we are crinkly travellers and will be visiting Thailand once again in Feb/march, we shall spend some time in Hua Hin as we love the place and then travel on to Kanachaburi and then to Chiang Mai. We should like then to go to Laos, my question is, should we fly there from Chiang Mai, or go by bus. Any help will be most gratefully accepted.
From Chiang Mai I would recommend travelling to the Laos border overland by bus (you can arrange trips in Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai) and crossing over the border at Chiang Khong/Huay Xai, then doing the slow boat down the river Mekong for 2 days. It's a nice chilled out way to to do it (take a cushion or something soft to sit on as the seats are hard!). you can arrange packages which include overnight accommodation at Chiang Khong the night before, visa, boat trip and packed lunch on the first day. After your first day on the boat, about 8 hours, you'll spend a night in a jungle town called Pak Beng, and will then resume the boat journey the next day down to Luang Prabang which is well worth a few days.
While you are in Northern Thailand I would recommend spending a few days in the small town of Pai - it's a really cool little place. you can also do treks into the hills from here.
I'd second Bex76's suggestion of the slow boat if you have the time. It was a great experience for us and we met some really good friends on it. The scenery is amazing.
You have 2 choices on the packages usually...one is to stay the first night in Chiang Kong on the Thai side or stay in Huay Xai on the Laos side. The second night stop in Pak Beng you have to pay for yourself but it's only about 300 baht for a double room, just wait until you get to Pak Beng to book, there is plenty of accommodation there! As bex says take a cushion as the seats are really hard on your backside for 8 hours for each day!
If you are going to do this, I'd advise paying your visa in US dollars as the people who paid in baht ended up paying more because they got a dodgy exchange rate! For the package last year (I think) we paid about 1000-1200 baht each and the minibus to the border was a nice new Toyota with fierce air con. It can be booked from any travel agent in Chiang Mai.
Thank you both for your information, we shall try the boat trip. Stokesy