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9-day Trip to Southern Laos

Posted by KitLam on 10/8/2014 at 23:26

Being a newbie on backpacking, I planned a route and hope for valuable advice:

Day 1: Hong Kong >> Bangkok >> Nakhon Phanom (Overnight Bus)
Day 2: Nakhon Phanom >> Thakhek >> Kong Lo
Day 3: Visit Tham Kong Lo and Ban Natane
Day 4: Kong Lo >> Thakhek >> Pakse
Day 5: Visit Bolaven Plateau
Day 6: Visit Wat Phu
Day 7: Thakhek >> Ubon Ratchathani
Day 8: Visit Wat Nong Pa Phong & Wat Pahnanachat, Ubon Ratchathani >> Bangkok (Overnight Train)
Day 9: Bangkok >> Hong Kong

My main concern is the arrangement of buses. As no clear timetable or pre-booking is available on the internet, I afraid any part of the trip will be delayed, so I arrange only a short trip on day 7 as a buffer to catch up my return flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong.

Besides, would it be easy to have walk-in rental of GH in late September and early October?

Would anyone give me advice on the trip? Thanks.

#1 KitLam has been a member since 10/8/2014. Posts: 3

Posted by caseyprich on 10/8/2014 at 23:57

Day 2: Nakhon Phanom >> Thakhek >> Kong Lo
Day 3: Visit Tham Kong Lo and Ban Natane
Day 4: Kong Lo >> Thakhek >> Pakse
Day 5: Visit Bolaven Plateau
Day 6: Visit Wat Phu



I'll preface by saying that I never made it to Thakhek and Kong Lo, but I did spend a couple weeks in the Pakse area. If someone had one week to visit Southern Laos and wanted to see Kong Lo, Bolaven Plateau and Wat Phu I'd say they were a bit nuts. The space between Thakhek and Kong Lo is a bit of a journey and then you've got the Thakhek to Pakse leg that is a long distance. I felt beat after just going from Pakse to Savannakhet.

It seems from your itinerary that you are not planning on taking a personal motorbike? The best way to see the Plateau is by motorbike up to Tad Lo for a night or two around the waterfalls there and then take the bike over to Paksong for the rustic feel of that town (bring a fleece). You can stop at a few waterfalls on the way back down from Paksong to Pakse, and even Pakse deserves a night at least as there are some nice spots to drink/eat along the Mekong. I highly recommend staying at Sedone River Guesthouse. With a motorbike you could then go down to Champasake early and then spend the day hanging around the city. The best thing to do is to wait for the next morning to wake up super early and get on your moto to beat all the bicyclist to the temple, spend the morning there and then if you are in a hurry to head back that afternoon to Pakse. So - wiht a motorbike I'm recommending:

Stay a night in Pakse (1 night)
Get up and go to Tad Lo (2 nights)
Paksong (1 night)
Pakse again (1 night)
Champasake (1 night)

Mind you, you could cut out a night from Tad Lo or add a night to Champasake by just heading straight there from Paksong. This is all possible with a personal motorbike rented in Pakse. However, if you need transportation it usually takes longer to arrange groups so that it is affordable, or else you can expect to be at the whim of public buses. In that case, you'd not be going to Tad Lo (which is awesome) and you'd just take the ride up to Paksong, but this would save you 2 nights in Tad Lo and I'd think you'd want to stay a little longer in Paksong, add a night there. You can get transport to Champasake to see Wat Phu by then renting a bicycle in town.

Your current itinerary seems like you want see a lot of things without meeting anyone or soaking in the feel of the places, you'll be spending all your time moving. I don't know how that will really give you a glimpse of what Laos is all about, which is really just slowing down and enjoying the people you meet and the quiet of the countryside. Cut either the cave (which maybe someone else can make recommendations on . . . sadly I never made it though it is on my wish list) or the Plateau and slow your roll.

#2 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281

Posted by KitLam on 11/8/2014 at 00:50

Thanks for your advice.

Tham Kong Lo is the main attraction to me and my wife, therefore it cannot be cut even if it is inconvenient and time-consuming to reach.

Between Bolaven Plateau and Wat Phu, I think Wat Phu will be cut as my wife likes waterfalls. Maybe I should leave this chance to Angkor Wat in the next trip.

Another thing you remind me is to learn riding motorbike. It seems convenient and enjoyable for backpacking. However, for this time, I wonder it there is any transport for our round trip on Bolaven Plateau from Pakse?

Thanks for your advice and I think we should learn slowing down our steps once escaped from our busy daily lives.

#3 KitLam has been a member since 10/8/2014. Posts: 3

Posted by MADMAC on 11/8/2014 at 10:00

Learn to ride a motorcycle. Something with a clutch. Those little 125 bikes are designed for city driving. The saddles are uncomfortable and the bikes aren't that stable. For going from city to city, get something a little beefier than a Honda Wave.

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

Posted by caseyprich on 11/8/2014 at 22:00

MADMAC - the Suzuki's are fine for a few hours, and easier for newbies to get a handle on, I can speak from experience. With a back-pack bungeed to the back you get a little extra weight on the thing too - though I wouldn't recommend going over 40 KPH or a good gust of wind might take the wheels out from under you. Laos is a great place to get your bike-legs as the traffic is really light and the drivers not very aggressive. I had almost no experience when I started my Bolavan trip, but luckily had a guy with motorcycle experience to help with some suggestions on how to drive safely.

Wat Phu is a great experience, especially early morning when no one is around, but if you will go to Angkor Wat you can give it a pass (though a stay at one of the lovely spots in Champasak is a great way for a couple to unwind, I think you'd want more time to relax then anyway). I digress . . . if waterfalls you want, then I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Tad Lo - you can swim under one, see another amazing little devil and there are a few more in the area to explore. You'd want to have a whole day after arrival to really explore that. Then you could just loop around to Paksong and catch lunch - and hit a couple of the waterfalls on the way back to Pakse. You can probably setup transport for this, but I don't think it will be cheap.

If it is just waterfalls though - I guess you could hire a driver to take you to Paksong and back for a day, hit some waterfalls on the way there and catch a coffee and late lunch in Paksong before heading back to Pakse. Really, you get a better feel for the place with a night spent there, feeling the temperature drop and the stars come out.

#5 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281

Posted by MADMAC on 12/8/2014 at 01:05

I hate them Casey. I just hate them. Just not stable enough for me. Maybe because I'm a small guy myself, weighing in now at 130. I don't like four straight down either. honestly my CBR is underpowered. I really want something befier for province to province trips. My son learned to ride my old chopper in 5 minutes and he had no motorcycle experience. It can be done.
Guess it depends on the individual.

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

Posted by KitLam on 12/8/2014 at 03:44

Thank you, Casey & MADMAC.

It sounds great to spend a night in Tad Lo and romantic to have a Bolaven loop with my wife only (not with a driver). I wonder whether we should postpone our Laos trip until I learn motorbiking.

Just for curiosity, do you guys afraid of having your motorcycles out of order in the trip? I mean at the locations with no other people and cannot communicate through your mobile phones.

#7 KitLam has been a member since 10/8/2014. Posts: 3

Posted by MADMAC on 12/8/2014 at 10:55

If your bike breaks down, as mine did once at 1100 at night on a rural road, eventually someone will come along. I had two kids about 17 or 18 come by on their little bike and they pushed mine with theirs (tricky how this is done) back to my father in laws house. I gave them 200 baht and they were happy and so was I. I wouldn't sweat that one much. If you break down, someone is likely to help you out. Learning to ride is painfully easy. If you can ride a bicycle, you can ride a motorcycle.

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


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