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Laos: tips needed (December/09)

  • McPint

    Joined Travelfish
    9th November, 2009
    Posts: 6

    Hello all,

    I’ll be going to South East Ásia (SEA) for 3 weeks, next (early) December.
    I’ll arrive and return, by plane, via Bangkok,

    My main goal is to visit Laos and Angkor Vat (Cambodja).

    Some questions – any tips will be welcome

    LAOS NORTH
    Alternative A
    From Bangkok take the Express overnight train to Nong Khai (friendship bridge border) continue to Vientiane , head North towards Luang Pradang. Return to Vientiane stopping at Vang Vei

    OR

    Alternative B
    From Bangkok go, by bus(?), to the bordercrossing at Huay Xai. From there head south, by boat, to Luang Prabang and then by bus to Vang Vei and Vientiane.

    Is this boat trip nice? Will I be able to do some similar stuff later in my trip, in the 4000 Islands / near Angkor Vat?

    LAOS SOUTH
    Alternative A
    From Vientiane take the bus straight to the 4000 Islands

    Alternative B
    Stop along the way from Vientiane to the 4000 Islands.
    Would you recommend any not to miss places along the road?

    Alternative C
    Stop along the way from Vientiane to the 4000 Islands, including a detour to Hoi An (Vietnam).
    I’ve been in Hoi An (I love the place) but I guess the road connections/border crossings could mean it’s an awful lot of time…

    CAMBODJA

    3 day tour to the temples (base at Siem Reap).

    Return to Bangkok.

    #1 Posted: 9/11/2009 - 20:38

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  • exacto

    Joined Travelfish
    12th February, 2006
    Location United States
    Posts: 2380
    Total reviews: 47
    Places visited:
    At least 98

    hola,

    if it were me, for the northern laos/luang prabang portion i'd head to the border at huai xai and cross into laos there. you can also fly directly to chiang rai and bus it from there to huay xai or even fly directly to luang prabang from bangkok. i think the other option of vientiane up to luang prabang is too much back tracking, unless you planned to fly one direction and take the bus the other way.

    heading through southern laos, pakse or champassak could be good places for a stopover. you can also visit wat phu from there, which will be a good warm up for you for angkor wat. it is a long way from vientiane to pakse much less 4,000 islands by road, so i imagine you'll definitely want to break up that trip if you can.

    three weeks isn't as much time as you'd think, and getting from place to place, particularly in laos, can be time consuming. because of that, i'd skip the side trip to vietnam and just focus on your two main destinations. you'll have more than enough to keep you busy with just that. cheers.

    #2 Posted: 10/11/2009 - 05:50

  • McPint

    Joined Travelfish
    9th November, 2009
    Posts: 6

    Viva,

    Thanks for the tips.

    I guess I’ll enter the Thai-Laos border at huai xai and skip Vietnam when going down South.

    Cheers

    Pedro

    #3 Posted: 11/11/2009 - 00:33

  • McPint

    Joined Travelfish
    9th November, 2009
    Posts: 6

    Viva,

    Thanks for the tips.

    I guess I’ll enter the Thai-Laos border at huai xai and skip Vietnam when going down South.

    Cheers

    Pedro

    #4 Posted: 11/11/2009 - 00:33

  • jaizan

    Joined Travelfish
    16th November, 2009
    Posts: 13

    Have just noticed the SE Asia games are on in Vientiane starting on 10th December. Might be one to see or to avoid, depending on your preferences.
    Guess it could put some pressure on hotel availability in Vientiane.

    Angor Wat in Cambodia is an absolute MUST, so keep that in your schedule.

    #5 Posted: 26/11/2009 - 05:20

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6256
    Total reviews: 10

    "Angor Wat in Cambodia is an absolute MUST, so keep that in your schedule."

    Just out of curiosity, what did you like about?

    #6 Posted: 26/11/2009 - 06:51

  • Seba

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2009
    Posts: 54

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Im om Phu Quoc now, but just did 22 days of Laos...

    imho:

    North Laos:
    must-do: The Gibbon Experience...(Huay Xei)
    slowboat is nice (especially day1-very nice scenery)

    -->go fo alternative B

    Laos SOuth:

    I highly recommend a 3-day motorbike tour on the Bolaven plateau out of Pakse ...defenitel yone of the highlights of our 2month trip so far... amazing scenery, friendliest people ever, and very laid-back...
    you can take a night bus from Vientiane to Pakse and then rent motorbikes (highly recommend renting them from the Lankham hotel-very reliable and friendly guy in charge)...

