Been reading these forums for a while and trying to plan my trip around the region. Just wanted to see if you guys have any feedback on my itinerary. I'm trying to strike a balance between covering quite a large area without feeling too rushed. So far the only things set in stone are my flights landing in Bangkok in mid-May and departing from Singapore at the end of June. I'm also trying to plan around the rainy season so doing the beach / island locations first which is why the trip direction may seem a bit backwards.
So here goes, hopefully you guys can help me out! :)
43 days total
Arrive in Bangkok
Bangkok - 3 days
Koh Chang - 4 days
Koh Rong - 3 days
Kampot - 2 days
Phnom Penh - 2 days
Siem Reap - 3 days
Pakse/Tad Lo - 4 days
Vientiane - 1 day
Vang Vieng - 3 days (incl. travel)
Luang Prabang/Trekking in region - 7 days
Travel to Hanoi - 1 day
Hanoi / Ha Long Bay - 4 days
Fly to Singapore - 1 day
Singapore - 3 days
#1 jbruce has been a member since 12/3/2013. Posts: 2
I would skip Pakse, not worth the extra travel. Bolaven plateau is highly overrated imo. Maybe use that time to look at more stuff near Bangkok(Kanchanaburi, Ayutthaya etc). Or you could head north from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw/Muang Ngoi and see a little bit of river life in Laos(take the bus up and boat back).
Simply put if you are planning on bus from Luang Prabang to Hanoi, don't. I haven't done it but heard very bad things(over booking, horrible staff, 24-28 hour ride etc). Everyone I talked to said they should have flown. Also it is just into the rainy season then so that would only make it worse.
I really enjoyed Pakse /Tad Lo and all of Southern Laos - but wasn't traveling alone and had a a while to explore the place. That said, with your schedule I'd consider a flight from Siem Reap to Vientiane to save time and travel. Its a full day to get from Siem Reap to Pakse and then another full day to take a bus from Pakse to Vientiane so you'll lose two entire days of your holiday to bus rides for the shot at 4 days split between Pakse and Tad Lo. Rather, give yourself an extra night or two in Kampot where the rides and atmosphere are great and add an extra day to Vientiane so you can explore around a little more.
I also notice you're only going to Vietnam for 4 days. Visas aren't prohibitively expensive, though with Vietnam a little bit more of a hassel - but when you also figure in that you'll need to get from Luang Prabang to Hanoi . . . it makes me question the choice. Those 4/5 days could get scattered around BKK or added to an overland trip from Siem Reap to Vientiane so you could break up the voyage to Pakse with some time in 4,000 islands or another scoot around Tha Khaek Loop all to break up the distances. There is the cost of a ticket from Vientiane down to Singapore though - not sure how that compares to a ticket from Hanoi.
Thanks for the suggestions. I guess I was a bit foolish to think I can jam in Hanoi in the limited time I have at the end of my trip. Problem is flights out of Luang Prabang or Vientiane to Singapore take 14+ hours including layovers in Hanoi and cost $300+.
Another option I may consider is to take a 2 day slow boat + 1 day bus to Chiang Mai , spend 3 days in Chiang Mai then fly directly to Singapore (flight is still $250 but at least its direct). I'm not sure how the slow boat is in June but I wouldn't mind having a couple days to relax.
I'm actually meeting up with a friend in Pakse so I'll have to make that a stop on my trip. I'll look into the Tha Khaek Loop though. Looks like a fun 4 day trip we can undertake.
#4 jbruce has been a member since 12/3/2013. Posts: 2
I agree - you should skip Vietnam if you're only going for those few days (that's a really long bus trip from Laos). From my limited experience, I would also consider skipping Vientiane - I was a little bored there.
By all means - an excuse to go to Pakse is a good excuse indeed, I really enjoyed the town and recommend staying at the Sedone River Guesthouse (https://www.travelfish.org/accommodation_profile/laos/southern_laos/champasak/pakse/all/1659) and at night there are some nice food tables along the river that I notice a lot of people miss out on as they stay within a few blocks of the few backpacker spots for their entire stay.
Like I say, if you cut Hanoi then you have that extra time to take it a little slower through Southern Laos, though if you are just going to take the boat upriver and then take a day to get to Chiang Mai . . . then you've just pushed the time you've saved by avoiding Hanoi onto a trip over to Chiang Mai. If you are going to do this, I'd cut at least 2 nights off your stay in Luang Prabang so you can explore outside of Chiang Mai as well for at least a night.
I thought you already had flights booked. If you can scratch on Hanoi and add in Chiang Rai/ Chiang Mai I would do that in a heartbeat. Vietnam visas are a rip off as is Halong Bay and that to end your trip would have just felt like you were throwing money away. Best to leave that and go back to Vietnam in the future and make the trip more worthwhile.
If you are meeting friends in Pakse then yes it would be worth it. Note if travelling by bus you are going to lose a day travelling(like a 16+ hour bus ride and only doable during day due to the border crossings), plane will save you time but is probably fairly expensive. The Thakek loop is probably nice but again is a good days travel from Pakse, I didn't do the loop but saw Konglor town and cave and they were nice. Travel in Laos is quite slow no matter how you go so just make sure you are taking this into account as 4 days obviously isn't going to be long enough to get to Pakse then Thakek and do the Thakek loop let alone look at anything around Pakse.
If it is a really good friend and both of you like using a scooter I would consider just spending your time with them in Laos and paying the little bit extra for your flight home. That would give you time to look around the Bolaven Plateau then go up and do the Thakek loop. You can always add in Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi if you have time(I enjoyed these parts of Laos and seeing how the Laos people live on the river is a must imo). Otherwise Chiang Mai sounds like a great idea.