Project Laos

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Hi RG Folks,

I will be in Laos from 6-16 December. We plan to to go Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, Phonsavan & Udon Thani. Can’t get the itinerary right.

Here is our initial plan

6/12 – Vientiane (Sleeper bus to Luang Prabang)
7/12 – LP
8/12 – LP
9/12 – LP (Sleeper bus to Phonsavan?)
10/12 – Phonsavan
11/12 – Phonsavan (Sleeper bus to Vang Vieng?)
12/12 – Vang Vieng
13/12 – Vang Vieng (Afternoon Bus to Vientiane?)
14/12 – Udon Thani
15/12 – Vientiane
16/12 – Vientiane

I know this is the haphazard plan. Especially when Phonsavan is the coldest place among all and till now I could only confirm there is sleeper bus from VTN-LP.

Any comments are welcome.

kelvin 01/09/14    Getting aroundLaos Link Report

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Glad to see you are off to LP – had the best time ever here. We (@tolovetolive) went to the Elephant Village which was a highlight. Also, try eating at Blue Lagoon if you fancy spoiling yourself and it’s worth waking up early (4am) to see the monks collect alms. For more details of what we did, check out our blog round Laos as we also went to Vang Vieng and Vientiane:

tolovetolive 01/09/14    Link Report

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Thanks for the reply tolovetolive =) Will visit your blog for more information and details. Nice one.

kelvin 02/09/14    Link Report

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Hi Kelvin,

December is a fantastic time to visit Laos – lucky you! One thing I would say is that you should cut Udon Thani out after Vang Vieng – Vientiane lies between the two so there’s no need to go to UT first. If you need/plan to go to Udon Thani then that would be best done after Vientiane at the end of your trip as it’s easy to cross into Thailand from the capital.

Only one daily bus runs from Luang Prabang to Phonsavan, and that usually leaves around 9am and takes about seven hours so unfortunately you will lose most of a day travelling out there (minibuses leave at the same time). Likewise, heading from Phonsavan to Vang Vieng you’ll have to take a daytime bus or minibus (they usually leave around 8am), which will take five to six hours.

Phonsavan will be a bit cooler than elsewhere, but you’re still looking at temperatures of around 21ºC, so still very pleasant during the day.

Personally, my choice would be to do the following route – this would cut down on losing too much time on long journeys: Vientiane – Vang Vieng – Luang Prabang – Phonsavan – Vientiane. The journey from Phonsavan to Vientiane could be done via overnight sleeper. If you’re not wedded to Phonsavan (the Plain of Jars is interesting but can be a little underwhelming) and are looking for somewhere that involves less travelling, I’d really recommend Nong Khiaw, which is an incredibly scenic riverside town north of Luang Prabang. Equally, it would be easy to spend even longer in Luang Prabang, which does live up to its reputation is one of Southeast Asia’s loveliest cities.

Hope that helps!


Emma Gibbs 01/09/14    Link Report

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Hi Emma,

Thanks for the reply. I got the newest/updated bus schedule from ​, so here is the new plan.

6 December – Arrive at Vientiane (Patuxai and That Luang perhaps? / Night bus to Phonsavan)

(Primarily this is done ​because we will acclimatized with the cold weather first and we got still plenty willpower to endure it =), we are from malaysia by the way. Hot tropical country.)

7 December – Phonsavan to visit the Jars (Hopefully we can make it to Site 1, 2 & 3.)

8 December – Phonsavan to Luang Prabang (If Hobomaps is true, there will be a sleeper bus to LP, serves us good; or not we will have to take a morning bus to LP and arrive 8 hours later)

9 December – Luang Prabang (Cycling in the old city)

10 December – Luang Prabang (Kuang Si and Pak Ou caves)

11 December – Luang Prabang – Vang Vieng (Minivan in the early evening around 1300)

12 December – Vang Vieng (Tham Jang, Tham… I forget the name)

13 December – Vang Vieng – Vientiane – Udon Thani (We insist for Udon Thani just to chop of passport for the thailand entry =), however with later research we would know there is an archeological site UNESCO sanctioned over there)

14 December – Udon Thani

15 December – Vientiane

16 December – Vientiane

​Will this revised plan work and lessen the time wasted in travelling? Read about Nong Khiaw also, scenic village besides the mekong river ​will try to factor it in also if it is possible. If I could i would go all the way to Phongsali, reading it gives me a feel it would be something like Sa Pa in Viet Nam albeit not that cold =).

kelvin 02/09/14    Link Report

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Hi Kelvin,

You might want to consider overnighting in Vientiane on your first day just so you don’t have to rush too much and have time to figure out where everything is! That said, it depends what time you are arriving into Vientiane – if you’re getting in early then it might be good to move on the same day, and Vientiane is small enough to get to grips with easily. I’d suggest that you make buying your bus ticket one of your priorities once you arrive in the city as sleeper buses can get very busy.

Thanks for letting me know about the schedules on Hobo Maps – I’ve used their excellent maps before but didn’t know they published up to date bus schedules, which is really useful!

If you need to go to Udon Thani then it looks like there’s a daily bus there from Vang Vieng, which would be very handy for you.

The landscape around Phongsali is beautiful, but it would require a bit more time to do as it’s so much further north from Luang Prabang. It does get pretty chilly though – I was there one March and was surprised by how cold it got at night! I wouldn’t factor in Nong Khiaw unless you are planning to get rid of one of your other destinations as it would mean having to squeeze it into your itinerary, and you wouldn’t really have enough time to enjoy it.

Your new itinerary sounds good, I think – you might find that you want an additional day in Vang Vieng, however, as the scenery is so beautiful, but as long as you can be a bit flexible it’s worth seeing how you find things when you are in Laos.

Have a great trip!


Emma Gibbs 04/09/14    Link Report

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Hi Emma,

Yup. Thanks for the reply. I guess we will follow the normal backpacker northern loop up until Luang Prabang or maybe Nong Khiaw. Phongsali maybe is a bit too far up for us =)

I hope the online information provided by Hobo Maps is legit! Or not me and my friends might end up taking the early or later bus and miss the hotel we had booked here.

Udon Thani well is an hour journey/ 22km from Vientiane how about stopping in Nong Khai the cross border town will do, after all we are seeking for the both countries stamp in our passport only =)

I hope definitely Laos will be a good one. The final puzzle to the French Indochina trip.

kelvin 13/09/14    Link Report

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Hobo Maps are usually excellent – I used their maps extensively while I was in Laos and I expect that their info is up to date and reliable. As the photos of the bus times date from June 2014, they’re likely to still be current by the time you’re travelling, but it’s probably worth checking for any updates on their site before you travel, just in case.

If you’re just hopping into Thailand to get a stamp in your passport then I’d definitely recommend just going to Nong Khai and back. It’s so close that there’s no reason for you to stay the night – you should be able to cross there and back in half a day or less. The only thing is that I think you will have to buy a new visa to re-enter Laos, which is a bit of a pain.

Emma Gibbs 15/09/14    Link Report

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