I have read most of the message on this travelboard and thanks to all of you for having spent times providing information.
But, I still have questions becauseI have 3 weeks in Laos and I plan to spend:
1. one week in the southern region, including: Pakse, the 4000 islands (2 days) and the Bolaven Plateau, 4 days (Salavan,Sekong, Attapeu)
It will be an error if I skip Champasak? How many days would be recommended for this area?
2. Two weeks in the northern region including: Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, Luang Nam Tha, Muang Ngoi, Udomxai and Nong Khiaw.
What is the travel time from Muang Ngoi to Nong Khiaw by bus ?
If I trek in Luang Nam Tha, it would be a pitty to skip Muang Xing (at the China border) or Muang Xing is a must see place?
3. Laos to Vietnam: overland border crossing at Na Maew / Nam Xoi
I have read this report from Chunk79 reports from 13 October 2006 and but I cannot figure out how long is it from Nong Khiaw to Sam Neua ? Are there a lot of travellers crossing this border point?
Could anyone give opinion about safety crossing this boarder overland, especially for a female traveling alone?
Does my itinerary seems feasible or too short on time? If it is too short, I would not mind flying to save times. I’d rather pay more to save time and enjoy more staying at the place
Did anyone has made the same itinerary? What are your recommandations?
Thank your for your help
#1 vuh has been a member since 1/5/2007. Posts: 24
A couple of suggestions:
1) You're trying to do too much in the far south in my opinion. Two days in Si Phan Don (4,000 islands) isn't very long, and I'd say Champasak is more interesting than Salavan or Sekong. If you want to head out to the Bolaven, I'd suggest skipping Attapeu, Sekong and Salavan, add at least one day to Si Phan Don and then perhaps see Pak Song or better still, Tad Lo.
2) I'd suggest skipping Udomxai. The trekking is better organised out of Luang Nam Tha than Muang Sing.
3) For that crossing, you'll need to overnight at Sam Neua before leaving early the following morning for the crossing. It is a fairly popular crossing, but still sees barely a trickle of foreigners using it each day. Safety wise, it should be ok - there's a lot of solo female travellers in Laos.
I think overall your itinierary is a bit rushed. I'd suggest reconsidering how many places you're thinking of seeing in the south, and if you're heading to Hanoi anyway, perhaps look into flting from Luang Prabang to there to save you a few more days.
Hope that helps!
#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,800
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Many thanks for your advices which are very helpful. You're right, I'll restrict more my itinerary in the south to allow times to enjoy places.
Last night, I meet a traveller who was in Laos last December and he told me that the border crossing at Na Maew / Nam Xoi was closed to foreigner travellers in December 2006. It may have change since there.
Has someones recently crossed the border at this place?
Do you know if there is reliable website or any information source where it is possible to check out the situation of these border crossing points ?
If border crossing requires so much time, I'll consider flying from Luang Prabang to Hanoi. Is it better to book very in advance the fly ticket or I can book it on the spot as they are only few flights a week ?
Thank you very much
#3 vuh has been a member since 1/5/2007. Posts: 24
The border crossing at Na Maew / Nam Xoi is open, we crossed there from Vietnam to Laos one week ago. We met several backpackers in Sam Neua and Vieng Xai crossing over to Vietnam, but very few are going the other way as we did.
There is a direct bus from Sam Neua to Thanh Hoa in Vietnam, BUT it only goes 3 days a week, so be sure you get there on the right day. From Thanh Hoa you there are lots of busses to Hanoi, 3h, 45.000 dong. You can make it there on your own but then you'll have to change bus a lot of times and the local transport is very infrequent.
It can be hard to find a good transport between the Vietnamese border and the closest town, Quan Song. The Motorcycle taxi guys charge you the absurd sum of 10$/person for the 50 km drive. So if you can, take the direct bus...
As to crossing from Vietnam to Laos, we took a minibus from Thanh Hoa to Quan Song (5 am, 6h, 7$) but there was no transport from there to the border. We refused to pay 10$ for a MC and finally managed to hitch-hike. :-) There are very few transports from the border to the closest Lao town as well, a friend had to wait 5h before a car came by.
Sam Neua is an ok town, a travel hub. But if you can, move on to Vieng Xai 30 min further. It's a gorgeous small town and there you can visit the huge caves where the Lao communist party leaders hid during the American bombardment. One of the best places so far in Laos! From Vieng Xai you can jump on the direct bus that goes to the border and Thanh Hoa.
#4 marolin has been a member since 28/6/2007. Posts: 1