Following road # 13


ITINERARY: Chiang Rai – Lanjia Lodge – Chiang Khong – Houay Xay – Luang Namtha – Oudomxay – Muang La – Muang Khua – Nam Ou River – Nong Khiau – Pak Ou Caves – Luang Prabang – Kuang Si waterfalls – Plain of Jars / Xieng Khuang – Vang Vieng – Vientiane – Kong Lor cave – Thakhek – Savannakhet – Pakse – Boloven Plateau – Champassak – Vat Phou – Xe Pian National Park / Ban Kiet Ngong – 4,000 Iles (Done Khone) – Champassak

DURATION: 21 days and 20 nights on the spot

Day 1

Arrival in Chiang Rai from Bangkok – Lanjia Lodge (D)

Assuming arrival in Chiang Rai by morning flight from Bangkok.

Upon arrival, meet your guide in the arrival hall at Chiang Rai airport and transfer for around 2.5 hours to Lanjia Lodge.

Check-in at the lodge.

Lunch on own expenses at the Lodge.

14h10, get a first-hand experience on how to make Hmong batik handkerchief with Hmong ladies (about 45 minutes). Alternatively, you can learn how to make and set animal traps.

Then you will help villagers to plant trees at the Herbal Plant Nursery Project. The project is dedicated to His Majesty the King to commemorate his 84th birthday on December 5, 2011. The main objective of the project is to improve the quality of life of local people by educating them on how to grow vegetables and the importance of the eco-system in their village.

Dinner while watching traditional Hmong performances

Day 2

Lanjia Lodge – Chiang Khong – Houay Xai – Luang Namtha (B/L)

Early breakfast at the lodge and transfer (without guide) for around 30 minutes to the Thai-Lao border at the newly opened Friendship Bridge over the Mekong. Clear Thai immigration formalities, take the local shuttle bus to cross the Mekong (it costs 30 THB to pay on the spot). Cross the Mekong into Laos.

Note: Upon your arrival at Houay Xai International border check point, it is possible to obtain your visa on arrival (VOA). Simply bring 1 passport picture along with between USD 30 and 45 / person in cash, visa fees varying from one nationality to another. Make sure your passport is valid at least 6 months beyond your return departure date. Visa on Arrival forms are available before immigration counters.

Welcome by your Lao English-speaking tour guide past the immigration counters.

Visit the Golden Triangle on Lao side and then continue your excursion to Luang Namtha. It will take around 4 hours driving. Lunch at a local restaurant en-route.

Check-in at the hotel and free time at leisure.

Accommodation in Luang Namtha.

Day 3

Luang Namtha Activity (B/L)

Luang Namtha > Nam Ha NPA > Khmu-Lanten-Tai Dam Village > Luang Namtha

We depart from Luang Namtha at 8:30am and drive for 30 minutes southwards to Ban Jaluensouk (Khmu village) which is the starting point of our trek. On the way we pick up a village guide who is very familiar with the area. This trek of about 8-10 km is not too difficult. First, we will go uphill for a while before the terrain gets more flat. Only during the rainy season that it may be bit slippery from time to time. We will cross a few small and beautiful streams. The dense canopy is shading us and keeps the temperatures comfortably cool and the hike enjoyable.

We will stop and spend some time wherever we find something interesting and our experienced local guide will do the explanations. At noon, we will enjoy a rustic picnic lunch with traditional Lao food, accompanied by the music of bird songs and chirping cicadas. After lunch, we walk to meet with the waiting car which will bring us through to some open rice paddy fields with some good views. On the way back to town and the hotel, we may stop in some villages such as a Lanten village which is known for its paper made of bamboo pulp, or a Tai Dam village where the women are experts of cotton and silk weaving.

Approximately: 1 hour transfer & 4 hours trekking

Return to your hotel and free at leisure.

Accommodation in Luang Namtha.

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Day 4

Luang Namtha – Oudomxay – Muang La (B/L)

After breakfast, visit Luang Nam Tha and Ban Namdee before taking the road to Oudomxay (about 3:30 without stops). Lunch at a local restaurant along the way.

Continue to the village of Muang La, nestled in a beautiful natural setting and crossed by the peaceful Nam Pak River.

Installation in your rooms, and free time to enjoy the natural hot springs.

Accommodation in Muang La.

Day 5

Muang La – Muang Khua – Nong Khiau (B/L)

After breakfast, transfer by toad to Muang Khua. Muang Khua is located on the banks of the Nam Ou and Nam Bak and it is the last step on the road towards Vietnam and Dien Bien Phu. The region of Muang Khua mainly a home of Akha, the Khmu and Tai Dam (Black Tai), but these ethnic groups are not very visible in the city.

