Long and winding roads run in seemingly endless ribbons across these green, sparsely populated northeastern provinces towards the mysterious Plain of Jars and the fascinating Vieng Xai Caves. Both are truly intriguing places to visit if you're en route to or from Vietnam. Those with the time can add stops in Nong Khiaw and Vieng Thong. The latter is a gateway to the Nam Et/Phou Louey National Protected Area (NPA) and its 'tiger treks'. All of the above feature on Stray's pricey Long Thaang bus loop. Almost anywhere else in either province is completely off the tourist radar.
The altitude, averaging more than 1000m, ensures a climate that's neither too hot in the hot season, nor too cold in the cool season. In December and January, a sweater or jacket is appropriate at night and early morning when seas of cloud fill the populated valleys and form other-worldly scenes for those looking down from passes or peaks.