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FromLA Nov 15th, 2012 11:27 PM

Lots of Questions re Bangkok; Luang Prabang; Vang Vieng; Vientiane
I will be visiting SE Asia for the first time February 6 - 24. We will fly from Los Angeles to Bangkok and stay in Bangkok from Feb 6-10. My thought was then to fly to Luang Prabang; then to Siem Reap; then perhaps to Krabi.

QUESTION 1: We essentially have 3 days in BK. Is that sufficient or should we stay for another night? Any must sees? Do we need a guide or is it easy enough to get around by ourselves (my daughter lives in Seoul, I have traveled a lot and we are pretty independent).

I have allowed 3 nights in LP. I would like to stay at a very nice hotel but cannot decide whether it is better to stay in the historic/old part of town (easier to walk everywhere) or at one of the new hotels with a pool which are outside of the town. I have looked at the Luang Say Residence, Kiridara, and Xiengthong Palace. Hotel de la Paix has also been suggested but the reviews I have read don't seem that great.
QUESTIONS: Does anyone have advice as to whether we would be better staying in the historic part rather than outside of town? Has anyone stayed at any of these hotels? If not, and you've visited LP recently, do you have any suggestions?

I hear the drive between LP and Vang Vieng is spectacular but VV is not very attractive.
I know it is a windy road and 5 - 6 hours between LP and VV but my thought is we could go by private car with driver between LP and VV and then just take the minibus between VV and Vientiane. I would hope we would also get more a view of Laos and see some more typical villages along the way, along with the great scenery. I hear there are 2 new 4-star hotels in VV now and it may be worth breaking up the trip by staying overnight in VV before driving to Vientiane.
QUESTIONS : Has anyone done this drive? Is it worth it? What about staying overnight in VV? Also, should I allow one day for Vientiane? Any suggestions as to what to see there?

In closing, I am thinking about 5 nights in SR. We will stay at Raffles. Any thoughts?


Hanuman Nov 15th, 2012 11:51 PM


If you are arriving on Feb 6 then I would stay in Bangkok for 3 nights. Note that for Chinese New Year Bangkok will have a lot of shops and restaurants closure, especially those not in the malls. So if you leave Bangkok on the 9th or 10th then the new year holiday will not affect you.

I don't think you will have any problem finding things to do in Bangkok. Spend a day or two seeing the main attractions like temples, palaces, houses(Jim Thompson..) etc. Then spend another day around the malls, China town (should be very lively before the CNY), shopping etc.

For Luang Prabang I would suggest staying inside the old town. IMO staying in the old part of town, preferably next to one of the river, will be perfect. Walking distant to restaurants, temples and other attractions.

silverwool Nov 16th, 2012 12:12 AM

I've done a mini van between VV and Vientiane and it was fine. Full of hungover backpackers being the only downside. I have not gone directly from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng but via Phonsovan (Plain of Jars). The part of the road I've been on is spectacular but, as you say, very windy! The countryside around Vang Vieng is lovely but the town is not! Very touristy and catering to the young backpacker market. We stayed overnight this year and its one of the few places in Asia I've felt uncomfortable at wandering round at night. There seemed a lot of drunken aggression among the westerners in town.

I'd also suggest staying in Luang Prabang itself. Its very easy to wander around in and i think you'd miss some of the charm by staying out of town. Also its probably easier to get up at 5.30 or thereabouts for the monks. Afterwards a wander through the morning market is a must. Its a food market so nobody will want to sell you anything.

yestravel Nov 16th, 2012 06:21 AM

We were in LP this past January. Agree that you should stay in the old part of LP to enjoy the charms of the town. Not sure where all the hotels you mention are outside the town, but we passed Luang Say Residence and I remember thinking I would not want to stay that far out of town. We stayed at the Apsara and they had a newer part, Rive Droite, across the river. There was a pool there. We walked thru that part of the hotel and it looked very nice, but did not c any rooms. You take a little boat back and forth across the river -- 2 minutes & easy to do.

