Hi, I've been doing some research but can't really find the answers I need. I will be travelling to Laos in October from Chang mai for 30 days and will be heading on to Hanoi. Originally my plan was to just see the north of Laos however the more I've looked into it the more I'd like to see some of the south as well, in particular 4000 islands, sai phan don for dolphin watching, Savannakhet for trekking and caving and pakse.
Do you think 30 days is feasible to visit the south and back up to vientaine to get the bus to Hanoi? I know you can get an over night sleeper train to pakse which shouldn't waste too much time however I know transport in Laos can be slow at the best of times!
#1 asiatravel2012 has been a member since 27/3/2012. Posts: 4
No trains in Laos. Overnight buses, though. You may want to look into flying to or from Pakse.
You can do it, but you may find yourself a bit hurried. It depends on what's important to you. The south has a nice, slow pace and is not the kind of place to rush through. For example, Si Phan Don is the kind of place where you may want to kickback for, at least, the better part of a week. Champasak is good for a couple of nights, and the Bolaven Plateau and Pakse are worth 4 or 5 days. That's about 2 weeks and doesn't even take Savannakhet or Vientiane or anything in between into consideration.
Hope that helps a little. This is something you'll probably have to figure out yourself while you're there. You may love some areas of the north and want to stick around longer than intended, or you may not like some areas and want to leave sooner than planned.
30 days is certainly more time than a lot of people spend in Laos. It really depends on what you want to see and do in the North if you'll have time to to explore the South. I'm not sure if rushing down to 4000 islands i the right way to see it, as most people enjoy it as a stop over to relax between heading north or south between Laos and Cambodia. I'm a big fan of the Bolaven Plateau, Pakse, and Champasak, but I don't know if you should short-change the north in order to get down there if you are headed to Northern Vietnam anyway.
If you want to get out of the way, then I've heard the motorbike loop for caving around Tha Khaek is better than the Bolaven loop (just recently a conversation on the forum). As it sounds like you've done your research, I'm sure you're aware of all the spots in the north that can call you - Luang Nam Tha, Mung Sing, Nong Kiaow, Mung Ngoi, Luang Prabang, Phonsovan & Plain of Jars, Vang Vieng, and those are just the most well known spots. I'd agree with Tilapia that that you should make the decision when you are there - there, think about making it as far south as Savannakhet as a rough plan only if you find the north in-climate, but keep the options open.
"I know you can get an over night sleeper train to pakse"
The only trains in Laos are two rusted-out antiques on Don Khone in the 4000 Islands. But there are overnight sleeper buses between Vientiane and Pakse, taking about 10 hours (8pm-6am). As for southern Laos it is often a compromise if it's worth going down there in view of the classic SEA loop most people do. I did exactly 30 days Laos north to south including a couple days in Tha Khaek and Savannakhet then about a week on Don Khong/Det/Khone, but that was en route to Cambodia not backtracking to Vientiene. You might consider to do likewese, then to HCMC by bus and do Vietnam south to north, then fly Air Asia cheap Hanoi to Bangkok (if that suits your plan). This way you avoid the nightmare 24 hour bus from Vientiane to Hanoi or the expensive Lao Airlines flight. Southern Laos is worth it if you don't hurry too much. Anyway, my 2¢.
Thanks for the responses.
I kind of guessed it would be too much to fit in but you have all confirmed it. I have been to north Laos before but only for a few days as a way of getting an extra 15 days in Thailand before my return flight so didn't get to see much.
I think I've got three options really.
Go through Laos into cambodia, up through Vietnam and catch a domestic flight to Bangkok as suggested
Travel north Thailand in a loop then catch a bus/train from Bangkok to a southern land border I've forgotten the border name now (about a 10hr journey) and work my way up Laos
Just see north Laos, through Vietnam and Cambodia then re enter Laos on another 30 day visa to see the south then back to Bangkok. Is there a particular amount of time you need to be out of the country for before re entering?
Thanks for the input so far, I want to see and do as much as possible and don't really have a time limit - just until the funds run out!
#5 asiatravel2012 has been a member since 27/3/2012. Posts: 4
I had to check the dates on my photos from last trip but in 30 days I covered the length and breadth of the country going on two treks, one for a week, got sick in Sam Nua and hung out 3 days, Boloven Plateau twice, did the big loop, stayed in Vientiane a few days seeing people, Plain of Jars, fast boat down the Mekong from up by the Chinese / Burma border to Huay Xai, extra day in Nong Khiaw. Skip the places you've been, go wherever you want, there's a bus that will get you anywhere these days.
You can go to a border and get stamped out then back in. Laos is easy.