learn more about BruceMoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    mamatwiga

    On second thoughts, is there any reason why you are focussing on the party trail?

    As I said, there's nothing wrong with spending large amounts of time and money to come to SE Asia to party. However, it is possible that (aside from Siem Reap & Angkor) you could fit in some notional aspects about linking into/up with with SE Asian people and their culture.

    Cheers

    #4 Posted: 9/7/2009 - 16:41

  • mamatwiga

    Joined Travelfish
    9th July, 2009
    Posts: 6

    Hi there...

    Thanks very much for the feedback and I think I can safely say that our attempt to streamline the trip has not achieved what we were aiming for. The only reason that we gave extra days to Vang Vieng was because we were busing in/out and didn't know how easy that would be to do (time-wise). Originally, we had allotted two nights there as I had thought I would tire of the 'party scene' very, very quickly. Glad to hear I was right about that.

    Our original itinerary had us spending 3 nights in Chiang Mai at the beginning of the trip, but we worried that would be too many stops and tried to reallocate the nights based mostly on where we'd need extra travel time.

    Since our original plans involved trekking in Chiang Mai, I haven't done much research into trekking out of Luang Prabang. This strong reaction is good - the party trail is NOT why we're coming to SEA.

    I suppose my questions are these:

    1) If we were to plan to spend time in Chiang Mai at the beginning of the trip, do you think we'd be attempting too much in too little time? Would we get a better/more authentic trekking experience if we were to go out of Chiang Rai or Luang Prabang?

    2) The time in Koh Phi Phi (also extended due to the removal of Chiang Mai) isn't meant to be a long party... we wanted to schedule some low-key beach time and thought it best to stay in one location instead of wasting time moving around. Should we be spending our time in the south elsewhere?

    Thanks again for your help. I promise you that I gave you the wrong impression with my initial plans.

    #5 Posted: 9/7/2009 - 20:07

  • mamatwiga

    Joined Travelfish
    9th July, 2009
    Posts: 6

    Our original itinerary was:

    Aug 3(late),4: Bangkok
    Aug 5: leave for Chiang Mai
    Aug 6-8: Chiang Mai... trekking & one extra day
    Aug 9: leave for Luang Prabang
    Aug 10-11: Luang Prabang
    Aug 12: leave for Vang Vieng
    Aug 13-14: Vang Vieng
    Aug 15: Leave for Siem Reap
    Aug 16-17: Siem Reap
    Aug 18: leave for Phuket/Koh Phi Phi
    Aug 22: back to BKK and home the next day

    #6 Posted: 9/7/2009 - 20:50

  • BruceMoon

    Click here to learn more about BruceMoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    mamatwiga

    2 nights at VV sounds about right. It's one (full) day on the bus to VV from LP. And it's 3/4 day on the bus from VV to Vientiane.

    Trekking at/from Chiang Mai is OK, it's what so many do, it's a major industry, and you'll get that major industry feel.

    There appear two easily organised alternatives.

    1/.

    When you get to Luang Prabang , schedule time to go from LP up the Mekong & Nam Ou (river Ou) to Nong Khiaw (maybe even go another hour upstream to Ngoi Neua) and trek from there. The journey from LP to Nong Khiaw takes about 7 hours and the scenery is good and quite different to the Mekong. You can return to LP by either boat or bus (via OudomXay).

    While this area is sort of on the tourist trail, it doesn't have too many tourists. And, you are much closer to the rural SE Asia focus (ie. yet to be developed) here than any of the other places you intend to visit.

    Given that you are planning to spend 2 days on the Huay Xai - LP, Mekong journey, you may not want to do more boating.

    ps. for the Huay Xai - LP journey on the Mekong, go look at the last couple of entries into this thread:

    http://www.travelfish.org/board/post/laos/3210_the-laos-slow-boat-thread

    One possible alternative would be to take a Bangkok Airlines flight from Bangkok directly to Luang Prabang [departs 11:40, and costs around US$160].

    Another alternative is next.

    2/.

    For a really different trekking experience, go look at the Gibbon Experience...

    http://www.travelfish.org/feature/46

    That page links to the firm's website.

    If you choose to go along this option, you get to Huay Xai (from Chiang Khong) and stay overnight at Huay Xai. At about 8am, they take you to the Bokeo Province in the back of a 4WD, as long as its not too wet, the 4WD gets you to a H!Mong village and from there you trek through pretty good forest with H!Mong guides. You use a zipline to cross valleys, and sleep overnight (2 nights actually) in a tree house. Then, you trek out, get picked up by the 4WD's, and have to option of going back to Huay Xai, or being dropped off at the nearby bus stop for the bus to go to Luang Nam Tha.

