Lonely Planet Laos 6
First published 28th August, 2007
What a difference a new edition makes. Lonely Planet's brand new guidebook, Laos 6th edition, released August 2007, is easily the best on the market. The traveller looking for comprehensive coverage in a guidebook need look no further. An extra 60 pages long, this title packs an impressive punch, with a good balance of exhaustive coverage of the key destinations along with sound information on the lesser known spots.
The friendly people at Lonely Planet sent Travelfish a complimentary copy of Laos 6, so even though we didn't pay any money for it, we'd suggest you do -- it's worth every kip.
To accompany the review, co-ordinating author Andrew Burke sat down with Travelfish for a 45 minute chat about Laos. The broad ranging discussion touched on a diverse range of topics from human rights concerns and the challenges Laos faces managing its tourism industry through to itinerary planning, how to get off the beaten track, what's it like being a Lonely Planet author and of course, just how good is BeerLao? The interview is in three parts -- and it's a bit rough and ready -- we're not tried this before!
Andrew Burke interview part 1 (MP3 - 4.7mb)
Andrew Burke interview part 2 (MP3 - 8.1mb)
Andrew Burke interview part 3 (MP3 - 6.5mb)
Thanks again to Andrew for making the time to talk to us.
Quite simply, Australian co-authors Andrew Burke and Justine Vaisutis have put together what is the best offline resource for travel in Laos. From a tourism perspective, Laos is a rapidly developing nation, especially in the major tourist centres where new accommodation options multiply at a seemingly ever-increasing rate, yet they've done a fine job of boiling down a snapshot of the country into a guide that will be more than enough for the most demanding traveller.
Matters get off to a good start -- a good, easy-to-read colour map (even if some of the roads look a tad sketchy), suggested itineraries and a completely rewritten history section by Professor Martin Stuart-Fox, author of A History of Laos (1997). This is followed by a pretty stock-standard introductory section -- the people, government and culture are all covered, though the government -- arguably the most repressive and certainly the most secretive in Southeast Asia after Burma -- gets off the hook pretty lightly.
What does stand out in the introduction is the generous space given to Laos and its natural environment -- particularly its budding eco-tourism industry. As Burke says in an upcoming interview with Travelfish.org, "If there's anywhere in Asia where eco-tourism can be a success, then it's Laos". There's an outstanding summary of all the main trekking opportunities in the country's NPAs -- this alone makes the book worth buying (or at least a quick use of the library photocopier).
At the other end of the book, the "Directory" section, covering everything from getting a flight to what you should have in a medical kit is informative and rather well organised. As with other Lonely Planet titles, I think it's a bit too lengthy and hand-holding in nature.
The guidebook's listings are comprehensive, not exhaustive -- if you expect every place on Don Dhet to be listed, prepare to be disappointed. Perhaps half the available options in Vang Vieng are listed, similarly so in Luang Prabang, but what are listed are the best, and these can be taken as representative of others in the offing. Burke and Vaisutis do a fine job of brushing away the slimy rambutans and spoiled sticky rice to leave you with a feast of the best options to choose from.
The accommodation listings are generally easy to digest, with one exception -- Luang Prabang. There, the listings have been divided up geographically into "Near the Mekong", "Historic Temple District", "Thanon Pha Mahapatsaman", "Ban Wat That" and "Elsewhere". This is confusing in a number of ways -- "Near the Mekong" and "Historic Temple District" could easily be taken to be the same area -- neither is marked on any of the maps of Luang Prabang -- nor is "Ban Wat That". "Thanon Pha Mahapatsaman" is a short strip of around 200m of road that carries just three accommodation listings, and "Elsewhere" is just vague and meaningless. All this for just 37 listings -- Luang Prabang isn't that big a place!
Where this guide does come into its own is regarding things to do -- and this is particularly the case with the Southern Laos section. While it tends to be motorcycle-focused, there are lots of good tips and suggested day-trips to week-long adventures you can undertake. Less of this type of material is suggested in the north, where the focus is more orientated towards trekking and the tried and tested destinations, but you'll find ample material within the book to point in the right direction.
One of the big issues people face in Laos is the time it takes to get from A to B. Over time the road network has improved considerably but it still takes a while to get around, so it's refreshing to see that most of the bus and songthaew travel information includes an estimated trip time.
Border information is outstanding. Every main international border has a boxed section containing detailed information on how to get to and from the various border crossings and what's particularly good is there's information on onwards travel as well.