    #7 Posted: 26/11/2009 - 21:05

  • McPint

    Joined Travelfish
    9th November, 2009
    Posts: 6

    Hello,

    That motorbike thing got me thinking...

    thanks for the tip

    Pedro

    #8 Posted: 27/11/2009 - 00:10

  • Seba

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2009
    Posts: 54

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    To expand- it was one of our highlights because this was really remote Laos- most tourists use Pakse just as an immediate jumping point to 4000 Islands, thus you only encounter a handful of tourists on the Bolaven plateau...

    if i were to name the 2 absolute highlights of our 22 days in Laos, it'd be The Gibbon Experience and this motorbike trip

    highest disappoiment was a very negative encounter with the corrupt Lao "tourist police" in Luang Prabang- I ll write a seperate thread on this as soon as i ge back home in 2 weeks... (short story: never leave a rented bike alone in the evening in Luang Prabang- Lao guys pick them up "to portect them from theft", hand them over to the police- you get to pay ransom to both the guys (for their safekeeping the bike) and the police (for finding them) = major scam

    #9 Posted: 29/11/2009 - 20:01

  • AlyssaAnne

    Joined Travelfish
    9th August, 2009
    Posts: 20

    Hey there,

    Apologies if this query has already been covered elsewhere...

    A friend and I are looking at 5 and 4 weeks in Laos respectively, though I haven't yet re-booked the flight out of Laos for Vietnam, so we may both be spending 5 weeks depending on how I feel :). We want to see both the north and south of Laos and will be flying in to Vientiane late December. From there we should be striking North probably only as far as Luang Prabang, though it would be nice to get to Luang Nam Tha, I'm not sure it's a possibility. I'm just looking for suggestions for way around the country -- I've not yet booked flights out, but it will have to be a loop beginning and ending in Vientiane as that is where my friend flys out from. I was thinking going overland from Vientiane to LP, fly to Pakse /somewhere else in the South and then coming overland up to Vientiane, though I'm not sure a month is enough time? My friend considered Vientiane - VV - LP and then coming back via Phonsavan down to the South, staying around Pakse and flying back to Vientiane, though I'm not sure of the logistics or whether we miss out on a lot. I'd particularly like to see Wat Phu if I could and have a mixture of trekking, caving and major cities. This is our first time travelling independently, though my friend can speak Lao as well, if that is a consideration (?). Any suggestions for a good route to take?

    Ta,
    A.

    #10 Posted: 8/12/2009 - 13:47

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  • somsai

    Joined Travelfish
    1st March, 2006
    Location United States
    Posts: 563

    Hi A,

    I'd say it's probably not so important where, but rather how, you go. You have plenty of time to do whatever you want.

    Your freind speaks Lao!? An overseas Laotian? Use your freind to best advantage to ask questions as you go. Traveling with your own interpreter is an opportunity far greater than which towns you happen to decide to go to. Anything you don't understand or are curious about ask, you are guaranteed to have an enriching trip.

    Bear in mind Laos has no cities let alone major cities. There are four of five touristed areas and then a bunch of small provincial towns with little tourism.

    #11 Posted: 8/12/2009 - 18:18

  • Seba

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2009
    Posts: 54

    Hi Alyssa,

    honnestly, if you have 5 weeks in Laos, I couldn't see why...

    - you wouldn't go as far south as the 4000 islands (only 2-3h minivan trip from Pakse)
    - you would only go as far north as Luang Prabang.. as said, the Gibbon Experience is imho a real must-do, even if you were only for 1 week in Laos to say...

    just my opinion of course...

    #12 Posted: 8/12/2009 - 20:42

  • AlyssaAnne

    Joined Travelfish
    9th August, 2009
    Posts: 20

    Thanks for the replies :).

    Somsai -- yes, I am very lucky. Firstly for the obvious reasons and secondly because I need help requesting vegetarian food (!). I think I've got it covered in Thai, but I'm not sure about my Laotian. My friend was born in Northern Thailand and her mother is Thai and her father is Laotian. We'll be coming over with him and meeting up with his family in Vietiane and possibly going on some excursions with him to places he loves, which should be good and a nice introduction before we find our feet and go off travelling on our own.

    Seba, I've read up on both places and the gibbon experience looked awesome -- would definitely be considering that and Konglor Cave (Sp?)even though both of us have a serious (and yes, i know, irrational) fear of huge spiders :), and only overlooked far South and further North because I wasn't sure about time. If you reckon we could make them all and only have to fly one leg, that's awesome news. I suppose I'll keep my fingers crossed for Pakse airport to be opened January 2010.

    Ta again,
    A.

    #13 Posted: 9/12/2009 - 04:44

  • Seba

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2009
    Posts: 54

    the only big spiders I've seen during two months in SE-Asia was in the jungle in Chiang Mai during a 3-day trek... didn't see a single one on the Gibbon Experience... I guess a lot depends on the season as well, I'd figure there would be much more spiders during the rainy season...
    in the end it's also part of the adventure, my gf's got a phobia (really serious, not just huge fear) for crabs and i can tell you she experienced some really though moments on Phu Quoc and Koh Phi Phi... and heading to the Similans in a couple of days... :)

    #14 Posted: 9/12/2009 - 10:58

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