Photo: Classic scenery surrounds Vang Vieng.

Laos forum

A month in Laos - stay in the North or head down South?

Posted by christay2009 on 22/6/2009 at 00:21

I should be crossing into Laos at the China/Laos border and was wondering if my time would be better spent concentrating on the North [as i enter the country at a northern crossing] OR try and see some of the north and south?

i think there are pros and cons obviously but wondered if anyone would care to throw in their ten pence/cents

thanks again
Chris

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Posted by MADMAC on 22/6/2009 at 02:55

Chris
Again, depends on purpose. Are you just planning on kicking around and take what the day throws at you? In that case no point in spending more time on a bus than you need to... because heading down the panhandle means some real time on buses. Or are there some specific things you want to see? Do you want to avoid the tourist haunts? Then skip VV, Luang Prabang, Vientiane... of course those places attract tourists for a reason. Again, it really comes down to what you're looking for. Some are going to just relax, some are going to see cutlural sites, some people go to let their hair down and party... why are you going?

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Posted by Rufus on 22/6/2009 at 07:47

Chris, in a month you can see quite a bit. I ould look at both the Nth and the South.
Concentrate on these areas
Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Champassak. Consider Attapeu in the north, it is a wild and wooly area.

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Posted by BruceMoon on 22/6/2009 at 10:34

christay2009


It'd be nice if you were more focussed on what you want to achieve, possible travel plans/options/etc.

That way we could throw a bob..

Cheers

#4 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by Tilapia on 22/6/2009 at 23:38

Ditto Rufus.

North is much more popular than the south, so the south tends to be less busy, less expensive, and less developed. There is still a tourist infrastructure, but it's not as well developed as it is around Vientiane, Vang Vieng , Luang Prabang, etc.

Personally, I'd swap Vang Vieng for Si Phan Don.

You'll enjoy wherever you go.

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Posted by MADMAC on 23/6/2009 at 01:17

"You'll enjoy wherever you go."

I haven't... but I'm getting ragged on for ragging on Laos, so I'll let it go.

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Posted by christay2009 on 23/6/2009 at 21:06

i don't mind madmac, you need both positive and negative.

So far, i reckon i'll try and get to the border as near as possible to opening then head to Luang Nam Tha for a night(or two?) before moving onto Muang Sing for abit of trekking. I keep reading about all the great cycling but before anyone suggests this...i cant ride a bike! so thats out. I thought i'd then head over to Luang Prabang and surrounding areas. I'd definately like to put aside a day for a cooking course too

that is as far as i've got just now but i thought id post an update anyway

in responce to my purpose Madmac, i guess i'd like a blend of tourist and slightly less beaten paths. I'd quite like to take it slow, relax, 'take it in', i'm not one for rushing around and i'm not really looking for a party either. I think i'll avoid Vang Vieng as it seems any time would be better spent elsewhere!

thanks
chris

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Posted by MADMAC on 23/6/2009 at 23:34

Bruce can help you here a lot, so can Rufus... VV, Long Tieng and the PDJ are the only places in Laos I want to go to. So I'm not much help.

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Posted by christay2009 on 24/6/2009 at 00:02

so far, i think it might be worth sticking to the North. I can work my way down to Vientiane then flying to Bangkok and then home. I came up with a rough plan of action then looked at the travelfish itinerary and they are quite similar. Something like;

Luang Nam tha
Muang Sang
Udomxai
Nong Kiaow
Muang Ngoi
Luang Prabang
Phonsavan
Vientiane

i'm a little worried about what seems like a lot of travel...i guess i'd have to go back to Luang Nam tha after Muang sing in order to move onto Udomxai. Then i'd have to travel from here to Nong Kiaow in order to take a boat trip to Muang Ngoi, back to Nong Kiaow to take bus/boat to Luang Prabang. I'm keen not to spend my month in Laos in transit

Thanks for any help/advice
Chris

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Posted by Tilapia on 24/6/2009 at 00:02

There's no denying that the area around Vang Vieng is spectacular, and the location of the town is very scenic. But if you are looking for a place to kick-back for a few days, and you like a nice, slow pace, and not much in the way of crowds, then save your time for the islands in Southern Laos.

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Posted by somsai on 24/6/2009 at 10:39

christay you said..."...i guess i'd have to go back to Luang Nam tha after Muang sing"

Actually you don't. From the border at Huay Xai you can catch a fast boat upriver to Xiengkok and then mini bus on to Muang Sing. That area in NW Laos now has pretty good roads and great scenery, not much timber cutting yet and enough westerners to have guest houses but you won't see many people until Muang Sing. Travelfish has descriptions of the towns.

Personaly I'd go wherever you want and not make up your mind until you do. I've completely changed plans on a whim, you're on vacation after all.

#3 I think you made a typo, Attapeu isn't north of much other than Cambodia.

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Posted by christay2009 on 24/6/2009 at 18:52

somsai, sorry but i'm not sure i understand.

"from the border at Huay Xai you can catch a fast boat upriver to Xiengkok and then a minibus on to Muang Sing "

I will be crossing into Laos from China, then i thought it would be easier to get to Luang Nam Tha from there? I'd head up to Muang Sing after that...but once i was in Muang Sing i thought i'd have to double back? or could i get to Udomxai from Muang Sing?

thanks for the reply
chris

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Posted by somsai on 25/6/2009 at 11:30

Appologies, should have started the thread at the beginning. But yes you can get there without backtracking but it's a lot longer and involves a heading over to the upper Mekong, down it, then up from Pakbeng.

It's too bad you can't use the crossings the Chinese do at Muang Sing or up in Phongsali even better. I like wandering around the north more than the south. The Chinese influence as well as the fact that "hill tribes are Akha, Hmong, Lanten, and Yao more the up in the hills type of minorities.

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Posted by christay2009 on 25/6/2009 at 16:51

somsai - yes, i agree, would be much nicer for us foreigners if all borders were open to us with visa on entry! The above quite similar to the travelfish itinerary which would suggest fairly workable.

I know that you are quite whimsical and i'd like to be able to be quite flexible but for me, id prefer to have a loose skeleton which can be fleshed out enroute!

I'm not too sure how to workout how many days where though, how slow actually is Laos transport?!!

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Posted by BruceMoon on 26/6/2009 at 13:05

christay2009

I've now replied to your 'china' post.

One thing I'd like to suggest is that for all the formality there is in China, it's just so laid back and opposite in Laos. Where in China you really do need to organise your air/train/bus tickets as far out as possible (even down to several days before for train), there is no need for Laos.

You're coming in to Luang Nam Tha (coz that's where the ex-China bus drops you).

Luang Nam Tha is where I'd stop planning.

I know this sounds antithetical to your perceptions, but...

All I'd do is work out how to get around. That is, how are you going to get from Nam Tha to Muang Sing ? Should you try the Muang Sing to Huay Xia via Xieng Kok option? If you do, what about taking the LP boat to only Pak Beng, then heading overland up to OudomXay? Thence, heading over to Nong Khiaw...

Travel around Laos is slow. Life in Laos is slow. Given this, the best advice I can give you is to have your 'place' locations and transport routes researched, and then just forget about adhering to any itinerary.

Another reason for saying this is that after time in China, you'll have learnt that trying to stick to a plan is a challenge in its own right. And, for Laos, that will be even more the case. My hunch is that when in Laos (after China), you'll just want take life slowly & proceed at your now changed pace.

I suggest if you do just fashion out the basics, you'll save yourself much heartache, and in time to come not laugh at your pre-journey 'anal-ness' so much.

Hope this helps

Cheers

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Posted by christay2009 on 26/6/2009 at 21:01

I guess you're right, i pretty much have a good idea of where i'd like to head and how, i guess any more would just end up being overly prescriptive and probably reduce actually experiencing/enjoying Laos!

Well, i've pretty much got a general plan for where i'd like to go and how to go about getting there so things are coming together nicely!

Thanks again Bruce and everyone else

Chris

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Posted by somsai on 26/6/2009 at 21:05

A trick to remember.

All larger towns in Northern Laos have a direct bus to and from Vientiane . Often not many tourists take it but it's fast transportation and every bus must pass through Luang Prabang and Vang Vien. So if you are way over in say Huay Xai and want to get to Sam Nua you can take the bus headed to Vientiane part of the way, then catch the bus headed out of Vientiane to Sam Nua for the rest.

