Lao & Cambodian Reflections

ITINERARY: Luang Prabang – Vientiane – Siem Reap – Sihanoukville – Phnom Penh

DURATION: 14 days and 13 nights on the spot

Day 1

Arrival in Luang Prabang (L)

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.

Meet and greet your Lao English-speaking tour guide in the arrival hall and transfer to your hotel for check-in.

Lunch at Tamarind restaurant, where you can try the intriguing and fresh new tastes of Lao cuisine.

In the afternoon, head to the top of Mt. Phou Si for panoramic views of the city and the surrounding hills. The mountain is dotted with small shrines and monasteries. The top of Mt. Phou Si is a popular spot to watch the sunset, as the golden spires of nearby Vats are beautifully illuminated.

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.

Day 2

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

Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning, visit to 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.

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.

The Heritage House being a perfect example of Luang Prabang traditional building made of wood on poles, at the back of Vat Xieng Muane and the beautiful Vat Xieng Thong, one of the most emblematic temples in Laos. It is located at the top of the peninsula, where the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers meet.

Lunch at “Un Petit Nid”. This 1920’s restored mansion is an enjoyable place in a quiet part of town. The terrace with frangipani trees is pleasant.

Afternoon, transfer to pier and take a boat excursion up the Mekong River to the holy caves of Pak Ou, where some of the most famous Buddhist sculptures in Southeast Asia are found. In Pak Ou cave, 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. Re-board your boat and travel downstream to rice-wine producing villages on the banks of the Mekong.

7pm – Head to Hive Bar to attend an “Ethnic Fashion Show” with drinks and snacks. This shows displays 95 different costumes from ethnic minority people inhabiting northern Laos. It is the largest private collection of costumes in Asia. They are worn by young Laotian models willing to showcase the rich diversity their country has to offer.

Accommodation in Luang Prabang

Day 3

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

05h40 – 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 fresh 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 hotel for breakfast.

In this morning, start your tour with Vat Visoun where you will see the famous Watermelon Stupa, shaped like the fruit it takes its name from. This temple was destroyed in 1887 by the invading Black Flags from China, and was restored in 1930 by Buddhist monks and local people. Vat Aham, where you will see the altar of the 2 geniuses of Luang Prabang.

Visit to Ock Pop Tok, traditional weaving center to better understand of Lao textiles.

After that, we head to Kuang Si waterfalls, 32 km south-west of Luang Prabang. Kuang Si is a good place to get more familiar with endemic and 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.

Take your picnic lunch there and enjoy the views.

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.

Return to town and enjoy Petanque games with local residence. 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!

Rest of the day free at leisure.

Accommodation in Luang Prabang.

Lao & Cambodian Reflections

Day 4

Luang Prabang – Vientiane (B)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning at leisure before your transfer to the airport for your flight Lao Airlines QV 102 to Vientiane, departure at 1305 and arrival at 1350 (subject to change without prior notice from the airlines).

Upon your arrival at Vientiane Domestic Airport, transfer you to the hotel for check-in.

In the late afternoon, sightseeing tour 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. Then, visit 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 Lane Xang Avenue, the Champs Elysees of the Lao capital.

You will end your today tour by walking along the Mekong riverfront, view the sunset and enjoy the night-market at Chao Anouvong Park.

Check-in and accommodation in Vientiane.

Day 5

Vientiane – Buddha Park - Vientiane (B/L)

After breakfast, visit to COPE centre, was established in 2008 and provides a free permanent exhibition providing education on UXO in Laos, and information on the comprehensive rehabilitation services that COPE offers.

We then leave the town toward to 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 en-route stop visit and lunch at International Lao Disable Women’s Development Center where is an active advocate for the rights, recognition and equal opportunity of disabled women. We achieve this not only through advocacy but also by training disabled women in a variety of fields and building their confidence and independence.

Accommodation in Vientiane.

Day 6

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

Early morning wake-up call. Check-out, packed breakfast to enjoy later in the morning.