FromLA Nov 16th, 2012 09:49 AM

Thank you all for the information. You have convinced me that we should stay in town --

Yestravel, I am going to try to reserve at the Apsara Rive Droite. Can you let me know if the boat operates at night? I assume it does because of all the restaurants, night market, etc.

FromLA Nov 16th, 2012 10:09 AM

YESTRAVEL: Thanks again for your recommendation. I just went on to Apsara Rive Droite's website and the hotel is just what I was looking for -- it's terrific. I made reservations. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for sharing this information with me.

yestravel Nov 16th, 2012 10:36 AM

Glad it worked out for you. I only used the boat in the day to check out the other side of the river. I'm sure they would arrange to pick u up at night at your convenience. U can go into the Apsara on either bank and ask for the little boat. LP is such a wonderful little town. Hope you enjoy your trip.

Forgot to comment on your 5 days in SR -- for us that would be way too much time. If you r really into temples, you'll like it, but we got templed out after 2.5 days there.

thursdaysd Nov 16th, 2012 04:17 PM

Unlike yestravel I found 2.5 days insufficient, and went back to SR for more temples. Suggest reading Dawn Rooney's guide and making your own decision.

Guenmai Nov 16th, 2012 05:32 PM

"Hanuman on Nov 16, 12 at 12:51am

If you are arriving on Feb 6 then I would stay in Bangkok for 3 nights. Note that for Chinese New Year Bangkok will have a lot of shops and restaurants closure, especially those not in the malls."

Chinese New Year? Yikes, it didn't even pass my mind. But, I'll just miss it.

Happy Travels!

Vientianeboy Nov 16th, 2012 08:39 PM

"I hear the drive between LP and Vang Vieng is spectacular but VV is not very attractive.

This is totally incorrect. VV is actually very attractive. I go there at least once a year with my family for a few days.

QUESTIONS : Has anyone done this drive? Is it worth it?

I have driven it myself and have gone by bus. The route from LP to VV is windy. I would not drive it again in my car.

What about staying overnight in VV?

Two nights are needed, not one. Silverwool's comments are out of date. There has been a crackdown on the bars. At any rate, the backpacker element was always easy to avoid. I would stay at the Vansana. It is a 3* place but half the cost of the new 4*. It has good views and a pool, and the rooms are certainly more than adequate for me.

Also, should I allow one day for Vientiane?

Again, you should spend at least 2 nights in Vienatiane; there is a lot to see. Look up information on sights such as Trip Adviser and Travelfish.

As for where to stay in LP. I generally stay on the Nam Khan side. It is a 10 minute walk to the centre of town and is generally a bit quieter and hence more appealing to me. There is a food market - not a "morning market" and a night market. In my opinion the night market in Vientiane is better and has more to offer. there is a lot of tat for sale in the night market in LP.

offwego Nov 16th, 2012 11:16 PM

A private driver between LP and VV is the way to go; the route is beautiful. VV itself isn't much to speak of and for what it's worth tubing and partying is now not allowed although I doubt that's why you'd be going. Anyway, it has calmed down a lot.

I think everyone needs to update their information/opinion about Siem Reap. Besides being a first class foodie destination, there's lots to do here that don't involve temples. People parachuting in and touring temples for three solid days are missing the point (and sure to get temple fatigue, duh) , and not really getting a taste of Cambodia at all. A three day temple pass spread out over 5-7 days is actually ideal.

FromLA Nov 17th, 2012 01:37 PM

I want to thank each of you again for taking the time to share your information with me. I truly appreciate it.

Hanuman -- thanks so much for your observation that we should depart Bangkok by the 10th. It would never occur to me to look at the Chinese New Year. Obviously, we should leave a day earlier if we want to have another night in BK......which, I'm thinking about.

