27 September 2016
This action packed and imaginative 15 day tour around south east Asia begins in Bangkok, the pulsating captial of Thailand where you will have time to explore all the sights and soak up the unique atmosphere. Then you travel out of the city to visit the famous Bridge over the River Kwai then on to historic Chaing Mai. The Golden Triangle between Laos, Burma and Thailand then beckons and you will get to experience life along the mighty Mekong River. Final stop is the intriguing city of Vientiane, capital of Laos, where you spend two memorable days.
Your super south east Asia tour begins when your plane touches down in Bangkok. You will be met at the airport by one of our tour representatives and taken to your hotel in the city. Tonight meet your tour leader and the rest of the group in the reception area of your hotel for welcome drinks and a briefing about all that you will be seeing and doing over the next two weeks. Later go out on your own and sample some of Bangkok's colourful nightlife.
Bangkok, population seven million and Thailand’s capital since 1782 is interesting, provoking but most of all exhilarating. Known as the City of Angels this bustling metropolis, although modern, is unmistakably Thai, and today you will visit some of the highlights. Travelling by Sky Train to the pier, explore the canals by boat, stopping at popular Wat Arun. Continue to the Grand Palace, the former residence of the royal family and also the resting place for the sacred Emerald Buddha. Then see the the magnificent huge reclining Buddha in Bangkok’s largest temple. End your tour with a visit to Chinatown and wander down Sampeng Lane.
Today you travel west to some of the most beautiful rain forest in Thailand – the area around the River Kwai and the town of Kanchanaburi, where you visit the beautiful Elephant World sanctuary and get up close to the magnificent animals. You will feed the elephants, cut or wash their food, then take them to the river and watch them bathe while swimming around them and climbing on their backs. If you bring a few yellow banana’s on this trip you are sure to make a few new friends! By mid-afternoon, following a quick shower and change of clothes, continue by road and boat to your peaceful, natural riverside resort, arriving by 5pm.
Leave your river accommodation for the infamous Hell Fire Pass to visit the museum which stands as a moving monument to the World War Two POWs who died while building the Burma-Siam Railway. At Tham Krasae you board the ‘Death Railway’ train and travel through forests before crossing the famous Bridge on the River Kwai and arriving in Kanchanaburi. Here you visit the Thai-Burma Museum and make a poignant stop at an Allied War Cemetery. Arrive in the late afternoon at your hotel in resort surroundings. You can dine tonight either at your hotel or in one of Kanchanaburi’s riverside restaurants
This morning you travel to Ayuthaya, which in its heyday was one of the most significant cities in Asia. Visit some of its World Heritage-listed temples before returning to Bangkok Airport for your short flight to Chiang Mai. The walled city of Chiang Mai was built in 1296 as capital of the fabled Lanna Kingdom of northern Thailand. Over the next 600 years the city became a centre for religious worship and a base for the manufacture of refined art work. Today there are still more than 100 religious structures within the old city walls, and the town is known for its silverware, silk products, and carvings. This evening, you can join your guide on a fun foodies tour, walking through the fabulous markets.
Today begins with a walking tour of Chiang Mai. Starting in the old city you stroll along taking in many of the city's most beautiful sites and temples, such as Wat Chedi Luang. The partially ruined temple dates back to the year 1441 and is famous as the former home of the Emerald Buddha. Carry on to the Warorot local markets, the oldest and most famous of the city's local markets. You then cross the Mae Ping River to the residential area of Wat Gate for a refreshing drink and lunch in a restaurant. The afternoon is at leisure and in the evening take part in an interactive cooking demonstration.
Start your exploration today with a visit to the inspiring golden temple of Doi Suthep, one of Thailand’s most sacred and famous temples which has views over the city. Next you travel east through some stunning scenery to the village of Mae Kampong where you meet the villagers and learn about their customs and way of life. You can hear about their coffee cultivation methods, hear gibbons calling from the forest, take a village walk, and relax. And before leaving for Chaing Mai, enjoy a traditional Thai welcoming ceremony "Baisi Sukwan", with flower offerings by the villagers.