I don't like to spend my life on a bus, and I think the views are better afoot, so I just get it over with quick. Also schedules constantly change, busses are added so keep your options open.

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Posted by christay2009 on 26/6/2009 at 21:50

thanks Somsai, that is good to know, ill keep it in mind. I'm grateful to have a site like this at my disposal and that there are people who can give good advice on the forums!

all the best

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Posted by christay2009 on 27/7/2009 at 00:06

i thought i'd add a question to this - my original Laos thread - rather than start a new one!

I was wondering if anybody knows which destinations i can get to by bus from Muang Long ?? i was thinking of heading down to Muang Long after Muang Sing then i'm not sure where next...Do any buses head east?

Somsai [presuming you look at this thread again!] - are you under the same username on thorntree? and thus, is Lao Bumpkin your blog? If so, great work. Even though i've only just scratched the surface its a good read and it looks like it will be quite helpful

Thanks
Christay2009

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Posted by somsai on 27/7/2009 at 12:04

Yes, that's my real name in Laos, only falang named Somsai.

Muang Long seems to have settled back into relative obscurity, no honorable mention in the LP guide this time. Muang Sing seemed pretty quiet last January also. The guest house in Muang Long had stopped having a register and there had only been one trekker into the Nam Ha Protected Area from that side in the almost two years since I'd been there.

With the road Luang Namtha to Huay Xai now hard surface it is quicker to go that way from Muang Sing so little traffic past M Long and Xiengkok. There is a daily mini van to Luang Namtha takes about 4 hours and probably one mini van a day to Xiengkok. I privat hired a mini van to to get to the river and a fast boat quickly think it was a couple hundred thousand kip, not much. Two mini vans a day at least from Muang Sing. Locals all have more money than before, per kilo price is up past $600.

Tui still works at the tourism office and has many connections everywhere due to his dad being the head of the prefecture for so long. (And a big commie durring the war) Tui spends his time trying to decide which girl to marry.

Haven't blogged much for a long time. Lazy. Not really informative, just a bunch of stories, some even true.

Muang Long is a nice town, if only it had internet.

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Posted by christay2009 on 28/7/2009 at 00:40

it is a shame you're not blogging but i can see how something like that would be hard to keep up! obv. you'd have to be in Laos or think of something to do with it also or it wouldn't be laos bumpkin?! anyway...do you think Muang Long is worth the visit? also, i notice you've been on afew treks over the past few years. I dont think i could afford anything past 2 days but is there one you'd reccomend?? [in the North]

Thanks again

p.s Tui - tourist office in M long? or Sing?

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Posted by BruceMoon on 29/7/2009 at 06:05

Christay

I note that you say you are not a bike rider. Does that also include being a pax on a bike?

If not, then there is a track used by locals from near Xieng Kok across the Nam Tha range into Vieng Phouka. In the right season, I'd be a great ride. Not sure about how many Muang Long or Xieng Kok locals would take you and your bike across that route, and how much they'd charge.

Cheers

#22 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by somsai on 1/8/2009 at 20:14

Bruce have you actually been from Xieng Kok to Veing Phouka? Perhaps you could tell a little bit about it, I'm interested in this area.

Christay perhaps the most enjoyable and well run trek I've been on in the north was out of the tourism office in Phongsali. Five days in a big loop north then east of town ending up on the upper Nam Ou. There's now a commercial company running treks in town but I'm sure it must be the same route. The price wasn't much more than I'd spend hanging around town for 5 days.

Tui is in Muang Long. I like the town because it's a nice little Northern Lao town, and gives access to such a huge roadless area.

http://i30.tinypic.com/oqcfv4.jpg

Muang Long

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Posted by christay2009 on 1/8/2009 at 21:20

Bruce - mmm i'm unsure about being a passenger [presuming thats what pax means!]. The reason I cant ride is because pedaling hurts my knees and this has been since i was young, so i never really learnt balance either...

Somsai - thanks again for the advice. It does look gorgeous, i shall have to see if i have time to go there. I'm not sure at the moment; it may have to be an either/or between Muang Sing. I would like to head to Muang Ngoi as a priority and I think this would take sometime due to speed of transport so i'm not sure if i could manage it. I'll see how it goes when i'm there.

thanks again

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Posted by christay2009 on 1/8/2009 at 21:21

p.s. a 5 day-er sounds expensive - this is just going on the website prices but i'll look into a Phongsali trek!

