I'm currently in Hanoi , and tomorrow morning I leave for a three day cruise in Ha Long Bay.
When I return, I will take a trip to Sapa (leaving same-day I return from HLB).
I want to travel throughout Laos, but instead of going to Cambodia after, I want to go to North Thailand (Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Pai), before returning to Bangkok to go to the islands in the south.
Recognizing that the overland voyage between Hanoi and Vientiane/Luang Prabang is known as the "Road to Hell" and that I want to leave Laos from the north to access N. Thailand, what would be the most effective way of traveling?
I prefer not to spend the money on flights unless necessary. I'm young and have never done this before, so I want to be careful, but I'm also open to being more uncomfortable than expected (though I'm not eager to ;] ).
Considering also that I want to spend time in North Thailand as well as the South, does that have any impact on my itinerary? I know that overland arrival into Thailand limits one to two weeks instead of a full month. I am considering going through North Thailand into Myanmar for a 'border-run' so that I can continue in the South without Visa issues. Any comment?
(I will also post this question in the Thailand forum)
Thank you all for your info!
Well - I don't know how much time you have to get from Hanoi to ChiangMai, but I'll assume you can go lazy. The road to hell is the 24 hour Hanoi to Luangprabang bus I believe, but you could take more local transportation - hey,you're young and it'll be a real memorable part of your trip - and agreat pub story.
1) If you're already in Sapa you could cross at Tay Trang and work your way through most rugged Phongsali down to Udomxai most likely. If you're in a hurry you'd head through Luang Nam Tha for some trekking on your way to Huay Xai to cross into Thailand. Otherwise you'd probably go south from Udomxai to Luang Prabang (as it shouldn't be missed).
2) You could also head south and cross around Nam Xoi in order to get to Sam Neua . Rest there for a bit, then take a long local bus ride to Nong Kiaow (from my experience the morning bus from Sam Neua dropped me off in Nong Kiaow around midnight). You can easily while-away another night in Nong Kiaow after your first and then head north via a one hour boat to Muang Ngoi which is a fun spot for a couple nights. Onward from there you 'd go back to Nong Kiaow and either take a bus or boat down to Luang Prabang (as it shouldn't be missed).
So in either case if you're in Luang Prabang you'll want to double back and work your way through Luang Nam Tha on your way toward Huay Xai. For my money, I recommend option two as you'll work your way through a little more of Northern Vietnam and I think it offers some nice highlights in Northern Laos.
If there is the chance of a flight you could fly from Luang Prabang to Chaing Mai in order to get the longer entry visa and save time at some point in the trip.
Nice Laos Map (http://www.ecotourismlaos.com/images/map/laos/laos_bg.jpg)
TF Border Crossing Map (https://www.travelfish.org/board/post/visabordercrossings/172_visa-and-border-crossing-news---please-read-this-before-postting-)