My girlfriend and I will be traveling from Thailand>Laos>Cambodia for a couple of months at the end of the year. I've figured out the first part of the "maybe" course to take, but I'd love input from people who know Laos. Also, I get quite confused when I get to the south, because I'm running out of days... so that's where my plan is halted at the moment.
This is my first time in SE Asia, and my first time planning independent travel, so any ideas or suggestions are greatly appreciated.
I've heard and read that Laos is very laid-back and, in being so, slow. I'm a bit nervous that I'm trying to do too much. I hope to have a full 30 days in the country, but I'll plan for 27 days, just in case:
1: Enter Huay Xai from Thailand
2-4: Gibbon Exp.
6-8: MuangKhua slowboat to Luang Prabang (or to Nong Khia, then bus to Luang Prabang... any input?)
9-12: Luang Prabang
12-14: fly to Phonsavan, POJ
15: bus to Vientiane
18-21: bus to Ban Khoun Kham> ThamKongLo (2-day trek)
*this is where things especially get muddled. I want to spend some time in Southern Laos, but I'm running out of days.
I'm thinking of skipping through ThaKhaek, down to Savannakhet for a possible 2-day trek, then going to Pakse for a couple of days (I'd like to visit Tad Nguing), then boat or bus to Champasak for a couple of days, OR go over to Kiet Ngong and do the trek to TaOng there. Then, I feel like the trip wouldn't be complete without some time on the southern islands. This is tacking a few days onto the plan that won't be on the visa. Help? :)
#1 pamjane has been a member since 5/6/2009. Posts: 16
Pam, you may want to shave a day off of your time in Vientiane and head south sooner, and then don't spend too long in Pakse .
You can do the Bolaven Plateaux in a few days.
The town of Champasak is not far at all from Pakse (I rode my bike there from Pakse in about 2 hours), so you won't be spending much time traveling between places. Champasak is a charming little spot and is a great place to chill out for a while. But unless you're keen on visiting Wat Phu, plan on chilling out on the islands anyway, and are tight on time, you may want to consider going straight to Si Phan Don from Pakse and skip Champasak.
Lao Airlines hasn't been running flights between LPB & Xieng Khouang ( Phonsavan h) for some time. Only time will tell whether they'll resume this route in their upcoming winter schedule. So you might have to bus LPB to Phonsavan (get a window seat for the scenery), then fly from there to VTE.
Muang Khua-Nong Khiaw by boat supposedly covers the most scenic of the more accessible sections of the Nam Ou. Perhaps you can decide when you reach Nong Khiaw - some might feel that they've had their fill of sitting on a hard wooden plank in a boat, some might not want to go through another round of negotiation over boat fares, some find themselves low on cash & are shocked that Nong Khiaw has no ATM, or some might want to get to LPB more quickly to catch a festival (no idea what dates you'll end up in the area).
Thanks for that air tip! So, bus TO Phonsavan and flight FROM there it is.
Now I'm thinking maybe we'll skip Champasak and go to Pak Song/Dong Hua Sao/Tat Fan for a couple of days. I'm really into waterfalls and swimming. I don't think we'll venture further into Bolaven Plateaux since it seems to take so long to get into it and back... unless there's some specific place you'd recommend we not miss! I think when we make it south, it'll turn into a play-it-by-ear type of thing.
Thanks for the offer! We'll definitely get in touch if we decide to cross over for any reason.
#5 pamjane has been a member since 5/6/2009. Posts: 16
I'm at a loss.
You've got a couple of months, and you're planning so much of your time rushing around in the back set of transport.
For example, 5:LuangNamTha>Udomxai>MuangKhua then 6-8: MuangKhua slowboat to Luang Prabang (or to Nong Khia, then bus to Luang Prabang... any input?).
Before commenting, I loved Nam Tha, to wander past without as much as a look appears mmmmm!!!
Even a cursory look at a map of northern Laos will show that OudomXai to Muang Khua is about the same distance as OudomXai to Nong Khiaw. So, what is THE reason to spend so much time doing this triangle, when you've no time allocated to Nam Tha?
Just doesn't make sense.
Can you fly from LP to Phonsovan? I thought LaoAir dropped that link some time ago. I may be wrong.
- - - -
As for your itinerary, I wrote simialrly to Christay on the Laos Forum - and as you are spending much time travelling I suggest it also applies to you. I'll cut'n'paste to make sense for you...
One thing I'd like to suggest is that Laos is just so laid back. There is little or no need to plan in detail for Laos.
After the Gibbon Experience, you're off to Luang Nam Tha. This 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, would you like to go to Muang Sing h (great place) if so, how would 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 travelling, 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, 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.
I assumed that the Gibbon Experience would be technically hanging out in Nam Tha... we'll be stationed in the area for 3 days, trekking through the jungle, and hanging out a bit with the native folks that work for GE. I think I based the Muang Khua to Nong Khiaw river trip on a recommendation that you made on another forum. Maybe it wasn't you?
wandering cat told me about the flight situation to/from POJ, so I changed that.
I for sure don't want to rush through Laos, but I also don't want to spend all my time in Northern Laos. I definitely won't be too set on any itinerary I make, but I want to have a good idea of the possibilities and how to best get from one place to another.
#7 pamjane has been a member since 5/6/2009. Posts: 16
I went on the Gibbon Experience a couple of months back. See my blog:
Unless you arrange to meet at Ban Ta Fa, you'll depart from Huay Xai (at about 8:30am), arrive at Ban Ta Fa at about 11:30am, then head inland from there for about an hour (all by vehicle). From there, its shanks pony. On the 3rd day, the reverse holds - unless you want to catch the bus to Luang Nam Tha (where you'll be left at Ban Ta Fa).
Yes, I did travel up the Nam Ou from LP to Muang Khua in order to then get the bus to Vietnam. I wrote about that journey here on Travelfish:
I there indicated that...
If you want to see the 'stunning' part of the river, hire a boat from either Nong Khiaw or Muang Ngoi to travel for about two hours further up the river (slow boat speed from Muang Ngoi - one hour up, another back down).
While further north was OK, it wasn't anything I'd go out of my way for - unless I was coming from Vietnam and wanted to boat it.
I still hope that you'll be 'doing time' in Nam Tha (and environs).
Glad that you're not going to get 'hung up' about itinerary.