Getting to Luang Prabang from Vietnam via Sam Neua
Replies: 2 - Last Post: Oct 9, 2012 11:44 PM Last Post By: Giora
Oct 9, 2012 11:32 AM
Having crossed over the border we would like to travel in stages with overnight stops in Sam Neua, Vieng Thong, Viang Kham and Nong Khiaw. Would finish with a trip up to Muang Neua and then down to Luang Prabang by boat.
Excuse so many questions - would we find accomodation in the smaller places? How easy is it to hop on and off buses or to find someone to drive us if we need a break from buses (I suspect that this will happen)?.
We are first time in Vietnam and Laos but have travelled extensively elsewhere in asia - especially trains in India. Thanks for your advice.
Oct 9, 2012 4:47 PM
1There is no direct public transport from Mai Chau to Nameo. It would require two local buses. There is a direct bus across to Nameo from Thanh Hoa (south of Hanoi), rather then NE through Mai Chau.
We have hired private vehicles in Mai Chau to get to Nameo. It take about 4.5 hr and expect to pay about $100 or a little more. You'll have to ask around where the Hanoi bus drops you off. Motorcycles can often be found for less money (and as long as you aren't carrying too much). Warning: 4 1/2 hours is car time which will be fasgter than motorcycle time.
The bus from Thanh Hoa cpomes through the boder at about 3 PM. We've taken the 6 AM from Hanoi to Mai Chau, 10:30 - 3:30 or so in a day-rental, then grab the bus that will go through Vieng Xai to Xam Neua and arrive at dark (6:30 PM). That requires no break-downs! Bus from border to Xam Neua will ask you for a lot - about $25-30. Bargain hard - theyve always eventually agreed to less ($10 or so) but not without a meeting of wills. That being said, one can make it from Hanoi to Xam Neua through Nameo in a busy 12-13 hour day of on the go. BUt that middle link is pricy unless there are 4-5 of you.
If you miss the connection, Nameo has an acceptable guesthouse 200 meters from the border with Laos - there is nothing on the Laos side so don;'t cross at the last second expecting to find a lift. We've been stuck at the border a couple times - but on the Vietnam side with the town - there are worse fates. The area is beautiful and the adventuresome might exlpore the region. Westerners are pretty rare.
You can hop on and off buses, saungtheaws (pickups with rear canopies), or just get a list with locals (offering gas $, of course) quite easily. The towns of Vieng Kham, Vieng Thonbg etc are sort of dusty truck stops where everything shuts down about 6 PM (eat early!) Nong Khiaw is nicer, as is Muang Khua. I've always liked Nam Noun as well
Oct 9, 2012 11:44 PM
I've never been to Vietnam, but I was in Sam Neua a few days ago. There are very few buses on the route from Sam Neua to Nong Khiaw, making this journey a little inconvenient. I believe there are only 2 buses on this route a day: one from Sam Neua to Luang Prabang, and one from Sam Neua to Vientiane passing through Luang Prabang. The direct bus to Luang Prabang might turn out to be a minivan, meaning it may well be full and not pick up passengers along the way. There's also an additional daily service from Sam Neua to Vieng Thong. All these services leave Sam Neua within an hour or two of each other first thing in the morning. Roads are bad and breakdowns are very common. I know of one bus recently that took over 24 hours to get from Luang Prabang to Sam Neua.
If you don't have serious breakdowns, it's roughly 4-5 hours from Sam Neua to Vieng Thong, and then another 5 onto Nong Khiaw. Unless you have a desire to spend a full day in Vieng Thong and have a look around, I'd advise you to head straight to Nong Khiaw. Due to the bus timings, it should end up being a day-trip, and you'll save yourself money and potential hassle by doing the trip in one journey. Vieng Thong has about 4 guesthouses, at least a couple of which are remarkably well set-up for foreign travelers (though almost completely deserted). I'm not sure about Vieng Kham, but I did see guesthouses in at least a couple of the tiny towns in between Vieng Thong and Nong Khiaw. Again, it makes little sense to get off the bus there unless you want to take the time to explore the area, which is probably not very used to seeing tourists.
One last tip: don't miss Vieng Xai on your way to Sam Neua. It's a lovely little town with much more atmosphere than Sam Neua, and there are some friendly Indian and Chinese expats in town, and even an Indian restaurant.
(3 star Hotel)
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