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

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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.

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