25 September 2016
Beginning in the beautiful Golden Triangle area of Thailand, this imaginative two week tour takes in the highlights of Laos and Cambodia. You will travel along the mighty Mekong River, visit remote towns, villages and Buddhist shrines, explore the stunning temples of Vientiene, the capital of Laos, see both sides of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and end your journey at Angkor Wat, one of the wonders of the world. This tour is a great way to get the best out of this fascinating region of south east Asia and will leave you with a lifetime of memories.
Your adventure begins in Chiang Rai, the gateway to the Golden Triangle, where you will be met by our experienced tour representatives and taken to your hotel. The Golden Triangle is the name given to the area where Thailand meets its neighbouring countries, Laos and Burma, and is home to some of Thailand’s most picturesque scenery and colourful hilltribes. Tonight meet your tour leader and the rest of the group for a briefing. Overnight at Laluna Resort.
This morning you travel 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. 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 disembark and climb the steps to your lodge in Pakbeng village where you stay the night.
After breakfast, re-board the boat for a full day’s journey along the Mekong River towards Luang Prabang. Today’s boat trip will take you past precious verdant forest and sleepy riverside villages. You will 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 will 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 standing at the confluence of the Khan and Mekong Rivers, Luang Prabang has a tranquil, old world charm. This fascinating town was the capital of the Lane Xang (million elephants) kingdom until the mid-16th century. The legacy of the European presence here - well preserved French architecture and careful street planning – has blended delightfully with more than 30 gilded Buddhist temples to create a town rich in atmosphere and history. Visit the National Museum, formerly the Royal residence then continue your exploration of this fabled city. Play a game of petanque with the locals then watch the sun set behind the enchanted surrounding mountains and Mekong River.
Rise early 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. On your way, stop at the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre and one of the larger local markets in Luang Prabang where you can see many products produced by the various ethnic minorities. At the waterfalls, you can swim and relax, surrounded by beautiful turquoise waters and thick jungle. Visit a nearby bear sanctuary to see Asiatic Black bears and gain an insight into this native species. Back at Luang Prabang in the evening, you will be taken by tuk-tuk to the garden setting of Tamarind cooking school, to take part in an interactive 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. After checking in to your hotel, visit the Patuxai Monument, reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. From its roof you will be able to enjoy a panoramic view over the city. End your day with a visit to the COPE Centre. COPE is an organisation dedicated to providing prosthetic limbs to Laotian people, many of whom were victims of explosives left behind from the Vietnam and Indochina conflicts.
After breakfast, start to explore some of the main monuments of Vientiane. Begin with a visit to Wat Sisaket, one of the city's oldest temples. It is one of the most beautiful temples of the capital with its thousands of miniature Buddha statues. Then visit Wat Haw Phra Kaew, where Lao and Khmer works of art are displayed, Pha That Luang, the most important national monument in Laos, and the Lao National Museum. This afternoon, take a stroll along the Mekong riverfront promenade, sip a Lao-style iced coffee in one of Vientiane’s numerous cafes, or relax by your hotel’s palm-fringed swimming pool. Enjoy a dinner with the other members of your group this evening as you reflect on your journey through Laos.
Today you say farewell to Laos when you are taken to the airport for your flight to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. On arrival you are met and taken to your hotel in the city. This afternoon take an exciting cyclo ride through the streets of downtown Phnom Penh making a stop at Psah Thmei or Central Market as it is commonly known. Built in 1937 this is a remarkable example of French Colonial Art Deco architecture. Tonight go out and sample the buzzing nightlife in this remarkable city. Overnight at the Sunway Hotel.
Today begins with a visit to Psah Thmei or Central Market as it is commonly known, built in 1937 this is a remarkable example of French Colonial Art Deco architecture. You will also visit the Royal Palace and the famous Silver Pagoda, lined with a tiled floor of 5,000 silver tablets. The Silver Pagoda, originally built in 1892, was largely spared sacking by the Khmer Rouge and houses a revered ‘Emerald Buddha’ – akin to the Emerald Buddha held in Bangkok’s Grand Palace – as well as a ‘Golden Buddha’ encrusted with more than 9,000 diamonds. Afterwards, visit the National Museum for an appreciation of the splendour of Khmer history and art. Many of the sculptures you will see today were made before construction of the famous Angkor ruins even began. After lunch visit the chilling Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Both these sites provide an insight into the insanity of the Pol Pot era and the country’s sombre recent history.
Set out today on the picturesque drive to Kampong Thom, stopping on the way at a number of places of interest to take photos of gorgeous rural Cambodia. Then head towards Skuon town, where you can wander in the busy market. After a further hour’s drive you stop for lunch at a small silk farm at Santuk and learn the intricacies of traditional silk production. Later drive to the ruins of Sambor Pre Kuk, the pre-Angkorian capital of the Chenla civilization and one of the oldest temple cities in South east Asia. Overnight at Sambor Village House.
Leave Kampong Thom and head further north to Siem Reap, stopping at a huge ancient ‘naga’ (serpent) bridge at Kampong Kdei. On the way to Siem Reap take a boat trip on the beautiful Tonle Sap, the second largest freshwater lake in the world. This ecologically marvellous lake is the lifeblood of the country and the primary source of fish and protein for most of the Cambodian population. Visit Kampong Khleang, a remote area only accessible during high water levels that features remarkable stilt houses as well as a floating village. At Siem Reap check-in to our hotel, the Royal Bay Inn.
A highlight of the tour today when you visit the temples of Angkor, which represent 600 years of Khmer civilisation - one of Asia’s greatest kingdoms. Your adventure begins with a pre dawn departure to watch the sunrise outside Angkor Wat. Creep through the temple in darkness before soaking up the atmosphere of dawn at Angkor from the edge of one of the ancient library pools. Then venture deep into the central chambers and upper terraces of this truly great temple. After breakfast enter Angkor Thom city, to marvel at the eerie stone heads of the Bayon temple. In the afternoon explore two overgrown sites including the famous jungle-enveloped Ta Prohm, one of the most atmospheric of all Angkor temples.
Today visit two of the most interesting temples outside Angkor Thom city. First, travel two hours through scenic countryside to King Suryavarman II’s eleventh century Boeng Mealea Temple, which stands almost forgotten in jungle and getting to the site is quite an adventure in itself. Then drive on to the intricately carved and well preserved Banteay Srei Temple where you have lunch at a restaurant before exploring. Banteay Srei has only been accessible since the late 1990s, and is regarded by many as the jewel in the crown of Angkor temples. On the way back to Siem Reap stop at the Cambodian Landmine Museum where we will learn about the problems faced by their indiscriminate use.
Today your wonderful and exciting tour of south east Asia comes to an end. Possibly time for some more sightseeing or shopping for souvenirs in Siem Reap before you are picked up at your hotel and taken to the airport for your onward flight or to begin your journey home. You can also extend your holiday by staying on in one of the many luxurious hotels in this resort town and exploring more of this remarkable area
Classic fr £2155pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated