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Help me make a logical itinerary in Laos and Cambodia

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I need help with logistics on a trip that I am trying to pull together at the last minute for about 5 to 6 weeks in mid January to mid February. We’ll fly from the US to BKK roundtrip and don’t have any real desire to see Bangkok but might want a day of downtime there before moving on. Still haven't purchased tickets but have been watching them for a while now. I'd also looked at Hong Kong and Singapore. BKK seems most logical since all round trip tickets are about the same price. Also, I can use ground transportation to get between Thailand and Laos.

My plan is to visit both Cambodia and Laos, starting in the south in Cambodia and then move up through Laos from the south to the north. I want to avoid the worst of the heat, and assume I’d do this by putting Cambodia at the start of the trip and Laos at the end; maybe I am wrong though. In addition, I also am aware that burning could be a problem in some places.

In Cambodia I am thinking about Angkor Wat, Battamberg, Phnom Penh, the southern coastal area where Kep, Koh Kong and Kampot are. And, perhaps the Kratie area.

In Laos I am thinking about Vientiane, Luang Prabang, the 4000 islands, Savannakhet, Champasak area, Nong Khiaw and the Nam Ou River, Luang Namtha area, and Tham Kong Lor (cave).

Now that I see this basic list of places I’m interested in, I see that as usual I am going to have to cull some things. Should this be two entirely separate trips, or will I be able to do what I want in the time I have?

This is what I have figured out so far in regards to itinerary and transportation. We could fly from Bangkok to either Siem Reap or Phnom Penh to begin our tour of Cambodia. As I understand it, I can take an overnight train between Bangkok and Nong Khai which is close to Vientaine. I believe I could also go from Bangkok to Chiang Rai and from that area cross into Laos for a boat trip to Luang Prabang. Would one of these options be a good way to get one way to Bangkok to end our trip?

As far as transportation options, we’re older and can spend money on transportation options that will make our trip more enjoyable. We’re okay with a few not-too- long bus trips on nicer buses. We can afford to pay for a private driver when it makes sense and if it isn’t too horribly expensive. We are willing to take some flights but don’t want to overdo this. Some boat journeys would be interesting, and I for sure want to do the two day boat trip between Luang Prabang and Houayxai.

A really big question I have is where and how best to cross from Cambodia into Laos.

Can anyone help me put all of this together in a coherent itinerary? Sorry for the long post and many questions. If you have suggestions, I’d really appreciate them. Also, let me know if there are must-see places I’ve missed or so-so places I’ve included.

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