Photo: Classic scenery surrounds Vang Vieng.

Laos forum

Where should I go if I want to avoid Vang vieng but discover the beauty of true laos

Posted by travelbug86 on 26/8/2012 at 18:36

Hi fellow travellers,

I am heading to laos for a week in febuary and was wondering where I should go if I am not interested at all in VV?

I understand laos is very beautiful but my schedule only allows a week in laos.
Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks,
Travelbug

#1 travelbug86 has been a member since 18/7/2012. Posts: 9

Posted by MADMAC on 26/8/2012 at 21:20

What kind of beauty are you talking about here? Natural beauty? Archtectural beauty? Human beauty (modern Laos culture)? Vientiane and Luang Prabang seem logical within your time frame and lacking any more specific information.

#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957


Posted by exacto on 26/8/2012 at 22:01

If you are arriving overland from Danang, you might consider hanging out in southern Laos, since you'll already be in that general area. Pakse and the Mekong River, Bolevans Plateau, Champasak and Wat Phu (and more river), and even the 4,000 islands, although that last one may be more backpacker/tourist than you want. From there it is an easy onward trip down to Cambodia or over to Thailand too.

Vientiane and Luang Prabang are also excellent choices, and Luang Prabang has a few standard day trips that will get you on the river and/or out in the boonies. But it is a fair journey by road to get to Luang Prabang, and you'd be spending a good chunk of that week getting there.

Don't discount Vang Vieng from just the stories you've read either. Those limestone karsts are spectacular and it isn't difficult to avoid the party scene in VV if you wish. Regards.

#3 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,657
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Posted by travelbug86 on 28/8/2012 at 00:02

Thanks everyone for your reply! Reading over my question it is very vague. It sounds like I should Luang Prabang!

Considering my timeframe this may mean I might have to do some flying, are airlines in Laos safe and affordable? Is there any that are particularly good?

#4 travelbug86 has been a member since 18/7/2012. Posts: 9

Posted by MADMAC on 28/8/2012 at 10:16

There aren't "airlines" in Laos, there is an airline. It's reasonably safe (standards have improved much over the last few years) and ridiculously expensive. As far as I know, only Laos Air serve Luang Prabang, but you can check with some others here to confirm.

#5 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by chinarocks on 28/8/2012 at 10:20

Vietnam Airlines also definitely serve LP, and I think Bangkok Airways also.

But for internal flights within Laos I'm pretty sure you are restricted to Lao Airlines.

#6 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 740

Posted by MADMAC on 29/8/2012 at 07:53

Yeah I should have specified that. There are different airlines that fly into Laos from other points. Didn't know Bangkok airways did though. I don't know how Laos Air gets any business at all excepting internal flights where they have a monopoly, because they're expensive.

#7 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by chinarocks on 29/8/2012 at 08:12

And the bad reputation they have as well. Which is fairness is probably unjustified.

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#8 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 740

Posted by Captain_Bob on 29/8/2012 at 10:46

If you're worried about Vang Vieng 's bad reputation due to the drunken tubing scene just stay on the southern edge of town away from the zombies. Rent a bike and explore the valley across the river, take a kayak down the river or explore some of the caves. Still plenty of great scenery and peaceful places all around the Vang Vieng area.

#9 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,903

Posted by MADMAC on 29/8/2012 at 11:14

I think it used to be justified, China. But they have come a long way.

But a flight from Savankhet to Bangkok is around 4,500 baht. Whereas from Ubon it's half that. Plus, if you are on the Thai side of the border, then you have to pay for a Visa to enter Laos and another to re-enter Thailand. Between ticket costs and visa fees, it's some four time what you would pay to fly from Ubon or NKP and ten times a top end VIP bus. That means the expat market on this side of the river is a no-go.

#10 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by chinarocks on 29/8/2012 at 11:31

They haven't had a crash in 12 years.

#11 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 740

Posted by MADMAC on 29/8/2012 at 22:03

But there was a time China, when their safety rating was really bad. When I moved here I had this discussion with Rufus, and he pointed out then they hadn't had a crash in some years - but prior to that (I believe they brought in professional mechanics from France that came with a new aircraft contract but not sure there) their safety rating was bad. That rep stays with you for a while. Also, third world country airline safety records, on the whole, are not very good. Those two things together create a rep that can be tough to beat, but at this point I think Laos air has overcome them. But they're still WAY too expensive.

#12 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by MADMAC on 29/8/2012 at 22:05

Also their volume of air traffic is low... which limits opportunities for a crash. Not saying they aren't doing a good job, just saying statistically if you don't fly much, your opportunities for crashing are smaller. But one crash, pow, your record takes a big hit, because the numbers are crunched prortionally. They fly over my house every day, twice a day. I wish I could use the airport, but the expense of doing so is prohibitive.

#13 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by Rufus on 3/9/2012 at 19:25

Prices will probably decrease with competition. They are not a budget airline in the Air Asia mould though.

#14 Rufus has been a member since 22/4/2007. Location: Laos. Posts: 973

Posted by MADMAC on 3/9/2012 at 22:16

Or even in the Thai Airways mould. The only non-Thai Airways flights I have seen flying into Savanakhet are US Air Force and Thai Air Force C-130s (the US Air Force ones I recently discovered were doing MIA remains repatriation). So I think Laos Air maintains its monopoly on that particular location. Anyway, without a visa agreement, it's use remains a no-go for me.

#15 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by orangebutton on 6/9/2012 at 16:15

I was in Laos in February and thought just like you only to find out that Vang Vieng is actually a great place to be. The people you want to avoid (the drunkdrugers) usually sleep till lunch time than they get on the river tubing coming back at around 6pm that is the time you have to bring back the tubes without paying an extra fee after that they are mostly located in two bars down at the river so most of the day the town is empty. As posted above there are a lot of things to do there but the thing that made me stay there for 5 five instead of 1 day was the stunning breathtaking view. Also not everyone going there is drunk 24/7 I am sure you will find likeminded people if you are traveling on your own. All I can say is I would realy reget not having been there

#16 orangebutton has been a member since 5/10/2011. Posts: 2

Posted by enigmatic on 8/9/2012 at 07:21

Posted from within Vietnam.

Nong Khiaw, a side trip upriver from Luang Prabang, is one obvious alternative. Similar riverside limestone karst scenery and a decent tourist infrastructure with absolutely no attempt to turn it into a party town.

#17 enigmatic has been a member since 14/4/2011. Posts: 84

Posted by enday on 13/9/2012 at 07:55

Hi,
I think Luang Prabang with a night in Nong Khiaw with a slow boat trip back to LP would probably satisfy your desire for beauty. There is plenty of natural beauty to be found close to Luang Prabang and the town is pretty with lovely architecture (yes, thanks UNESCO)
I wouldn't suggest spending more than a day in Vientiane if you only have a week in the country. In fact I'd skip it altogether unless there is something in particular you really want to see.
I flew from Vientiane to LP in July, its not that expensive for a one off trip, particularly given you're in Laos such a short time.
enjoy your trip

#18 enday has been a member since 12/9/2012. Posts: 30

Posted by enday on 13/9/2012 at 07:55

Hi,
I think Luang Prabang with a night in Nong Khiaw with a slow boat trip back to LP would probably satisfy your desire for beauty. There is plenty of natural beauty to be found close to Luang Prabang and the town is pretty with lovely architecture (yes, thanks UNESCO)
I wouldn't suggest spending more than a day in Vientiane if you only have a week in the country. In fact I'd skip it altogether unless there is something in particular you really want to see.
I flew from Vientiane to LP in July, its not that expensive for a one off trip, particularly given you're in Laos such a short time.
enjoy your trip

#19 enday has been a member since 12/9/2012. Posts: 30


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