I've heard such mixed things about these two places. 4 friends I will be travelling in Laos at the end of November. We're all 19 and really want to get a taste of the place - not only the backpackers scene. I'd love to hear some suggestions on how long to spend in Vientiene and Luang Prabang.
#1 scahn has been a member since 10/6/2010. Posts: 10
I've never been to Vientiene - my old roommate who's family is from Laos went back to visit. Even with family there he doesn't find the place that impressive, told me if I ever go back I could spend 2 nights max. I'm also not big on trying to find 'the party'.
Luang Prabang I enjoyed. It's nice place to base camp for day long bike rides into the country, or take a trip to the waterfalls, up the mekong, get some good food and relax within your vacation - not always be on the road and 'roughing' it. However, I wouldn't put too many days at the expense of exploring more northern areas. I'd say 3/4 nights in Luang Prabang would be more than enough to soak the area in.
I guess it really depends on how much of 'the end of November' you have in Laos.
If you are travelling by road between Vientiane and Luang Prabang you should stop in Vang Vieng on the way and spend at least 2 days there. It's so different then either Vientiane or LP and its very popular with young people for outdoor activities in a great natural setting. Most people either love or hate Vang Vieng but when you get back home, people will ask what it was like there and you'd hate to say you missed it. Other than that I think most people like LP much better than Vientiane and it also has great outdoor stuff to do with cycling, hiking, waterfalls, etc. Vientiane could be missed altogether.
#3 LaoNow has been a member since 14/5/2010. Posts: 38
Really appreciate the responses! Yes, we'll definitely be visiting Vang Vieng - I've actually heard only good things. It's just these 2 spots that I'm not 100% sure about. We're spending 2 weeks in Laos, so I'm trying to divide that between Vientienne, Vang Vieng, The Gibbon and Luang Prabang.
#4 scahn has been a member since 10/6/2010. Posts: 10
We are going to Laos in a few weeks, we intended to spend 2 days in Vientiane then 3 days in Vang Vieng (tubing!) and then 3 days in Luang Prabang but are going to an elephant sanctuary there for one of the days, it looks amazing called Elephant Village, then we are flying on to Hanoi!
Hope that helps!
#5 catherine25 has been a member since 25/5/2010. Posts: 34
Scahn, I think your best bet is to just work your way south from the Gibbon Experience and see how much time you have left as you go along rather than planning ahead.
Chances are that you'll be rather time strapped by the time you get to Vientiane but you sound like you'd enjoy the other stuff better anyway.
Vientiane has a lot more to offer than the Cope centre, though, yes, that is worth a visit. To say Vientiane "could be missed altogether" is the comment of someone who does not know the place at all. You can easily spend two full days there.
Three days in Vang Vieng is too much for me, but then I am not into the drunken tubing scene. If you want to get a taste for the place, go to Xieng Khouan and visit the Plain of Jars.
I enjoyed my 2 nights in Vientiane at the end of our stay in Laos. Eating at the outside restaurants along the Mekong, having a massage at the Blind Masseuse place, wandering round the markets or the town generally. Its a nice place.
We stayed in VV for one night and were scammed, fed badly and not treated by the local Lao population like anywhere else in the country. I didn't go tubing, so can't comment on that, though all we spoke to obviously enjoyed it tremendously. I'm sure if I was 19, I'd go for a few days.
For an an old fart like me, LP was much better. The city and surroundings are beautiful and are worth a stay of several days, in my opinion. When we were there many backpackers would arrive after the 2 day boat trip, stay one night and then dash as fast as possible to VV. Each to their own. We went to the elephant place, a wonderful day learning to be a mahout, including riding to the river and washing the nellies. Plus cycling around the town and nearby. Bliss. There are also lots of good places to eat and drink in town, especially if you move a little away from the night market area. Strangely, most stay in the restaurants selling pizzas and other western stuff near the market. Sometimes, even in places which appear to appeal to those who are a little more adventurous, people will huddle together and only eat what they eat at home. It was something that surprised and confused us all the way round the region.
We also spent 3 night upriver at Nong Khiaow; went one way by boat (7 hrs) and back by minibus. A real highlight, a wonderful day trek to local villages, NK itself is beautifully located, the trip upriver lovely. We spent 2 weeks in total in Laos and regretted immediately that we didn't have longer.
Nong Khiaow is wonderful. For a strange place to hang out with shotgun roosters you can go up river to Muang Ngoi (no road access only boats). There is a nice sandy beach on the river next to the temple at the north end of town - plenty of hanging out - and easy to get away from the 'scene' and into the woods/fields.
VV always gets mixed reviews and that's why I skipped heading south from LP and went out to Phonsovan and the Plain of Jars instead. But if you aren't interested in history it isn't a place you should go. The scenery is not nearly as pretty as NK and other parts of the north and it isn't just a quick jaunt afield.