This is my first solo trip through indochina and I am pretty excited to kick it off in laos in October. I do not know much about what is possible though (feeling a little bit clueless at the moment) altho reading other posts is definitely helping. Can you please advise on what would be a good route to see the south and north of laos in 2.5 - 3 weeks and whether I should consider taking any flights etc.? Any advice, criticism etc. would be GREATLY appreciated.
So far this is what I am thinking:
Making my way from Bangkok to Ubon Ratachani and crossing through Cheong Mek, then I would like to head to:
Si Phan Don
Champasak – Wat Phu
Luang Prabang (then making my way to Hanoi perhaps via Dien Bien Phu crossing???)
Am I missing anything or biting off more than I can chew? Any way I can make this better? I am open to ALL suggestions. THANKS SO MUCH!!!
#1 juls101 has been a member since 16/8/2009. Posts: 3
The one flight that might be necessary, unless you've got a week or so to get from Luang Prabang to the Tay Trang border for Dien Bien Phu and onward to Hanoi, is flying from L. Prabang to Hanoi. Otherwise, much of your Lao itinerary can be executed via VIP or local buses and/or songthaew. But I think 3 weeks are still quite tight.
Budget flights between Bangkok and Ubon but you also have the option of the sleeper train or VIP buses from Bangkok's Mochit Bus Station to Ubon. I'm not sure if there's still a VIP bus that runs all the way to the Chong Mek border so you might double check. Heck, there may even be one that goes all the way into Pakse . I caught that VIP bus at Ubon 6AM to the Chong Mek border back in 2004 and the bus station is quite a ways out of town so you're going to need to take a tuk tuk from the town center.
There is an International Bus that runs between Ubon and Pakse but I have no idea as to whether it waits for passengers to get a Lao visa or not (for example the I. Bus for Vientiane -Nong Khai or Udon Thani requires a Lao visa in advance).
You might be able to get from Pakse to Nakasang for Don Det/Khon (2 very popular islands of '4,000') if you leave Ubon really early in the morning to catch buses or songthaews for Nakasang boatlanding.
We went from Ubon to Champasak in the same day without any problems, arriving around 2pm. After getting into Pakse, there are songthaews that depart from the South Bus Station (but I read recently that there might be songthaews from the central bus station as well) to Champasak some 30 kilometers away. You're going to have to check around regarding songthaews because some just drop off at the T-junction at kilometer 30 whereas others go all the way into Champasak, which is what we caught. The songthaew has to cross the Mekong by car ferry and if you want on it's way down to Champasak, you can request the driver to drop you off at Anouxa GH which is where we stayed and is on the north-side (ferry side) of town. This past Dec., we revisited Wat Phu and Anouxa and it's still very friendly with an assortment of accommodation costs.
The following early morning we rented bikes from Anouxa to ride down to Wat Phu (I think it was about 10K so factor in biking time), visited for several hours without rushing and returned in time to check out by noon to get to Nakasang and Don Det the same day. If you don't have much luggage (ie. a small backpack) you could take a motorbike hire from Chamapsak or at the ferry landing and the driver will drop you off at T-junction kilometer 30 where you can flag down any Nakasang bus/songthaew and again, shouldn't be a problem getting to Don Det/Khon the same day.
I can't speak to Savanakhet since I've only taken the overnight VIP sleeper buses between Pakse and Vientiane a couple times and haven't stayed; only stopped once by local bus between Thakek and Pakse.
If you decide to take the overnight VIP bus, then I recommend the 'King of Bus Co.' and they have a small ticket booth/office just south of the official Pakse Tourism Center on the Mekong (several blocks away from the Pakse Hotel). They offer 2 overnight VIP buses; one is a sleeper bus with bed compartments that sleep 2/person and one that is a regular VIP bus with reclining seats. If you're a solo woman, then it's probably more comfortable getting the recliner seat bus unless you're wanting to meet your Lao husband ;~). That bus drops you off at Vientiane's South Bus Station some 9 kilometers south of Vientiane. You can take a share songthaew into town but I've read of a regular songthaew service between the South Station and the Talat Sao/Morning Market Bus Station which is in central Vientiane and only a 3-4 blocks from the tourist zone of Nam Phu Fountain.
For an idea of the rest of your itinerary, take a look at AlyssaAnee's reverse route to yours below/above to get an idea as to logistics.
#2 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136
Sorry, I'm mixing up the posts. It's joancchung's post that I'm referring to about the northern Laos itinerary.
#3 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136
2.5 - 3 weeks sounds heaps of time, till you actually do it. Without sounding silly, for me, maybe the question really should be here is my itinerary, here is how long I am staying in these places, and this what I'm anticipating doing in these places. The reason I say this as you can really fill a huge amount of time in travel, and so lose enjoyment opportunities.
