My boyfriend and I are spending 2 months in SEA, focused in Thailand. We are planning to spend a week in Northern Laos and Cambodia as well, and we are trying to work out the logistics of getting from Vientiane to Phnom Penh. After doing some research, we are leaning towards flying - we were considering bussing down to see 4000 Islands, but the information about 4000 Islands on this website made it seem less then appealing. We are not fans of crowded or overdeveloped places.
Is 4000 Islands worth visiting, or should we just fly and skip it? Have you bussed around Laos, and is it comfortable - I am 6 ft and he is 6'5" so we have trouble fitting in small places.
Any advice is much appreciated!
I'm 6'2 and went from the southern border with Cambodia up to the northern border with China and didn't find the buses to be any worse than anywhere else in the area. The key is to take short jaunts between cities. The longer 10-12 hour ones will be painful no matter what size you are.
As for 4,000 Islands, I loved it. I'm not much of a partier and hate super touristy areas. I was there in May and, since it was low season, found it to be very peaceful and relaxing. If you headed there in high season, I could see it being a very different scene though.
This article might be helpful for the area... http://tripologist.com/south-east-asia/relaxing-in-the-middle-of-the-mekong-river-at-4000-islands-laos/
On a side note, don't skip southern Laos if you don't have to. Laos is my favorite country in SEA by a mile.
You mention that you are, "planning to spend a week in Northern Laos and Cambodia as well," I imagine that is a week each. That really isn't much time for more than two stops in either place and perhaps it is best you fly so that you can spend more time in either place, that way you could break up the trip between Luang Prabang and Vientiane with a night or two in Vang Vieng or include a place like Battambang or Kampot in your Cambodia itinerary . . .which with a week would otherwise only be realistic to visit Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
All that said, I don't think 4,000 Islands is the ideal stop if you don't like development, as it is primarily a backpacker stop off point that is totally centered around catering to travelers. If you wanted something really out of the way, take a bus to Pakse and hire motorbikes for 3 or more nights to take the small loop out to Tad Lo and Paksong on the Bolovan Plateau. Also, Champasake is less of a party seen than 4,000 Islands and still a nice little town along the river -- and Wat Phu is a good warm-up to Siem Reap that offers a unique temple, I'm very happy I visited it before hitting up Angkor and the others.
A good idea could be to travel north as far as Luang Prabang (I'm assuming you are planning on going there - if you aren't, you should!), spend a few days there and then take the Lao Airlines flight direct to Siem Reap, which costs $195 pp, but saves an amazing amount of time and hassle travelling all the way south into Cambodia. Considering that the journey south through Lao to Cambodia would take a couple of days, even if you were moving most of the time, you could easily spend half that amount in transport, food and accommodation anyway, so it's really worth splashing out the extra bit to save you a lot of pain!
I would also strongly recommend sacrificing some of your time in Thailand to see more of Lao and Cambodia... 6 weeks in Thai and only a week each in the others??! That's really not doing them justice and, since you said you weren't a fan of crowds and over-development, I must point out that Thailand is highly developed and has waaay more tourists than the other 2 put together! Of course, there are some places in both Lao and Cambodia that are very busy, but you can go off the beaten track quite easily! So, if you really want to get away from the crowds, take a few weeks to explore the other countries, and I promise you won't regret it!
"On a side note, don't skip southern Laos if you don't have to. Laos is my favorite country in SEA by a mile."
I have heard this from almost everyone I know who has made big Southeast Asia trips. So it's top of my list. And you should definitely do it too.
Those buses I don't think are comfortable but sometimes it comes down to luck. Many things in SEAsia are about seeing how it is in person and deciding. Not much can be planned online. Gd luck with your decision
#6 ragbird has been a member since 3/3/2013. Posts: 12