My girlfriend and me are planning a trip to SE Asia and are a bit confused about the Laos part. We will spend some time in North Vietnam and enter Laos through Sop Hun / Tay Trang border crossing. We have a bit more than 2 weeks (15-16 days) to pass Laos and we need to catch a flight then from Udon Thani in Thailand.
We have to make aproximate plan where to go and how much time to spend. I guess 2 weeks is not enough and we don't want to pick too many places since we would be rushing too much... We are both more nature "types" so we would like to visit more "authentic" places with beautiful scenery and trekking options. I was reading the forum and sample itineraries, but it a bit confusing. :)
We were thinking of visiting popular places like Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane and also go to Muang Ngoi . What else to fit into the 2-week itinerary? Especially for the route between Sop Hun / Tay Trang border and Muang Ngoi I couldn't find a lot of information... What to visit on the way? Is it worth going to visit Phongsali?
Thanks for all your help,
#1 saso has been a member since 6/10/2009. Posts: 10
I've just made a couple of long comments on other threads that may answer quite a few of your questions. They are at: http://www.travelfish.org/board/post/laos/8507_my-northern-laos-trip--beginning-to-end
As a general comment, if you've only got two weeks or so and don't want to spend all your time on the road then definitely skip Phongsali. It's an effort to get to, and not as nice as other parts further south. I can heartily recommend Nong Khiaw; and though I haven't been to Muang Ngoi I've met several who've been to both and all say Nong Khiaw is much nicer.
The Sop Hun/Tay Trang border crossing is certainly a rustic and local experience! You'll have to overnight in Muang Khua (definitely a local kind of place too) no matter where you plan to go next.
I enjoyed Luang Prabang , though it is definitely very touristy and perhaps not authentic enough for your tastes. You would certainly have time to visit if you wanted to, though, and it's a necessary stop if you want to go to Vang Vieng .
Vang Vieng is also beautiful, with great kayaking, caving and trekking options if you want. It's very easy to avoid all the partying that this town is famous for; I was plesantly surprised how much I enjoyed VV.
I have not been to Luang Nam Tha , but it is reknowned as a base for nature tourism and trekking so it would probably suit your interests well. It's also well on the way to Thailand :-)
You're on the right track in not wanting to spend too much time actually on the road in northern Laos. Travelling there is generally slow and uncomfortable, as the roads are very bumpy and often unpaved. Reckon on covering only about 30km an hour as a rule of thumb.
My suggestion for you would be:
- arrive in Muang Khua (one night is enough)
- Boat downriver to Nong Khiaw (stay 2-3 nights)
- Boat downriver to Luang Prabang (stay 1-2 nights)
- Bus to Vang Vieng (stay 2-3 nights)
- Bus to Vientiane (stay 2-3 nights)
- Fly to Luang Nam Tha (may sound sacriligous to fly, but the flight is just one hour. It would take two very long, bone-jarring days to do it by bus, with the added cost of a night in Luang Prabang again)
- Stay several days in Luang Nam Tha, perhaps do a multi-day trek?
- Continue onwards towards Thailand (probably stay overnight in Huay Xai)
hope this gives you some ideas,
#2 damienm has been a member since 13/12/2009. Posts: 5
oops - just realised your flying out from Udon Thani, not Chiang Rai (not sure how I mixed those two up!)
In that case I'd go from Muang Khua by bus to Oudomxay then to Luang Nam Tha . Not sure how the bus timetables work for that journey, but don't stay in Oudomxay if you can avoid it. After seeing Luang Nam Tha you can get a bus from there to Nong Khiaw via Oudomxay (hopefully in one day), from then I'd carry southwards as discussed previously.
Sorry for the mix-up!
#3 damienm has been a member since 13/12/2009. Posts: 5