Chiang Mai or Luang Prabang?

Apr 6th, 2010, 09:04 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 16
Chiang Mai or Luang Prabang?

Hi all-

We are heading to Thailand, Cambodia, and possibly Laos from Mid-May to early June. We will have 23 days on the ground. Originally we had planned to do Vietnam, but it is turning out to be too much for this trip. We want to visit Bangkok, Ko Samui, and Siem Reap. Do we have enough time to also do both Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang? If there's not enough time to do both, which would you choose? We don't want to spend our entire vacation in cities, and we would like to get "off the beaten path" at some point during our trip (ie, go on a trek, stay in a smaller town, etc).

Any advice would be appreciated!
abwils is offline  
Apr 6th, 2010, 10:17 PM
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If you don't want big cities then definitely Luang Prabang and IMO 3 or 4 nights will be ideal.

Example of how to spend your 23 days or 22 nights.
5 nights in Bangkok
3 nights in Koh Samui
4 nights in Siem Reap
4 nights in Luang Prabang
6 nights in ?

For the Bangkok, Koh Samui, Luang Prabang and Siem Reap portion book the Bangkok Airways multi destination pass.

Several people use a guide for Bangkok, at least for a day or two, which can enhance your experience here.
Hanuman is offline  
Apr 6th, 2010, 11:37 PM
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If you really want to get off the beaten path then I would suggest using the 6 spare days in Hanuman's itinerary to see more of the hills and mountains of Northern Laos. Muang Si, Phongsali, Luang Namtha etc. Don't expect lux accomodation and great food but this is more than made up for by the scenery and the v. friendly minority peoples. It is possible, with a bit of work, to organise this independently, but with just six days it is probably best to engage the services of a tour operator.

Another alternative with trekking options woulds be to do the "Mai Hong Sorn" loop from Chiang Mai. Again, lots to see and do and many opportunities for trekking in and around the minority villages particularly around MHS itself, Pai and Mai Sariang. Great scenery which is best experienced on a self drive tour see for details. There are some very nice places to stay along the way - Fern Resort in MHS and Belle Villa in Pai are both good.
crellston is offline  
Apr 7th, 2010, 07:06 AM
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Posts: 12
It's a shame you're skipping Vietnam, it's changing so quickly. Similar to your choice between Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang, the former is the 2nd largest city in a First-world country while Luang Prabang is a well-preserved, rural outpost, much as northern Thailand towns were thirty or so years ago. If you like cities with lots of infrastructure then Chiang Mai is good, but LP is more relaxed and undeveloped.
VeloAsia is offline  
Apr 7th, 2010, 08:29 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,997
I think it is wise to skip VN. Visit when you have more time just for VN.

For me, there would be no question of Chiang Mai vs. Luang Prabang. LP wins hands down! For the additional days, you might consider more time in Laos, or perhaps going to the Golden Triangle area in Thailand, then taking the boat down the river to LP.
Kathie is offline  
Apr 7th, 2010, 11:00 AM
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Posts: 4,466
Totall agree with Kathie, whilst i LOVE CM i ADORE LP
Smeagol is offline  
Apr 7th, 2010, 03:49 PM
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Posts: 16
Thank you, crellston! That document gives me a great idea of the driving around the loop from Chiang Mai. Is it safe to drive on the roads there?

We will definitely make it to LP as well! Thanks everyone for your suggestions.
abwils is offline  
Apr 7th, 2010, 07:29 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,160
The roads around the so call "loop" are safe but it does have a lot of hairpin curves which you must take extra caution when driving. Advisable that you only drive during the day and you must take it slowly. Example, from Chiang Mai to Pai is only around 140 km but it will take you 3 - 5 hours to drive.
Hanuman is offline  
Apr 7th, 2010, 10:47 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,615
I agree with Hanuman's comments and would add that you will of course be driving on the left which may be a new experience for you. The roads are quiet so take it slowly and stop regularly to savour the scenery. The Budget map has some good suggestions for places to stop off along the way.
crellston is offline  
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