Transfer out to the airport for your onward morning flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

On arrival you will be welcomed 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.

Accommodation in Siem Reap.

Lao & Cambodian Reflections

Day 7

Phnom Kulen and Banteay Srei and Phare Circus (B)

Breakfast at the hotel.

This morning we travel to Phnom Kulen, the sacred mountain that was the birthplace of the Khmer empire. It was here that Jayavarman II proclaimed independence from Java in 802, setting the stage for the glories of the Angkor-era that was to follow. This mountain plateau was the capital of the Khmer empire before it relocated south to Hariharalaya, known today as Roluos. Wat Pre Ang Thom is a focus of pilgrimage for Khmers during religious festivals and the large reclining Buddha carved into a huge sandstone boulder here offers spectacular views across the lush jungle. Nearby are impressive riverbed rock carvings, including innumerable lingas and representations of Shiva and Vishnu. There is a classic waterfall further downstream which is the perfect place to cool off after exploring and nearby is a small, jungle-clad temple called Prasat Krau Romeas.

We enjoy a picnic lunch before descending from the plateau.

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 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 8

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.

Day 9

Angkor Wat sunrise and flight to Sihanoukville (B)

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.

Return to the hotel to freshen up and then fly to Sihanoukville and transfer to your hotel.

Accommodation in Sihanoukville.

Lao & Cambodian Reflections

Day 10

Sihanoukville (B)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Sihanoukville is all about soaking up the sun and enjoying the beaches.

It is also possible to arrange optional visits to the beautiful Ream National Park or take a boat trip out to the idyllic islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem. Consult us.

Accommodation in Sihanoukville.

Day 11

Sihanoukville (B)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Free day leisure.

Accommodation in Sihanoukville.

Day 12

Sihanoukville (B)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Free day leisure.

Accommodation in Sihanoukville.

Lao & Cambodian Reflections

Day 13

Sihanoukville - Transfer to Phnom Penh and Cyclo tour (B)

Breakfast at the hotel.

We drive to Phnom Penh and check into your hotel. Later discover the streets of Phnom Penh with a cyclo tour of the city. A popular form of transport throughout Southeast Asia, the cyclo is still used in the Cambodian capital and is a comfortable way to see the sights. We use the Cyclo Centre, an NGO set up to support the drivers of these vehicles. Usually poor men from the provinces trying to support their families. We start at your hotel and pass by Wat Phnom, symbol of the city, before heading west past the National Library and Hotel Le Royal. We continue past the Phnom Penh train station before winding our way down to Psar Thmei (Central Market), the leading market in the city. We then snake through some of the smaller back streets, including 178 St, brimming with art shops, and Bohemian 240 St with its cafes and boutiques. We then pass Independence Monument, modeled on the central tower of Angkor Wat and continue to the elegant riverfront. We pass the glittering Royal Palace compound and the stunning National Museum before winding up at the riverfront, where there are dozens of cafes, bars and eateries to enjoy some refreshments.

Accommodation in Phnom Penh.

Day 14

Royal Palace and National Museum – Departure (B)

Breakfast at the hotel.

We spend the morning exploring the stunning Royal Palace complex, home to the Cambodian royal family. We begin at the Throne Hall and Napoleon III Pavilion, a gift from the French emperor in the 19th century. We continue to the Silver Pagoda, named after the 5000 silver tiles covering the floor, each weighing 1kg. Inside is a delicate emerald Buddha made of baccarat crystal, which gives the temple its Khmer name of Wat Preah Keo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). We leave and continue to the nearby National Museum, home to the world’s finest collection of sculpture from the Angkor period. The exquisite building was completed in 1920 and features collections from the pre-Angkor, Angkor and post-Angkor periods. We concentrate on the incredible sandstone sculpture from Angkor, as well as the intricate bronzes.

Later in the afternoon / evening, we will transfer you to the airport to catch 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.