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Need help choosing from 2 itineraries - VV or Mekong cruise?

Level Contributor
419 posts
26 reviews
Need help choosing from 2 itineraries – VV or Mekong cruise?

Hi everyone,

My husband and I are planning a trip to Cambodia and Laos in about 3 weeks time and are struggling with the Laos portion of the itinerary and were hoping for some help. We will have 17 days including the day we land (in the morning) and the day we depart (in the evening). We will be flying Thai airways from London so have various options – we can fly into and out of Phnom Phen, Chiang Rai, or Vientiane but havent yet booked flights as we need to decide what to do.

We have allocated time for Luang Prabang and Vientiane but are debating between a day or two in Vang Vieng/Ang Nam Ngum or Mekong trip (probably on the Luang Say) from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai and then a couple of days in Chiang Rai (we've been to Thailand before so we'd just be going to chiang Rai for ease of return travel – as i understand it, there don't seem to be any schedules/decent information about flying from Huay Xai to Vientiane). The two itineraries would look something like this:

Thur 29th Oct: arrival Phnom Phen 10am –

Fri 30th: Phnom Phen –

Sat 31st: Phnom Phen, eve flight to Siem Reap

Sun 1st to Wed 4th: Siem Reap – 

Thurs 5th: Fly to Vientiane, arrival 1pm –

Fri 6th: Vientiane –

Sat 7th: Vientiane –

Sun 8th 9am flight to Luang Prabang, rest of day Luang Prabang

Mon 9th to Tues 10th: Luang Prabang – including trip to Kuang si waterfalls

Wed 11th: Cruise to Pak Beng (stopping at Pak Ou caves and whiskey village)

Thur 12th: Cruise to Huay Xai and private transfer to Chiang Rai

Fri 13th: Chiang Rai

Sat14th: Chiang Rai, flight at 8pm back to London via Bangkok

The second itinerary is like this:

Thur 29th Oct: arrival Phnom Phen 10am –

Fri 30th: Phnom Phen –

Sat 31st: Phnom Phen, eve flight to Siem Reap –

Sun 1st to Tues 3rd: Siem Reap – 

Weds 4th: Siem Reap, 5pm flight to Luang Prabang

Thurs 5th to Sun 8th: Luang Prabang – including trips to Pak Ou and Kuang si waterfalls)

Mon 9th: Travel to Vang Vieng by bus (arrival around 4-5pm?)

Tues 10th: Vang vieng – day trip caving/cycling or similar

Wed 11th: Travel to Ang Nam Ngum by bus (is it likely we can arrive by 11ish and spend the day trekking/boating or something?)

Thur 12th: Travel to Vientiane (arrival by lunch)

Fri 13th: Vientiane

Sat14th: Vientiane, 8pm flight back to London via Bangkok

I am wondering about a few things:

1) Is the extra time travelling by buses etc worth missing out on the Mekong cruise scenery to instead spend a day or two exploring the Vang Vieng/Ang Nam Ngum scenery?

2) Would the cruise get boring after the first day or is the second portion of the trip from Pak Beng to Huay Xai still worth it for the scenery?

Any advice would be much appreciated, we are finding it hard to decide as I think I am leaning toward the cruise and hubby is leaning toward Vang Vieng for the outdoorsy stuff but we don't have any extra time and won't be coming back to Laos so need to make a decision either way!

Thanks in advance!

Ho Chi Minh City...
Destination Expert
for Cologne, Laos
Level Contributor
9,156 posts
49 reviews
1. Re: Need help choosing from 2 itineraries – VV or Mekong cruise?

It is a difficult decision as both itineraries are nice. I enjoyed both days on the boat trip (went the other way) - the scenery is great, and I loved to relax on the boat and reading as well.

And Chiang Rai is interesting as well (the White temple is one of the most impressive buildings I have ever seen.

Vang Vieng offers some great scenery as well, though it is a long bus journeys. So it partly depends what way of travel you prefer. I am sure you would enjoy both itineraries

Level Contributor
419 posts
26 reviews
2. Re: Need help choosing from 2 itineraries – VV or Mekong cruise?

