The great crossing of Laos


ITINERARY: Chiang Rai – Lanjia Lodge – Pakbeng – Luang Prabang – Vang Vieng – Vientiane – Boloven Plateau – Vat Phou – Kingfisher Ecolodge – 4,000 Islands – Champassak

DURATION: 14 days and 13 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. Overland transfer of approximately 2.5 hours to Lanjia Lodge.

Check-in at the lodge.

Lunch at own expenses at the restaurant of 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.

Accommodation at Lanjia Lodge.

Day 2

Lanjia Lodge – Chiang Khong – Houay Xai – Pakbeng (B/L/D)

Early breakfast at the lodge and transfer (without guide) for around 30 minutes to the Thai-Lao border. Crossing of the Thai-Lao Friendship over the Mekong into Laos by local shuttle bus at own expenses (around 30 THB / person; equivalent to 1$).

Please arrive at the LAO border not later than 0830 am.

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 Lao immigration counters and transfer to your private local slow boat for your 2 days cruise down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang via Pakbeng.

You cruise will stop for one night in Pakbeng. This uphill town is located half way between Houay Xai and Luang Prabang, or 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 explore the local market to meet local people and experience the life of a market in a small town in Laos.

After breakfast at the hotel, then your guide will pick you up and 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 reaching 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 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 at Luang Prabang’s pier before sunset. Pick up and transfer to hotel for check-in.

Then, short visit to 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, 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.

The great crossing of Laos

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 19h00, 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.

The great crossing of Laos

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 (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 (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.

The great crossing of Laos

Day 10

Paksong – Vat Phou - Kingfisher (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

Kingfisher – 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 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 Khone 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 – Champassak (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”.

Lunch at a local restaurant on the way up to Pakse.

Keep proceeding to Champassak town and check-in at hotel.

Free at leisure.

Accommodation at The River Resort.

The great crossing of Laos

Day 13

Champasak (B)

Breakfast at the resort and free at leisure.

Accommodation at The River Resort.

Day 14

Champasak – Pakse Departure (B)

Breakfast at hotel.

Free at leisure until your transfer to the airport (in Pakse or in Ubon Ratchathani) 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.

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