Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Asia
Reload this Page >

Please help me plan a month in Cambodia and Laos

Please help me plan a month in Cambodia and Laos

Old Jan 15th, 2020, 08:07 PM
  #41  
kja
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,815
@ LancasterLad: Sounds like you had a delightful time in Nong Khai! Thank you very much for sharing a bit more of your experience there. Since I'm looking to cut things from my itinerary, and since it sounds like I can get there by convenient train when I go to Thailand, I'm inclined to skip it on this trip -- but I haven't written it off yet!

. . .

Update: I'm currently leaning toward skipping Vang Vieng so I can add the (little) time I would have spent there to another worthy destination. If anyone wants to argue against that position, let me know!
kja is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2020, 07:56 AM
  #42  
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 2,003
Kja.....I reckon to get the best up-to-date info on the merits of visiting Vang Vieng you should have a look on the TA Forum for Vang Vieng. There's an excellent recent Trip Report on there that'd definitely sway me in Vang Vieng's direction for 2 or 3 nights.
LancasterLad is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2020, 06:57 PM
  #43  
kja
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,815
@ LancasterLad: Thanks for letting me know! I'll look forward to reading it.
kja is offline  
Old Jan 18th, 2020, 11:26 PM
  #44  
kja
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,815
UPDATES:
  • I've confirmed that I can fly into Luang Prabang for a trivially different price than flying into Vientiane. Either routing would involve Qatar Airways (through Doha, with enough time for a massage) and then Bangkok Airways (through Bangkok).
  • Although starting in Luang Prabang rather than Vientiane looks, on a map, as though I'm circling and backtracking, my total travel time with the route I'm contemplating is actually likely to be a bit less than starting in Vientiane -- and more importantly, the times seem to suit my purposes just a bit better. But nothing's writ in stone and I will continue to explore options before buying my air tickets.
  • Because my flight from Siem Reap to home will likely depart in the evening, I should be able to shift a day from Siem Reap to southern Laos, which I think will give me time for an overnight in the Si Phan Don and at least one overnight (maybe two, depending on transportation) in the Bolavens Plateau. I've finally found some references to the minority villages in that region that make me think I might be able to visit some without a motorbike, making me much more interested in spending time there (even if I only manage a bit of time).
  • I might decide to skip Vang Vieng, much as I think I would enjoy the scenery and a cave or two -- or I might add 2 nights to my trip so that I can include it. Because of the way my travel dates would work out, I'd actually only need to take an extra 1.5 days off work to do that. And I think I'll be spending enough time in transit along my route to prevent utter exhaustion. I need to think about it a bit more, but at the moment, it seems far more appealing to risk exhaustion with an extra day or two than to go so far for such a chunk of time and still skip something I think I'd enjoy, just to shave a couple of days off my itinerary.
I welcome any further insights any of you choose to share!
kja is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2020, 03:32 AM
  #45  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,850
May be worth looking into a Bangkok Airways pass which, I believe also covers Lao Airways.

I haven’t flown with Qatar but they do seem to get rave reviews. Where you are splitting a route with different airlines on the same ticket, I would make sure to stay one night in Bangkok ( I think someone wrote a song about that ) just in case. Either stay at the airport or spend a night in the city. I think Qatar and Bangkok Airways both use Suvarnabhumi Airport from where it can take anywhere between 30 mins and an hour to get to and from the city..

I think with VV it is really a case of 2-3 nights or skip completely. One night would be a waste of time IMO.

When flying, I don’t mind backtracking so much as much less time is involved than in overland travel so flying into LP May be a good option.


crellston is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2020, 10:19 AM
  #46  
kja
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,815
I've flown Qatar before, and while I'm not sure I'd rave about it, it was fine. I like the spa at the airport in Doha.

While I look forward to visiting Bangkok, I would strongly prefer to avoid visiting it briefly on this trip -- I hope to wait until I devote a month to Thailand. Am I correct in thinking that your suggestion is based in a concern about the connection?

