I am planing to travel in SEA (Laos) mid.Oct.-mid.Nov.(30 days). I arrive in BKK 15 Oct. The general idea is to stay 2 days in BKK for some elemantary shopping (like toiletteries and some â€œI love Khao Sanâ€ t-shirts who will, no doubt, make me very popular among my fellow-backpackers), then head to Laos over N.Thailand. I would like to spend some days in a place like Sukhothai, or perhaps Nan. I wouldn't mind â€œwaistingâ€ more time if I feel like it. Then go to Laos. Perhaps over Huay Xai, then boat to Luang Namtha and then moving around the north with a healthy sense for laziness. I would like to make the Nam Ou river boat trip too, and stay some days in Nong Kiaow or Muang Khua. I want to see Sam Neua and the Pathet Lao caves and I absolutely want to see the Konglor Cave. I know I shouldn't miss Luang Prabang and I understand I don't have enough time for the south (that is except Konglor).Then back to Thailand, flying from Bangkok 13 Nov.
I'm 51, m, and this will be the absolutely first time I'm outside Europe (that is 2-3 countries), first time backpacking and first time solo travelg.I am not into partying, I don't drink alcohol and I think I am perverted enough not to mind (semi-)long bus rides (not overnight bus though) and don't want to fly, unless necessary-have the feeling that I miss something. I think I will love local food. The only thing is, I must stay in clean,decent places with ensuite,preferably with some style and natural light. No big activities, sghtseeing, lazing around, walking (but no 4-day treks to minority villages), reading, writing ...My budget will be about US$2000-2500 (excluding air ticket).
I would be glad for any comments or thoughts.
Could anyone please give me a preciser picture of the following:
What are my chances weatherwise?
I know there is no real answer, as the climate at this time of year is unpredictable, but which areas are generally drier?
Is it a bad idea to brake long bus rides? Does it add a lot of stress reg. finding accomodation or catching the new bus?
Is there (according to my accomodation standards and my budget) really no need to pre-book anything (Luang Prabang?).
How easy is it to come to books (swap) and what books can I find? I know I can find bookstores in
Bangkok and Luang Prabang, but books can be heavy and I intend to backpack as light as possible.
(e-reader not an option).
PS Trying to manage some Lao basics-really challenging!
Billy - Guess what, you're not the oldest backpacker to do SE Asia. I'm almost 69 and will return to Laos, Thai and Vietnam in Nov. You might want a little more time in Bangkok - the place is so large. One thing that surprises me is that you don't drink - I say this because beer is more plentiful than water in SE Asia, and it's extremely hard to socialize without indulging. Dark Beer Lao is known to be one of the finest of brews in this area. Chances are you will return to Europe with much of that cash (I really hope you don't take it all in cash?) Accommodation (good accommodation) can be had for bargain rates. Please stay out of the large multi-national 5* hotels (you might as well be at home).
I'll be flying into Bangkok on Nov 14th, and from there, I train to Vientaine, fly to Luang Prabang and finally fly to Hanoi (before returning to the States). My problem is that I'm a city boy flashpacker, and I just can't take those nasty buses. You will love the people in SE Asia - really the single most interesting part, in my opinion, are the local people.
By the way, I hope you prepare for the climate. When I was in Luang Prabang in Nov 2010, I had to go out and buy a sun umbrella - I was frying in my own skin! The solution is to drink water and stay out of the noon sun. Do not miss the waterfall in Luang Prabang - it's just as it's pictured here on the Laos destination page
As far as accommodation is concerned, I would book the first night or two on arrival in Bangkok. From then on, you can just wing it. If you really want a specific property, I would book that too. My advice would be to make a list of guesthouses and hotels that interest you, and use it as a reference when traveling. I'm pretty picky myself (cleanliness being the main thing for me). It does take some time to find places, so if you can't spare the time, then prebook. You should know that often the cheapest rooms have no window - no way, Jose!
My advice for Bangkok would be the wonderful Baan Dinso Boutique Hostel. I stayed there in 2009 and loved it. They have both ensuite rooms, and rooms with shared bath (the shared bath is clean enough to eat off the floor, I kid you not!)
I always bring my books from home. Bangkok bookstores are too expensive, even for used books. They are much cheaper here (in Canada) than over there for some reason.
If you want to make some stops on your way north from Bangkok, Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai are both good choices (Si Satchanalai can be done as a day trip from Sukhothai). Nan is a bit out of the way, but worth the journey. Plus, you can stop in Phrae on the way to or from Nan. Both are great towns in beautiful settings. The older area of Phrae is quite special, and hardly any tourists visit.
For weather, check the weather section for Thailand on this site. It's quite informative.
Hi daawgon! Hi Tilapia!
First of all, thanks a lot for your answers.
I'll surly book for my first days in Bangkok (as I'm flying out of Bangkok, I thought I would add a
couple of days at the end of my trip rather than the beginning). It's funny daawgon, your suggestion is one of the two options I have come to myself, the other being The Mix Hotel which undoubtly has less character but is located much more conveniently (BTS station-I want to use public trasport, besides taxis and perhaps a great tuk-tuk ride to Lucky Buddha for 20 baht),and gets great reviews reg.cleanliness. Anyway, I keep on searching. As for the next stations, it's only Luang Prabang, I'm not so sure about. (maybe Oct. preferable than Nov.?)
About the weather : I can handle heat (well,up to a point), where I live(Greece) gets really hot in the summer (although it's a dry heat). I find rain more annoying, so I guess the northern region would be better at this time of year. Am I wrong?
About Norhtern Thailand : I think the point is, I could easily spend all of my time there, and I'm sure it would be great. Nan would be interesting for the border crossing at Munag Ngeun, or would it be then a very long shot for an absolute newbie?(I red there are difficulties reg.transport possibilities)
About beer : I must be a hopeless case, as I've been living for 10 years in Germany, and I sill haven't
got it straight. I could handle a beer or two,but that's it then. No offence to anybody (everybody with his God, as marquis de Sade wrote), but, for my personal taste, alcohol is a rather numb and non-contemplative drug (that's how the effects on me are, unfortunately). So, reg.socializing, as you see in my post I am already searching for reading material...
Billy - I must tell you one thing about the Baan Dinso. It's all about the people there - incredibly nice! You don't feel like it's a commercial hotel at all. Where else on earth do you get a small present at checkout? I also like the architecture - I find the "old Bangkok" style very attractive and relaxing. BD is a 15 min walk to KSR, and in the other direction, it's close to Chinatown.
Luang Prabang is chock full of hotels and guesthouses. I stayed at 2 places there due to a last minute change on my part. The Manichan Guesthouse was wonderful, gourmet breakfast (the owner is a Belgian chef), very clean and well located. I also stayed at an inexpensive GH up by the post office that was cheap ($12.), friendly and convenient (the Souksavath GH). I could easily stay at either again because they were wonderful. I suggest you go to the Hobomaps site and download their Lao maps - think they might have a few for N. Thai too.