28 February 2017
A land of Lotus eaters amid the bloated development of its neighbours, the mysterious country of Laos brings together the best of south east Asia in one bite-sized destination. The country retains much of the tradition that has vanished in a frenzy of bulldozers elsewhere in the region and as you will see on this superb nine day tour, village life is refreshingly simple and even in the capital, Vientiane, you will find a languid riverfront life. In magical Luang Prabang you will still see hundreds of saffron-robed monks gliding through the streets in search of alms. This really is a country untainted by mass tourism
Your adventure begins in the north of Thailand when you arrive at Chiang Rai, the gateway to the Golden Triangle, where you will be met by one of our 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 Myanmar (Burma), and is home to some of Thailand’s most picturesque scenery and colourful hill tribes. Tonight meet your tour leader and the rest of your group for welcome drinks and a tour briefing.
Following breakfast, leave for the atmospheric Lanjia Lodge, travelling through the The Golden Triangle. In the 1960s and 70s, much of the world’s opium came through this mountainous and once-isolated part of Asia. Visit the Hall of Opium museum and in the afternoon, arrive at Lanjia Lodge, where your are given an overview of your spectacularly-set accommodation near the Mekong River. Take a walk through nearby Hmong and Lahu villages and in the evening, dine at Lanjia Lodge and watch a cultural performance.
Drive towards the border with Laos, the ‘Land of a Million Elephants.’ The drive east 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 to the bustling riverside village of Pakbeng, home to the Hmong and Thai Lu people, where you stay tonight.
Today cross the Mekong to mingle with elephants which used to work in the illegal logging industry. Learn about the traditional role of the elephant in Lao culture, and the relationship mahout masters share with their animals. See the elephants being bathed, and take part in feeding. Later, re-board your boat for a six hour journey along the Mekong to Luang Prabang. The trip takes you past precious verdant forest and sleepy villages and includes a stop at the Pak Ou Caves with their thousands of Buddha statues.
Luang Prabang is Laos’ most beautiful and engaging town. Surrounded by mountainous forests and situated at the confluence of the Khan and Mekong rivers, it has a tranquil, old-world charm. French architecture blends delightfully with more than 30 gilded Buddhist temples to create a town rich in atmosphere and history. Begin your discoveries with a walking tour of main sites and in the evening watch a game of petanque then stroll to a tranquil Buddhist temple for sunset drinks and snacks overlooking the river and mountains.
Rise early this morning and see robed Buddhist monks collecting alms, following an ancient ritual. Then, at its most active, explore a local morning market and learn about some of the delectable Lao fruits and snacks which make up the local diet. Later travel to the beautiful Kuang Si falls to swim, explore and be surrounded by turquoise waters and jungle, and visit a nearby bear sanctuary to see Asiatic Black bears rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. Return to town with time to explore some more with an evening option of a cooking class.
Today you fly to Vientiane, located on the Mekong and the country’s capital. The city today is bustling with activity and development, and is growing quickly. Begin with a visit to the grand Patuxai Monument, reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Follow with an exploration of the sombre COPE Centre, which provides prosthetic limbs for victims of exploded ordinance and brings attention to the after-effects of the Indochina war. Tonight, sample Vientiane’s burgeoning dining scene and visit the vibrant night market
Prepare yourself for a day of discoveries, with a morning stop at a local café. A morning coffee has become an innate part of Lao culture, and the beans grown in the south are regarded as some of the finest in the world. Begin your sightseeing in earnest with a visit to the golden-spired stupa, That Luang, then delve into the cloistered corridors of Vientiane’s oldest temple. End the day with a traditional Lao baci farewell ceremony and a musical performance, followed by a feast of traditional ‘jaew’ dips and the famous sticky rice.
It’s time to say goodbye to Laos, its people, and your week of memorable experiences, when your fabulous . tour around the country comes to an end. Time for some more sightseeing or last minute shopping for souvenirs before you are picked up from your city hotel and driven to the airport to catch an onward flight or begin your journey back home. This tour makes a great add on to any longer holiday in Thailand, Burma, Vietnam or Cambodia.
Classic fr £1376pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated