We are having quite a bit of trouble planning our trip to Laos. We have ~15 days and will be entering and leaving from Bangkok.
At this stage, we are thinking our best option for transit in will be to fly to Udon Thani and then bus to Vientiane. Does anyone recommend against this? Is the train a better alternative? Flying directly from Bangkok into Laos is not really an option because of the cost...
Secondly, we want to do a trek in northern Laos (in the Nam Tha region). We are thinking that to save time, we might be best to fly to Nam Tha using Lao Aviation but we're having a LOT of difficulty working out cost and time-tables for flights. Can anyone tell me anything about this flight from Vientiene to Nam Tha?
Also, we are keen to do a 2-3 night ecotrek in this region but are having trouble booking one. It seems that the tour companies do not use email, and because we are only 2 travellers (ie. not a whole group alone) and we have limited time, it seems a bit risky to hope we'll be able to get something on the day...
Lastly, does this sound like an achievable itinerary:
Day 1 - Bangkok to Udon Thani, Udon Thani to Vientiane
Day 2 - Day at Vientiane
Day 3 - Fly (?) to Nam Tha
Day 4 - Join Trekking group
Day 5 - Trek
Day 6 - Trek
Day 7 - Nam Tha to Luang Prabang by bus
Day 8 - Luang Prabang
Day 9 - Luang Prabang
Day 10 - Luang Prabang
Day 11 - Bus to Vang Vieng
Day 12 - Vang Vieng
Day 13 - Vang Vieng
Day 14 - Bus to Vientiane
Day 15 - Vientiane to Udon Thani (bus) to Bangkok (plane)
Any tips or help on any of these questions would be great!
#1 elena9 has been a member since 10/1/2008. Posts: 6
Just to throw a cat among the pigeons... have you considered entering Laos at a different point?
For example if you fly from Bangkok to Chiang Rai in northern Thailand (well served by low cost airlines) then you could cross at the Huay Xai crossing which has you entering Laos far closer to Luang Nam Tha so you could head straight north to LNT, then bus it to Luang Prabang (try and fit in Nong Khiaow or Muang Ngoi if you can) then onto Vang Vieng, Vientiane etc.
Regarding the trekking, have you tried contacting the Boat Landing in LNT -- they're the original and still one of the best.
Also, one more suggestion, if you're taking the road north from HX to LNT, don't forget about the Gibbon Experience!
#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,738
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I agree with somtam2000. It would be a better option to cross at Huay Xai (like I did) and directly go to Luang Nam Tha or Muang Sing (in my opinion even better than LNT). After the trekking, get down to LP, VV and Vientiane. I would like to add the lower cost option to take a night bus (12 hours, very comfortable, 634 Baht) from BKK to Chiang Khon at the border with Laos. From the bus station there (arrival 7 a.m.) you take (some kind of) a tuk-tuk (10') to take you to the boatlanding, where you take the boat (5') across the Mekong to Huay Xai. Change money and get your visa there (at the boatlanding in Huay Xai). From there you take a taxi (minibus, 4 hours, 65000 kip) to Luang Nam Tha. If you go to Muang Sing you can take a minibus 1 hour later (20000 kip) and in 2 hours you're in Muang Sing. Don't hesitate to ask me further details if you consider this option.
#3 JoHe59 has been a member since 22/8/2006. Posts: 21
If you want to get up to Vientiane you can get the asia air or nok air to Udon there should be a minivan waiting outside for people going to Nong Khai and the friendship bridge and you should be able to get another minivan from the border to VTE, cost of flight is about 40 USD, maybe 500-800 baht for minivans to VTE, or I like to take the train up to Nong Khai 2 people in a 1st class sleeper was about 2300baht,buy some stuff to eat and drink at the train station before you get on cuz the train food sucks, you get there about 900am 5 minute tuktuk ride to the border, if you are going to stay in VTE for a couple days its easy to go to Lao airlines office down town and buy your tickets for your other leg, laoairlines.com should have a flight schedule for that flight and costs involved, I was going to book a flight BKK/VTE on Lao air and it is now $358 per ticket R/T so I'll be doing the same as you next time I go there, callao
#4 callao has been a member since 4/8/2007. Posts: 5
Thanks for your replies. They've been very helpful in organising our trip. We agree that it's probably best that we enter Laos via HX, then we can work our way down the country without back-tracking.