I hadn't thought about the Bangkok Airways pass. I'll look into that -- thanks!
kja is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2020, 09:58 PM
  #47  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,850
Originally Posted by kja View Post
Am I correct in thinking that your suggestion is based in a concern about the connection?
Yes it is. It is a couple of years since I have transmitted in Bangkok but the last time there, admittedly a couple of years ago, there were long queues and it took ages to get collect bags, get through immigration and security etc. both in and out of the country. Unless there is any way you can bypass that by checking bags through and staying in the transit area, I would want at least 3-4 hours between flights.
crellston is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2020, 10:11 PM
  #48  
kja
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,815
Originally Posted by crellston View Post
Yes it is. It is a couple of years since I have transmitted in Bangkok but the last time there, admittedly a couple of years ago, there were long queues and it took ages to get collect bags, get through immigration and security etc. both in and out of the country. Unless there is any way you can bypass that by checking bags through and staying in the transit area, I would want at least 3-4 hours between flights.
Thanks for clarifying, and again, for the additional information! BTW, as you suspected, the Bangkok Airways Pass looks like it will be of great benefit to me.
kja is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2020, 10:17 PM
  #49  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,850
You are very welcome KJA. A gold star! a very long time since I got one of those! Presumably not for my typing skills - "I have transmitted in Bangkok” duh! transited of course. Post Japan jet lag is clearly getting to me.
crellston is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2020, 10:31 PM
  #50  
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 10,385
Originally Posted by kja View Post
Thanks for clarifying, and again, for the additional information! BTW, as you suspected, the Bangkok Airways Pass looks like it will be of great benefit to me.
greetings from hot and humid Sri Lanka!
We have transited recently 2 times in BKK. First time was 3 years ago. Our incoming was late and we ran at breakneck speed wheeling our carryon luggage to our gate. We barely made it.
Second time was a couple nights ago with a short 55minute connection time. Doable IF everything goes like clockwork. We did land right on time. BUT we taxied 10-15 minutes. Then we were bussed a considerable distance to the terminal. By the time we were actually in the terminal we had less than 30 minutes until departure. I had requested assistance as gottravel had TKR 2 months ago. The guy wheeling gottravel knew where he was going and because of the wheelchair we got special access thru security. This saved time. We made it on the plane with minutes to spare. Our checked luggage did not.
both trips were on Thai air in biz class.
yestravel is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2020, 11:38 PM
  #51  
kja
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,815
@ crellston: IMO, autocorrect has led to some very interesting communications -- and miscommunications! I would assume that if either of us EVER say anything that doesn't make sense, it MUST be because of technological pixies. ;-) Jet lag or not, you deserved that gold star and many many more!

@ yestravel: Thanks for the info! I'm glad you made your connections, trust that you will have a magnificent time in Sri Lanka, and hope that you will be reconnected with your checked luggage SOON. I won't plan on a connection time through Bangkok of less than 2 hours -- you are brave to have attempted less!

I'm trying to figure out whether Qatar would have any obligation to help me travel on to Laos if they are responsible for a delayed arrival in Bangkok. I mentioned upthread that my experience with them was fine -- but I was referring to the flight itself. I had almost forgotten (maybe there really is such a thing as "repression"?) that my overall experience with the airline was less satisfactory: Qatar actually cancelled the flight that I was supposed to have taken, and they failed to notify me!!! I learned only when I called to explore options for making an unrelated change.
Booking SNAFU with Qatar Airways
They told me -- and I'm willing to believe -- that I should have been notified, so I'm hoping that if there were a change, I could count on advance notification this time. Still, something to consider!
kja is offline  
Old Jan 21st, 2020, 10:27 AM
  #52  
rje
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 338
Just a few specific thoughts/recommendations:

The drive between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang has had 2 routes for the past few years. The so-called "new route" is somewhat shorter but less scenic. We took the traditional route a few years ago on Rt. 13. Having heard innumerable bad reports from people who took the buses or minivans, we opted for a private driver for that segment and were very glad we did. That drive has a lot of truly spectacular scenery that one wouldn't really see while careening around corners in a bus or minivan (plus many people report getting carsick in those vehicles). We were able to pull off the road on numerous occasions to enjoy a particularly good view, or a market, village, etc. So I would recommend getting a driver for that segment. This photo was taken on that route:

As it turns out, we are returning to Laos in several weeks, and will be driving on that route, so I could let you know how our driver was, if you're interested.

In contrast, the drive between Vang Vieng and Vientiane is largely flatter, with far less curves, so a bus or minivan might make much more sense for that segment.

In Vang Vieng, I'd recommend staying outside of town, which has a serious lack of charm! But go just a few minutes outside of town, and things improve dramatically! Consider staying at the Riverside Boutique Resort (just ignore the annoying words "boutique" and "resort" in the name!). It is located right on the river, with incredible karst scenery right there, as well as some longboat going by, and a small footbridge minutes away to walk across. Taking a longboat ride there either early or at dusk is wonderful. And there is a good inexpensive little Mom & Pop restaurant serving Lao food right next door called A.M.D.

Here are photos taken right from the hotel property.



Last edited by rje; Jan 21st, 2020 at 10:34 AM.
rje is offline  
Old Jan 21st, 2020, 07:42 PM
  #53  
kja
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,815
@ rje: Thank you so much for these insights!

I've been reading about the disadvantages of the "new" route between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang; you've convinced me that I should opt for a private driver and the old route. If you are favorably impressed by your next driver, do, please, provide me with his/her contact information! I also appreciate the insight into the route between Vang Vieng and Vientiane and will plan accordingly.

The Riverside looks wonderful -- again, many thanks for the recommendation and for the gorgeous photos.

I've been struggling with my plans -- whether to try to include both Vang Vieng and southern Laos, even if giving each less time than they deserve and taking longer for my entire trip than I had planned -- or skip one or the other. You've just given a HUGE boost to the "include Vang Vieng" argument.
kja is offline  
Old Jan 22nd, 2020, 10:30 AM
  #54  
rje
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 338
I'll come back to this thread when we get back, (in early March) with updated information.

rje is offline  
Old Jan 22nd, 2020, 06:55 PM
  #55  
kja
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,815
@ rje: I would greatly appreciate it if you think to do that -- thanks so much for offering! Best wishes for a fantastic trip.
kja is offline  
Old Jan 23rd, 2020, 08:45 PM
  #56  
kja
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,815
Am I making progress?

I'm finally reconciling myself to skipping Si Phan Don and just about all of the Bolavens Plateau (I still hope to include Wat Phu), and I'm trying to be more realistic about the time it will take to move between locations. With many thanks to all of you who continue to read this thread, I welcome thoughts about / comments on / reactions to this newest plan.


Itinerary C (with differences from Itinerary B in green ink):
  • Fly from the eastern U.S. to Vientiane; if possible, move on that same day to Vang Vieng. (Yes, I'll be exhausted, but I'll be exhausted after cattle class whether I push on or not! I could stay the night in Vientiane if necessary, but with a scheduled arrival time of 11:00 a.m., I think I might be able to manage to move on and then actually relax.)
  • Vang Vieng; 3 nights (recover from jet lag, enjoy the scenery, visit a cave or two)
  • Private car & driver to Luang Prabang; 3 nights (city, Kuang Si Falls, weaving village across the river)
  • Public or private transportation (TBD) to Luang Namtha; 3 nights
    • At least 1 day with car, driver, & guide for minority villages
  • Fly to Vientiane; 2 nights
  • Fly to Pakse; 2 nights
    • 1 day by car & driver for Wat Phu and one or two waterfalls of the Bolavens Plateau
  • Fly to Kampot (via Sihanoukville); 3 nights
  • Boat to Kep; 1 night
  • Whatever transportation works to Phnom Penh ; 4 nights
    • 2 days for the city
    • 1 day for a car & driver to Kampong Chhang and, if possible, Prei Kuk
  • Whatever transportation works to Battambang, 3 nights
  • Go by private car to Siem Reap for 7 nights, to include
    • At least 5 days for the temples of Angkor (to include several days to visit outlying temples, such as Banteay Srei, Preah Vihear, Beng Mealea, and Koh Ker, with car & driver)
    • A day for Tonle Sap and surrounds
    • The day before an evening departure for Siem Reap and its crafts / textile shops
  • Early evening return flight
kja is offline  
Old Jan 25th, 2020, 01:15 AM
  #57  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,850
A disclosure, my own travels in Laos were some time ago from the mid 1990s to I think, 2006/07. Some of my opinions, suggestions may be proved less than accurate by the passage of time. On the other hand, change seems to happen slowly in Laos, notwithstanding the economic and development invasion of the Chinese.

Your revised itinerary looks better and more realistic in terms of travel between towns.if it were me, and, of course it is not, I think I would probably drop Southern Lao completely and add the days saved to the north. That said the Bolavens Plateau is beautiful and a great place for waterfalls. We spent one NYE at Tad Lo which was pretty amazing. Tad Fane is also impressive. Both should have plenty of water in May. Wat Phu of course cannot hold a candle to Angkor but it is significantly older and is ( or was) in an unreconstructed state. It was along time ago but I don’t recall much else of interest in the area. So it may well be a case of driving there and back to Pakse. on that note, imo the landscapes in the south are, in the main, flatter and less impressive than those in the north.

I can see the logic of pressing on to Vang Vieng on arrival but, as you are flying into Vientiane, I would consider moving you two nights there to your arrival day. I am not especially a fan of Vientiane, but it is geared up for tourists, nice hotels, restaurants and some interesting sights and may be a better place to get over jet lag, see a few sights around the city and even source some guides, transport options for later in your trip - just a thought. It may well be that you have chosen this route because that is how the flights work out, if so, ignore me

The time you have allocated to LP and VV looks perfect.

The charm of Luang Namtha and the far north is in the surrounding countryside, minority villages. Muang Sing is an hour or so away and we really loved it there. As mentioned previously, I am not sure how much any of these places may have changed. Perhaps check it out on Travelfish for more current info, especially for getting around. We found ourselves using boats as much as buses in that area and some of the river trips are just stunning.

No comments on your cambodia section which is looking good. We went to Kep for a day trip by tuk tuk which was great as there was so much to see (one of the most popular posts on our blog - I think a Cambodian travel agent may have posted a link on there website??) In Kampot we stayed at Rikitikitavi, a little expensive for Cambodia but a great place right on the river. They organised transport from PP airport by private car for $50. Easy enough by bus but you may need to add on a couple of hours fro travelling from Kep.

This is almost making me want to consider a return to Laos!
crellston is offline  
Old Jan 25th, 2020, 09:30 AM
  #58  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 14,285
Originally Posted by crellston View Post
A disclosure, my own travels in Laos were some time ago from the mid 1990s to I think, 2006/07. Some of my opinions, suggestions may be proved less than accurate by the passage of time. On the other hand, change seems to happen slowly in Laos, notwithstanding the economic and development invasion of the Chinese.

Your revised itinerary looks better and more realistic in terms of travel between towns.if it were me, and, of course it is not, I think I would probably drop Southern Lao completely and add the days saved to the north. That said the Bolavens Plateau is beautiful and a great place for waterfalls. We spent one NYE at Tad Lo which was pretty amazing. Tad Fane is also impressive. Both should have plenty of water in May. Wat Phu of course cannot hold a candle to Angkor but it is significantly older and is ( or was) in an unreconstructed state. It was along time ago but I donít recall much else of interest in the area. So it may well be a case of driving there and back to Pakse. on that note, imo the landscapes in the south are, in the main, flatter and less impressive than those in the north.

I can see the logic of pressing on to Vang Vieng on arrival but, as you are flying into Vientiane, I would consider moving you two nights there to your arrival day. I am not especially a fan of Vientiane, but it is geared up for tourists, nice hotels, restaurants and some interesting sights and may be a better place to get over jet lag, see a few sights around the city and even source some guides, transport options for later in your trip - just a thought. It may well be that you have chosen this route because that is how the flights work out, if so, ignore me

The time you have allocated to LP and VV looks perfect.