After breakfast begin your exciting journey into the land of a million elephants transferring to Chiang Rai, the gateway to the Golden Triangle, the name given to the area where Thailand meets its neighbouring countries, Laos and Burma. This area is home to some of Thailand’s most picturesque scenery and colourful hilltribes. On the way visit the handicraft village at Bo Sang and San Kam Phaeng where you see people making paper umbrellas, beautifully painted, wood carvings and lacquer ware, Thai Silk and other traditional handicrafts. At lunchtime arrive at Chiang Rai and visit Wat Rong Khun or White Temple, one of the most famous temples in Thailand before checking into your hotel.
This morning drive towards the border with Laos, the Land of a Million Elephants. The drive to Chiang Khong will take you to of one of the great rivers of the world, the Mekong. Here at the border, the Mekong divides Thailand from ‘laid back’ Laos, a sparsely populated country and home to a graceful and unaffected people. After visa and immigration formalities, board your boat for a cruise down the Mekong. Take in river life and picturesque scenery as you cruise for six to seven hours to the rarely visited town of Pakbeng. In the late afternoon climb the steps to your lodge in Pakbeng village.
After breakfast, re-board the boat for a full day’s journey along the Mekong River towards Luang Prabang. Today’s boat trip takes you past precious verdant forest and sleepy riverside villages and you stop at the Pak Ou Caves with their thousands of Buddha images. Here, in a tradition that has lasted for centuries, local people add annually to a repository of Buddha statues. You then glide into the UNESCO World Heritage-listed town of Luang Prabang and after checking in to your hotel, venture out for either local or French cuisine at one of the many fine restaurants in this delightful town.
Surrounded by mountainous forest and situated at the confluence of the Khan and Mekong Rivers, Luang Prabang has a tranquil, old world charm. This fascinating town has well preserved French architecture which has blended delightfully with more than 30 gilded Buddhist temples to create a rich atmosphere and history. Begin your day with a short walk to the National Museum and then explore this fabled city and see some of the exquisite temples. You can chat with a monk at the famous Wat Mai to gain a unique insight into the Buddhist faith. In the afternoon, continue to be dazzled by the architectural beauty of the temples with a visit to Wat Pha Bhat Tai on the banks of the Mekong River and watch the sun go down.
Rise early this morning and see robed Buddhist monks collecting alms, following a centuries old ritual. After breakfast, travel to Kuang Si Falls, one of the many beautiful waterfalls near Luang Prabang stopping on the way at the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre and one of the larger local markets. At the waterfalls, you have a chance to swim and relax, surrounded by beautiful turquoise waters and thick jungle vegetation. Later visit a nearby bear sanctuary to see Asiatic Black bears rescued from the illegal wildlife trade before travelling back to Luang Prabang. In the evening travel by tuk-tuk to the garden setting of Tamarind cooking school, to take part in a traditional Lao-style cooking class and prepare your own dinner.
Today you fly from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, where you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Located on the Mekong River and with a population of 600,000, Vientiane is Laos’ capital and largest city. Despite new developments, it retains an old world feel quite unlike other Asian cities. First visit the Patuxai Monument, reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and from its roof you will be able to get a panoramic view over the city. End the day with a visit to the COPE Centre, which is dedicated to providing prosthetic limbs to Laotian people, many whom have been victims of explosive devices left behind from the Vietnam war.
After breakfast, start to explore some of the main monuments of Vientiane, beginning with a visit to Wat Sisaket, one of the city's oldest and most beautiful temples. Across the street, visit Wat Haw Phra Kaew, used as a religious museum where Lao and Khmer works of art are displayed. Next stop at Pha That Luang, the most important national monument in Laos and symbolic of both the monarchy and the Buddhist religion. Then end the tour at the Lao National Museum to learn something of the country's struggle for independence from France and the rise of the communists. In the afternoon take a stroll along the Mekong riverfront promenade and later have a farewell dinner with members of your group as you reflect on your journey.
Your wonderful tour of Thailand and Laos comes to an end today. But before you leave Vientiane, make time for one last Lao-style iced coffee in one of the many cafes, or simply relax by your hotel’s palm-fringed swimming pool before being picked up and taken to the airport to catch an onward flight or begin your journey home taking with you so many great memories from a truly fascinating part of south east Asia.
Classic fr £2427pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated