Laos - Along the Mythical Mekong

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Day 1: Arrive in Bangkok, Thailand

Upon arrival at Bangkok Airport, you are met by our representative and transferred to our airport hotel. Dinner and the group orientation this evening.

Overnight in Bangkok.

 

Day 2: Fly to Chiang Rai, Golden Triangle

After breakfast, we return to the airport for our morning flight to Chiang Rai, in northern Thailand. After lunch, we travel into the Golden Triangle to a famous viewpoint that looks out over the mighty Mekong River and into Laos and Burma.

We also visit the Hall of Opium, a museum dealing with the crop, drug and vast fortunes which have made the Golden Triangle famous.

Overnight in the Golden Triangle (Thailand).

 

Day 3: Enter Laos, Mae Kong boat journey to Pac Beng

After breakfast, we cross over the Laos border and begin a cruise down the Mekong River to the traditional Laos village of Pac Beng. Stops are made enroute to observe rural life along the Mekong, including hilltribe villages.

Overnight in Pac Beng.

 

Day 4: Remote Mae Kong to Luang Prabang

We continue our journey along the Mekong River, catching a glimpse of rural life in the fishing villages along the way. We also visit the Tham Ting Holy Caves and the rice whiskey-producing village of Ban Sang Hai.

Upon arrival in Luang Prabang, we transfer to our hotel.

 

Day 5: Luang Prabang

Today, we have a half-day walking tour of the old capital, Luang Prabang. This town is in a beautiful mountain setting at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers. One of the most romantic cities in Southeast Asia, Luang Prabang is a delightful place to explore on foot.

As well as the National Museum (formerly a Royal Palace), we visit a number of historic temples including Wat Sen, Wat Xieng Thong and Visoun (That Makmo). The beautiful old French mansions that grace the city add a historical reminder of its colonial past. In fact, the city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This afternoon we will attend a private ceremony in a family home within the small village of Ban Khomkhuang. These gentle villagers led by their Nai Ban (village chief) offer visitors tidings of good luck and fortune for their life and travels.

Tonight we take in a performance of the Royal Ballet, a provincial government group of some 60 artists that re-establishes the ancient Lao Ramayana or Pharak Pharam ballet of Luang Prabang.

Overnight in Luang Prabang.

 

Day 6: Luang Prabang, Kuang Sy Waterfall, K’hmu Villages

Early this morning we have an optional trip to see the monks receiving alms, followed by the colorful morning market. We return to the hotel for breakfast.

After breakfast we visit a small ethnology museum before heading to Kuang Si Waterfall. Enroute we visit a K'hmu ethnic village to learn about their culture. On our return to Luang Prabang, we will visit the village of Xang Khong to see traditional Sa paper being made and a small weaving workshop.

Overnight in Luang Prabang.

 

Day 7: Luang Prabang, Elephant Village Sanctuary

Today is a full day of Elephant riding and trekking. Just 15 km outside of Luang Prabang, this is an easy day tour combining a few highlights that includes village visits and a hike to a baby elephant nursery.

Overnight in Luang Prabang.

 

Day 8: Bhudda Cave, to Nong Khiaw

We say goodbye to the charming city of Luang Prabang and being the remote Northern Heritage route. Our first stop is Bhudda Cave (Pak Ou Cave), a religious retreat set in the stunning limestone cliffs. Thousands of Buddha images have been left here by pilgrims to pay homage to Buddha and his teachings.

We continue onto Nong Khaiw

Overnight in Nong Khiaw.

 

Day 9: Boat Journey through Mountains and Villages

This morning our boat cruise takes us up the Nam Ou River passing dramatic limestone cliffs that border the river. We visit rural villages such as a traditional Lao weaving village.
We continue to Ban Muang Ngoi for lunch before we begin a short trek through some rice paddy fields. Here we visit a historical cave used as a bomb shelter during the Indochina war.
Afterwards, we cruise back down river to Nong Khiaw while enjoying the sunset.

Overnight in Nong Khiaw.

 

Day 10: Northern Heritage Route to Sam Neua

Today we start our long day of driving through magnificent scenery, driving past remote hilltribe villages. We will make many stops today as there is no shortage of options which may include scenic waterfalls, remote villages, beautiful vistas and even some that are unexpected and spontaneous.

Overnight in Sam Neua.

 

Day 11: Viengxay Caves, Sam Neua sites

In an area dominated by limestone cliffs close to the Vietnam border, we explore 3 or 4 of the more than 400 caves used as shelter for 20,000 people during the war. The caves that we visit were used as the headquarters of the Pathet Lao Revolutionary Movement during the Indochina war.