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Posted by BruceMoon on 2/8/2009 at 06:40

Somsai

You asked "Have you actually been from Xieng Kok to Veing Phouka?

No.

I rode a motorbike from Vieng Phouka towards Xieng Kok to about the first third of the overall length of the track. In (my very poor) communicating with locals, they advised that the track went on to the Xieng Kok area: I couldn't pin them down to exactly where (differences in spatial understandings I suppose). The locals also said that they not only used the track as a motorbike track, but also for ox cart work. I figured, then, that it had some width the whole way.

I hope this helps.

Cheers

#26 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by christay2009 on 14/8/2009 at 02:29

somsai - i don't know if you knew but you are following me ("The View from the East") on blogger. I linked your blog because i like it. I hope this is okay.

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Posted by somsai on 17/8/2009 at 04:51

Hi Chris, when I saw the link I followed it back, eagerly awaiting stories. I often enjoy reading or watching things from someone elses perspective. Glad to see you added Travelfish.

Hi Bruce, The reason I asked was because I've walked a fair amount of the hills between those two towns, and it's a long long way. There used to be a motorcylce track between Vieng Phuka and Muang Long but that has overgrown and the log bridges have collapsed. So I was supprised. The Nam Fa is hard to ford half way there, by the time it gets close to Huay Xai it's pretty big. I think you have to cross it three times and the Nam Hee at least once to go by trail. Never seen or heard of motorcyles anywhere within area since 4 years ago up half way to Long, I think they were probably talking about "this trail eventualy will bring you to Xiengkok".

Look here

http://www.ecotourismlaos.com/images/map/namtha/namtha_bg.jpg

The abandoned road is on the map and curves way N to avoid crossing the Fa.

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Posted by christay2009 on 23/8/2009 at 23:47

Almost time to head off into the wilderness! i seem to have ended up with around 40-50 dollars a day for Laos. I know from reading this site thats its quite cheap but i'd prefer to have 'more than enough' than 'just enough'. I guess it would depend on what i'm doing...the only major expense i envisage[spelling?] is a bit of trekking with [probably] Green Discovery in addition to the usual accomodation, travel and food.

My leaving date is fast approaching, i can't say im not apprehensive although i wouldn't say i'm nervous. A step into the unknown but i have confidence enough in myself to know i will be fine. If not, i've not got a return flight yet so i'll just get on a flight to Austrailia and get back to 'the West' haha

Chris

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Posted by somsai on 24/8/2009 at 01:06

Well posting to your blog is nearly free.

On 40 or 50 you should be able to live it up, 3 or 4 mia nois.

Sok Dee

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Posted by jamesspignesi on 24/8/2009 at 05:26

AVOID THE TOURIST AREAS SUCH AS VANG VIENG. USED TO BE VERY BEAUTIFUL AND PEACEFUL THERE, THEN ALL THE PARTY HARD IDIOT GROUPS SHOWED UP . THE LAO PEOPLE GOT WIND OF HOW DUMB THEY WERE AND THE PRICES ON EVERYTHING WENT SKY HIGH. REALLY SAD NOW NO DIFFERENT THEN MANY AREAS IN THAILAND.

#31 jamesspignesi has been a member since 18/8/2008. Posts: 29

Posted by christay2009 on 24/8/2009 at 15:32

NO WORRIES JAMES, MY ROUGH ITINERARY [ABOVE] DOES NOT INCLUDE VANG VIENG. why all the capitals? :-)

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Posted by christay2009 on 19/9/2009 at 15:07

i don't like wasting threads...

I'll be hopefully heading to Laos on the 30/31st of september for the begining of October. If anyone is around let me know [i'm aware this should perhaps be in the companion thread?].

Also, if anyone cares to see my blog [badly written, maybe not that interesting but photos are okay] then head to www.mytripjournal.com/christay2009

I originally had a blogger account but that seems like abit of a no go in China

Anyway, hope you are all well

oh, chris.taylor.ctt@hotmail.co.uk

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Posted by MADMAC on 19/9/2009 at 17:19

"..... NOW NO DIFFERENT THEN MANY AREAS IN THAILAND."

Well that's a plus. I like Thailand.

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