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Help me put Laos trip together (and a return to BKK)

Help me put Laos trip together (and a return to BKK)

Old Jan 26th, 2016, 10:55 PM
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Help me put Laos trip together (and a return to BKK)

I am trying to figure out the final portion of our trip and could use some advice.

We fly to Vientiane from Cambodia, and I am planning 1.5 days/2 nights in Vientiane. Then, I have 14 days before we need to be in Bangkok. I know for sure we want to visit Luang Prabang (perhaps 4 days or so for some relaxation). We also want to take the boat upstream from there to the Thai border and Huay Xai. Then, we need to make our way back to Bangkok. If I subtract 4 nights for LP, 1 night for the boat trip, and one night to save after the boat trip before moving on the Bangkok, I am left with 8 days to play with.

I am thinking about possibly Vang Viene and also the area north of LP to Nong Khiaw. We like day hikes, kayaking, seeing historic sites, wandering interesting cities with at least some tourist infrastructure etc. We also like to stay in nice places (not top of the line, but nice).

After we finish the boat trip at the border is there any compelling reason to spend a couple days in Thailand before going back to Bangkok? Or, should we just spend the night in the nearest town and make our way to Bangkok the next day?

Suggestions? Thoughts?

I just can't quite figure out how to put all of this together. Just winging it is compelling in some ways, but I am also finding that I am spending an inordinate amount of time just planning while on the road, and some of the better accommodation choices in places are filling up.

Thanks.
julies is offline  
Old Jan 27th, 2016, 12:45 AM
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4 days is enough for LP and 2 enough for Vietienne. Vang Vieng has some stunning scenery and breaks the longish journey between the two. Although, reading jhubbel said excellent recent thread, it seems it could be regaining its partying reputation?

With the amount of time you have to spare, I would be inclined to spend 5-6 of those exploring around Nong Khiaw and Luang Namtha some great trekking and village life. Muang Ngoi Neua is 5 hours or so further on is even more remote, but I feel may lack some of the creature comforts you may seek in accommodation.

You would obviously have to return to LP to get your cruise, so, whilst it is perfectly feasible to DIY such a trip, it may be easier and not much more expensive, to organise via one of the many operators in LP on your arrival there. Certainly, less hassle.

The easiest way to return to Bangkok is from Chiang Rai, a couple of hours from the border and I feel it would be a shame to miss out on this city. It has a pleasant city centre and being a lot smaller than Chiang Mai is my new favourite city in northern Thailand. There is a "walking street" market held on a Saturday nigh which is fantastic and far superior to anything Chiang Mai has to offer. The best food I have ever found anywhere in northern Thailand.
Spending a day or two there will enable you to visit both the surreal Black House and White Temples - well worth the effort. Some photos on my blog http://accidentalnomads.com/2015/10/...ack-and-white/

For a great place to stay, we enjoyed Na Rak O Resort, close to the centre but very quiet with lovely rooms and great hosts. Alternatively, next door is Grandma Keo's which is very similar.
crellston is offline  
Old Jan 27th, 2016, 02:10 AM
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We're just back from Laos. Vientiane is worth A few days if you like to walk and eat, and get acclimatised to Lao time ( slower than most other cultures in SEA).

Seeing you have time to spare, Plain of Jars is very interesting for 2-3 days. It's 45min by air from Vientiane north to Phonsavan, nice modern turbo-prop aircraft. This is where 90% of US bombing of the Ho Chi Minh trail happened during the late 1960s if you are interested in the lasting impact of war. Still lots of live ordnance clearance happening by international NGOs. Plain of Jars is 3000yo site, unique.

Luang Prabang, 4 days is fine. Upriver, there are fast boats and slow boats. slow boats break for the night, mostly at Pak Beng, where there are some nice hotels and guest houses, nice village.

Border crossing to Thailand is at Huay Say, first Thai town is the river port of Chiang Khong. It's a reasonably sized village/town, but not worth staying unless you get in near dark. Closest real town is Chiang Rai, 2hrs by road, nice enough. The White Temple is surreal, still being built, and very crowded with tourists. For mine, Chiang Mai, 4hrs, is the best place to spend a few days, due to it being the ancient northern capital from Lao times. Lovely temples, Well-preserved old city, crafts, food, elephants if you haven't seen enough in Laos. Tiger Kingdom is worth a visit for something out of the usual, but also lots of tourists

Chiang Mai is worth at least 3 days, especially the Sunday night market in the old city, and food down small alleys. Plenty of flights back to BKK from there.