Silverwool, Vientinaeboy and Offwego -- I'm sticking to my plan, having been encouraged by your comments--to hire a driver and car and drive to VV. I'm relieved to hear that the town has changed (I'll keep you posted with updates). I'm in my late 60's and I've traveled enough to know that usually you don't get back to the places you've visited, so I try to see as much as possible without going too many places, and this sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see some spectacular scenery. Vientinaeboy, I am sure you are correct -- that I should spend more time in VV and Vientiane, but the time I have does not allow it. At least I will get a taste of your beautiful country.

Yestravel (who I already thanked) and thursdayed -- I really appreciate your comments and observations. I'm sure that a 5 night stay in SR is not for everyone, but as I've said, I probably won't get back there and I really enjoy seeing the art and architecture of these well preserved ancient temples. Thursdayed--I already have Dawn Rooney's book. When I first started thinking about this trip I discovered this forum and someone (perhaps you?) had recommended it so it is one of the first purchases I made in addition to some other guide books. But nothing is as helpful as the comments on this forum!


FromLA Nov 17th, 2012 01:38 PM

Vientianeboy: Any recommendations for a hotel in Vientiane?

julia1 Nov 17th, 2012 02:36 PM


Vientianeboy Nov 17th, 2012 04:23 PM

"for what it's worth tubing and partying is now not allowed"
I don't know why people bother posting misinformation. I was in VV last weekend with my wife and "yes", there were tubers but it was a sedate affair. I didn't do it, but it did look quite pleasant.

As I said, the scenery around VV is stunning.

Regarding hotels in Vientiane. Obviously this depends on cost.
Top end - Setha Palace has old world colonial charm, but is expensive. about $150+
Lao Orchid is a good mid range hotel - it is very central, the staff is friendly. about $50. This is always a popular choice.
An excellent budget choice is the Souphaphone guest house. The rooms are big and very clean. Again it is very central. About $25 pn. I have had a number of visitors stay there over the last couple of years.

Enjoy your stay in my adopted country and if you want advice about some of the excellent restaurants here just ask. Food and wine is my passion.

Vientianeboy Nov 17th, 2012 04:26 PM

By the way, most of the road has been redone and some parts are just being finished. This is a great relief as the road between VV and Vientiane was abysmal. Now I don't mind driving my own car alon it.

offwego Nov 18th, 2012 08:38 AM

Sorry VB, I guess what I meant was "tubing with bongs" is no longer allowed :)

ChristianReneFriborg Nov 18th, 2012 03:01 PM

I think you should stay for another day, when I went there I stayed for a week. Here are some places you could visit while in Thailand.

1. The Grand Palace in Bangkok
2. The floating market
3. Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo
4. Nong Nooch Village
5. Bang Pa-in Palace
6. The Ruins

FromLA Nov 20th, 2012 10:47 AM


Thank you for Vientiane hotel recommendation. AND OF COURSE I WELCOME ANY FOOD & WINE
RECOMMENDATIONS THAT YOU CARE TO SHARE WITH ME. I'll let you know how I like them. Also, I'll try to do a trip report -- Thanks again.

khunwilko Nov 28th, 2012 06:00 AM

Vasana or Elephant crossing is OK in Vang vieng. - Which is BTW is in beautiful surroundings and the view across the river is (for the time being) world class.

THe drive from Vientiane to LP is spectacular especially the second half from Vang Vieng - I've done it several times and never get bored - it is OK by sedan but I'd recommend 4WD or at least some ground clearance.

It's not a very long distance but it can seem much longer as the road conditions are to say the least, variable and leave a lot to be desired.

If you have a driver you might be able to take in the views a bit more and of course make frequent photo stops. Much better than a bus.

khunwilko Nov 28th, 2012 06:04 AM

PS - staying in LP - the posh hotels overlooking the river are great - try to get a French restaurant in. THe cheaper hotels tend to be in the old colonial "suburbs" still walking distance from the town centre. - look for a "domaine" converted to a hotel. Some can be a bit "frayed" around the edges. It can help if you speak a little French.

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