Hi Scotsman, many thanks for your reply. I think the bus journeys are one of the major things that is putting me off vang vieng etc.

can i ask did you take the luangsay cruise or did you go with another company? We are now considering shompoo as they are so much cheaper than luangsay and it seems the boats are comparable.


lewes uk
Level Contributor
10,726 posts
206 reviews
3. Re: Need help choosing from 2 itineraries – VV or Mekong cruise?


I think whilst Vang Vieng is a very beautiful area if you are unsure of the long bus rides (through spectacular if occasionally scary scenery at times) then the Mekong option makes more sense. There are not many parts of the Mekong where you can take a boat journey anymore and the scenery is often impressive, although as Scotsman alludes a good book is a useful accessory. Is day 2 just more of the same? Well yes, same same but different as they would say over the border. I've traveled on the ordinary boats, on Nagi of the Mekong twice and on Shompoo once, I've seen the Luang Say boats and never felt the need to upgrade although their hotel in Pak Beng is nice I've never felt it justified the extra cost of the cruise over the other two.

Chiang Rai is marginally more interesting than Veintiane imo although both are nice and certainly your flight choices from CR to Bangkok will be greater and cheaper.


Level Contributor
419 posts
26 reviews
4. Re: Need help choosing from 2 itineraries – VV or Mekong cruise?

Thanks for the useful info Paulo. We decided to go with the cruise and were about to book but then we randomly noticed in a book the vat phou cruise - which i believe is the same company as luang say but they do a 3 day 2 night cruise in the south from pakse, going to wat phou, a couple of villages and si phan don so we are now considering this instead and are waiting for a reply to see if there is availability. This would mean we fly from siem reap to pakse, pakse to vientiane and then end in luang prabang before travelling home. If no availability, we'll revert back to the cruise to huay xai.

Anyone done the vat phou cruise? Doesnt seem to be too much info on the forums, i just found one thread.


Luang Prabang, Laos
Level Contributor
196 posts
9 reviews
5. Re: Need help choosing from 2 itineraries – VV or Mekong cruise?

There are so many ways to do this and I guess it comes down to time & money sometimes. If your in Bangkok to begin with there is always the overnight train to Vientiane. You will have noticed that the most expensive flights in the world are between Bangkok and Luang Prabang/ Siam Reap per mile.

Also Siam Reap is close to the Thai border where the train runs into Bangkok, it's not far but it takes seven hours, the bus is muck quicker but less fun. So where you start and stop can have a big impact on your budget.

I live in Lp and the trip to Pak out will be a disappointment for you. The water will have all but dried up and the whiskey village could possibly be quaint if you drank the entire contents of the place whilst there.

Vang Viang! It is a spectacular drive, not on the bus but in a mini van on the new road, if the drivers not hanging around then it's a three hour trip. The drive is a spectacular Top Gear type vista. The scenery around VV is stunning but the town itself Can only be described as a wart clinging to a carbuncle. 90% populated by gap year hedonists drinking- sorry "traveling" around Asia seeking a perfect Zen like vibe in which to vomit up the incredibly bad meals that are on offer in this culinary wilderness. Beards seem compulsory here for some reason. There are some nice enclave hotels where you can take refuge but you may want to think if this place really appeals. Onward to Vte takes two hours.

Just for added choices you can now get into Vietnam visa free, and Saigon is a lot more fun, and it's very close.

Level Contributor
419 posts
26 reviews
6. Re: Need help choosing from 2 itineraries – VV or Mekong cruise?

Hi Devil,

Many thanks for your reply and information. We're actuslly leaving on wednesday so already all booked, but in the end we decided to go on the wat phou cruise instead. So from siem reap we fly to pakse and take the boat the next day. Then fly to vientiane for 3 nights 2 days then fly to luang prabang for 5 nights 4.5 days. Hopefully will be able to relax a bit there at the end of the trip. And then we fly back to bangkok to catch our international flight home. Luckily all 4 flights came to a total of £200pp so wasnt too bad!

Luang Prabang, Laos
Level Contributor
196 posts
9 reviews
7. Re: Need help choosing from 2 itineraries – VV or Mekong cruise?

I think you won't regret the itinerary you've chosen, well done on the flights, it costs me over $250 just to get to Bangkok from here in LPQ. If you need to know anything about Lp please feel free to pm me.

8. Re: Need help choosing from 2 itineraries – VV or Mekong cruise?

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