places to go, people to meet
Hi Greg - I did in same month this year trip you intend and more. I joined a TravelIndochina small group tour starting in Chang Rai ( went there 3 days early and did day trips around there incl one day into Burma. From Chang Rai we went over to Laos to Mekong, group was square but OK only 9 persons and was excellent in itinerary and value for money. Very well led by experienced expatriate leader. I did investigate 'gay' places/accom/bars, got some response but as our tourr chose places central to local tours in center of Luang Prabang and Vietienne and so better option. Only downside no swimming pools BUT you can go to a g friendly' type resort late afternoon if want outsdie of Luang Pabang - I didn't - lots to do without that. My tour went also to the infamous backpacker river area of Vang Vieng - do the ballooning there and also the tubing down the river, its ok, then Plain of Jars after that flew south to end on Mekong in Thousand Islands area with an excellent 3 days there - I flew out from there to Ankor Wat.
In total I took up about 20 days, tours was I think 12-13 nights.
You CAN tour Laos alone as maybe you intend BUT you will waste lots time getting/organising local rides/info etc. Although FEB is best month in my opinion as its relatively cool - its when I went - still its just off main Dec/Jan tourist time and you need help for any overnight booking on Mekong. We stopped one night near half way and ALL decent accomodation was pre-booked. Next night at an 'eco' village - not great BUT worth the stop. If you don't use Travel Indochina there are others but NONE in finish were as good re price AND guarantee of actually proceeding. Ck their itinerary it covers all the places you could visit - then if you wish do yourself.
I really enjoyed Laos - not expensive, much relatively untouched BUT you are right to go now - the locals are being exploited and over-run by overseas 'developers' etc.
Thanks for your detailed advice.I will try and do the trip solo as this is the way i am use to travelling.Glad that you recommend Feb as a good time to go,being a bit cooler. I spent a month in Cambodia last year in October and it was still quite wet and humid at times.