    I did the 'Gibbon Experience' recently, go look at my blog:

    www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/brucemoon/

    The vids (at the beginning) show the ziplining, the Mekong @ Luang Prabang, and 'fast' river boating (ssssscaaaaryyyyy!!!!).

    If you choose to return to Huay Xai, you can take the Mekong trip. If you choose to go to Luang Nam Tha, you can stay @ LNM and take a bus to OudomXai, change to another to go to Nong Khiaw, and take the boat down the Nam Ou and Mekong to Luang Prabang.

    The 'gibbon', road / boat journey is extremely scenic. It's also one that when you return home people will say "you went where? ...you did whaaaatt!!!

    If you post back with your thoughts on these ideas, I'll fashion a sort of itinerary for your consideration.

    Cheers

    #7 Posted: 10/7/2009 - 06:03

  • mamatwiga

    Joined Travelfish
    9th July, 2009
    Posts: 6

    Hi Bruce,

    Thanks again for your assistance. It means a lot!

    When I initially started planning this trip (in April, before school got in the way) I had been emailing with the Gibbon Experience crowd to ask questions about the experience during the rainy season. I heard that the waterfall was out as the roads were not passable and just didn't pursue it any further. Once our itinerary started taking a different direction, I figured we wouldn't have time...

    Your photos of both the Gibbon Experience and Nam Ou are beautiful. I think we would be more inclined to do something like the Gibbon Experience at the front end of our trip, however, rather than the boat trip you described (if only we had endless time and money to do everything...). Do you think we have enough time to include the Gibbon Experience along with a bit of time in Luang Prabang before heading south? I really want to make sure we're not falling victim to the over-scheduling that others were warned against in various threads.

    I'd be happy to see your cut at a revised itinerary, and certainly appreciate all the time you devote to helping out newbies like me!

    Thanks again...

    #8 Posted: 10/7/2009 - 11:37

  • BruceMoon

    Click here to learn more about BruceMoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    mamatwiga

    There is no doubt August is the wettest month.

    Given this, you are faced with the following five 'issues':

    1/.

    The 4WD may not be able to reach the H!Mong village. So, instead on a 1 hour trek to 'base camp', it will be anything up to 4 or 5 hours.

    On this go see what I read at:

    http://www.travelfish.org/board/post/laos/6220_gibbon-experience-in-september-

    AND

    http://www.travelfish.org/board/post/laos/6415_gibbon-experience--hear-its-good-but-is-it-really-worth-160-euros-

    2/.

    Even if you get to the H!Mong village, the area will be wet. There will be mosquito's and leeches, and there will be clay and mud that you will have to trek through. It will not only get all over your boots, but on your clothes (likely you'll slip over).

    If you choose to take everything but the kitchen sink, you'll find the weight taxing. However, GE advise to take a small backpack and only carry essentials (eg. toilet paper, washing & sleeping needs, torch, and any repellents/medication). You leave your bigger pack at a village [on the highway] called Ban Ta Fan. They are safe.

    3/.

    You'll most likely be wet the whole time. Either it will rain on you, and/or the foliage canopy will drip on you.

    Sometimes the days will be all day wet, or there may just be showers in the evening. No-one can say.

    You can buy a plastic cape or mac, and this may help keeping you from being dripping wet from rain. But, unless you use a cape, you'll be sweating from the inside and you'll still be wet.

    As I live in the sub-tropics, I don't mind being wet as the temperature is warm/hot and so its no big deal for me. A person from a temperate climate may have psychological 'issues' with being wet for long periods (I'm used to it).

    4/.

    It matters little if you choose the 'classic' or 'waterfall' experience. The waterfall is better in the hot, dry times as the cool swim is really appreciated. But, the 'classic' is possibly better at this time of year as you don't trek as far through steep trails.

    5/.

    All the trails have sections that are steep. Ordinarily this is no problem. But, during the wet, there will be times when you curse. Sobeit!


    CONCLUSION:

    I have tried to paint the worse possible scenarion.

    Personally, I believe if you can handle the 'wet', then it'll be an adventure you'll remember for the whole of your life.

    One way to 'address' this is to keep an eye on the weather forecast, and if the whole area looks like being rained out, don't partake. If the area looks like its going to be OK, pay your Euro's at the last minute.

    I know the GE put the price up if you arrive on the day and seek a 'seat'.

    I don't know what their 'cut-off' date is prior to each excursion.

    Maybe you can determine this and try and leave the 'decision' to the last minute.

    - - -

    On the subject of weather, go to:

    http://www.wunderground.com/cgi-bin/findweather/getForecast?query=Chiang%20Khong&wuSelect=WEATHER

    This will take you to Chiang Khong .

