Laos, Vietnam and China Questions

Old Jun 9th, 2011, 05:30 AM
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Laos, Vietnam and China Questions

My husband and I are flying into Bangkok January 18 and flying out of Hong Kong back home February 21. We want to visit Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, maybe southern China, ending up in Hong Kong. Our questions are many, but I will try to scale them back a bit in the hopes someone knows any or all sites referred to and can give us advice.
If we stay in Luang Prabang for a few days and take day trips from there, what about Kuang Si waterfalls, a charter boat trip up the Nam Ou to Nong Khiaw, and or a boat trip up the Mekong (bearing in mind I am a terrible sailor).
If we stay in Vietiane and again plan some day trips, what about Vang Vieng, Phu Kuay NPA, go into Thailand to see Chian Khan and Nong Khai (visa an issue with re-entry?)
Also, what about a boat trip on the Mekong or the Nam Song river?
Rather than staying in Danang, ought we consider staying for 2 or 3 days in Hoi An and Hue, with day trips from each one?
And then there is China. We are extremely ambivalent about going to China on this trip, fearful that we are crowding ourselves. We could instead spend more time in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and VIetnam. Opinions?
Many thanks.
Carol
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Old Jun 9th, 2011, 06:53 AM
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I agree with your concerns about China. Stick with Laos, Cambodia and VN and maybe a bit of Thailand. THat will be more than enough to keep you busy. Travel in this part of the world is best done at a slow pace. Slow down amd enjoy these remarkable places.

Luang Prabang deserves at least three days in town. You can add days to visit some nearby places like the two sets of waterfalls that are so popular and the Pak Ou caves. The trip to the Pak Ou caves and back may be enough time on a boat for you. Some time in Vietianne is a good idea as well, but Vang Vieng is not a day trip from Vietianne.

You can certainly go to Nong Khai if you'd like, but you'll have to get a new visa when you come back to Laos. I'm not sure what you want to do/see there, likewise Chian Khan. Perhaps you'd like to spend some time in Thailand, which makes much more sense than going back and forth across the border and staying in Vietianne.

In central VN, DaNag is perhaps the least intersting of teh cities. Hue has much more history, Hoi An is generally considred very charming (or overly touristy, depending on your point of view). So think about spending time IN each of these places rather than thinking about doing day trips.

Do you have guidebooks yet for each of these countries? Also, read some trip reports here to give you ideas.
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Old Jun 9th, 2011, 07:15 AM
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I agree with Kathie, there's more than enough in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam to keep you occupied for a month.

By Nong Khiaw do you mean Green River? Because if so, that's certainly not a day trip by slow boat, and you should stay off the fast ones. Vang Vieng is better avoided unless you're young and want to party. If you want another Lao location I'd suggest going south to Champasak and the islands.

I rather liked Danang, but that was because I'd been traveling for a while and I enjoyed being in a totally non-touristy town. Otherwise the only sight of note is the museum, which you should definitely see. I'd give more time to Hue than Hoi An, unless you're a clothes shopper.

Note that when I was in Vientiane this February I was surprised by how low the water level in the Mekong was, compared to the level in December, it may not be the best tine of year for river boat trips. It would also be a bad time for the boat to Battambang in Cambodia, where you should consider seeing more than Angkor Wat and PP.
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Old Jun 9th, 2011, 08:05 AM
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We were in Hue and HoiAn in March, and passed through Danang. Hue is very interesting (one of our very favorite things on our whole trip was outside Hue, the Tu Hieu Pagoda), but the sights really only take a day to see (we took an all day moto-bike tour, with a guide). HoiAn is definitely touristy and charming, and also on a stretch of beautiful beach, so for us it was a nice combination of downtime during the day and charming/touristy town in late afternoon/evening.

Danang -- well, I'll agree it's a totally non-touristy town. In fact, so non-touristy I can't imagine why a tourist would want to even stop there It's not attractive and there are no particular sights to see.
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Old Jun 9th, 2011, 11:57 PM
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I agree with much of what has been said above. Certainly best to forget China this time as a month is not enough.

