I have a chance to go to Laos but am unsure of the route I should go for as it was a random last minute idea and i have to be in thailand be mid april.
Even if you only have 12 days, take it! Head up to Luang Prabang for a week - it's a World Heritage area and rightly so. Wonderful place and lots to do both in and around the town. You can either fly up from Bangkok or if you are in the north of Thailand, cross the Mekong at Nong Khai to Vientienne and then fly from there. about 8 years ago
I did a two week trip in 2009 and had an amazing time in Laos. Here's roughly what my itinerary was:
- I caught the train from Bangkok to Nong Khai, stayed at Mutt Mee guest house - I recommend this place (http://www.mutmee.com/). Go and check out Budda park which is an odd yet enticing set of massive sculptures - http://www.flickr.com/photos/aussie_ian/3287117224/in/set-72157613304401766/
- Headed over the border to Vientienne. You probably only need a day or two to have a look around, this is the new capital city and has some markets on the river and some interesting Russian and French architecture.
- Caught a (public) bus to the Phonsavan, to see the Valley of the Jars. This is a very windy bus trip that will take you a day, and from Phonsavan you can organise a tour of these amazing granite jars that are carved out of the rock - see my flickr photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aussie_ian/3312333326/in/set-72157614000912910/
- Stayed a night at Phonsavan, then took a chartered van to Vang Vieng. This is the Laos "party town" where you can go tubing down the river and stop in at little bars blaring techno music and swing off ropes and slides in the water. It's lots of fun.
- After a few days in Vang Vieng, caught the bus to Luarang Parabang. This is the old capital, and is the biggest city. There are lots of things to do here, with bars and little clubs etc to go to. There are also some day trips you can do to some nearby waterfalls, which were awesome. I stayed at the Symphony Guest house, I have no idea where it was but it was awesome and run by a a very nice family who gave me lots of friendly advice and tips. I took a photo of the sign, so if you decide to stay here it might be of help (print it out and give it to a taxi driver!) - http://www.flickr.com/photos/aussie_ian/3312422020/in/set-72157614000912910/
- After a few days in Luarang Parabang, catch the river boat up the Mekong to Pak Beng (you'll do a night's stopover) then to the border town with Thailand.
Tips: DONT try and stay anywhere where the Lonely Planet guidebook recommends, because everyone has the same book and will all go to the same place, which will be twice as expensive about 8 years ago
Nice rundown Ian C.
I'd add booking a boat in Luang Prabang and heading up the Mekong and then the Nam Ou to Nong Khiaw. It's definitely worth the trip and one of our favorites on the whole trip. We did it in 2009 as well - during that time it was "relatively" untraveled but easy to navigate the bookings and guesthouses.
You'll tour the Pak Ou caves (abandoned Buddist statues) then keep heading north. In Nong Khiaw you can do daily self-led treks or book a tour further up river. It's wonderful all around.
Let me know if I can help further.
Cknight3@gmail.com about 8 years ago