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Laos Itinerary: What City Besides Luang Prabang

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I am working on a 10-day itinerary to Laos for late February 2012 (I am trying to visit after TET and Chinese New Year). I definitely plan to visit Luang Prabang for 3 full days (4 nights), which leaves me an additional 3 full days to see another city. I realize that 3 days + 3 days does not equal 10 days, but if you know Laos, then you probably know that there are no non-stop flights there from the USA, so I need to allow another 3 days for travel (2 days outbound and 1 day return). I plan to fly from Newark, NJ on United through Tokyo to Bangkok (3-hour layover in Narita), staying overnight in Bangkok for 1 night on both the outbound and inbound routes (at the Novotel at Suvarnabhumi Airport).

I will probably visit Vientiane in addition to Luang Prabang, but Chiang Mai also seems like a viable option. Does anyone have preferences on one city over another, or perhaps another location that I haven’t even considered? (I visited Bangkok for several days back in 2009, so I would like to spend my additional days in a new locale.) In Luang Prabang, I would like to stay at the Hotel de la Paix (I stayed at their sister hotel in Siem Reap in 2009 and loved it), and if I visit Vientiane, I would probably stay at the Settha Palace. Will Vientiane offer the same types of sights as Luang Prabang (I think the Buddha Park looks unique to Vientiane), or will Chiang Mai be a better contrast (or complement) to Luang Prabang?

Thanks in advance for your advice!

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