Amazing trip! very well organised and smooth, no hitches at all, considering we took 8 flights, 6 vans, 4 boats and an elephant! Advice if going around Xmas/NY - the first few days were COLD (8 deg C) in the mountains at Luang Namtha - really wished I had an extra fleece and hat to sleep in - there is no heating inside the guest houses, and all the restaurants are open to the air at the sides so meals were accompanied by an icy breeze. Once we got down to Luang Prabang it was delightful. Be sure to mail any post cards in Luang Prabang as you won't get another chance later. Also be aware that most tourist items for sale are mass-produced in China - be careful and shop around for a day in LP before buying anything as you will get to see the same stuff everywhere. "old" coins are Chinese forgeries - saw one coin with Panama on one side and Deutscheland on the other, and a 1799 US Liberty Dollar with the modern US seal. Silk and cotton loomed textiles tend to be genuine, but the cheaper fabrics are mass-produced - pretty, just be sure not to pay more than a few dollars. Go to the weaving villages. However, in Luang Namtha do buy the hand-made trinkets from the Hmong ladies - they are unique. In the Plain of Jars be SURE to get the driver to take you to the tiny village near Jar Site 2 where they melt US aircraft parts into spoons and bracelets - by far the most interesting, genuine and cheap artifacts you can buy! Avoid overpriced antique shops in LP - they are tourist traps. In Phonesavan, go to Nisha Indian restaurant - best food in town, maybe best Indian restaurant in the country - don't be alarmed by the decor. When down south chasing the Irawaddy freshwater dolphins, stop on the Cambodian side of the river for an Ankhor beer. Didn't need lots of the things I brought - mosquito net, towel, first aid kit, medicines, food - so gave it all away to a clinic on the last day. Bring stationery supplies - exam books, pens - as gifts in the villages. Also you may want to bring or buy instant coffee or tea bags, and dried milk, as the Lao coffee is black as ink and they have no milk at all, only coffeemate and condensed sweetened milk. Otherwise the food was good, ate 3 meals a day, never got sick, and gained 5 pounds! The trip is very sedentary so do take the opportunity to rent bikes when you can in LN, LP and VTE, otherwise you are just being transported from one meal to the next. The jungle trek in LN is cool, with fish fresh from the market roasted on an open flame and served on banana leaves... enjoy!!