We think we'll fly to Chang Rai and then take the bus to LNT via HX. Is it realistic to think we could leave BKK in the morning and make it to LNT by evening? Or should we plan a night somewhere in transit?
We'll aim to fit in Nong Khiaow on the way to LP because it would definitely be nice to break up the long journeys.
We still haven't managed to organise a trek in LNT. We keep getting directed to the Green Discovery tours but they're a little pricey for us. We are keen to do a trek that is physically demanding (at least more than a stroll on a flat path), that is 2-3 days long with home-stay and that is naturally beautiful. Any suggestions of a particular trip?
Callao, what you suggest looks like a good option (in reverse) for getting back to BKK when we finish up. And we'll make sure to pick up some food for the journey.
Thanks again for your help...
#5 elena9 has been a member since 10/1/2008. Posts: 6
Green Discovery Pricey?
I just went to their web site, looks like a little under $30 per day, you might well spend that on hotels food and beer without the trek.
The 3 day forest trek starts high on the road to muang sing, climbs higher the first day and tops out on the ridge mid day on the second, before heading down hill all the way to the valley down by the Boat Landing. Lots of very tall old trees.
As I remember the government run tourist agency was slightly cheaper, perhaps $4 a day, but I opted for GD.
BKK to Luang Namtha in a day would set some kind of record. Any time you go anywhere in Laos you shouldn't be alarmed if you end up sitting around most of a day. Broken bus, waiting for rice to be loaded, road caved in, etc. Throw away your watch.
I took a 2 day trek and 1 day kayaking tour with them and they were WONDERFUL! Well worth every penny (and I didn't think they are that pricey.) I would highly recommend them.
I'm not in the best shape. But our guide always went at my pace and never made me feel bad for taking a lot of breaks or going slow. he carried all of my water to lighten my load and even offered to carry my bad when we got to the steep part(i didn't let him). I'm scared death of spiders. And I started to have a panic attach when i saw where we were sleeping (yes, i know shouldn't have been on the trek in the first place...it was the travel partners idea) But the guide stayed very calm and very quickly arranged for us to sleep in a hut that had a tin roof instead of the spider infested straw roof. On the second day when it was raining and I was stiff and in pain from the first days hike, he offered to have a truck pick us up and the went to the waterfall by truck instead of walking. At no additional charge (we expected to at least have to pay for gas and something for the additional guide/driver who drove us around all day...we tipped well)
On the kayaking trip our guide was also great. The person who I was traveling with has a fear of water. So the guide put her in the same kayak as him. He did all of the work, so all my friend had to do was sit in the kayak and stay dry. (my challenge was the trek, my friends was kayaking) We had life vests and helmets for the trip.
After reading your posts and looking into it a bit further, Green Discovery doesn't look so pricey. I'm not quite sure where I got the idea that prices were dramatically different.
Seems like you had quite an adventure, iwillfly. I'm freaked by spiders too, so that's definitely going to be a consideration!
Thanks for the tip, somsai, that it will take more than a day to get from BKK to LNT. Where do you recommend we spend a night, en route?
#8 elena9 has been a member since 10/1/2008. Posts: 6
Like I wrote before it's quite possible to travel from BKK to LNT in 1 day. Of course you have to leave BKK in the evening (around 7 pm), take the night bus (very comfortable) to Chiang Khong (arrival 7 am), cross the border to Huay Xai (5') and take the minibus (van) to Luang Nam Tha (4 hours, arrival at 1 pm). You even can get to Muang Sing the same day (departure 2 pm, arrival 4 pm). I don't know why somsai says that it would be a record. It all was very comfortable and I wasn't tired at all when I arrived at Muang Sing.
#9 JoHe59 has been a member since 22/8/2006. Posts: 21
My Gosh JoHe59, that is quick! I hadn't realized it was so possible. I have to admit I'm probably not the quickest. I would have probably..
