We are flying into Bangkok on 12th August and leaving on 1st September. I am travelling with my wife and 2 children aged 8 & 10. We visited Thailand 3 years ago for a week on our way back from Australia and visited Bangkok and Kanchanaburi. That was a great success. I have travelled a lot in Thailand and also visited Vientiane , but that was backpacking 20 years ago.
This time I want to travel to North East Thailand and combine it with either Northern Thailand or Laos. From looking into it I think we will not have enough time to do all 3 areas. If we go to Laos, I was thinking of visiting Luang Prabang and the surrounding area, Nong Kiaow , Vientiane and then either going over the border to Nong Khai or then flying to Savannakhet and going over the border to Mukdahan . To save time we would fly to Luang Prabang and also on to Vientiane.
I was thinking of going overland from Luang Prabang to Phonsavan to visit the plain of Jars and then flying from there to Vientiane but I have been put off doing this as it is the rainy season and thought it might be a difficult road journey. Also I think that might be trying to visit too many places.
I have seen a bit of North Eastern Thailand having gone from Loei to Nong Khai along the Mekhong and also been to Korat and Phimai, so I'm not too bothered about visiting those areas again. I want to visit more around Nakhon Phanom and Mukdahan and may possibly hire a car to do this.
I would like to do a short trek at some stage and was thinking of doing this either from Chiang Dao in Northern Thailand or Luang Prabang or Nong Kiaow.
So these are my dilemma's and I would be grateful for any advice.
1. As it is August I have read it can be difficult to travel in Laos. The part we would be doing by road, boat or walking would be Luang Prabang to Nong Kiaow and the trek. Also possibly Luang Prabang to Phonsavan. I don't want to do this with our children if it will be very difficult at this time of year.
2. I don't want to have to take malaria tablets as I think it will be difficult to get the children to take them. I don't think this is necessary in Thailand, but I am concerned that it may be a risk in Laos in the rainy season. Does anyone know.
3. Should I just leave out Laos for another trip when we can spend more time there and visit more places - preferably not in the rainy season or wait till they're older when travelling on long bus journeys will be easier.
4. My son in particular is not that adventurous with his food. When we couldn't get western food he survived on fried chicken and rice and fruit. I assume it won't be a problem in Luang prabang and Vientiane, but I wasn't sure about Nong Kiaow and Phonsavan.
I have no worries about travelling around Northern Thailand. I have always wanted to go to Luang Prabang as it was off limits when I was there before and I only got to Vientiane on a transit visa from Hanoi back to Thailand and we weren't able to leave Vientiane. However I don't want to go to Laos if it is going to be very hard work to travel around in the rainy season and be a much higher Malaria risk.
#1 john_f has been a member since 26/3/2010. Posts: 18
I am a Canadian living in Savannakhet , so I'll try to answer a few of your questions.
Including Laos might be pushing it a bit if your trip is about 3wks. You'd probably want 2-3 days in each place, so if you want to see Vientiane , Phonsavan, Luang Prabang, Savannakhet, and Pakse... that would eat up a lot of you time.
However, If your last trip to Laos was 20yrs ago, you should definately come back and see how things have changed. Laos has come a long way, but still retains its charm and a slower pace compared to Thailand.
If you are going to Chiang Dao , I would suggest that you arrange your trekking there. Witcha at Chiang Dao Nest is great, and can arrange a few different options for you. Anything from an afternoon elephant ride to 2-3 days in the mountains. I stayed there for 4 days while my Mom was visiing, and while it was at the high end for my budget, our stay there was fantasic, and Witcha is great!
Traveling in Laos during the rainy season should not be much different than any other time of the year. The buses are all on schedules, and overnight trips are good, as Laos has many mordern/comfortable buses. A style for every type of traveler. To go from Savannakhet to Vientiane takes about 8.5hrs and cost about $20 Can. if I remember correctly.
Anti-malarials are totally your call. I would suggest speaking with you Dr. of course. Having said that, I have been in Savannakhet(a malaria hot spot they say) for the better part of a year, and I do not take them. My Mom did when she visited, but had a variety that she started a few days before entering Laos, and then a few days after. I didn;t find August too bad for mozzies really, but they were terrible in Dec/Jan. Seems that it's when the rain sort of stops, or is infrequent that the population explodes.
Food in any of the major tourist cities, should not be an issue. The cities I mentioned above all would have a good assortment of restaurants that cater to western tastes. Hamburgers, French fries, Pizza, Western style breakfasts... all available.
#2 wigboy has been a member since 12/12/2006. Posts: 14
That's interesting. I live in Mukdahan.
#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Thanks for the reply.
I'd already decided to give Laos a miss and stick to Thailand, going to the North and North East (although if the troubles continue I may have to change my mind!). In the end the thought of long bus journeys with kids of 8 and 10 and possibly getting stuck because of problems with the roads didn't appeal. I'll wait till they're a bit older.
I'm just about to hire a car for about 15 or 16 days of the holiday so that will give us a lot of flexibility for getting around? As a matter of interest, is it possible (or sensible) to hire a car to drive around Laos?
At the moment I'm thinking of going trekking in Nan but if the trekking is good out of Chiang Dao I may do it from there.
#5 john_f has been a member since 26/3/2010. Posts: 18
Yes I sure you can hire a car, especially out of Vientiane. The roads are not as good as in Thailand, but there are also far fewer cars on the road here.
I actually can not imagine driving in Thailand... especially anywhere near BKK! Yikes!
Have a great trip. I am trying to get my sister out for a visit with my 10yr old neice. I am sure she would just love all the differences in this part of the world!
#6 wigboy has been a member since 12/12/2006. Posts: 14
Oh and BTW... anywhere away from BKK(protests etc.) and the South(bombings), and you'll probably not even notice anything out of the ordinary. It's all pretty localized.
#7 wigboy has been a member since 12/12/2006. Posts: 14
Nope, don't know Bluecat from OE. I teach dance here. Life just off of the Indochin. Where in Savankhet are you living and what are you doing there?
#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Just living on the main drag near the old weekend market, not far from the 24/7 minimart and restaurant. Been here for a year, rented the house/workspace in July and plan to open a mp3/movie shop w/ small cafe in November. Plan to grow as the city does(no rush), and it would appear that will go quickly if the past 3yrs are any indication. Seems the Lao Govt. has big plans for this place.
What type of dance are you teaching in Mukdahan? You could be busy 24/7 over here if it was Hip-Hop! All the Lao boys wanna be B-Boys!
Let me know if you use Savannakhet for your Visa run. I'll have you over for a beer!
#9 wigboy has been a member since 12/12/2006. Posts: 14
Personally I would much rather spend my time in Laos. The people are friendlier, the scenery is stunning and the wines are cheaper.
You can get western food in Nong Khiaw and in Phonsavahn with no problems at all.
You can hire a car in Vientiane , but you will need an International Driving permit. The comment about traffic by Wigboy is incorrect especially if talking about Vientiane. Traffic in Vientiane has increased many fold since I have lived here; 7-9 am and 4.30 to 5.30 pm are nightmares fro traffic jams. Lao and Thai don't drive all that well and you need to be vigilant for idiots overtaking on blind curves on the wrong side of the road, and for motorbikes not looking when making left or right hand turns.
Re malaria prophylactics. Unless you are doing an extended trek in the jungle, they really are not necessary. The side effects can be unpleasant to say the least.
My comment about the traffic was about the country as a whole, and even if we're only talking about Vientiane... there are still far fewer cars and trucks on the road compared to any major Thai city. C'mon, seriously... I was in Vientianne in Dec, but I'll will give you that the drivers here are pretty unskilled, and most of the time just completely unaware of their surroundings.
#11 wigboy has been a member since 12/12/2006. Posts: 14
Wow, things must have changed a lot if there is a rush hour in Vientiane. There were virtually no cars on the roads when I was there. It was like a dusty overgrown village and very quiet.
I've definitely decided to go to Thailand this time and have hired a car. I'm doing a road trip from Korat to Chiang Mai via Khon Kaen, Nong Khai, along the border with Laos round to Nan and then on to Chiang Mai. Definitely no driving in Bangkok. If all goes well then maybe next time we'll go to Laos and hire a car there.
#13 john_f has been a member since 26/3/2010. Posts: 18