As I haven't done the journey, I can't comment from experience.
I was recently at LP, and explored the bus options as I had a desire to do that journey. I comment, then, of my research: and the advice I was given, which in Laos may not be exactly as things actually transpire.
Assuming you're talking buses, from LP the route you'll take has you travelling to Nong Khiaw, then to Sam Neua , and then a sawngtheaw needs to be taken to Vieng Xai .
So, from LP...
LP to Nong Khiaw takes about 4 hours, and to Sam Neua a further 12 hours. But, this depends on weather - and hence road - conditions. The travel to Vieng Xai is about an hour.
I was led to understand that there is a 'direct' bus to Sam Neua that leaves LP from the northern bus station and it was supposed to leave at 4pm (costing about 100,000kip).
As the bus should get to Sam Neua around 8am (or maybe later), I was told that the sawngtheaw leave Sam Neua about hourly.
Another option is to take the boat up the Nam Ou to Nong Khiaw, then catch the bus at around 8pm for the rest of the journey. If you were going to do this, I'd suggest you try and pre-book a ticket on the bus from the northern bus station before hand (never from a travel agent).
Hope this helps
Thanks brucemoon, for the info. Will be there in 4 weeks and am keen to do that trip.
I'm also thinking of heading back to Thailand(Chiang Rai) via Huay Xai, I wonder if it makes sense to back track to Luang Prabang after Vieng Xai or if there is another route to the border. A problem being i only have 2 weeks in Laos. Any ideas?
#3 joe000 has been a member since 9/5/2009. Posts: 9
Can take a look here:
3 Sam Neua-LPB services listed:
SN-LPB bus, SN-LPB (private?) minibus, & SN-Vientiane bus that passes through LPB on the way. So you should be able to find such transport in the opposite direction, just that you have to check for latest timings & fares at LPB northern bus station.
One alternative as brucemoon suggested is to get to Nong Khiaw (~3h bus/songthaew, or 1 day slowboat), then wait along the road for either the Vientiane-LPB-SN bus to pass through around 9-10++++PM, or the Oudomxay-SN bus to pass through (not daily). Risk is you might not get what you imagine to be a 'seat' on the bus if it's packed (same if you're hoping to hop on the Vientiane-SN bus when it passes through LPB). Don't think there's such a thing as prebooking seats on such buses!
Lengthier alternative, if you're interested in seeing the Plains of Jars, is LPB-Phonsavan-Sam Neua.
At Sam Neua, the songthaews to Viengxai depart from another bus station: http://laomeow.blogspot.com/2008/07/bussongthaew-schedulesdetails.html
(look under Houa Phanh province)
About backtracking...you say you have 2 weeks in Laos, but don't say where else you're going...(E.g. if you're coming from Vientiane, then i could suggest Vientiane-Phonsavan-Sam Nuea-Nong Khiaw-LPB-Huay Xai.)
As brucemoon said, you pay the normal fare that all locals pay (i.e. lowest) if you buy your ticket directly from bus station offices.
Thanks so much wanderingcat, the link you provided is especially useful... still have some research to do! Joe
#5 joe000 has been a member since 9/5/2009. Posts: 9
If you want to go to Huay Xai , then you're going to have to go through OudomXay, and Luang Nam Tha to get to Huay Xai (if you go by road). Alternatively, you can go to OudomXay, then Bak Beng and take a day slow boat trip along the Mekong to Huay Xai (Chiang Khong).
I like Luang Nam Tha, but I'm a bit prejudiced as I also like forested areas.
The 'other' way to get to Thailand from Veing Xai is to go down to Vientiane, and hook into isan from there.
As for a 'seat' on a Laos bus, don't EVER assume anything - FULL STOP. You 'may' get a window seat, you 'may' get an aisle seat, you 'may' get a 'seat' on a bag of rice in the corridor. You 'may' have to share the 2 seats with 3 people. The list goes on and on...
Tanks once again Bruce. Could you give me a rough indication of time to allow for the options you have listed to Huay Xai? Sounds interesting
#7 joe000 has been a member since 9/5/2009. Posts: 9
Or should I say 'uncool wannabe', hehe...
Sam Neua to OudomXay: I understand you have to go to Nong Khiaw first, then change to the OudomXay bus.
As 'cat posted, the bus leaves @ 8:00am. and costs 100,000kip. This is a 12 hour ++ journey.
I don't know the difference in 'connection times' between the above and the bus to Oudomxay (which leaves Nong Khiaw at around 11am). There are also several sawngtheaw 'trips' that do this journey, but I don't know the departure times.
The Nong Khiaw to OudomXay takes around 3 hours.
OudomXay to Pak Beng trip is by sawngtheaw and takes about 5 hours. I was told there is a bus, but I couldn't get details.
The bus from OudomXai to Luang Nam Tha takes 4 hours.
From Luang Nam Tha to Huay Xai takes 5 hours.
- - - -
If you are interested in trekking, engaging with ethnics, etc. Then Luang Nam Tha is a good 'base'. Actually, the trekking is best from Vieng Phouka (about 2 hours towards Huay Xai from Nam Tha) but only the Nam Tha office speaks English to explain and/or 'book' options.
A side trip to Muang Sing is especially good. Hire a motorbike, start early and take a day trip. Alternatively, stay overnight near there and engage with Akha and Tay villages nearbny.
Hope this helps
We've got a Travelfish researcher doing this route by bicycle at the moment (he is actually riding from Hanoi to Huay Xai -- glad its not me!) -- so we will have some updated coverage on this route soonish.
#9 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,772
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Hanoi to Huay Xai on a treadly, WOW!!!
Given that the roadwork entry to Dien Bien Phu is like a warzone, don't envy him at all.
Then, the OudomXay to Na Toei section is so full of potholes and washaways, have you given him an EPIRB in case he falls into a crater and can't get out?