Day one first look for some Kao mung Gai from a street vender then look around for a book store read the paper and then buy some kind of map and look on it for the train station.
Day 2 check out and go buy sleeper tickets to Chang Mai.
Day 3 find a guest house and think about heading over to the Mekong, reffer to map.
Day 4 Take a bus in that direction and maybe even make it to the river, or better yet one of those cheap mini busses.
Day 5 cross the river and walk around looking at things in Huay Xai. Drink a Lao coffee or ten.
Day 6 Luang Namtha in under a week and I'd consider myself moving right along.
Guess I won't be setting any land speed records. I've heard they are making the visas longer, probably for slow pokes like me. Time I get anywhere the visa is up.
Have fun Elena9
I know it seems like I was rushing all the way, but really I wasn't. I was just looking for the quickest (and one of the cheapest) ways of getting to Northern Laos. I've seen Thailand (incl. Chiang Mai) already a couple of times and I really love the country, but this time I wanted to visit Laos and Cambodia. And believe me, once I've got to Muang Sing I really relaxed and I stayed a couple of days there just walking and biking (not to be missed).
And for Elena9, I wish you the same as Somsai: have fun and enjoy!
#11 JoHe59 has been a member since 22/8/2006. Posts: 21
ฺthere are 2 local bus(if u prefer) leave from HX to LNT
first leave 9:30 am
second leave around 1:30 pm
normally u have to pass a immigration check point , you may be spent 0.5 hr. there for any document process and then looking for a car to sent u to HX bus terminal ( 8 Kms. away from HX down town)or u can catch a minivan to go to LNT . In my idea it would be a better choice to catch the 9:30 bus and u will reach LNT in 4 hr. Road connect HX - LNT is paved
so your plan should be
Day 1(night) Bangkok to Chiang khong (morning)
Day 2(morning) Chiang khong - HX - LNT (afternoon or later)
Day 3 Join Trekking group
Day 4 - Trek
Day 5 - Trek
Day 6 - Nam Tha to Luang Prabang by bus via Udomxay(paved and dust road)
Day 7 - Luang Prabang
Day 8 - Luang Prabang
Day 9 - Luang Prabang
Day 10(morning) - Bus to Vang Vieng (reach vang vieng lately afternoon)
Day 11 - Vang Vieng
Day 12 - Vang Vieng
Day 13(morning) - Bus(u can chooes local or minibus) to Vientiane(if u don't wanna spent a time in Vientiane u can cross a border to Udon thani in the same day)
Day 14 catch a plane( depend on air plane arrive time )
have a nice trip
#12 Lam_merison has been a member since 29/5/2007. Posts: 14
I've just read your reply from 14/1 completely, where you mention that you want to take a flight from BKK to Chiang Rai (CEI). Not considering the fact this would cost you a lot more (1 extra night accommodation + flight + bus CEI-Chiang Khong), it will be very difficult to get to LNT in 1 day. Only if you get a very early flight (Air Asia has a flight leaving at 06:35, arriving at 07:55) it would be possible. You'll have to take a taxi (or tuk-tuk?, time?) from CEI airport to CEI bus station, take a bus from there to Chiang Khong (leaves every hour, takes 2h-2h30'). After that it's a 5' tuk-tuk drive to the immigration, 5'-15' paperwork (depending on the number of tourists), 5' to cross the Mekong, 20'-30' to get your visa and change money and then you'll get the minibus (leaves when they have enough passengers, takes 4 hours) to LNT. So if you're lucky, you'll arrive in LNT at 5 pm.
If you take a later flight (arriving in CEI in the afternoon), you'll have to stay in CEI (large town, many things to see), Chiang Khong or Huay Xai (small quiet villages, with a nice view on the Mekong). I'm not sure (you'll have to check that out), but I think crossing the border is only possible in the daytime.
Have a nice trip
#13 JoHe59 has been a member since 22/8/2006. Posts: 21
I'm agree with JoHe59,
not a good ideal to catch the bus from Chiang rai to Chiang khong coz u spent 2.5-3 hr.
#14 Lam_merison has been a member since 29/5/2007. Posts: 14