Indispensable Laos & Angkor

ITINERARY: Chiang Rai – Lanjia Lodge – Houay Xai – Pakbeng – Luang Prabang – Vang Vieng – Vientiane – Pakse – “4,000 Islands” – Champassak – Pakse – Siem Reap (Angkor Wat)

DURATION: 16 days and 15 nights on the spot

Day 1

Arrival in Chiang Rai from Bangkok – Golden Triangle (D)

Assuming arrival in Chiang Rai by morning flight from Bangkok.

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

Check-in at the lodge. Lunch on your own.

This afternoon, 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

Accommodation at Lanjia Lodge.

Day 2

Golden Triangle – Chiang Khong – Houay Xai – Pakbeng (B/L/D)

Early breakfast at the lodge and transfer (without guide) around 30 minutes to the border to cross the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge between Chiang Khong and Houay Xai, in the Lao PDR. Check-out of Thailand. Cross the bridge on your own by regular shuttle vehicle. Allow approximately 30 THB per person. Clarence of immigration formalities in 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.

Note: please arrive at the Lao border not later than 0830 am.

Welcome by your Lao English-speaking tour guide behind the immigration counters who will transfer you to your private local slow boat for your 2 days cruise down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang.

You cruise will stop for one night in Pakbeng. This rural Lao town is located half way between a cruise from Houay Xai and Luang Prabang and vice versa. Today, you will visit some minority villages along the cruise and lunch will be served on-board.

Arrive in Pakbeng in the late afternoon before sunset. Check in at your hotel with welcome drink and free time at leisure.

Dinner at the restaurant of the hotel.

Accommodation in Pakbeng.

Day 3

Pakbeng – Pak Ou Caves - Luang Prabang (B/L)

Eventually, before breakfast, opportunity to visit the local market to meet villagers and people from the countryside to experience the life of a market in a small rural northern Laos town.

After breakfast at the hotel, you re-embark on your boat and continue your second leg of the cruise down to Luang Prabang.

Enjoy the scenery along the Mekong River until you reach to the mysterious of 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 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.

Indispensable Laos & Angkor

Day 4

Luang Prabang (B/L)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Half day city tour with essentials:

Start with The National Museum that used to be the former Royal Palace. Inside the complex of the National Museum, you will see the “Prabang” sacred golden statue, giving its name to the town.

Then visit Vat Mai, the former royal temple.

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 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.

Day 5

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.

After breakfast, depart 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. Enjoy picnic lunch on site.

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.

Return to town and enjoy a game of 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 Beerlao are often around and chit-chat playing with friends is another opportunity to cheer on any occasion!

Around 7 pm, head to Hive Bar and enjoy the Ethnic Fashion Show with snacks and soft drinks.

Accommodation in Luang Prabang.

Day 6

Luang Prabang - Vang Vieng (B/L)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Leave Luang Prabang town by road down to Vang Vieng. A 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.

Light boating on the Nam Song River before sunset.

Accommodation in Vang Vieng.

Indispensable Laos & Angkor

Day 7

Vang Vieng – Vientiane (B/L)

Breakfast at hotel.

Visit Tham Jang cave, then leave Vang Vieng and continue overland to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. It takes around 3 hours.

Lunch at Makphet restaurant.

This afternoon, sightseeing starts 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.

Continue to 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.

And conclude with 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.

Accommodation in Vientiane.

Day 8

Vientiane – Buddha Park - Vientiane (B/L)

Breakfast at hotel.

Meet your guide at hotel, then visit Buddha Park. It is located around 30 minutes driving from down town, locally also call Vat Xieng Khuan. It contains numerous of religious sculpture mix up Hindu and Buddhist styles which it is over 200 statues along the Mekong River bank.

Return to town and stop en-route visit at Lao Disable Women’s Development Center and lunch at the restaurant on site.

Then, return to Vientiane and visit COPE center with a part of Lao history that is not very well known: the Secret War, which corresponds to the Vietnam War (also known as American War from a Vietnamese standpoint). 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 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.

Free at leisure to stroll along the Mekong River and the local night market.

Accommodation in Vientiane.

Day 9

Vientiane – Pakse – Paksong, Boloven Plateau (B/L)

Early morning check-out and packed breakfast provided by the hotel.

Meet your guide and transfer to airport for your early flight to Pakse with QV 517 departure at 0630 and arrival at 0745 (subject to change without prior notice from the airlines).

Welcome by your local guide in the arrival hall.

Drive to the Boloven Plateau to visit some waterfalls and ethnic villages along the way. Your tour will start by stops 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 time at leisure.

Accommodation at Sinouk Coffee Resort.

Indispensable Laos & Angkor

Day 10

Boloven Plateau – Vat Phou – Xe Pian National Park (B/L)

After breakfast, leave the resort for a drive to Champassak. En-route stops at 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 to Ban Kiet Ngong, in the Xe Pian National Park area. Enjoy a 90-minute elephant back ride around Phou Asa rocky hill, surrounded by lush vegetation and jungle.

Accommodation at Kingfisher Lodge.

Day 11

Xe Pian National Park – “4,000 Islands” – Khone Island (B/L)

For those interested, early morning bird watching from 6am and will end at around 9am. Return to the hotel and check-out.

Then, transfer to Ban Hat Xay Khum to cross by the river to Don Det & Don Khone. 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.

