From Shangri La to the Golden Triangle: follow the mountain roads and the meanders of the Mekong river


ITINERARY: Lijiang – Shangri La – Shaxi – Xizhou – Dali – Kunming – Jianshui – Yuanyang – Honghe – Jinghong – Mohan – Boten – Luang Prabang – Pakbeng – Houay Xai – Chiang Khong – Chiang Saen – Chiang Rai

DURATION: 20 days and 19 nights on the spot

Day 1

Arrival in Lijiang

You will arrive in Lijiang, a village habited by the Naxi minority. On the airport you will be welcomed by your guide and transferred to your hotel.

Pay a visit to the Zhongyi market and stroll through the old town, a World Heritage Site of UNESCO. Note that the old town in very touristic.

Install yourself in the hotel that is located away from the tourist bustle of Lijiang and visit the small village Shuhe.

Overnight in Lijiang.

Day 2

Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge (B/L)

(2 hours)

This morning you will cycle around Lijiang’s Naxi villages to Baisha.

After the cycle tour we will go to Qiaotou. On the way there we will make a stop at Shigu Yangtsez, the first bend of the river. Discover the ‘Tiger Leaping Gorge’ deepest and most beautiful gorge in the world.

We will continue to your hotel.

Day 3

Tiger Leaping Gorge – Shangri La (B/L)

(3 hours)

If you want to you can start the day with a small hike up the mountain.

After that we will depart for Shangri La. Once we arrive you can stroll through the old town, attend local dances in the evening and visit the Tibetan monastery in the Guishan hill.

Overnight in Shangri La.

From Shangri La to the Golden Triangle: follow the mountain roads and the meanders of the Mekong river

Day 4

Shangri La (B/L)

First thing in the morning you can visit a Tibetan morning market.

After that you can visit the SongZhanLin lamasery. It is the largest lamasery in the region even though its nickname Little Potola might contradict that.

In the afternoon you can visit Ringha, a small monastery village, discover Tibetan villages, boat on the Lake Napa and admire the beautiful surrounding scenery.

Optional: Walk with a guide from your hotel to the Ringha monastery through Tibetan villages while admiring the stunning landscape of meadows, forests and lake. During your walk, you can visit a friendly Tibetan family and another, small, Tibetan monastery. This walk is not difficult, and you can always reach your car when you are tired. The height difference is also not very important.

Overnight in Shangri La

Day 5

Shangri La – Shibaoshan - Shaxi (B/L)

(9 hours)

Today we will leave towards Shaxi.

On the way we will stop at Shibaoshan where we will visit some caves filled with Buddha sculptures from the Tang period. If you wish, you can walk from the Shibaoshan caves to Shaxi. The road is easy and the scenery is beautiful. Otherwise you can continue by car.

Overnight in Shaxi.

Day 6

Shaxi - Xizhou (B/L)

(3 hours)

Walk around Shaxi this moning. It used to be the economic and cultural hub of the tea and horses caravan route but nowadays it is a peaceful place with temples, a museum and a caravan bridge.

After the tour we will drive to Xizhou and pay a small visit to Zhoucheng village which is known for its craftsmen that make Batik.

The rest of the day is free to explore the surroundings with its many typical Bai houses. If you want to you can have a bike ride through authentic Bai villages on bank of Lake Erhai.

Overnight in Xizhou.

From Shangri La to the Golden Triangle: follow the mountain roads and the meanders of the Mekong river

Day 7

Xizhou – Dali - Kunming (B/L)

Start the day with a stroll around the Xizhou morning market.

We will drive to Dali where you can walk around in the old streets. Then we will visit the Three Pagoda Temple, which is considered as a symbol of the long and distinguished history of Dali.

In the evening we will take you to the Train station where you will hop on the soft sleeper night train to Kunming.

Day 8

Kunming – Shilin - Jianshui (B/L)

(4 hours)

When you arrive in Kunming you will be transferred to your hotel for check in and a breakfast. Afterwards we will continue to Shilin where the stone forest is situated. We propose to visit the forest of Black stones. Which is less touristic and has a magnificent view of the stone formations.

Then we continue to Jianshui, the so called old museum of Chinese architecture. Discover the residence of the Zhu family, built in the late 19th century and now a traditional Chinese architecture model and symbol.

In the evening you can just drive around in Jianshui.

Day 9

Jianshui - Yuanyan (B/L)

(4 hours)

Visit the magnificent temple of Confucius originated from the time of the Mongol occupation in the 13th century.

Then, discover Tuanshan and the garden of the Zhang Family. In this still primitive village you can discover the traditional architecture that exists of delicately carved wooded partitions, lattice windows, door lintel ornaments, and molds of mythical figures or animals. Also pay a visit to the Double Dragon Bride.

Afterwards we will drive to Yuanyang, a region full of Chinese Ethnic minorities.

Overnight in Duoyishu in Yuanyang.

From Shangri La to the Golden Triangle: follow the mountain roads and the meanders of the Mekong river

Day 10

Yunnan (B/L)

(2/3 hours)

In the morning you can enjoy the beautiful sunrise over the rice fields in Duoyishu.

The visit a local market and meet various ethnic minorities that still wear traditional costumes.

Hike and enjoy the scenery of the rice terraces. The hike will take up to 2 / 3 hours, depending on your health. Also visit some Hani and Yi villages.

The best sunset view can be found at the ‘Mouth of the Tiger’ view point.

Night in Duoyishu in Yuanyang.

Day 11

Yuanyang – Honghe (B/L)

(2 hours)

If you wish you can visit the Yangyang morning market before we take off to Honghe where we will visit the rice terraces.

