I crossed the border from Thailand into Huay Xai in Laos on December 22nd, and spent the next two days in a boat going down the Mekong (see "Down the Mekong River") with an overnight stop in the minuscule town of Pak Beng (not shown above). I spent about five days in Luang Prabang, then took the public bus over a well-paved but very hilly and twisty road to Phonesavan. I stayed in Phonesavan one day to see the Plain of Jars, then took a hired car to Vang Vieng (which is where I am as I write). By the time you read this, I will probably have caught the bus to Vientiane, the capital.
I expect to spend about five days in Vientiane - enjoying the town and applying for and waiting on a Vietnamese Visa. From Vientiane I'm planning on heading south to Khammuan, Savannakhet, possibly Pakse to see the Bolaven Plateau (where they grow the excellent coffee that's served in this country), and possibly slightly further south to Champasak to see an Angkor era temple that's supposed to be pretty amazing. The "possible" places depend on my Lao Visa and how much time I take going south. Visa extensions are possible, but only in Vientiane so I'd have to make a speculative extension.
The plan is then to head north back to Savannakhet fast and then east to the Vietnamese border, where I'll cross and head to Hue. From Hue I'm planning on flying to Hanoi, and then beginning the epic trek down the Vietnam coast all the way to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). After that, Cambodia.
I'll try to post a more complete route as I near departure from the country.
The map is courtesy of the CIA World Factbook (which seems to be inaccessible from Laos - possibly an intentional block by the U.S. government, which still has a thing about communist governments).