Up the Mekong and down the Ayeyarwaddy rivers: an epic journey via the Golden Triangle


ITINERARY: Luang Prabang – Pakbeng – Houay Xai – Chiang Khong – Chiang Saen – Tachileik – Kyaing Tong – Mandalay – Bagan – Mount Popa – Kalaw – Inle Lake – Yangon

DURATION: 20 days and 19 nights on the spot

Day 1

Arrival in Luang Prabang (L)

Arrive in 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 2

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 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.

Day 3

Luang Prabang – Kuang Si Waterfall – 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.

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 back in town.

Free time in the afternoon to explore the town at own pace, enjoy the hotel’s facilities or go shopping.

In the late afternoon, 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.

Up the Mekong and down the Ayeyarwaddy rivers: an epic journey via the Golden Triangle

Day 4

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 5

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.

Check-in, dinner at own expenses and overnight.

Day 6

Chiang Saen – Tachileik (Myanmar) (B)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Short sighting from atop of a hill that commands superb views over the Mekong, marking the border between Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, right in the heart of the “Golden Triangle”.

Drive to the Thai-Burmese border check points. Clearance of Thai formalities out and Myanmar formalities in.

Arrival at Thailand (Mai Sai) – Myanmar (Tachileik) border. Meet with the guide and drive to Kyaing Tong (~3h). If the time permits, visit the villages near Loi Mwe on the way.

Note: The check points of Mai Sai – Tachileik border & Tachileik – Kyaing Tong close at 6pm.

Arrival at Kyaing Tong and free time to relax.

Overnight at hotel in Kyaing Tong.

Up the Mekong and down the Ayeyarwaddy rivers: an epic journey via the Golden Triangle

Day 7

Trekking Pintauk (B)

After breakfast, visit the local market to observe the colorful hill tribes. Then you will be taken by car (~ 45 min) to the trekking point at Pin Tauk area where you can visit the villages of Akha and Lahu. Then start hiking to explore the living ways of Akha and rare Ang ethnic tribe, subgroup of Wa. The region offers scenic panoramic view over the valley covered with terraced rice fields. After lunch, on the way back to Kyaing Tong, short visit at a Palaung ethnic village, Wan-Pauk.

Overnight at hotel in Kyaing Tong.

Day 8

Trekking Weng Seng / Weng Nyat (B)

After breakfast, drive to the direction of Monglar, a border town of China Border. After ~2 hrs drive, start trekking (~1hr) to visit Wan Nyet village, one of the Loi tribe villages. Loi people who belongs to Thai language spoken group, prefers to live in a huge long house for at least five families. Visit the ancient monastery then continue trek for nearly one hour along the beautiful scenic tea plantations to visit Wan Seng, another Loi village which possesses a magnificent monastery in its original architecture style and very huge long houses with approximate 10 families inside. Afternoon drive back to Kyaing Tong with some photo- stops on the way.

Overnight at hotel in Kyaing Tong.

Day 9

Kyang Tong – Mandalay (B)

After the breakfast, visit round Kyaing Tong if the time permits. Transfer to airport for the flight to Mandalay.

Arrive to Mandalay and check in at the hotel.

Overnight at hotel in Mandalay.

Note: Kyaing Tong flights are not operated daily. If there is no direct flight for Kyaing Tong – Heho, the clients have to take Tachileik – Mandalay flights.

Up the Mekong and down the Ayeyarwaddy rivers: an epic journey via the Golden Triangle

Day 10

Mingun – Mandalay (B)

After breakfast you will visit boat trip along the Ayeyarwaddy River to visit Mingun. There, you will visit the Mingun Pathodawgyi,the world’s largest unfinished stupa, the grand Mingun Bell and the Myatheindan Pagodas. Back to Mandalay, you will visit the workshop where gold leaf is produced, the revered Mahamuni Buddha Image, as well as visit to Marble carvings workshop, Bronze casting and wood carving. And then, continue visit to the Shwenandaw Monastery noted for its exquisite wood carvings, followed by Kuthodaw Pagoda, which is known as the World’s Biggest Book because of its stone slabs consisting of Buddhist scriptures. To end the day with panoramic views of the city and a spectacular sunset at Mandalay Hill.

Overnight at hotel in Mandalay.

