We will be travelling from south to nord Laos for 3 weeks in February & March. I've got most of our plans ready, but I'm not sure how to tackle the trip from Vientiane to Phonsavan . We like to travel by bus, but this is a bit to much for one day. The scenery around Vang Vieng sounds beautifull, but I'm not sure we would like this overpartied place. What would be a nice alternative? And can we get from there to Phonsavan by bus? Thanks!
#1 VenNL has been a member since 24/10/2013. Posts: 6
Vang Vieng is the obvious one. If you are only going to stay there for a night to break up the trip why worry that it might be a little too touristy for your tastes? I am sure it would be fine and you would have decent choices for guesthouses and restaurants etc.
Logistically I know of two other options, Phou Khoun and Paksan , I haven't been to either just know they are in between and have buses running. Phou Khoun is just up the road between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, it is the town at the intersection for Phonsavan. Paksan is east of Vientiane and you take a different road north. I don't know that either place has a whole lot tourist wise(restaurants, guesthouses etc) but you can research them and find out.
Maybe someone else has other ideas or has stayed in one of these places and can help out more.
Although I skipped Vang Vieng a few years ago (when it was party central) my understanding now is that with many of the bars now being closed, it is much quieter. Still busy, but not out of control. There are also places that you can stay just out of Vang Vieng town that will allow you to avoid the worst of it.
Having stopped for an hour or so in Phou Koun, I wouldn't recommend it as a place to stay. There is a guesthouse there I believe (refer to older posts in this forum that refer to it), but by memory, it's very basic. It's very much a local town with nothing on offer for tourists. Of course, that may be what you are looking for! My choice would definitely be Vang Vieng if you wanted a restaurants, etc.
Myself, my wife and our 4 kids had planned to stop in Vang Vieng for only one night to break up a long journey. We ended up staying there for five days. Whilst there were still lots of backpackers around the place it wasn't anywhere near as bad as people had made out. You can easily skirt around the party bars and the tubing fraternity but you'll always see a few casualties around the place. The scenery around Vang Vieng is truly stunning and its worthwhile renting bikes or scooters to get out and see it. We travelled the length and breadth of Laos in 2012 and it was just one of the places that was an unexpected highlight.
#5 goldenmaverick has been a member since 17/5/2012. Posts: 1
Yeah I am actually disappointed I missed it, I don't care for many touristy areas nor bar scenes but knew there was nice scenery(which is why it became so touristy). I actually wanted to go dirt biking there(there is an expat offering dirt bike tours) and think that would have been a blast.
Unfortunately I ended up skipping it trying to get to Vientiane as fast as I could to diagnose my dengue fever...
Phou Khoun has a ~3 guesthouses (maybe more now), stayed at Xaiphavong GH at the roundabout in the centre of 'town' in 2008 (restaurant on ground floor, guesthouse above). basic but relatively clean room, all rooms share 2 clean bathrooms with cold water 'shower' (scoop from large jar style) & squat toilet. think Captain Bob has stayed at the Hmong-run guesthouse that's further away from the roundabout, along the road towards Kasi. cos of the higher elevation, it's much cooler in Phou Khoun. there's isn't much to entertain tourists who need to be entertained :P
~10 KM south of Phou Khoun on the west side of HWY 13, there's a nice-looking GH (Sala Phou Khoun? can't recall the name). & bit further on is Phieng Fa restaurant, which should have great views on a clear day (maybe not so great in March). think the area around it has been developed into a rest stop/lookout point for tour vans, capitalising on the scenery.
even further south, ~20 or so KM north of Kasi, is Bor Nam Oun hotspring. a warm pool fed by a hotspring beside the road (but most zooming by on buses don't notice), with ~5 really tiny ensuite bungalows perched beside overlooking the pool & some nice karst (more rooms behind), & 2 restaurants across the road. favourite stop for cycle tourists. if you want to soak in the pool, please kindly cover up, the family-run restaurant/guesthouse can loan sarongs.
in 7 trips to Laos i've yet to spend a night in Vang Vieng ...but planning to do so in the future to cycle around the countryside. by all accounts the party crowd (or whatever's left of it now) wake up pretty late, so early mornings are most peaceful. look at the VV map on hobomaps.com for ideas.
buses from Vientiane to Phonsavan & Sam Neua will pass through all of the above & Vang Vieng too, matter of waiting by the roadside to flag them down & then squeezing into whatever space you can find. at Bor Nam Oun you can get the (bored & friendly) policemen manning the checkpoint to help you stop a bus (no driver will disobey them :P) there's also a Vang Vieng-Phonsavan van service, not sure how regular in off-peak season but travel agents in town should know.
there's also a Vientiane-Pakxan-Tha Thom-Phonsavan bus (one per day). not travelled it before. Paksan has a few guesthouses. but thus far have only heard of one guesthouse in Tha Thom...it's not an area that's used to catering to tourists, so please adjust expectations accordingly & do the usual preparations for long distance bus rides in rural Laos - bring extra food, water, toilet paper, humour & optimism, & throw away your watch :)