Overnight in Honghe.

Day 12

Honghe – Jinghong (B/L)

(7 hours)

We will drive a beautiful but mountainous road along the Red River to Jinghong.

We will arrive in the evening so you will still have time to stroll along the Mekong River and enjoy the beautiful view of Jinghong.

Overnight in Jinghong

From Shangri La to the Golden Triangle: follow the mountain roads and the meanders of the Mekong river

Day 13

Jinghong – Menghai – Jinghong (B/L)

(3/5 hours)

Today we will go to Menghai. Our first stop will be a local market where they sell tropical fruits and typical Dai food.

Then we hike up the Nanuoshan mountain to discover its tea plantion. The hike will continue through villages like Xiangyangzhai, Guniangzhai and Banpolaozhai where we can meet with local tea producers.

If time permits we can visit a paper factory in Menghun.

Once we are back in Jinghong you can drive through the city.

Overnight in Jinghong

Day 14

Jinghong – Luang Prabang (B/L)

In the morning you will have a transfer waiting to take you to the airport. (Flight : Lao Airlines QV 812, 10h40-10h40. Reserved by yourself or through OneClickToAsia)

Arrive from Jinghong to Luang Prabang in the late morning.

Note: Upon your arrival at Luang Prabang International Airport, 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 in the arrival hall and transfer to your hotel for check-in.

The crown jewel of Laos, Luang Prabang, is perhaps the best preserved traditional town in Southeast Asia. It is a sleepy town that has a long-standing reputation as a stronghold of Lao culture with splendid natural scenery and a sense of timelessness. Magical and charming Luang Prabang is a destination that every traveler has to see once in their lifetime. In 1995, Luang Prabang was voted by the UNESCO as a World Heritage town.

Lunch at local restaurant.

We then ascend Phou Si 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, end your day by stopping 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.

Day 15

Luang Prabang (B/L)

At 0540AM, head by Tuk-Tuk to the peninsula to witness and attend alms giving. 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.

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 traditional weaving center, 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.

From Shangri La to the Golden Triangle: follow the mountain roads and the meanders of the Mekong river

Day 16

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

Breakfast at the hotel.

This morning, excursion by road to Kuang Si waterfall, a picturesque series of cascading waterfalls hidden in the forest (bring your swimsuit if you would like to enjoy a refreshing dip in the cool water of the pools). En route to the falls, your guide will take you to some of the nearby ethnic minority villages for a look into Laotian rural life and a chance to interact with the locals.

You will also have the opportunity to visit the Asian Black Bear 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.

Lunch at a local restaurant.

In the late afternoon return to town and enjoy with Petanque with local residents. Another French legacy   here. This balling game is extremely popular with Lao gentlemen. Civil servants and retired people are numerous to gather in the late afternoon and evening to share some happy moments together. Bottles of Beer Lao are often around and chit-chat playing with friends is another opportunity to cheer on any occasion!

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

Accommodation in Luang Prabang.

Day 17

Luang Prabang – Pak Ou – Pakbeng (B/L/D)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Transfer to the boat pier to enjoy a cruise on the Mekong River up to Pakbeng with jaw-dropping sceneries.

En-route stop at the confluence of the Nam Ou and Mekong Rivers where you will ascend the steep staircases leading to 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.

Lunch will be served on-board.

After lunch, we will continue the cruise up to Pakbeng.

You will arrive at Pakbeng pier before sunset.

Check-in and dinner at the hotel.

Accommodation in Pakbeng.

Day 18

Pakbeng – Houay Xai – Chiang Khong – Chiang Saen (B/L)

Eventually, before breakfast, opportunity to stroll at the local open air fresh food market to meet local people and experience the life of a market in a small town of Laos.

After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the pier.

We leave Pakbeng early to continue the trip up to Houay Xai. On the way, we visit a Hill Tribe village. Our guide will explain the way of living and the origins of these rural populations.

Lunch will be served on board. Another short stop has to be made in Pak Tha for having the boat documents signed. Before arrival, we initiate the passengers to local flavors (tasting of different fruits, drinks, snacks depending on the season).

Note: From November to March concerning our upstream program, it may possible that we will not be able to ensure the visit of the Hill tribe village because during this period because of the lack of time (Late sunrise and early sunset). We apologize for this inconvenience in advance.

Arrival in Houay Xai around 5:00pm.

Short transfer to the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge. Clearance of formalities out of Laos. Crossing of the bridge over the Mekong to Chiang Khong, on Thai side. Clearance of Thai immigration formalities.

Welcome by your Thai English-speaking tour guide who will assist you for your transfer to the hotel in Chiang Saen.

Transfer to the Golden Triangle, marking the borders of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.

Accommodation in Chiang Saen

From Shangri La to the Golden Triangle: follow the mountain roads and the meanders of the Mekong river

Day 19

Chiang Saen (B/L)

Breakfast at the hotel.

This morning start your visit by the Golden Triangle where the 3 countries meet. Visit of the Opium Hall to better understand the role it plays in the region.

Lunch at local restaurant

In the afternoon, visit a small mountain community near Phu Chaisai settled by remnants of the former Nationalist Chinese Army after their defeat by Mao Zedong. Once notorious for opium production, today Doi Mae Salong is famous for mushrooms, herbal medicines and oolong tea.

Accommodation in Chiang Saen

Day 20

Chiang Saen – Chiang Rai departure (B)

Breakfast at the hotel and free time at leisure till your transfer to Chiang Rai airport for your onward flight.

End of Services

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.