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Vietnam and Laos 5th-30th May!

  • YY1884

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2012
    Posts: 3

    Hi Travelfish members,

    I'm leaving for Hanoi on Friday from New Zealand and have a question about:

    * Organising a visa for Laos in Vietnam (Hanoi) - what is the best way of doing this with no set itinerary i.e. probably won't have a flight ticket/proof of departure from Laos when I enter - is this an impossibility?

    I'd also like feedback on my 'itinerary' which is largely open. This will be my first time in this part of SE Asia. Previously I spent a month traveling around Bali in 2004.

    Basic idea of itinerary is:

    * Fly into Hanoi 5th May
    * Spend a few days orientating in Hanoi (I have a friend who is teaching English there)
    * Most likely fly into Laos - Luang Prabang - will arrange in Hanoi
    * Travel 'around' Laos for a week or so (I know that isn't long) - I'd like to see some less touristy caves and the Plain of Jars but otherwise follow my nose, even if that means chilling in one or two places
    * Re-enter Vietnam - possibly fly to Hoi An and spend a few days there
    * Travel/fly/whatever to South Vietnam stopping wherever, ending up in HCM City, spend a few days here if I like it
    * Go to Phu Quoc island for a few days of downtime
    * Fly back to Hanoi from HCM City, spend a day with my friend maybe
    * Depart Hanoi 30th May

    This is quite adventurous for 27 days, but I'll work out what can and cannot happen when I get there and not sweat the rest of it. Doubtless I'll want to go back at some point, so whatever gets missed will be for another time. So please don't growl about trying to fit too much in and ending up 'spending all my time on a bus' like I've seen elsewhere! This won't happen because I'll make decisions that allow time in some places at the expense of doing everything. I'm just asking for your recommendations. I'd like a bit of local culture and spirituality; I won't be getting drunk and shagging other tourists :)

    I also have stops in Bangkok - 11 hours on way to Hanoi and 20 hours on return - is it recommended that I stray from the airport or will I be tempting the fate of not getting back in time for my flights (I've read about the traffic). I wouldn't sleep - just cruise around a bit wired with eyes on sticks :)

    Thanks all :)

    #1 Posted: 28/4/2012 - 17:51

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  • busylizzy

    Joined Travelfish
    31st December, 2007
    Location New Zealand
    Posts: 2089
    Total reviews: 20
    Places visited:
    At least 107

    Bugger - my PC just crashed and I lost my detailed reply. So, here goes a briefer version now...

    With respect to Laos, there are a couple of options to consider:

    1. Head to LP, spend a few days there, then go up river to Nong Khiaow (4 hrs by minibus) for a few days, then maybe further up river to Muang Ngoi (1 hr by boat). It's a lovely area, scenic, etc - but enough to do so that you won't get bored. From Muang Ngoi, head back to LP by boat (maybe 6-8 hrs all up, after a stop in Nong Khiaow).

    2. If you're keen to see Phonsavan / Plain of Jars (worthwhile, IMHO), you will have to go overland. There are no flights. You can take an arduous bus ride (8-10 hrs?), minibus (a bit quicker but more life endangering!), or splash out on a private car (cuts it down to 6-7 hours, more comfortable and they will stop at various worthwhile places along the way which makes it a far more interesting trip. Maybe you can find some people in LP to share the cost.

    3. From Phonsavan, you can head back to LP, but I'd suggest carrying on to Vientiane for 2-3 days. You can fly on Lao Air (expensive, but quick and very scenic as they fly reasonably low), or the usual overland options. You will probably have more flight options from VTE to get back to Vietnam I would think. Check Lao Air website.

    In Bkk, I would definitely take advantage of the time there to explore, esp now with the new express train that runs to the airport. The trains stop running at night so your ETA/ETD times will determine what you can/cannot do. Leave your luggage at the Luggage Storage counter (100 baht/day/bag) and head out on the train. Info on train here: http://www.bangkokairporttrain.com/ (scroll down to bottom). You can switch over from the Airport train to hook up with the MRT and Skytrain.

    Just be sure to allow plenty of time to get back to the airport. Maybe plan to get taxi from where ever you are to the Express Train station

    #2 Posted: 28/4/2012 - 21:58

  • YY1884

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2012
    Posts: 3

    Wow - awesome reply thanks busylizzy.

    Have checked my Bangkok arrival and it is 8:25pm - hopefully this won't be too late for the express train (or maybe this is why my flights were cheap!). Is there a place I can find out the timetable?

    #3 Posted: 28/4/2012 - 23:08

  • busylizzy

    Joined Travelfish
    31st December, 2007
    Location New Zealand
    Posts: 2089
    Total reviews: 20
    Places visited:
    At least 107

    No worries. Google came up with this: http://www.bangkokairporttrain.com/time-table-route.html I can't vouch for it's accuracy, etc but have no reason to doubt it either!

    #4 Posted: 29/4/2012 - 01:41

  • daawgon

    Joined Travelfish
    17th April, 2007
    Posts: 944
    Total reviews: 2

    No need to prearrange a visa for Laos - just buy at the airport or border (you do need a picture). Do you have a visa for Vietnam - you do need to prearrange that visa, and since you'll be crossing that border more than once, you want a multiple entry (another picture required).

    It would have made more sense to travel to Laos after you've seen all of VN, and on your way home through Bangkok.

    #5 Posted: 30/4/2012 - 11:11

  • YY1884

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2012
    Posts: 3

    Hi all,

    Thanks for the replies - very helpful!

    I'm off tomorrow... picked up my visa and passport within 15 minutes of the embassy closing - yikes!

    I guess it's easier to decide what to do in the water once you've jumped in.

    Arohanui,
    YY

    #6 Posted: 3/5/2012 - 03:04

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