    If you 'right click' on the small picture to the left side to open in a new tab/window, you'll 'blow up the google pic, and can watch the weather.

    The 'marker' goes to Chiang Sean (near the Myanmar border), Chiang Khong is a little under it (zoom a little in and it'll show). To the right (in a zoomed view) is a town called Ban Puang. The GE 'site' is near there.

    The cloud today isn't too bad (occasional light showers, if anything).

    - - -

    Only you can make the call as to whether you want to take the risk, etc.

    - - -

    Personally, if the prospect of doing GE in the wet season was sort of OK, I'd leave my options open and run with whatever happens.

    Even if you decide at the last minute not to do the GE, then you can still travel along the Mekong from Huay Xai on the 2 day slow boat.

    Your itinerary could then be:

    GE:

    Aug 3(late),4: Bangkok
    Aug 5: leave for Chiang Khong, cross over Huay Xai
    Aug 6-8: GE, return Huay Xai
    Aug 9: leave by boat for for Luang Prabang
    Aug 10: arrive Luang Prabang
    Aug 12: Luang Prabang
    Aug 13: bus to Vang Vieng
    Aug 14: Vang Vieng
    Aug 15: Leave for Vientiane
    Aug 16: fly to Siem Reap
    Aug 17-18: Siem Reap
    Aug 19: leave for Phuket/Koh Phi Phi
    Aug 22: back to BKK and home the next day.

    Or, alternative:

    Aug 3(late),4: Bangkok
    Aug 5: leave for Chiang Khong - cross over Huay Xai
    Aug 6-8: boat trip to Luang Prabang
    Aug 9-11: Luang Prabang
    Aug 12: leave for Vang Vieng
    Aug 13: Vang Vieng
    Aug 14: Leave for Vientiane
    Aug 15: fly Siem Reap
    Aug 16-17: Siem Reap
    Aug 18: leave for Phuket/Koh Phi Phi
    Aug 22: back to BKK and home the next day

    - - -

    Hope this helps make your decision-making easier.

    Cheers

    #9 Posted: 10/7/2009 - 14:39

  • BruceMoon

    Click here to learn more about BruceMoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    Oh, and possible other itinerary alternatives are:

    DOUBLE AIR:

    Aug 3(late),4: Bangkok, 5: Bangkok
    Aug 6: leave for Luang Prabang by air
    Aug 6: Luang Prabang
    Aug 7: boat to Nong Khiaw / Ngoi Neua
    Aug 8: trek in local area
    Aug 9: return Luang Prabang, either by boat, or by bus via OudomXai
    Aug 10: Luang Prabang
    Aug 11: bus to Vang Vieng
    Aug 12: Vang Vieng
    Aug 13: Leave for Vientiane
    Aug 14: fly Siem Reap
    Aug 15-17: Siem Reap
    Aug 18: leave for Phuket/Koh Phi Phi
    Aug 22: back to BKK and home the next day

    OR STAY THAILAND:

    Aug 3(late),4: Bangkok, 5: Bangkok, take night train to Chiang Mai
    Aug 6: Chiang Mai
    Aug 7: Chiang Mai - take afternoon bus to Chiang Dao
    Aug 8-9 or 8-10: 1 or 2 day trek from Chiang Dao
    Aug 9 or 10: take bus to Pai
    Aug 10 or 11: Pai - river rafting, walking/swimming with elephant
    Aug 12 or 13: return to Chiang Mai
    Aug 14: bus to Sukhothai
    Aug 15: Sukhothai
    Aug 16: bus Bangkok
    Aug 17: early bus floating market, then Kanchanaburi
    Aug 18: Kanchanaburi visit Hellfire Pass & River Kwai bridge (etc)
    Aug 19: bus to Phuket
    Aug 22: back to BKK and home the next day

    In some respects, the Laos excursion has too much long, on the road experiences. Both these offer less long, on the road experiences, and hence more time to relax and enjoy.

    The four Thailand places - Chiang Dao, Pai, Sukothai, and Kanchanaburi give you a wider range of experiences. And, still provides for the 'fun' factor. Go look at what Travelfish has to say for each place (type each name into the Search Travelfish box in the grey area up top).

    Cheers

    #10 Posted: 11/7/2009 - 07:11

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  • mamatwiga

    Joined Travelfish
    9th July, 2009
    Posts: 6

    Thanks, Bruce.

    I've emailed the folks at the Gibbon Experience to see if there's availability on those dates, and we'll go from there to see what our next steps are.

    Thanks again for all your help. I really appreciate it.

    We'll let you know how it all turns out - and I hope you don't mind if more questions come your way once we start finalizing plans!

    All the best!

    #11 Posted: 11/7/2009 - 13:48

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