Day 11

Ava – Sagaing – Amarapura (B)

After breakfast at the hotel, drive to Inwa (Ava), and here you’ll be taken by a native horse cart for sightseeing around Inwa that would last hardly 2 hours. Visit will be made to Bagaya Monastery that is a fine example of Myanmar masonry art and architecture, Mainu Brick Monastery and old watchtower. Then continue drive to Sagaing, considered by Myanmar Buddhists to be the holiest site in the country and visit to Sagaing Hill, a silver smith workshop and the Kaungmudaw Pagoda. We will end the day by watching a beautiful sunset at U Bein,the famous footbridge in Myanmar.

Overnight at hotel in Mandalay.

Day 12

Mandalay – Bagan by public boat (B)

In the morning you will be driven to the jetty where you will board the public boat that will take you to Bagan along the Ayeyarwaddy River. You will arrive in Bagan in the afternoon where an awaiting car will take you to your hotel.

Overnight at hotel in Bagan.

Up the Mekong and down the Ayeyarwaddy rivers: an epic journey via the Golden Triangle

Day 13

Bagan (B)

After breakfast at the hotel, visit Bagan (the richest archeological site of Asia); the colorful Nyaung U Market, Shwezigon Pagoda (the most revered in Bagan), Kansithar U Min, Wetkyi-in Gubyaukkyi Temple (beautiful mural paintings of Jatarka), Sulamani Temple and the massive Dhamayangyi Temple.

Overnight at hotel in Bagan.

Day 14

Bagan (B)

After breakfast at the hotel, visit to Thatbyinyu Temple (known for its great height), the magnificent Ananda Temple, Ananda Okyaung, Myinkaba Gubyaukkyi Temple, Manuha Temple and Nanphaya Temple. Then visit to a Lacquer-ware workshops, a Village to observe local village life, and enjoy a beautiful sunset at a temple.

Overnight at hotel in Bagan.

Day 15

Bagan – Mount Popa - Kalaw (B)

After breakfast, drive to Kalaw (260 km/~8 hours) which is a small resort surrounded by mountains and situated at 1400m above sea level. Kalaw is a former colonial British hill station in the Shan State of Myanmar and it has cool temperatures and plenty of trekking opportunities. The quiet town is decorated with colonial houses, rocky houses and colorful flowers.

On the way, stop and visit at Mt. Popa, “the Mount of Flowers” to Mt. Popa – an extinct volcano which rises 500 meters out of the plain, 50 km east of Bagan. Mt. Popa is also the center of “nat” worship (local guardian spirits) in Myanmar.

Overnight at hotel in Kalaw.

Up the Mekong and down the Ayeyarwaddy rivers: an epic journey via the Golden Triangle

Day 16

Kalaw – Pindaya - Inle (B)

Breakfast at the hotel. Drive to Pindaya (~1h30) and visit the famous Pindaya Cave. This cave is famous for its 8000 Buddhist statues that are made of lacquer, cement, teak and marble. Following the tour of the cave, you will visit workshops that make Shan Umbrella. Then, you will depart by car for Nyaung Shwe where Inle Lake is situated (~ 2hr). On the way, visit Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery.

Overnight at hotel in Inle Lake (OR) Nyaung Shwe.

Day 17

Inle (B)

After breakfast, sightseeing to explore the exquisite sights of Inle Lake; the multiple ethnic floating villages scattered along the water, the unique leg rowers and their fishing methods, and the breathtaking beauty of the lake itself with floating farms. This will be followed by a visit to Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda and the Bazaar and Ngaphe Chaung monastery.

Overnight at hotel in Inle Lake (OR) Nyaung Shwe.

Day 18

Indein - Inle (B)

After breakfast at the hotel, visit to the five days five day market which due once on five days at each village to see multi hill tribes come down from nearby villages. Then, boat drives to Indein, the ruined ancient Pa-O pagoda complex in a beautiful picturesque corner. On the way back, stop to visit at silversmith workshop, blacksmith workshop, cheroot making cottage and boat fabrication.

Overnight at hotel in Inle Lake (OR) Nyaung Shwe.

Up the Mekong and down the Ayeyarwaddy rivers: an epic journey via the Golden Triangle

Day 19

Inle – Heho - Yangon (B)

After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight back to Yangon. you will be sightseeing to the city center to study the hustle & bustle of Yangon, Colonial quarter, the Chaukhtut Gyi (reclining Buddha), and the Shwedagon Pagoda; the world famous glittering gold stupa, believed to have been built more than 2500 year ago.

Overnight at hotel in Yangon.

Day 20

Yangon - Departure (B)

After breakfast, you will visit Bogyoke Aung San (Scott) Market (closed on every Monday & public holidays)

Transfer to the airport for international departure.

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.