Quality Places In Laos 'Above' Luang Prabang ??
Replies: 8 - Last Post: Jan 20, 2013 5:15 PM Last Post By: Julie_L
Jan 17, 2013 2:32 AM
I'm still doing heaps of planning & research into the various trips which my wife & I have on our "bucket-list". The first trip we intend on undertaking is to Laos & Cambodia with the plan being to fly in to Luang Prabang and work our way south and fly out from Phnom Penh.
In researching the Laos part of the trip, I'm struggling to work out if we would be "kicking ourselves" later on if we did not go further north from Luang Prabang instead of preferring to head south-east down to Phonosovan and then south to the 'new' Vang Vieng.
Places like Luang Namtha, Udomxai, Nong Khiaw & Sam Neua have some appeal but it's not like they are screaming out 'visit me' with some vengeance to make me think otherwise. I'm sure there might be a couple of other hidden gems in there as well but I just can't seem to find them.
Could you kind folk put me out of my misery one way or the other here please ??
Just so you all know, the basic itinerary at this point is Luang Prabang - Phonosavan - Vang Vieng - Vientiane - Tha Khaek - Savannakhet - Pakse - Tat Lo - Champasak - Si Phan Don - Cambodia. It will no doubt be trimmed down a little and/or altered as more information coems to hand.
Now, it's along way from Vientianne to Savannakhet so I've decided to break it up by calling in to Tha Khaek which sounds like a very sleepy hollow, perfect for some R&R just watching the world go by. I would have gone to Paksan as it appears to be a sizeable town but it's not coming off with any glowing reviews anywhere, hence the reason why Tha Khaek has worked its way onto our itinerary. Does anyone want to sing its praises or have I got it right at present ??
I have to admit, from Savannakhet, I'm struggling somewhat to work out if we should go more inland or just stick to the standard bigger city route (Savannakhet - Pakse - Champasak - Si Phan Don - Cambodia) with the only oddball selection being Tat Lo qs it sounds like an off-the-beaten track sort of place with a 'sleepy' atmosphere.
Naturally the Bolaven Plateau sounds worthwhile but I'm feeling like just the one town in the region (Tat Lo) may be enough. I'm also factoring in that the whole plateau may be a little rougher for my wife to get around there (she's partially disabled) so I'm betwixt & between with that one. There is also Salavan, Sekong & Attapeu but from the research, there is not a lot of genuine reasons to go there either.
The other thing that has disappointed me here is that travelling by river seems to be virtually non-existent, its all bus, bicycle or walk. Does anyone know how much of the itinirary I've outlined could be done by boat ?? Maybe even just from Vientiane along the Mekong to Tha Khaek and onto Savannakhet might be do-able ??
Feel free to correct me on any of these thoughts and offer up a suggestion from your previous experience.
Thanks in advance for your feedback.
Jan 17, 2013 8:12 AM
1VTE to Savannakhet is only about 6 hours by bus. I would not stop at Tha Khet really not much there, similar to Savannkhet but less building of interest and rooms I found harder to get. Same for Pakse not much to see, go to Champasak instead and then to 4,000 isles. Where is the new VV?
I much preferred the north of LP than the south but depends what you want. As for Sam Neua it is looong way there and back, I know I did and again not much in the town itself.
How long do you have?
Jan 17, 2013 2:55 PM
Jan 17, 2013 5:49 PM
3Here's my take on the parts of Laos that I've been to.
Sure, enjoy Luang Prabang - it's nice in the off-season but in the tourist season I found it disappointingly overcrowded with everybody except for locals (perhaps the locals take their holidays then!).
I loved Luang Namtha. The town itself is quite small and backpacker friendly. There are some fantastic tours and activities that you can do in the area, and it's relatively unspoilt. I did a rafting trip and visited a couple of villages along the way, some of which were still quite traditional. Gorgeous scenery. Great for cycling around by yourself, and there are plenty of small villages near town of different ethnic groups that you can visit. There are a couple of great backpacker places to stay and some very good local restaurants. The night market is worthwhile visiting each night, and it gets more locals than tourists there (unlike the markets in Luang Prabang).
Nong Khiaw is nice enough for a day or so of rest - very pretty but not a lot to do other than walk along the road out of town (nice scenery, though, and not much traffic). I'd suggest just one full day there. The boat trip to/from Luang Prabang is really good, especially if you like boats (I don't but I still enjoyed it).
Savannakhet - yes, it's OK, but not exciting. I must admit, I was there in about 2008, so I can't remember what I did there. I think there are some old buildings there.
Tha Khaek - I loved it. I stayed at the wonderful Inthira Hotel - by far the best place to stay in town. The town itself is just OK with nothing of real interest, but I hired a vehicle and driver and went around a couple of the caves just outside the town. The scenery just outside town is gorgeous, so if you are a keen cyclist it may be a great (flat) day out. The caves were all great, all different, and hardly anyone there (3-5 people in each cave when I was there). There is also the big cave but that's a more expensive excursion and you'd need to find others to join you to make the cost reasonable.
Pakse - Highly recommend staying at Residence Sisouk. If you don't have time for the Bolaven Plateau you can take a day tour from here.
Jan 17, 2013 7:02 PM
4Thanks for that Julie.
The plan is to go in June & July which is normally the quieter off-season so the crowd issues in Luang Prabang should be avoided at that time.
We have already picked the Inthira Hotel at Tha Kaek so my methodology must be working okay there. :-)
Jan 18, 2013 3:08 AM
5Nong Kiaw has alot more to offer than "just a pretty view" - I just spent today kayaking down the Nam Ou after a hike to the waterfall, There's lots of other trek/adventure options - you didn't really say what you were looking for. And even if you just kick-back it's a nice easy town close to LPQ - and you definitely want to see something more than LPQ - it's a great country.
Jan 18, 2013 3:03 PM
Jan 20, 2013 11:09 AM
7I endorse Herbie's view and found South of VTE a bit of a disappointment.
I loved the trip up to Sam Neua and Vieng Xai I started to understand modern Laos after that.
I would also commend Phonsavan and Plain of Jars.
I didn't stop in VV altho the topography is stunning but now it seems to have been truly cleaned up..
If you want a bit of luxury, we pampered ourselves with the posh boat by Luang Say cruises down from HouayXai but we negotiated hard for a discount and had to take the day they stipulated - but it was grand.
Jan 20, 2013 5:15 PM
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