The charm of Luang Namtha and the far north is in the surrounding countryside, minority villages. Muang Sing is an hour or so away and we really loved it there. As mentioned previously, I am not sure how much any of these places may have changed. Perhaps check it out on Travelfish for more current info, especially for getting around. We found ourselves using boats as much as buses in that area and some of the river trips are just stunning.

No comments on your cambodia section which is looking good. We went to Kep for a day trip by tuk tuk which was great as there was so much to see (one of the most popular posts on our blog - I think a Cambodian travel agent may have posted a link on there website??) In Kampot we stayed at Rikitikitavi, a little expensive for Cambodia but a great place right on the river. They organised transport from PP airport by private car for $50. Easy enough by bus but you may need to add on a couple of hours fro travelling from Kep.

This is almost making me want to consider a return to Laos!





kja, just posted on your Egypt thread! Amazing trip.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Old Jan 25th, 2020, 09:41 AM
  #59  
kja
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,815
@ crellston: Once again, thank you very much for your insights!

I must admit that I'm feeling much better about Itinerary C than my earlier ones -- I know it's not perfect and that I might end up having to make adjustments on the fly, but think it is more realistic and am very glad to have some confirmation of that. As I noted upthread, I considered skipping southern Laos entirely, but I balked at missing Wat Phu. I also considered skipping the far north entirely, but once I realized I could see some of that scenery and visit some of the minority villages without trekking, I found it hard to resist that option. I think -- hope! -- this plan affords meaningful (albeit brief) visits to each of those regions within an itinerary that otherwise includes my priorities for these two countries within a time frame that I fits within my work obligations.

BTW, you are correct in thinking that the placement of my time in Vientiane reflects routing considerations: The flight options that I identified to travel from Luang Namtha to Pakse within a single day all involved a stop in Vientiane, but with too short a layover for my comfort level, so I decided to plan to visit Vientiane at that point.

I finally joined Travelfish and have begun taking advantage of it's resources. I have a stack of guidebooks, which I've found very helpful so far, but the currency of some information is not entirely clear, and some of my guidebooks make it seem that parts of both the north and south are really only accessible by trek or motorbike, neither of which is an option I will use. I'm hoping that Travelfish can help me identify some specific current options that are realistic for my purposes.

Thanks again for the information on transportation options for Kampot and Kep. I consulted your wonderful blog early in my research and have tons of notes from it. Another gold star to you and your wife. And again, thank you so much for taking the time to work through my plans in such thoughtful detail!

. . .

@ HappyTrvlr: I forgot to add a note to that thread that I decided to defer a visit to Egypt! I'll look at your response and add that note now. Thanks!
kja is offline  
Old Jan 25th, 2020, 03:33 PM
  #60  
kja
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,815
@ AdventuresofAlice: Thank you very much for sharing your experiences, and welcome home from Cambodia!

I've had some wonderful night train rides over the years, but wasn't certain that any would suit my needs on this particular trip. Did you have any specific recommendations? Whether you do or not, I'll be sure to look into them.

I know that May is not an ideal time to visit these locations because of the mugginess, and I admit to some trepidation because I do not deal well with humid heat. Unfortunately, my work makes it difficult to change the timing of my trip. I could, perhaps, shift to a week or so earlier, but I'm not sure that would make a substantial difference, and I think it could mean a greater likelihood of running into problems with smoke from slash and burn agriculture prior to the rainy season in Laos. As you say, the upside is that the Angkor temples might not be quite so crowded as in other times of year. Do you think that shifting even a week earlier would lead to substantial benefits over traveling almost entirely during the month of May?

Thanks for the warnings about scams! I have read and taken note of multiple admonishments to avoid giving money to children -- so I promise that I won't. (And I'll try not to feel guilty as I look at their pleading faces.) I'll be on the alert for other scams, too (knowing that we're all susceptible), and will look into options for a guided tour of Tonle Sap.

Do you plan to write a trip report? I'm sure many of us would love to read about your experiences.

Again, many thanks for offering these insights!
kja is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

FODOR'S VIDEO