Then, embark on your private local slow boat for a cruise down on the Nam Ou River to Nong Khiau. Your cruise will take around 4 hours and lunch will be served on board or on a sandy bank or islet.

Arrive in Nong Khiau, check-in at your hotel and free at leisure.

Enjoy the beautiful surroundings of your resort, with its pool overlooking the Nam Ou River.

Accommodation in Nong Khiau.

Day 6

Nong Khiau – Pak Ou Caves – Luang Prabang (B/L)

After breakfast at the hotel, then your guide will pick you up and continue your excursion by road down to Ban Pak Ou.

Lunch at a local restaurant at the confluence.

Then, cross by boat to visit the mysterious Pak Ou Caves. In Pak Ou, thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues are crowded into the two caves carved out of a towering limestone cliff. They range in size from a few centimeters to the size of a human.

Continue your cruise downstream to Luang Prabang and stop at Ban Xang Hai, a village famous for its rice liquor locally called “Lao-Lao”. Villagers distillate rice in a very old fashion way. The bravest will dare sampling the local specialties!

You will arrive in Luang Prabang’s pier before sunset. Pick up and transfer to hotel for check-in.

Then, short visit to Phou Sy hill. The hill commands great views over the town, the Mekong and the Nam Khan rivers and the mountainous ranges. It takes you 328 steps to reach the top, and at sunset set, the changing colors of the sky are particularly spectacular. The light reflecting on the golden spire of the temple at the top is also beautiful. The stairs are lined up with flamboyant and frangipani trees providing a deserved shade as you walk up and down.

Once back to ground level, stop at the awakening Hmong minority people Night Market.  It is held daily in the streets around the National Museum. Villagers come here to sell their handicrafts.

Accommodation in Luang Prabang.

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Day 7

Luang Prabang (B/L)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Half day city tour with essentials:

The National Museum that used to be the former Royal Palace where is presented the “Pra bang” sacred golden statue, giving its name to the town.

Then visit Vat Mai, adjacent to the National Museum.

Vat Sene, one of the most beautiful temples in town, with its red walls and golden bas-reliefs.

TAEC, the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre. Depicts Laos ‘rich ethnic diversity with themed rotating exhibits. It is hosted in a former French colonial times judge’s mansion.

End with the Heritage House being a perfect example of Luang Prabang traditional building, made of wood on poles, at the back of Vat Xieng Muane.

Drive to Ock Pop Tok weaving centre, on the bank of the Mekong. Enjoy lunch at “Silk Road Café

Ock Pop Tok dyeing session. The Natural Dyes Class is an introduction to silkworms and silk types. In this class, students have a hands-on experience with natural dye preparation and complete their own color dyes. At the end of class you will take home 3 dyed silk skeins. Many of the natural dyes used are grown in their garden. Just to name but a few colors are turquoise, ochre, golden, ivory, emerald green, etc.

Accommodation in Luang Prabang.

Day 8

Luang Prabang – Kuang Si waterfall – Luang Prabang (B/L)

05h40 – At discretion: Head by Tuk-Tuk to the peninsula to witness and attend alms giving. 06h – Long lines of monks and novices stroll the street of the town center to collect their daily food subsistence from the worshippers. This ancient ritual is locally known as “tak bat”.

Continue with a visit to the open-air food market that is held daily in the streets nearby the former Royal Palace. Lao people still like buying fresh food. While fridges are widely spread in households, people prefer going to local markets and returning home with fresh ingredients.

Return to the hotel for breakfast.

Optional: French style breakfast at Café Vat Sene bakery. Indulge in a croissant, fruit juice, coffee or tea plus French toasts with butter and jam. Lao people have inherited the culture of eating bread from the French. It is not unusual for Laotians to have a sandwich for lunch or on the go when they are traveling. It is also highly regarded in wedding receptions, while saucing the juice of a meat ragout.  + USD 13 / person

Visit to Kuang Si waterfall, 32 km south-west of Luang Prabang.  En-route you will make stops to visit ethnic minority villages. Kuang Si is a good place to get more familiar with endemic and endangered Asian Black Bear at the Rescue Center.

It is also possible to hike to the top of the falls via a steep trail, and if the weather is good, you might enjoy a swim in the crystal clear water ponds at the foot of the falls. Enjoy picnic lunch on site.

This afternoon, cross the Mekong to Ban Xieng Mene and ascend to the top of the hill and enjoy the views over Luang Prabang form Vat Chompet. Go down the steep staircase and head to Vat Longkoun, this very distinctive temple complex that stands out for its timber post facades. If you are fortunate, take a chance to talk to the small monk community that gathers in the afternoon under the large and old mango tree in the front yard. Return to town and free time at leisure.

Around 19h00, head to Hive Bar and enjoy the Ethnik Fashion Show with snacks and soft drinks.

Accommodation in Luang Prabang.

Day 9

Luang Prabang – Xieng Khuang (the Plain of Jars) (B/L)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Depart Luang Prabang overland to Xieng Khuang Province. Its capital city is Phonsavan. Your driving journey will take around 6 hours up and down the curvy mountainous roads of northeast Laos. Along the way, you will visit some minority villages too and stop for lunch at a local restaurant in Phou Khoune.

Upon arrival, visit the Plain of Jars (site 1) which features 250 jars weighing from 600 kg to one ton) and then head to town and visit MAG Exhibition Center (Mines Advisory Group) in Laos.

Check-in at your hotel and free time.

Accommodation in Phonsavan.

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Day 10

Xieng Khuang (B/L)

Breakfast at hotel.

Today, we will visit the Plain of Jars for Sites 2 & 3 passing through several Hmong villages where it will be interesting to see the remains of the bombs and UXO that are recycled for fencing, flower pots and other everyday objects.

Lunch will be taken in Phonsavan at a local restaurant, before continuing to Muang Khoune.

Muang Khoune, former capital of Xieng Khuang. Visit Lao Loum and Hmong villages. We will visit also Vat Phiawat and then return to Phonsavan. Visit the local market where the ethnic minorities (Thai Dam, Hmong, and Phuan) from the surrounding villages gather every morning.

Accommodation in Phonsavan.

Day 11

Xieng Khuang – Vang Vieng (B/L)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Leave Xieng Khuang town by road down to Vang Vieng. The drive will take around 6 hours passing by ever green mountainous landscapes.

Stop en route to visit some villages along the way and recommend lunch a rest for lunch at Phou Pieng Fa restaurant. The site with amazing panoramic 360* views over the valley.

Arrive in Vang Vieng, in the second half of the afternoon.

Check-in at the hotel and time for freshening up.

Light boating on the Nam Song River before sunset.

Accommodation in Vang Vieng.

Day 12

Vang Vieng – Vientiane (B/L)

Breakfast at hotel.

Visit a caving at Blue Lagoon (Phou Kham cave). 15 minutes driving through the countryside will take you to a cliff with a cave hosting Buddha images. Ascend and refresh in these highly perched grotto. At the foot of the site runs a stream with turquoise waters in which you can swim!

Return to town and lunch at local restaurant.

Then leave Vang Vieng and continue a drive to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. It takes around 3 hours.

Check-in at the hotel in Vientiane and free time at leisure.

Accommodation in Vientiane.

Following road # 13

Day 13

Vientiane (B/L)

Breakfast at hotel.

Morning sightseeing tour, start with Vat Sisaket: the only temple left intact after the Siamese invasion in 1828. It shelters hundreds of statues of Buddha in its walls. And continue with Vat Phra Keo, now used as a religious museum where you can see Lao and Khmer works of art. It used to host the “Emerald Buddha” that is now on display at Bangkok’s Royal Palace.

That Luang, the holiest place in Laos and object of an amazing pilgrimage in November. It is iconic and represented on all bank notes and official stamps. It is a golden stupa that crowns a small hill.

Patuxai Monument, also called Anousavari, and enjoy a panoramic view over the city from the roof. It is Vientiane’s own Arc de Triomphe that is located at the top of Lan Xang Avenue, the Champs Elysees of the Lao capital.

Lunch at Phakao Lao restaurant.

Visit to COPE center with a part of Laos history that is not very well unknown: the Secret War, which corresponds to the Vietnam War (also known as American War from a Vietnamese stand point). Laos is unfortunately the country which has received the most bombs per capita in the entire history. Still today, a good deal of those unexploded ordnance (UXOs) explode as people work their fields and children play in the countryside. Laos is actively fighting the use of these cluster bombs and the COPE center will depict and inform visitors on these issues. And part of the complex is actually a medical center where disabled people get new hopes as they receive prosthesis and get new mobility after reeducation.

Visit Vat Simuang and then free at leisure to stroll along the Mekong River.

Accommodation in Vientiane.

Day 14

Vientiane – Paksan – Pakading – Kong Lor (B/L)

Early wake up, breakfast and departure of Vientiane at 7:30 am to the south, in direction of Kong Lor.

We will pass the towns of Paksan (where the Nam San River flows into the Mekong) and Pakading (very nice view of Nam Kading) and wonderful views of karst mountainous.

Casual lunch en-route.

We will arrive in Kong Lor village in the early afternoon.

Quick drop off the luggage at the guesthouse.