Also, don't bother with the Golden Triangle tour, if you are offered it. We spent some time up in that corner when we were younger things, but this time people told us it is now a Chinese tourist resort, complete with a massive casino featuring Alexander the Great, Cleopatra and Roman temples. The mind boggles!

Hope this helps. We visited Laos and Chiang Mai Dec 2015.
mareeS55 is offline  
Old Jan 27th, 2016, 03:14 AM
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I'd spend some time in Chiang Rai, see the Black House, and perhaps some villages in the countryside around. I agree with Crellston that the Saturday night market is a great experience and far better than those in Chiang Mai.

I think I've posted before about "Cook yourself Thai" it's much more than a cooking school. A visit to the market, then the hosts home to cook, eat, lighti Sky lanterns, feed fish, visit a tea plantation.....we stayed in CR 4 nights and found lots to do.

Easy flight to Bangkok from there, or about 2 hours drive to Chiang Mai.
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Old Jan 27th, 2016, 03:17 AM
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I also enjoyed both the Chiang Rai area and Chiang Mai, although one thing to realize is you'll need some kind of transport to see the sites around Chiang Rai. They are not in the city proper. It may be worth finding a guide for the day if you are considering staying there - we worked with Jermsak, who is deservedly very popular amongst the TA crowd and on Fodors. We enjoyed seeing the White Temple, but it is very crowded with tourists; we LOVED the Black House (really, a fascinating complex of structures) far more and it is much less touristed. One can really spend time absorbing the place.

Chiang Mai is a lovely city and certainly worth a few days - others can give you more details than I - but given my impressions of your interests and lack of interest in shopping, I would suggest that you don't attend the Sunday market in Chiang Mai. Personally, I do enjoy some shopping, I enjoy markets, but this was simply the largest and most crowded market that I've ever visited and it became overwhelming very quickly. The very early hours of the market might be worthwhile, but it became too crowded very quickly and really was not enjoyable.
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Old Jan 27th, 2016, 03:25 AM
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sartoric and I were posting at the same time - and it looks like we're in agreement with recommending Chiang Rai as a stop! It's a beautiful area and I get the sense that you might enjoy a stop there.
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Old Jan 27th, 2016, 04:04 PM
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I would check out Plain of Jars and Kong Lor Cave.
the former is interesting for those into both pre-history and the Vietnam war years.
The latter is a truly remarkable boat ride on a river that goes right through a mountain...lots of stalagmites and stalactites
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Old Jan 27th, 2016, 04:05 PM
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PS - Many US citizens in particular can find the Plain of Jars a bit confronting when they see the damage done by US bombing in that region.
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Old Jan 28th, 2016, 12:15 AM
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Thanks for all of your comments. We are about at the point where our decisions may be based on lodging availability. We are liking winging it but are discovering that when one starts to look for "nicer" lodging in some of the more remote locations where there are only one or two lodgings that are a couple steps up from backpacker lodging, things are quite booked up. This is the case for Nong Khiaw anyway. We had been interested in visiting there, but now I don't know. It is up in the air. We did find one place that seems okay that has three nights available but wonder if it is worth the effort of getting there for three nights.

I will also take another look at the Plain of Jars area. We've read that many people consider the sights there not worth the hassle of getting there, but obviously people here feel differently. Kong Lor cave does sound fascinating.

Another thought we just had was to perhaps spend a week in Luang Prabang. We see that there seem to be lots of different day trips out of there, and we thought this might be an easy compromise. Any thoughts on this? We are people who like to have some more structured sightseeing activities but also like to be located in a place where we can just walk and wander in an interesting locale.

It is nice to hear so many good things about Chiang Rai. I think that unless we figure out some lodging options in Laos for extending our stay there, we will just finish the boat trip on the border and move on to a couple days of Chiang Rai and then fly out of there.

Thanks much!
julies is offline  
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