After lunch, we visit a market, war monument and the temples of Wat Ongteu and Wat Phoxaysanlau. We may have an opportunity to speak to some of the monks.

Overnight Sam Nuea.

 

Day 12: To Plain of Jars (Phonsavan)

Today, we drive to Phonsavan (our home base for the Plain of Jars) along one of the most beautiful routes in Laos. Driving through the mountainous region, we make stops to explore villages and take in the scenery from various viewpoints.

Overnight in Phonsavan.

 

Day 13: Plain of Jars (UNESCO)

We spend the day exploring the Plain of Jars, one of the mysteries of the archeological world. The site has been placed on UNESCO's Tentative List, which means it is presently the focus of international Safeguarding Campaigns. Hundreds of massive clay and stone jars litter the landscape of the area, some of which are as large as 6 tonnes! It is not known what the jars were used for; many theories abound, including that they may have been used as wine holders or for funerary urns. It is known that the jars are over 2,000 years old.

In the late afternoon, we visit the Lone Buffalo Foundation, a special project that offers young people free English courses and develop other skills. Lone Buffalo will be happy to include you in the lesson.

Overnight in Phonsaven.

 

Day 14: UXO and Organic Silk Farm (MAG optional)

Today we visit the local (Phonsaven) market and a UXO (Unexploded Ordnance) Removing Unit to learn about the important work that is being done in this area. We are also going to visit a very progressive Organic Silk Farm.

Time permitting, we will visit MAG (Mines Advisory Group), a not-for-profit organisation clearing landmines, unexploded ordnance ( UXO) and other remnants of the war.

In the afternoon, transfer to the airport for your flight to Vientiane.

Overnight in Vientiane.

 

Day 15: Vientiane

After breakfast we embark on a city tour of Vientiane the capital of Laos, located on the banks of the Mekong River. Founded in 1563, Vientiane is known for its great sunsets, riverside restaurants and well-preserved colonial architecture.

We visit Wat Ho Phra Keo, Wat Sisaket, That Luang and the town's own Arc de Triomphe, Patuxai. We also visit a textile museum and Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE), whose goal is to ensure that people with physical disabilities have local, free access to a quality, nationally-managed rehabilitation service.

Overnight in Vientiane.

 

Day 16: Fly to Pakse

Today we fly to Pakse. Upon arrival, we drive to Tad Fane, then continue to Tadlo via Thawing Paksong. We visit the minority villages of Katu, Ta Oyh, Ngaio and some of the Lao lum villages. We will also have the chance to visit Tad Phasuam where many tribes and their cultures are in one place.

Overnight in Pakse.

 

Day 17: Start 3 day Mekong River Cruise, Pre-Angkorian Ruins of Wat Phou

Today we start our 3 day journey on the Mekong aboard our traditional teak barge. We are transferred to a longtail riverboat for your 2.5 hour journey to Champassak, where we board Wat Phou teak barge (a traditional and elegant Mekong boat) before being served lunch on deck. The highlight of the afternoon is the Vat Phou ruins - the majestic pre-Angkorian 10th century temple complex and boat's namesake. You have time to visit the museum at the ruins site, walk up to the highest temple and take as many photos as you would like. As dusk falls, we transfer you back to the Vat Phou boat for a chance to enjoy the tropical sunset on the deck. Dinner is served on board, while the boat docks for the night alongside a remote Laotian village.

Please Note: the 3 day river cruise may run in reverse.

Overnight on Board Wat Phou teak barge.

 

Day 18: To Khong Island, Fishing village, French Railway & Waterfall

After breakfast, we journey to the historically significant Khon Pha Pheng waterfalls, the "Niagara of the East". We continue on to the fishing village of Xieng Di for a taste of the local cuisine. After lunch, small boats will take us to Khong Island to see the old French railway and walk the bridge that links Khong and Det Islands. We end at Khong Island village of Ban Veuthong, where you board the Wat Phou teak barge (a traditional and elegant Mekong boat) for a sunset cruise and dinner on the Mekong river, docking riverside for the night.

Overnight on Board Wat Phou teak barge.

 

Day 19: Pakse, Farewll Dinner

Today we say farewell to the mighty Mekong River and our teak barge as we return to Pakse.

In the evening, we can reflect on the incredible memories during our Laos adventure during out Farewell Dinner as we depart for Bangkok the following day.

Overnight in Pakse.

 

Day 20: Pakse, Fly to Bangkok

Today, we say goodbye to the fascinating country of Laos and fly back to Bangkok for dinner and overnight at our airport hotel, Bangkok.

 

Day 21: Departure

Our Laos adventure concludes with your transfer to Bangkok International Airport for your departure flight.

 
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