Laos is a charming country that endears itself to all who visit through its relaxed attitude and warm smiles. The country is the least developed of its neighboring cousins but it is catching up fast. The towns are opening up, and the infrastructure is slowly improving. The visitor is rewarded with a sense of going back in time, to when the rat race was not upon us and that community and hospitality were a source of pride. It is not hard to see why this small, land locked country often ends up at the top of peoples lists of favorite countries. It is somewhere that has lessons to teach us all.
Day 1: Chiang Khong
Today you fly from Bangkok to Chiang Rai and are met by your local guide for your transfer to Chiang Khong, a border town nestling on the banks of the Mekong. Your hotel has a great view over the river for you to contemplate as you sip a gin and tonic at sunset.
Day 2: Pakbeng
This morning your guide will assist you to cross the border and meet with your Laos guide to commence your 2 day cruise. Border formalities finished your board your private boat to begin the adventure of a scenic river journey on the majestic Mekong in one of the traditional slow boats. You will pass stunning landscapes and experience the unique life on the river banks of the Mekong. This evening your boat will moor up in the small town of Pakbeng where you will stay in a hotel for the night.
Day 3: Luang Prabang
You continue your tour on the Mekong on a traditional slow boat. A stop at the holy Pak Ou Cave is included as well as a village visit along the way. In the afternoon arrival on to UNESCO world heritage town of Luang Prabang to include sunset at Mount Phousi.
Day 4: Luang Prabang
After sitting in a boat for 2 days the right way to explore this wonderful place is by bike. Full day sightseeing in and around Luang Prabang to see temples, monasteries, local markets and other highlights including Wat Xieng Thong and Wat Mai.
Day 5: Luang Prabang
A day around town with some great natural highlights. In the morning we visit the spectacular Kuang Si Waterfalls with its blue water and plunging falls. In the afternoon we explore some of the local villages as we return for our final night in the this picturesque town.
Today we transfer by winding road from Luang Prabang to Phonsavanh, home of the Plain of Jars and a world heritage site. No one really knows what the jars were used for, some suspect funery urns, others think they were used to store the local hooch! We take time to explore some of the sites today
Day 7: Vientiane
We continue our sightseeing program here including the old town on Xieng Khuoang virtually destroyed during the CIA bombing of the region. The area is in fact the most heavily bombed part of Laos, that has the unfortunate title of being the most heavily bombed country in the world. Statistics say that more tonnes of bombs were dropped on the country between 1964 and 1973 than in the whole of WW2 in all theatres of war. We take time to meet with MAG, a organisation based here helping the local communities to identify the dangers of unexploded weapons still found on a daily basis. In the late afternoon we catch our flight on to the capital of Vientiane.
Day 8: Vientiane
Today we take the time to discover the most important highlights in the capital of Laos. National monuments, the famous Pha Tat Luang, Ho Pha Keo and other monasteries and sights are all featured in our full day sightseeing program.
Day 9: Tad Lo
Today we take a flight from Vientiane to Pakse and then by vehicle to Tad Lo where an overnight stop near the waterfalls is arranged.
Day 10: Khong Island (the Four Thousand Islands)
In the morning we go out to explore some villages and sights around Tad Lo. We then continue by private vehicle to visit Wat Phu, a remnant of the Khmer kingdoms that once dominated the region. Tonight we stay on Khong Island, one of the up and coming locations in the country.
We travel by boat on the Mekong from Khong Island to Khon Island. Here we learn about the history and the bizarre landscape. Ban Khon village and the remote Khmer temple Wat Khon Tai are on our program today. The majestic Li Phi waterfalls are visited on our tour as well as the simple Lao life along the way on the islands. Overnight at Khon Island
Day 11: Pakse
Today we take a wonderful pleasure trip to the massive Khon Phapheng Waterfalls, the biggest falls in South-East-Asia. We spend our last evening on the program in the provincial capital of Pakse.
Day 12 Program Ends
This morning we transfer to the Thai border to catch our flight back to Bangkok in time to connect to our onward journey home.
Day 1: Vientiane
Arriving in Vientiane the visitor is struck by how calm and peaceful it is for a capital city. include: the gleaming gold stupa of Pha That Luang; the former royal temple of Ho Pha Keo, now a museum with beautiful examples of Buddhist sculpture; Wat Si Saket, the oldest surviving monastery; and Patuxai, a monumental arch inspired by the Arc de Triomphe, but adorned with Lao motifs.
Day 2: Vang Vieng
As you travel by road to Vang Vieng, the landscape slowly changes from flat green fertile plains and salt fields to dramatic steep sided karsts carved out of red sandstone. Along the way take a boat ride on Nam Ngum Lake, a serene lake home to floating restaurants and small islands and surrounded by mountains.
Day 3: Phonsavanh
The town of Vang Vieng is nestled beside the Nam Song River amid stunningly beautiful limestone karst terrain that is honeycombed with unexplored tunnels and caverns. In Tham Xang Cave, also known as Elephant Cave, there are numerous Buddha images and the elephant shaped stalactites which give the cave its name. The cave is an important Buddhist shrine and pilgrims come to sprinkle water on the elephant. Travel from Vang Vieng to Phonsavanh stopping at local villages along the way.
Phonsavanh is the location of the mysterious and ancient Plain of Jars, a large area where huge jars of unknown origin are scattered around the plateau. The jars have been carved out of solid rock and vary in size from 1 to 3 metres high and weigh up to six tonnes each. There are several different theories as to the purpose of the jars, which are estimated to be 2,500 to 3,000 years old. Lao stories and legends claim there was once a race of giants who inhabited the area and that the ancient King Khun Chuang had the jars constructed in order to store wine for the celebration of his conquest of the province in the 6th century. Continue on to Muang Khoun, an ancient capital, completely surrounded by mountains, which was once a stronghold for the Xieng Khouang royal family. It was destroyed during the Indochina War but was rebuilt with rows of wooden Lao houses.
Day 5: Luang Prabang
After a visit to the local market, set off to Luang Prabang along mountain roads with stunning views of the forested valleys and karst formations. Stop at Muang Sui home to ruins of many old temples, and Nong Tang, a beautiful natural lake surrounded by tall limestone cliffs. Muang Sui was a landing spot for US aircraft and witnessed heavy fighting at the time of the Secret War, evidence of which is obvious in the cratered landscape and numerous war relics, such as tanks and bomb shells. Explore the recently discovered extensive cave network of Tham Pha containing a 5 metre-high Buddha image dating from 777 AD, surrounded by smaller gold and wooden statues.
Day 6: Luang Prabang
Set between two rivers, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Luang Prabang is an enchanting town filled with historic temples and colonial style buildings. Along with many other temples, you can visit the city’s oldest living temple, the 16th century Wat Visoun that contains a collection of antique wooden Buddhas. However, Wat Xieng Thong is the crowning jewel of all the monasteries and temples in the city, and its many ornate buildings feature exquisite mosaic and gold-stencilled murals. For a unique insight into the history of Laos, stop in at the National Museum; this former royal residence has been preserved as it was when the royal family last lived here. Early evening, climb the steps that lead up to the small temples atop Mount Phou Si to catch the sunset and admire the beautiful views over the town and river.
Travel up the Mekong River by boat to the steep limestone cliffs overlooking the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers. Explore the Tham Pak Ou Caves filled with hundreds of Buddha images. On the return, stop at rural villages to see the production of local rice wine whisky, traditional hand woven cotton and silk, and sa (mulberry) paper.
Day 8: Program Ends
Your program ends today after breakfast. Luang Prabang has daily flights connecting with Bangkok and Hanoi for your onward travel plans.