Text and design
As always, the densely-packed text has been put through the Lonely Planet humour wringer, so don't expect too many Laugh Out Loud moments, but the facts are all there and that's what really matters. As with all the new Lonely Planet titles, there's more fact boxes scattered throughout the book than I'd like, but at least in this case they're mostly interesting or of some practical use.
With 61 maps you'll struggle to find yourself needing many more. Some -- the Wat Phu locale (p 267), Wat Xieng Thong (p 142) and Around Vang Vieng (p 124) -- seemed superfluous, but all the key spots are mapped out well.
I had two issues with the regional maps: they're difficult to read, and make frequent use of the "unsealed road" indicator. Some of these roads are really little more than foot-trails. Perhaps they need an extra map indicator for goat-tracks.
The guide contains a pretty good collection of pics. There's one of kids fooling around in the Nam Song at Vang Vieng (p 11) which really caught my eye, but it's a shame that given the weight the NPAs get in the text, there's only one photo taken in one -- and that of an easily visited waterfall. Having photos taken of the more remote (and beautiful) parks would have been a great means to showcase some of Laos' more challenging destinations. People aren't going to go if they don't know about it!
My gripes are minor and mainly focussed on the layout and in some cases organisation of the title. These are factors that will be minor inconveniences once you're on the road. Lonely Planet's Laos 6 really delivers the goods -- it isn't exhaustive (that's why it's called a guide), but it's succinct, accurate and very easy to use. Be you a first time visitor to Laos or a repeat visitor looking to get off the beaten track, you'll do well with this title in your backpack.
Buy Lonely Planet's Laos 6 from Amazon.com
Have you used the latest edition of Lonely Planet's Laos guidebook? If so, please add your feedback on the Travelfish forum here. Thanks!
Other book reviews
Rough Guide Laos 3 -- just a very rough guide -- 6/10
Four and a half years of change have washed through Laos since the excellent second edition of Rough Guide's Laos was published. If you expect the new edition, released in February 2007, to be in the same league, prepare to be disappointed. Where Laos 2 was easily the best on the market, Laos 3 falls into the "read before departure ... and leave at home" category. ... Read the full review
Lonely Planet Vietnam 9 -- LP's best try yet -- 8.5/10
For the first-time visitor to Vietnam, Lonely Planet's Vietnam 9 overall is a fine production -- and is easily Lonely Planet's best swing at Vietnam -- even if the style police are trying to ruin the show. It covers all the big-ticket destinations comprehensively, with detailed sleeping, eating, drinking and sights information ... Read the full review
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (16)
- All stories
- Angkor Hospital For Children
- COPE: Helping people move on
- Epic Arts
- Free the Bears Laos
- Helping Phuket's children in need
- Helping Siem Reap's rubbish dump families
- Helping Singapore's transient workers
- Helping the Karen of Burma
- Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam
- Lifestart Foundation, Hoi An
- MyME Yangon
- Soi Dog Foundation
- Swim Vietnam
- Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
- The Samui Prison Project
- The SET Foundation
- Burma (9)
- Cambodia (23)
- All stories
- A Cambodian Eco-lodge
- A honeymoon in Cambodia
- Angkorian traffic woes
- Battambang weekend
- Elephant riding in Cambodia: Should you?
- Great places to stay in Siem Reap
- Is Preah Vihear safe to visit?
- Kampot or Kep?
- Koh Rong: Trouble in paradise?
- Kompong Cham escape
- Northeast Cambodia in photos
- Oh Poipet!
- PEPY:Sustainable Cambodian tourism
- Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge
- Sihanoukville beaches lure expats
- Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
- The best islands in Cambodia
- The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
- The Death Highway
- Trekking in Virachey National Park
- Trekking the Cardamoms in Cambodia
- Which Cambodian island is right for you?
- Why you should go to Cambodia
- Indonesia (14)
- All stories
- A funeral in Toraja, Sulawesi
- Climbing Rinjani
- How to hire a boat in Indonesia: Without drowning
- Learn to surf in Bali
- Medewi: A great Bali getaway
- Mountain biking in Bali: A ride in the woods
- Pasola, Sumba
- The Gili islands: Which is the right one for you?
- Ubud bird watching: From waterhens to witchcraft
- Ubud shopping guide
- Village trekking in Tana Toraja
- Weekend in Nusa Penida
- Yogya's student scene
- Laos (18)
- All stories
- A breeze through Luang Prabang
- Best budget rooms in Luang Prabang 2013
- Elephant trekking in Laos
- Exploring Laos' Bolaven Plateau
- Huay Xai to Pak Tha by slowboat
- Is Lao Airlines safe to fly?
