This 12-day tour of Laos and the Mekong River introduces you to the highlights of Laos and Thailand. Start in Vientiane, where you'll stay at a fantastic hotel, and visit all the beautiful attractions of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then, cruise the Mekong from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai on the Thai-Laos border and cross into Thailand. While in Thailand, delight in the magnificent mountain scenery, observe traditional rural life in Chiang Rai and visit southern Chinese-style houses in the village of Mae Salong.
Day 1: London – Vientiane
Fly overnight from the UK to Vientiane.
Day 2: Arrive in Vientiane
Arrive at Vientiane airport, where you will be met by a local guide and transferred to your hotel for check-in.
Day 3: Vientiane
After breakfast at the hotel, you will be picked up for a city tour of Vientiane, which will take you to all of the main historic highlights. First, visit Wat Sisaket, the oldest original temple in Vientiane, which features remarkable frescoes and over 6,000 images of the Buddha. Nearby is Haw Phra Kaew, which contains some of the finest Buddhist sculptures and artefacts in the country. The main structure originally housed the famous Emerald Buddha that now resides in Bangkok.
Other famous landmarks that you will visit include the Phra That Luang stupa, which was built by King Sethtathirat in 1566 and is now considered a national symbol. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, before taking a 25km drive to the south of Vientiane in order to visit the Xieng Khuan Buddha Park. Built in 1958 by a Buddhist monk, the park is located on the banks of the Mekong River and is home to a collection of bizarre stone monuments and huge sculptures depicting the Buddhist and Hindu deities and demons.
Day 4: Vientiane – Luang Prabang & Walking Highlights Tour
Transfer to the airport for a flight north to Luang Prabang. The UNESCO World Heritage Site town is surrounded by thickly forested mountains and situated at the confluence of the Khan and Mekong Rivers, and has a tranquil, old-world charm. When you arrive, transfer to your hotel before enjoying lunch at a local restaurant. Then, head out with your guide for a walking tour of the city.
Start with a visit to Wat Visoun, the oldest temple that’s still in use in Luang Prabang. The temple dates back to 1513 and contains a collection of antique wooden Buddha. Climb the 350 steps to the summit of Phou Sii Hill, which stands right in the centre of the small city, in order to enjoy commanding views for many miles in each direction. Visit Luang Prabang’s National Museum, formally the Royal Palace, where you can admire a collection of artefacts that belong to the former Laotian Royal Family. Also take in Wat Mai, a temple with a five-tiered roof that epitomises the graceful Luang Prabang architectural style. Finally, visit the Wat Xieng Thon, often said to be Luang Prabang’s most beautiful temple.
Day 5: Luang Prabang – Living Land & Kuang Si Waterfalls
After breakfast at your hotel, take a tour with the Living Land Project. this is a sustainable company set up in Luang Prabang where guests can learn about the importance of sustainable farming methods and how the produce grown can help support local communities. Enjoy the chance to learn about rice farming and the process of planting and harvesting in the rice paddies. The project provides many benefits for the local community and only employs locals or helps to train young members of the community.
Later, travel out of Luang Prabang for about an hour to the idyllic Kuang Si Waterfalls. You will get the opportunity along the way to visit a Bear Rescue Centre, which is a sanctuary for the region's endangered black bears. Enjoy a picnic lunch near the falls, which cascade hundreds of feet into a series of cool, turquoise pools that it's possible to swim in. Return to Luang Prabang, and make a stop at the Mekong Riverside Garden. The business provides sustainable employment to rural residents through the production and marketing of high-quality textiles. In the late afternoon, enjoy Laotian refreshments and snacks on the banks of the Mekong before spending the rest of the day at your leisure.
Day 6: Luang Prabang – Mahout
Start the day early with a visit to witness the tradition of Tak Bat, where hundreds of saffron-clad monks silently walk through the streets at dawn to collect alms (offerings of food). Afterwards, take a stroll with your local guide through the colourful, open-air morning market that’s located in the town centre and where local people buy and sell their produce.
After breakfast, take a journey to the Elephant Village eco-project, a 2,000-acre elephant sanctuary in the beautiful and unspoilt Nam Khan River Valley. Lao elephants were traditionally used for logging, but as the forests have disappeared so have the animals. The project invests in community-based eco-programmes and seeks to give elephants a new home. After lunch at the sanctuary, either return to the hotel for spa treatments, or float back downriver to Luang Prabang. In the evening, attend a traditional Baci ceremony and dance performance during which you will receive tidings of good luck for your travels; animism has always played a major part in the religious lives of Lao people, and the Baci is performed to ward off bad spirits.
Day 7: Luang Prabang
After breakfast, spend the day at leisure relaxing, shopping and exploring this atmospheric small town.
Day 8: Luang Prabang – Pakbeng by Luang Say Cruise
After breakfast, transfer to the pier and board a boat that leaves at 7:00am for a cruise on the Mekong River to Luang Say Lodge in Pakbeng. Enjoy a continental breakfast on board before stopping off opposite the mouth of the Nam Ou River in order to visit the Pak Ou Caves. Explore the Tham Ting and Tham Phoum caves, and discover thousands of Buddha images. Enjoy a buffet lunch on board before stopping off to visit Ban Baw and observe the local village’s traditional way of life. The boat will arrive at Luang Say Lodge before sunset for an overnight stay....
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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