Lunch at a local restaurant in the “4,000 Islands” area.

If time permits, you may want to try spotting Irrawaddy freshwater dolphins. Ban Hang Khon is one of the rare places on earth to spot these endangered mammals. Expenses to be cleared on the spot, if you wish to opt in.

Accommodation at Sala Don Khone.

Day 12

Khone Island – Khone Phapheng - Pakse (B/L)

Breakfast at the hotel.

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

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

Rest of the afternoon free at leisure.

Accommodation in Pakse.

Indispensable Laos & Angkor

Day 13

Pakse - departure to Siem Reap and visit the Roluos group (B)

Breakfast at the hotel. Check-out and transfer to Pakse airport for your flight to Siem Reap.

On arrival you will be welcomed to Cambodia by your guide and driver and transferred to your hotel.

We then travel back in time to one of the earliest capitals in the Angkor area, Hariharilaya, now known as Roluos. We begin with a visit to the brick temple of Lolei, originally set on an island in the center of the Indratataka baray (reservoir). We continue to Preah Ko (Sacred Cow), named in honour of Shiva’s mount, Nandin. Originally coated in stucco and painted, there is still some of the ancient plaster visible on the rear towers. Finally, we encounter Bakong, the earliest of the temple mountains, which later became the signature of Khmer kings. It is a giant pyramid, its cardinal points marked by giant elephants.

Day 14

Beng Mealea, Kompong Khleang and Phare Circus (B)

Breakfast at the hotel.

We travel to the lost temple of Beng Mealea, the titanic of temples, a slumbering giant lost for centuries in the forests of Cambodia. It is the most accessible of Angkor’s lost temples, a mirror image of Angkor Wat, but utterly consumed by the voracious appetite of nature. Constructed by Suryavarman II in the 12th century, the builder of Angkor Wat, the forest has run riot here and it is hard to get a sense of the monument’s shape amid the daunting ruins. Then, we travel southeast to one of the largest and least-visited villages on the Tonle Sap Lake, Kompong Khleang, about 55km from Siem Reap. It’s population of 10,000 all make a living from the fishing industry. We explore the canals (wet season) or streets (dry season) of this incredible town. In the wet season, the houses appear to be floating, as water laps at the verandas, but in the dry season towering stilts are revealed, the houses almost like wooden skyscrapers. We cruise into the open water of the great lake to see a small floating village and learn some more about this incredible natural flood barrier.

Later we return to Siem Reap by road.

In the evening we head out to the home of the innovative circus performers from Phare Ponleu Selpak. Their regular modern circus show under the Big Top is proving very popular in Siem Reap and in each show they display a variety of disciplines including acrobatics, choreography, juggling, clowning, live music and much more.

Accommodation in Siem Reap.

Day 15

Ta Prohm at dawn, Banteay Srei and afternoon visit to the Walled City of Angkor Thom (B)

Breakfast at the hotel.

We rise early to travel to Ta Prohm in the dawn light. Ta Prohm has been abandoned to the elements, left as it was ‘discovered’ by French explorer Henri Mouhot in 1860, the tentacle-like tree roots here are slowly strangling the surviving stones. After soaking up the unique atmosphere of Ta Prohm, we continue to the giant pyramid of Takeo, one of the highest temples in the Angkor area. Built at the end of the 10th century, it was never completed.

We then continue to Banteay Srei, Angkor’s ultimate art gallery. This petite pink temple is the jewel in the crown of Angkor-era sculpture. The elaborate carvings here are the finest found in Cambodia and the name translates as ‘Fortress of the Women’, thanks to the intricate detail here, considered too fine for the hands of a man. Later we visit the 12th century temple of Banteay Samre. Built by King Suryavarman II, the genius behind Angkor Wat, this temple has been extensively restored.

In the afternoon, we visit the immense walled city of Angkor Thom that was the masterpiece of King Jayavarman VII. The scale is simply staggering and we are immediately overwhelmed by the audacity of Jayavarman on arrival at the city’s gates. We begin our visit at the Terrace of the Leper King, continue along the Terrace of Elephants, and visit the Baphuon, once of the most beautiful temples at Angkor, dating from the 11th century. It has undergone a massive renovation by the French and is now once again open for viewing. Our climax is the enigmatic and enchanting temple of the Bayon. Its 54 towers are each topped off with the four faces of Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion), which bear more than a passing resemblance to the king himself. We unravel the mysteries of the temple’s bas-reliefs, with their intricate scenes of ancient battles against the Chams and their snapshot of daily life during the Angkor period.

Accommodation in Siem Reap.

Indispensable Laos & Angkor

Day 16

Angkor Wat sunrise and departure (B)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Rising at the crack of dawn, we journey out to the Mother of all temples, Angkor Wat. Believed to be the world’s largest religious building, this temple is the perfect fusion of symbolism and symmetry and a source of pride and strength to all Khmers. Built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II, this is most famous temple at Angkor. We stay at Angkor Wat to enjoy a picnic breakfast. As the crowds return to their hotels, we venture into Angkor Wat to enjoy its magnificence in peace and quiet, beginning at the bas-reliefs that tell of tales from Hindu mythology and of the glories of the Khmer empire.

Afternoon is free at leisure until transfer to the airport for departure 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.