It's all about the journey not the destination..... with that being said, I don't want to put to much on my wish list and be disappointed if I can't see it all. We are looking at traveling in either October or January. (advice on this appreciated) This will be a 3 week trip with the main destination being Laos, namely Luang Prabang. I like to soak up the culture and really learn an area. But, I may also never get the chance to return to S.E. Asia. Here is a very tentative wish list/itinerary:
Fly into Bangkok, stay a day for a little exploring. 5 days for Thailand travel. Take overnight train to Chiang Mai, then bus to border at Chiang Kong. Take boat to Luang Prabang. Would like to explore temples, do elephant overnight, Plain of Jars.... total of 10 days in Laos. Fly to Cambodia for 5 days to visit Angkor Wat and Phnom Penh.
Is this doable??? Or better question is this enough time to ENJOY my wish list?? Thanks for input!
#1 sunlvr has been a member since 7/8/2014. Posts: 37
I think it is a bit fast, your first bit in Thailand will be a lot of travel and then you'll follow that up with a lot of travel in Laos. You can check out Plain of Jars in just one day, and as a history buff I liked it a lot, but there isn't much culture directly in that area, more history. It also means 2 bus rides that my memory tells me are about 8 hours each way back and forth to Luang Prabang .
I see your trip like this:
BKK-Laos Border: 5 days
To Luang Prabang: 2 days
Luang Prabang: 4 days
Plain of Jars(with travel): 3 days
Siem Reap : 3-4 days
PP: 3 days
It isn't ideal and I'd think you could push that Plain of Jars time into exploring a little closer to Luang Prabang, maybe a trip up to Nong Kiaow. This could free up an extra day to play around in Northern Thailand as well. If you are flying from Vientiane to Siem Reap this changes the entire calculus and you should certainly cut out Plain of Jars and instead go from Luang Prabang with a stop for a night in Vang Vieng on the way.
Honestly, unless you plan on moving very slowly (kind of like Kane in Kung fu) it's all about the destination - the journey sucks big time. Remmember each time you move from place to place it will eat the better part of a day, so that's a day sitting on a bus or flying somewhere, getting to and from bus stations / airports. The movement is a time eater, and you need to factor that in to your planning.
Thanks caseyprich for the info. I hadn't thought of heading up to Nong Kiao have to look into that.
@madmac, I agree sometimes the journey sucks big time! I may have to consider adding an additional flight into this mix to save time. Maybe at Chiang Mai into Luang Prabang and skip the 1 day bus and 2 day boat ride. hmmmm.... decisions, decisions!
#4 sunlvr has been a member since 7/8/2014. Posts: 37
^^^if you're going to fly from CM to LPB, I'd recommend just flying direct from BKK to LPB and spending the extra time travelling around there. Train ride to CM is long and bumpy, and CM is a sprawled out metropolis, nothing too special unless you get into the surrounding areas.
OTOH if you do go up to CM and are going by boat to LPB, you might skip the typical boat journey which I hear is like being crammed into a tuna can with 1 dirty toilet for 60 passengers, and upgrade to one of the fancier "cruise boats" (I recall the price on these is a little over $100 from the Thai border to LPB, but easily worth the extra $). If you want to go into relatively undeveloped rural Laos you can rent a motorcycle and do a nice big loop up north through Sam Neua and then back down to LPB. A German friend did this a few months ago and said it was top-notch. No guesthouses for foreigners but locals will set you up.
#5 squarethecircle has been a member since 19/10/2011. Posts: 133
Thanks squarethecircle. The "cruiser" boats definitely look worth the extra $$. I'll look into Sam Neua!
#6 sunlvr has been a member since 7/8/2014. Posts: 37
sunlvr: on a second look at the map I notice the "loop" I mentioned does not go through Sam Neua. It goes through Viang Kham, Viengthong, then splits off from the road to Vietnam and heads down to Phonxai and Phonsavan then loops back to Luang Prabang. The part I have been on was good sealed road (LPB to Viang Kham) but nevertheless took an exhausting 10 hours for a mere couple of hundred km due to all the twists and turns. I plan to go back and do this in the future; that's one option. Another would be heading down to Sayabouli, capital of "The Land of a Million Elephants", a few hundred kms down a sealed road to the SW. LPB is a little over-touristed (still plenty of good locals though) so if rows of people shoving cameras in monks' faces doesn't suit you and your travel partner, maybe that would be another good option to get into more day-to-day Laos.
#7 squarethecircle has been a member since 19/10/2011. Posts: 133
One day is enough time at Plain of Jars. I'm sure you could also spend more time there and rent a motorbike to explore the surrounding countryside, but the town itself doesn't have much to offer. It was a fun highlight of our trip and a glimpse at the non (or less) touristy side of Laos than LP, VV, and Vientiane. We went there from Vang Vieng, which was a very long, uncomfortable van ride (our hangovers didn't help). We then flew from Phonsphovan to Vientiane.