Luang Prabang (then making my way to Hanoi perhaps via Dien Bien Phu crossing???)[/i\]
How did you plan on getting to Muang Khua? boat or road?
As an aside, the route you have selected in Laos isn't a 'road less travelled', so much of what you may see may merely be foreign tourists. If that's your thing, sobeit.
Thanks so much for your replies seagypsy and Brucemoon. Very helpful! Brucemoon - I would like to visit some places that are not on the tourist track...do you have any suggestions? I have tried on occassions to visit remote places and often discovered that the reason some places are so popular is that they are places worth visiting. But I guess I would like a mix and I am open to any ideas.
#5 juls101 has been a member since 16/8/2009. Posts: 3
Come on Bruce. First you recommend for juls101 to go off the tourist track and then when she asks for recommendations you list the same destinations in her original post. You can do better than that!
#7 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136
I didn't see it coming across like that.
I was looking at #5, and thinking "rather than suggest ideas where s/he gets lost out there, maybe it's better to suggest places that are sort of related to the nominated waypoints. But, it would be helpful to know how long is anticipated in each place".
So, my question in #6 was not a re-presentation of Juls' itinerary, but asking him/her to suggest how many days in each of those waypoints. I thought the first sentence did that.
Also, how did you determine juls is a she?
Best clarify that I am a girl lol!! My name is Julia...I get called juls more though and I really appreciate your help with this seagypsy and Brucemoon. I'm just trying to put together a 3 week itinerary (vague one) for Laos and feeling a bit out of my depth. I guess I want to spend at least 2-3 days in each destination to get the most out of each place. Does that sound like long enough? Maybe I will need longer in places like LPB? Do you think it would be better maybe to just focus on the north or the south instead of trying to see both? And please, Brucemoon hit me with suggestions off the beaten path?
Cheers to you both!
#9 juls101 has been a member since 16/8/2009. Posts: 3
As others will attest, I'm more 'experienced' with the north than the south. The latter I just flashed through some years ago (never again so fast).
It was because of the north experience that I earlier asked (in post #4):
Luang Prabang (then making my way to Hanoi perhaps via Dien Bien Phu crossing???)
How did you plan on getting to Muang Khua ? boat or road?
This is beacue there are 2 ways to get to Muang Khua - where the bust to VN departs.
- - - -
Regarding 'excursions', and assuming you can ride a moto (small 100cc step thru motorbike)...
Champasak - Pakse: several posts here on Travelfish talk of travelling up to and/or around the Bolaven Plateau. By definition of travelling independently, you can choose to stop at whatever village appeals to you. Even so, the Plateau is (relatively) sparsely populated and has examples of NPA forest. On this, also look at pp. 263 LP Laos (6th Ed). If you do moto the area, you may have to shorten your time elsewhere (Savannakhet?).
Savannakhet: my memory of this area was that it was fairly densely populated (for Laos) and there probably wouldn't be too many 'off the beaten track' places. But, other more attuned with this area will know better.
Vientiane: a city is a city is a city.
Vang Vieng: despite the water focus, this is really pretty country and again, day trips in the region can be easily undertaken (either on hire bike or on tours). You'll see on LP Laos at pp. 125 a description of what's in the area. But, by definition of it being in LP, it'll be somewhat 'on the track' (tho I suspect few western travellers do things other than water in VV).
Luang Prabang: here, one of the options is to do an elephant trek, another is to take the boat up to Nong Khiaw / Muang Ngoi and trek, etc. You can do this as your trip to Muang Khua, or as a specific 'event'. If you are 'into' Laos villages, there are several in the area around here that don't see too many western tourists (check out this ).
There are other options in nthn Laos, but I suspect you've got enough on your plate.
You mention the Tay Trang crossing, but there are a couple of more convenient crossings from Luang Prabang to Hanoi -- especcially if you're not planning on hanging out in the northwest of Vietnam.
You can go via Phonsavan to the NamCan / Nam Khan crossing that takes you out to Vinh (then a bus/train to Hanoi), or you can go via Sam Neua via the Na Maew / Nam Xoi crossing, from where it is a road connection to Hanoi. Both routes see a fair amount of traffic traveller-wise.
If you opt for the Phonsavan route, then I'd suggest going Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang then backtrack to Phonsavan, see plain of jars etc, then continue on to the border.
And if you're seeking the path less beaten, then you can head to the Na Meow/Nam Xoi crossing from Luang Prabang via Nong Khiaw, heading east along Route 1 connecting to Route 6 up to Sam Neua. This is a very scenic road but takes several days! Also, just in case, fyi, you'll need your VieT visa in advance and that can be done also in Luang Prabang (at consulate) or at VTE embassy.
Bruce--"how did you determine juls is a she?"
Simple, I used to have a girlfriend named Julie who also liked the name Juls so guessed.
#12 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136