Then, we will reach the entrance of the famous Kong Lor Caves that we explore by pirogue in the dark, only lit by head torches. This cave is 7.5km long and is crossed throughout by the Hinboun River. The sometimes 30m wide river and up to 100m high is of a pristine beauty, featuring sandy beaches and various remarkable rock formations.

Return to your hotel, check-in and overnight at Sala Kong Lor.

Day 15

Kong Lor – Thakhek (B/L)

Breakfast and then we will keep driving to Thakhek. Thakhek is nestled on the banks of Mekong facing the city of Nakhon Phanom in Thailand.

Be surprised by the quaint Thakhek, its fairly well preserved buildings from the French colonial era, peaceful atmosphere where time seems to stand still.

We will have lunch there, on the banks of the river.

This afternoon, we will leave to explore the surrounding area of the city, in a beautiful region made of limestone formations, cliffs and mysterious caves.

Visit the cave of Tham Pa Fa (called the Cave of Buddhas). More than 200 images of Buddha are displayed inside the cave. This cave was discovered recently in April 2004 by a villager.

We then drive to Tha Falang sector which was very popular with the French community in Thakhek in colonial times.

Back to Thakhek for your evening.

Accommodation in Thakhek.

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Day 16

Thakhek – Savannakhet (B/L)

Breakfast at hotel.

This morning, visit Vat Sikhottabong one of the holiest sites in Laos, on the banks of the Mekong. It is located around 6 kilometers from the town. Then continue driving to Savannakhet, about 2 hours away, by a small country road along the Mekong.

Lunch at local restaurant on the road.

We stop at That Ing Hang, a sacred Buddhist site in the vicinity.

Arrival in Savannakhet and check-in.

We will then explore the city and its historical center dating back to the French colonial era.

At the end of day, stroll at sunset on the banks of the Mekong River with its old colonial buildings that make the reputation of this city, today a commercial hub of central-south Laos.

Accommodation in Savannakhet.

Day 17

Savannakhet – Pakse – Boloven Plateau (B/L)

Early breakfast at the hotel.

Leave Savannakhet early for a drive toward Pakse.

Then, drive up to the Boloven Plateau to visit some waterfalls and ethnic villages along the way. Your tour will start by a first visit at Pha Soum & Tad Lo waterfalls.

Lunch at a local restaurant.

This afternoon, continue toward Paksong. En-route, time permitting, visit ethnic villages (Katu, Alak, Lavens) and a mulberry farm, close to Ban Thatheng.

Check-in and free at leisure.

Accommodation at Sinouk Coffee Resort.

Day 18

Paksong – Vat Phou – Kingfisher (B/L)

After breakfast, leave the resort for a drive to Champassak. En-route visit Tad Yuang & Tad Fane waterfalls.

Visit Vat Phou, the second UNESCO World Heritage site of the Lao PDR. Vat Phou was a part of the Khmer empire, centered on Angkor to the southwest, at least as early as the reign of Yashovarman in the early 10th century.

Lunch at Inthira’s restaurant in Champasak.

In the afternoon, continue your tour to visit Ban Kiet Ngong, in the Xe Pian National Park. Enjoy a 90-minute elephant back ride around Phou Asa, this rocky hill, surrounded with deep tropical forests.

Accommodation at Kingfisher Lodge.

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Day 19

Kingfisher – “4,000 Islands” – Khone Island (B/L)

For those interested, early bird watching from 6am until 9am. Return to the hotel and check-out.

Breakfast, then, transfer to Ban Hat Xay Khum to cross the river to Don Det & Don Khone Islands by local pirogue. Bicycling tour around the Islands, also see the old locomotive, railway and colonial bridge built by the French to avoid navigating on the rapids and waterfalls that abound on this section of the Mekong and visit Li Phi falls.

If time permits, you can may want to try spotting Irrawaddy freshwater dolphins. Ban Hang Khon is one of the rare places on earth to spot these endangered mammals.

Accommodation at Sala Don Khone.

Day 20

Khone Island – Champasak (B/L)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Return to Ban Nakasang by boat and continue your visit by road to visit the largest waterfall in South East Asia, “Khone Phapheng Waterfall”.

After lunch at a local restaurant, head back to Champassak town and check-in at hotel.

Free at leisure.

Accommodation at the River Resort.

Day 21

Champasak – Pakse Departure (B)

Breakfast at hotel.

Free at leisure till your transfer to airport for your flight to the next destination.

Option: Transfer to Ubon Ratchathani’s airport for your onward flight to Bangkok.

End of services

Following road # 13

 

Each program is absolutely customizable in terms of duration, itinerary, stops, types of accommodation, inclusions and activities. Anything actually! In line with your wishes and budget constraints.

For your enjoyment, we recommend you the following hotels during your tour of Laos: