I'm heading to Thailand in december and staying in Bangkok for a couple of nights then heading straight to Laos. Problem is i only have roughly 15 days in Laos, I arrive in Bangkok on the 11th December stay for a few nights then leave on the 13th. I need to be back in Bangkok on the 28th to meet a mate. What are the must see's in the time I've got??
cheers in Advance if anyone can help :-)
Usually best to go in one way and out another. For example, fly to Chiang Rai (Air Asia) then take a quick 2.5 hour bus to the border at Chiang Khong / Huay Xai and enter Laos there. Having got that out of the way you then have enough time to see a fair amount of the north. Most people take a slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang (2 days, about 900 baht) but there is a speedboat option (6 hours, about 1500 baht) or take a bus to Luang Namtha, Oudomxai, Luang Prabang. Or do a side-trip from Oudomxai to Nong Khiaw / Muang Ngoi then get a boat down the Nam Ou to Luang Prabang. Then another side-trip possibility to Phonsavan via rte-13/7 bus and/or down to Vang Vieng (scenic roadway). Vientiane is then just a few hours further. Tip back over the Mekong to Nong Khai and get a sleeper train to Bangkok.
Helps to look at a map http://www.ecotourismlaos.com/images/map/laos/laos_bg.jpg
When I was in Laos in February I heard that the north in December-February can get a little chilly, so you could also consider a Southern Laos trip. Either fly to Ubon Ratchathani and then cross overland to Pakse or take a sleepr train to UR a cross over. Spend a night in Pakse and the next morning work your way down to Si Phan Don (4,000 islands), spend maybe three nights there - some people get lost for weeks. On the way back up to Pakse you could side-track to Champasake to check out Wat Phu and stay in a guesthouse with a Mekong view for two nights or to save time skip that an head straight up to Pakse. Rent a motorbike and go up to Tad Lo to hang around the waterfalls for a couple nights (bring a fleece, the Bolaven Plateau gets chilly in December I'm told). Leaving Tad Lo go to the coffee producing and wild-west seeming crossroads town of Paksong on the short loop of the Plateau (it'll only take you a day to get from Tad Lo to Paksong with an early start). Probably spend one night there and wake up for some coffee and then back down to Pakse.
So, saying you stick to the schedule you've used up 11/12 nights including getting to Laos. With the remaining time you could take the bus to Savannakhet to stop for a night and break up the journey to Vientiane . Then Vientiane and onward to BKK. Or take the southern route a night or two easier and return back to BKK with a cheap Air Asia flight from UR. Also, you could cut out something like Champasake or Paksong or keep going on a long bus ride up to Vientiane so that you don't have to stop at Savannakhet and then you'd have the time to get into Vang Vieng or possibly up to spend a couple nights in Luang Prabang.
That last option will put you on the bus for a while longer though. However, depending on if you want the party or the culture scene I'd lay out two different ideas. For culture you'd want to see Champasake and Luang Prabang, for the party you want Si Phan Don and Vang Vieng if possible - if you go to the south and see Si Phan Don I think its possible to skip VV in the north and take the long ride to Luang Prabang, and if you plan to see LP then you could possibly cut out Champasake. Though I really liked Champasake, if you want the solid highlights of Laos you really should see Luang Prabang.
The road from South to North would be a long one - so I primarily give this as a Southern alternative - if you didn't need to see Luang Prabang then you could easily find a way to spend all 15 days south of Savannakhet.
Cheers for the replies,
I think i've kind of got my route planned in my head. But the question is if im in vang vieng on xmas day and need to get back to Bangkok by the 28th is this possible ??? If i left on the 26th will i make it on time?
If you get the first bus of the day out of VV to Vientiane, then head straight across the river to Nong Khai , you will probably be able to get a seat on the night train and can be in Bangkok the next morning. If you can't, see if you can get a sleeper on the night of the 26th and hunker down in Nong Khai for the night.
Considering the time of year, I'd be surprised if you were able to get a sleeper berth without having it sorted out well in advance. But getting a 3rd. class seat probably won't be too difficult.
You might have more luck taking a bus. Flights from Udon Thani will probably be full.
So, yes, it will be possible but tight. You might consider getting your train or flight back to Bangkok taken care of before you go into Laos.