I just want to start off by saying how great I think this board is....great people, and even better advice!
I was wondering if some of you could comment on my rough itinerary and perhaps answer a few questions. I would like to take much of this trip on a day-by-day basis as I realize I may change my mind at any point, but below is what I'm thinking:
I arrive in Bangkok late August 1 and have to flight out late August 26.
Bangkok (2 full days) --> Kanchanburi area/parks (2 days) --> Ayutthaya (2 days) --> Lop Buri (1 day) --> Phitsanulok (1 day) --> Sukhothai/Si Satchanalai (2 days) --> Chiang Mai area (4-5 days) --> Chiang Rai/possible trek (2-3 days) --> Chiang Khong: Loas Crossing/ Huay Xai (1 day) --> speed boat -->Luang Prabang (2-3 days) --> bus to Vientiane (1 day) --> Khorat --> back to Bangkok.
So this is the first attempt at a rough plan. Any comments? Am I trying to do too much? Missing something? Any logistical issues anyone can think of? Any help would be great as I hope to refine this itinerary here with your help.
#1 walkingtrees has been a member since 25/1/2010. Posts: 58
Hello again Mike,
Like I mentioned in the other thread, you could skip Laos altogether, although I'd think twice about doing that, since Laos really is something special.
I don't think you've left enough time for Luang Prabang or for Vientiane either, so hopefully you can find a few days from the Thailand portion to add to the Laos part instead.
You might also consider working in a flight for the Laos part of the trip to save time and add variety. For example, you could elect to fly from Chiang Mai directly to Luang Prabang instead of taking the speed boat down the river. It would definitely cost more to fly, but you'd save time, and the views from the air along this route are amazing. You'd be giving up the time on the river of course, but many folks will tell you that the 1-day speed boat trip quickly becomes a day-long endurance event. Besides, once you arrive in LP, you'll have a chance to spend time on the river with a tour up to Pak Ou cave or such.
Another flight might be from LP to Vientiane instead of the day-long bus. I'll bet Rufus and others would agree with that option. Personally, I loved the bus ride I took from Luang Prabang down to Vientiane because of the gorgeous scenery along the route, but is was far from comfortable or safe and it does burn an entire day.
Finally, as I mentioned in the other thread, consider taking the overnight train from Nong Khai/Vientiane to BKK or Ayutthaya (or you could bus to Udorn and fly to BKK from there too) instead. Regards.
Good advice from Exacto. I looked at the river trip from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang , but flew from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang in the end. The flight was relatively expensive, but once I'd factored in all the time it takes to get to Chiang Khong etc it didn't seem quite so bad. There again I was looking at the slow boat, which takes 2 days. The mad dash on a speedboat was never an option for me.
I definitely didn't regret the decision. It gave me longer is the places I wanted to be in northern Thailand and longer in Northern Laos also. The trip down the Mekong gets very mixed reviews anyway, so am glad we didn't do it. Instead we took a boat up to Nong Khiaow, which travels up a far more scenic river - the Nam Ou. Fabulous. My view, spend a bit less time in N Thailand and longer in Laos.
Great advice guys, thanks! Definately looking into spending more time in Laos. How much are flights running for from Chiangmai to luang prabang? I'd like to spend at least 4 days in the Chiangmai area. Is it possible to book a flight only a few days in advance? Entering into laos by boat slow or speed sounded more exciting though it will chew up a couple days....
#4 walkingtrees has been a member since 25/1/2010. Posts: 58
do you think i'd be able to buy a ticket just a few days before the flight during that time of year (august)? i don't want to be tied too much with specific dates/plans. this will be my first time to asia (traveling solo), at first i thought i'd only do thailand but the more i read about laos the more i want to visit!
#6 walkingtrees has been a member since 25/1/2010. Posts: 58
All good advice above.
Good idea to take things day-by-day, as well.
I don't like discouraging anyone from staying in certain areas (well ... except for a few areas), but if you were looking to trim a day or two off of Thailand in order to spend more time in Laos, you may want to consider skipping Ayuthaya and Phitsanulok (more on each place later.) They are all nice enough places but if I had to choose from the list of places you've provided, those would be the towns I'd cut in order to add time somewhere else.
On your way back to Bangkok you could stay in Phimai and check out the Khmer temple there rather than going into Khorat. Phimai is a nice little town about an hour north of Khorat. The temple is very important in terms of Khmer history and architecture.
On Ayuthaya and Phitsanulok ... if you have time at the end you could go to Ayuthaya on the train from Bangkok as a day trip. And Wat Yai (Wat Phra Si Ratana) in Phitsanulok is fantastic, but you can see that in an hour or two before you head off to Sukhothai.
There was a similar thread by walkingtrees on the Thai end of this itinerary where I made very similar suggestions about maybe skipping P-lok and/or saving Ayutthaya until the very end. Great minds think alike? Fools seldom differ? You decide ;-)
I love Phimai, but do you know if it is possible to get there without going through Korat?
As for booking that Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang flight at the last minute? I suppose it is possible, but not a certainty and if your trip hinges on that connection then you may want to go ahead and book it ahead to be sure. Best wishes.
Exacto - what do you mean by the bus from lp to vientiane being far from safe?
#9 walkingtrees has been a member since 25/1/2010. Posts: 58
sorry. that was unintentionally vague on my part. it used to be that there were bandits on that road and that the government didn't necessarily control that section of the country. but as far as i know that has pretty much all cleared up. i have seen armed guards on buses working that route, but again, not for many years. Rufus would have more current info on that than i do.
anyway, what i meant by unsafe is that the road is narrow and winds through the mountains, and the buses are overloaded and tend to be going too fast around corners and such. it isn't as though buses are dropping off the road every week, but it is definitely a very exciting bit of tarmac.
ok, so this is what i've got planned now. any comments any one? i'm posting this both here and the thailand board. feel free to comment wherever. thanks!
august 1: bangkok (2-3 days) --> train to lop buri (see monkeys, few hours) --> train to phitsanulok (spend the night) --> sukhothai/si satchanlai (2-3 days) --> chiang mai/area (at least 3-4 days) -- > ??? --> flight from CM to luang prabang --> LP and area (3-4 days) --> bus to viang viene (2 day) --> bus to vientiane (1 day) --> ??? --> bus or train back to Bangkok --> Bangkok (1-2 days) --> flight home (late night august 26)
what do you think? the days allotted to locations is not including travel times. any recommendations for the "???'s"? any thoughts about travel times between these spots? any tips on treks? i've heard they're best done out of other places than CM.
#11 walkingtrees has been a member since 25/1/2010. Posts: 58