A few days in LP would be a good start for a tour of Northern Laos. We did the boat trip up the Nam Ou to Nong Khiaw and loved it - real "Heart of Darkness" type scenery. from their we visited places like Luang Namtha, Phongsali, Muang Sing, Ban Bountai Udoxamai. Mostly remote with basic but reasonably comfortable accomodation. Best done with a guide and driver but perfectly feasable by bus/boat etc on your own but it will take longer. I think we spent a 10-14 days exploring the region.

You could combine this with the south of Laos which is entirely different. it is much flatter and mostly about the mekong. the Si Phan Don Area is great and a stay on one of the islands is worth a couple of days (dut do choose your island carefully). This area also provides access to or from Cambodia by bus and boat (easy to arrange locally). The bolavens plateau, Tad Lo etc. also provide some spectacular scenery in this area and Wat Phu is also a possibility as the Lao answer to Angkor Wat (although nowhere close to the same scale!).

Cambodia has the obvious attractions of Angkor (take a min. 3 days/4 nights), Phnomh Penh (well worth a couple of day)but there are lots of other places that are worth considering. check out www.travelfish.org for some ideas.

Danang has little for the tourist to see but it is the start point for one of the world's most scenic train journeys to Hue and at around $2 one of the best travel bargains around. Hue is good for food and sightseeing, the downside is that it does rain a lot of the time. Hoi An is quaint and very photogenic if you can avoid the masses of othe tourists. Best to stay in the town rather than just outside - the original Vinh Hung Merchants house on the main st. is great. Also rent a bike to get out to the surrounding countryside and quieter beaches.

I like Saigon but I do seem to be in the minority here. For me it is a city that just buzzes with energy and has lots to offer in terms of recent history, busy markets, great food etc. Also provides easy access to the delta and also to Cambodia.

Hanoi and the far north offer a totally different perspective on the country and Ba Be lakes and Mai Chau are two of my favourite places in Asia. halong bay is not a favourite of mine but other do like it a lot and it does have some very imm pressive karst scenery.

I have found the following site http://www.intrepidtravel.com/?s_kwc...|p|10712234271 to have some good ideas for working out basic itineraries . Click on the trip search box , top right and you can get endless variations.

Have fun wherever you go and do let us know what you decide.
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Old Jun 10th, 2011, 03:18 AM
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Hi there guys
i would rather begin cross border to Laos from ThaiLand, then fly down to Seam Reap, in this place just need spend 3 days 2 night is enough to explore Angkor temple system, then bus or car riding to Phnom Penh take around 5 to 6 hours ride. From here you can have optional way to reach to Vietnam, by Mekong river water way, or fly to Saigon, then gradualy move up northern Vietnam, then from north vietnam travel southern china is easier, saving distance, not complicated. Yeah i am agree with you spend more time in Danang, specially Hoian, where hotels and resorts is cheaper, better foods, good shopping, nice beach... Hue just 2 nights is more than enough for visitng all historial sites, very fun and recommended to do onedays city tours by motobike taxi.
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Old Jun 10th, 2011, 04:53 AM
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You are all so terrific! Thanks very much for all the ideas and references. We are hard at work, planning our trip with your exceptional advice. One thing: China is gone. Fagetaboutit!
Carol
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Old Jun 10th, 2011, 02:39 PM
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Bear in mind that Chinese and Viet/Tet New Year is January 23, 2012 and travel/transport might fill up quickly so plan accordingly (and tickets/accommodations are jacked up).

Though shared van and songthaew is the most popular transport to Kuangsi Waterfall, you can still hire a slow-boat from Luang Prabang's boatlandings to Kuangsi (roundtrip fare required). Just taking the slow boat to Kuangsi or the Tham Ting/Pak Ou Caves should give you enough of a taste of Mekong River travel.

By late January, water levels on the Nam Ou might be too low for boat travel up to Nong Khiaw without some portage or at minimum, getting off the boat and walking along the river for some portions. NO regular boat transport this time of the year between LP and Nong Khiaw. You'll have to check at the main boatlanding/pier behind the National Royal Museum.

And as Kathie #1 accurately pointed out:
Vang Vieng is not a day-trip from Vientiane (8 hours roundtrip) so it's best to plan a 2-3 days visit;
Nong Khai is really not worth a day-trip unless you're crossing over to Thailand and am traveling onward in Thailand; and YES, you'll need another Lao visa to re-enter Laos should you visit Nong Khai as a daytrip.
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