- Laos' vanishing elephants
- Luang Prabang escape
- Luang Prabang for kids
- Muang Ngoi Escape
- Photos of Luang Prabang, Laos
- Pi Mai Lao in Luang Prabang: In 1999
- Southern Laos by scooter
- Temples in Luang Prabang
- The Gibbon Experience
- The Phonsavan adventure
- Vientiane's Chinatown
- What to buy in Luang Prabang, Laos
- Malaysia (10)
- Singapore (9)
- Thailand (79)
- All stories
- 10 Bangkok galleries worth a look-see
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 24 Hours in Bangkok: Sukhumvit to Siam Square
- 31 Thai islands
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A Thai homestay in Ayutthaya
- A weekend in Phra Phradaeng
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- An extra day in Krabi
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Are Thailand’s cheap guesthouses disappearing?
- Ayutthaya temple tour
- Bangkok for art lovers
- Bangkok's Charoen Krung Road
- Bangkok's Thonburi: exploring the west side
- Brilliant Bangkok
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Chiang Mai's temples
- Corruption in Thailand
- Eating on the edge
- Elephant's World Kanchanaburi
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Five days in Khao Lak, Thailand
- Floating markets around Bangkok
- Great Thai food blogs
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Khao San Road safety and scams
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao Noi or Ko Yao Yai?
- Ko Yao: the islands you're looking for
- Learning Muay Thai in Bangkok
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for Kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Should I cancel my trip to Thailand? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Sorting out Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Full Moon Party
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The best places to stay on Ko Kut, Thailand
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- The road to Sangkhlaburi
- The road to Sangkhom
- Travelling through north-east Thailand
- Trekking in Thailand
- Trisara -- decadent luxury at its best
- Two days in Kamphaeng Phet
- What are the alternatives to Bangkok?
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay at Railay Bay, Thailand
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Where to stay on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (32)
- All stories
- A short break in Nha Trang
- A Weekend in Can Tho
- Being fed Fido: Eating dog in Vietnam
- Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam
- Con Dao escape
- Do nothing and see the best of Hanoi
- Doing the DMZ from Hue
- Exploring Kon Tum
- Exploring Vietnam's Mekong Delta
- Great Hanoi cafes to chill out in
- Ha Long Bay conclusions
- Ha Long Bay for backpackers
- Ha Long Bay for budget-busters
- Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
- Hanoi escape
- Hanoi or Saigon?
- Hoi An -- Walking over the dragon
- How to do the Dien Bien Phu loop
- How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
- How to pick a good Ha Long Bay cruise
- Is the Hoi An culture tour worth it?
- Motorbike Vietnam's Central Highlands
- One day in Hanoi
- Responsible shopping and eating in Hoi An
- Saigon's top 10 cafés
- Sapa or Bac Ha?
- Saving Vietnam's bears
- Street food safety
- The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing
- Travel tips for Tet in Vietnam 2013
- Two Wheels & Ricefields: A review
- Which is the best street food tour in Hanoi?
- Accommodation guides (21)
- All stories
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Chiang Mai
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Hanoi
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Phnom Penh
- 2006 Top guesthouses on Ko Phi Phi
- 2006 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top Bangkok airport guesthouses
- 2008 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top spots on Phu Quoc Island
- 2009 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2009 Top Phnom Penh guesthouses
- 2011 Best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
- 2011 Best places to stay on Ko Phi Phi
- Best places to stay in Hanoi 2012
- Cheap Phuket guesthouses & hotels
- Five special hotels in Cambodia
- Ko Lipe's best budget guesthouses 2012
- The best hostels in Bangkok 2014
- The best places to stay on Ko Chang, Thailand
- The changing face of Khao San Road
- Where to stay on Koh Rong Samloem
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (16)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Beach hideaways in Asia
- Christmas and New Years in Southeast Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- Ten thoughts on ten years with Travelfish
- How do I? (11)
- All stories
- Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
- Bangkok to Siem Reap
- Catching a train in Thailand
- Catching a train in Vietnam
- Cheap flights with Discovery Airpass
- Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- Crossing the Cambodia Laos border
- Ko Chang to Phu Quoc Island
- Siem Reap to Ko Chang
- Stops between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
- Visa run from Thailand to Burma
- Cycling Asia (13)
- All stories
- 24 hours in Bangkok
- An Angkor cycling guide
- An introduction
- Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
- Confessions of a "cheating cyclist"
- Cycles of all sorts
- Ha Long Bay independently
- Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
- Muay Thai night
- Phonsavan and Luang Prabang
- The hills of Vietnam
- The road less travelled
- Tubing in Vang Vieng
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (6)
- Photo essay (3)
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (18)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Asok
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Mo Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Siam
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.