The popular tourist place in Bangkok is around Khao San Road, a great place to stop of for a drink for New Years Eve. If you want food, you are better of going to the next road, Thanon Rambuttri, where there is a great food market.
Once again, the drink of choice is the Bucket, which are a lot more expensive that in Vietnam or Laos.
For an afternoon, what better way to spend it that relaxing on one of the bars on the tiny island, sitting on in one of the huts, knocking back a cocktail, beer or bucket, and watching the few stragglers make it all the way down the island.
The tourist locations seem to put on a special show for Christmas, even if it isn’t that important to regular Laos people. Here is a traditional Laos xmas tree.
Tubing is great fun in Vang Vieng, and an activity for all the family, as well as young and old alike, even though most people tubing will be young backpackers. A lot of people will get drunk on all the free drinks, and do stupid things, but you they start to thin out after the first section, and most will not make it all the way down.
A few warnings to make your trip fun. Watch out for people coming off slides, zip lines and jumps. As the day goes on, people get more inebriated, so they pay less attention to what is happening in the river.
The river can be shallow at parts, if you see some kayaks or speedboats watch there they go. They will take the deep parts of the river. But it is easy to push yourself off.
From the last bar, it can take about 90 minutes to drift down, and if you do make it late, they will make you pay. Even if you get there at 6:01, they will charge you an extra 20,000 kip. Then every hour it is late it will be another 20,000 kip. If you are stuck on the river at around 5:30, you can quiet easily get a tuk-tuk lift back into town for 10,000 kip.
A big tip, if you are going to travel via bus in Laos, get a VIP bus. They are so much more suited for the roads, and well worth the extra 30 minutes or hour that they take. They also give you great views of the scenery. And you could get lucky, the bus from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng was the first bus I had taken which had empty seats. Almost every other bus was packed so full that even the aisles were full of poor people on plastic seats.
The other bonus, which I was yet to encounter, was out ticket included a meal or drink along the way. We stopped of at this roadside cafe, and got some free and delicious soup.
If you haven’t read my other posts, it is well worth going to the bus station to purchase a ticket. Find out from the hotel when the bus leaves, then get a tuk-tuk to the bus station an hour before it leaves (tuk-tuk should cost around 10,000 kip). The ticket I bought was 105,000 kip, whereas other on the same bus paid 150,000-160,000 in town.
Luang Prabang, up in the north of Laos, gives you options to travel onwards to Bangkok via bus or boat, or Vietnam via bus. There is an airport here as well, which gives you a lot of options.
One tip, the travel places and hotels will charge more than buying a ticket directly, from the airlines or the bus stations.
A gorgeous sunset in Luang Prabang, looking over the Mekong river.
The popular tourist trail in Laos is Vientiane to Vang Vieng, and then Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang. My current leg is from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang, where I discovered that saving an hour by taking the mini-bus does not make up for being in a cramped cabin bouncing around the awful roads.
The road, as in all roads in Laos, are awful, bumpy and will change to a dirt road for no reason. Keep in mind this is along the main highway in Laos. But apart form that, the road trip is scenic. The road travels along gorgeous mountains, winding rivers, and luscious green forests. It is definitely worth stopping and getting out to take pictures along the route.
A tip, if you are going to take the mini-bus, make sure to get the seats in the front. Not only will you get more comfortable seats, get to leave the bus straight away, but you will get to see the scenery. And expect delays on the road. For some reason there appeared to be quite a lot of earth shoveling onto then off the road. Ours was the first bus there, so we had to wait about 25 minutes before we were allowed to travel on. On top of that, the oncoming traffic was allowed through first, which added another 5 minutes onto the trip. It is not uncommon for the boat or bus you are in to break down in Laos, so leave some leeway into your travel plans.
Laos can be cheaper than Vietnam, as long as you stay out of the capital, and look around a bit.
In Vien Viang, you can get a single room with fan, and private bathroom for 30,000 Kip, with wifi. I have found two places that do this so far, so worth a look around. Most places will have singles for 40,000 Kip, or you can save a lot more money in a dorm.
Eating can be cheap, you can get a good noodle soup, Pat Thai, sandwich, or pancake for 10,000 Kip. You can also get a big beer lao for 10,000 kip, or at times of the night, buckets go for 10,000 Kip as well (The Bucket bar on the island, before 10pm). Or you can get a bottle of Laos Whiskey for 10,000 Kip as well. Big bottles of water for for 5,000 Kip.
You can easily find places to do your laundry for 5,000 Kip a kg, to pick up the next day. Be careful though, the first lady I went to was using a dodgy weight machine, that doubles the number of kilos my clothes were.