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Robbietravels Apr 27th, 2010 05:54 PM

Need Driver and Guide Suggestions for Southern Laos
I've now plotted out our itinerary (after a month of chasing down information and misinformation) for 5 days in Southern Laos in December (its part of a 3 + weeks trip to Burma, Thailand and Laos.)

We definitely need a car and driver and would like a well informed English speaking guide on certain days. The quotes from travel companies in the region seem high (like $200-$250 a day when there is rarely more than 2 hours driving in a given day) and I don't know what kind of guide I might end up with. I would prefer a personal recommendation from a Fodorite.

In case it matters (or anyone will be in the neighborhood to say hi), here is the itinerary:
12/29 arrive in Pakse from Bangkok; from Pakse drive 40 minutes to Ban Muang Pier
(complimentary boat transfer by La Folie Lodge)
12/30 morning visit to Wat Phu; late afternoon visit Uo Moung and Houei Thamo village
(all on our own) ; overnight La Folie Lodge
12/31 afternoon 2-3 hour drive to Don Khong Island with stops en route by car and
small boat around 4000 Islands region. Walk around villages on Don Khone before
arriving at Don Khong and Senesothxeun Hotel
1/1 early am market at Muang Khong; more island touring and walking around fishing
villages; afternoon drive 1 1/2 hours to Ban Kiat Ngong in heart of Xe Pain National
Protected Area; overnight at Kingfisher EcoLodge
1/2 am elephant ride; after lunch drive the Bolaven Plateau stopping at coffee co-ops,
Tad Fan and Tad Suong (waterfalls) and ethnic village of Kok Pung Thai
overnight at TadLo Lodge
1/3 morning walks; drive back across Plateau to weaving village of Lao Ngam; visit
market at Lao Ngam or Paksong; enroute to Pakse stop at Bon Saphai to meet
weavers. Overnight at Champassak Grand Hotel in Pakse
1/4 rise early for 2+ hour drive across Thai border to Ubon Ratchithani Airport for 9:30
am flight to Bangkok; then on to Krabi for 4 days before heading home
All help appreciated including any comments on itinerary or hotels.

rhkkmk Apr 27th, 2010 07:57 PM

sounds great.... will fred be the mahout for the elephants?

Vientianeboy Apr 27th, 2010 10:08 PM

I suggest you get in touch with Exotissimo here in Vientaine.

crellston Apr 27th, 2010 11:19 PM

We have visited these areas on a couple of occasions. The first time we used Lao Tourisme (booked via a UK operator) and had a great time. A really helpful and informed guide who spoke good English. That was about 12 years ago so things may have changed! Their website

The last time we visited we travelled independently by bus and taxi and found it surprisingly straightforward to get around but with limited time this is not an option.

Another AUS/UK operator with a good reputtaion is they normally do group tours but will do private tours.

Robbietravels Apr 28th, 2010 04:18 PM

I will check out some of these, thanks. I already contacted Exotissimo; their replies showed me they do not really customize their "packages" or they did not understand my request. I have also done further negotiations with Vieng Champa and the cost for a van with driver and guide for the parts of days we need is now $600,
Yes Bob, Fred will assist the mahout giving the ele a bath; the ele may reciprocate and give Fred a dousing too.

thursdaysd Apr 28th, 2010 04:44 PM

I did that region on a Intrepid tour, but as I remember the leader organized our transport as we traveled.

Vientianeboy Apr 28th, 2010 09:28 PM

" I already contacted Exotissimo; their replies showed me they do not really customize their "packages"

Thats odd. They did for my mother late last year.

ekscrunchy Apr 29th, 2010 02:59 AM

Robbie: I have friends from the US who spend 6 months a year in Vientiane. Do you want me to write to them and ask if they know a good guide for you? I know that they often rent a car/van for upcountry trips.

Robbietravels Apr 29th, 2010 06:02 PM

I'll keep you posted ekscrunchy and I appreciate your offer. I'm "negotiating" with the company that feels most solid to me so I don't want to trouble you if I make a deal with them. So let's wait for the results.
I must say I've had amusing experiencing in my Laos research. I downloaded the official list
of Lao travel agencies, eliminating those without websites. Several websites no longer existed. The really funny display from one agency website said the website was "suspended for non-payment of their bill"!
When I inquired of another company if they could quote the price for a car instead of a 7 person van and they replied that the cars can't go that far (40 miles). So I began to put the pieces together.

Robbietravels May 9th, 2010 01:23 PM

Ekscrunchy, I have made ground arrangements with Veing Champa Tours. I've been dealing with Robert, the manager, a Brit, and found he very helpful and responsive. He's providing car, driver and guide (on some days) plus private boat for the southern islands. Again thanks.

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