First of all - I love this site!!! Kudos to you Somtam!
I have just booked a ticket to Phuket in December 08 and am planning on flying from there (after a few days on the beach)to Laos for 3 weeks before flying to Kuala Lumpur/Penang and then home.
I have checked out the site and have some ideas but would like some input. My plan is vaguely:
Stay in Luang Prabang for 4/5 days, travel along the Nam Ou River stopping at the major towns (including Muong Noi and Nong Khiaow), spend some time in Phongsali, do a trek and hilltribe homestay for a few days. I am planning this to take around 2 weeks then my travel companion will fly to Vientiane and I will have another week alone before flying from Vietiane to KL.
I have two options:
1. Flying back to Vientiane and then flying/busing it to Sam Neua and exploring that region for a few days.
2. Travelling from Phongsali to the Luang Nam Tha region and then heading back to Vientaine through Luang Prabang and Vieng Vang?
What do you think is the best option??? I am interested in doing some walks, seeing the beautiful scenery, swimming and Lao hilltribe culture. I will travelling probably more as a flashpacker than backpacker because my Mum is travelling with me.
Does anyone think I'm missing anything or that this vague itinerary is unrealistic? I havent booked my flight back to Kuala Lumpur yet so I can choose whether to spend more time in Laos or go visit KL/Penang. Is Penang, KL or Vientiane a better place to spend new years?
I am not looking at travelling through the south as I dont think this is realistic in a 3 week period.
Thank you for any advice you can provide me.
#1 wanderingdreamer has been a member since 2/8/2008. Posts: 4
for option 1, do you mean flying from Boun Neua airport in Phongsali to VTE? if so, last heard that Lao Aviation (not Lao Airlines) was the only carrier doing that route, & flights can be cancelled last minute. also don't know if Lao Aviation has picked up the Sam Neua route that Lao Airlines dropped...can't seem to find my link for Lao Aviation's site.
alternative is to bus Phongsali > Udomxai (full day), & if there's no Udomxai-Sam Neua bus the next day (doesn't run daily), continue on to Pak Mong & wait for a Sam Neua-bound bus to pass through.
for either option, can your mum take long rides on Lao buses & boats? (mine sure can't!)
depending on which part of Dec you travel in, might come across Hmong, Akha, etc New Year celebrations.
Thanks for the speedy response and the web-link.
Laos Air seems to fly to Sam Neua and Phongsali from Vietiane but if the flights get cancelled we could potentially miss our flights home!!!
My mum is pretty tough - we backpacked through Vietnam last year and she is fitter than I am! But this time we want to have a slower pace and not rough it as much. I heard the bus trips between Phongsali and Udomxai are really bad too. I just want to know if going to the Luang Nam Tha region is worth it if we are limited on time???
I did read somewhere that the Hmong celebrate new year in mid-December, particularly in Sam Neua. Do you know anything about this?
Does anyone recommend Sam Neua?
#4 wanderingdreamer has been a member since 2/8/2008. Posts: 4
In a pinch there is a marathon Phongsali to Vientiane bus.
It's probably not worth the trip to Luang Namtha. In Phongsali you are already getting something similar but prettier and less traveled.
Bear in mind the airport is a long way from Phogsali, an hour anyway more like two. I only wish I could recomend Sam Neua, never been, maybe in December also.
I like your mom.
December, unpaved parts of Phongsali-Udomxai road should be dry & dusty. But to me that's better than muddy. & last ~2h paved part to Udomxai will feel like heaven :)
Nong Khiaw-Sam Neua road, not sure if 100% paved by now, but again, dry season, less problem.
If limited time, just spend more time enjoying fewer areas to the fullest, rather than seeing Laos through a bus window (sometimes better views from TV & youtube :P)
New Year dates vary by year. Last year started ~10 Dec if recall correctly. Lasts 10 days, bound to encounter several villages in celebrationas as you pass through Laos. Udomxai town itself surrounded by several Hmong villages, many around Luang Prabang, also heard of big celebrations north of Vientiane (Ban Lak 52?). If you travel Sam Neua-Vientiane via Plains of Jars, will pass many Hmong villages. Second half of December, some Akha villages around Phongsaly might be having their New Year too.
Not been to Sam Neua before. But weaving from Tai Daeng people near there (Sam Tai) is best I've ever seen.