Each year, as spring breaks out along the mighty Mekong River, the Lao people celebrate the Lunar New Year. This is an ideal time to explore Laos and join the locals as they carry out their rituals, such as holding colorful parades at the heart of Luang Prabang, a city of temples, amazing architecture and ancient traditions.
DAY 1. 04 APR Arrival in SIEM REAP
We arrive in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Once the center of the vast Khmer Empire that ruled the majority of the southern part of South-East Asia, Siem Reap is home to a cluster of temples and palace complexes. The site is so magnificent, that a Portuguese monk visiting it during the 16th century wrote “it is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen…”, and the French explorer, Henry Mohout, who made the site popular in the west in the mid-19th century, wrote when first arriving there: “One of these temples—a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo—might take an honorable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome, and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged.” At 14:00 we meet our Cambodian guide at the airport and leave for the fishing village of Chong Kneas. On arrival, we board a boat for a trip on Tonle Lake, to see the floating villages and the traditional fishing techniques. The boat trip amongst these basic dwellings is a strong reminder of the major transition the country is going through. We then drive to our hotel in Siem Reap, where we spend the night. In the evening we enjoy a welcome dinner in a local restaurant.
DAY 2. 05 APR A day amidst ancient mighty temples
We begin our day of touring with Angkor Thom, better known as the ‘Temple of Faces’. We then proceed to the Bayon, a bizarre structure with several architectural styles, reflecting a switch from Hinduism (the foundations) to Buddhism (the superstructure). We next visit the Elephant and Leper Emperor Terraces, followed by the Baphoun Temple, which is now nearing the end of an eight-year multi-million-dollar restoration program. After lunch, we visit Ta Prohm, strangled by massive tree roots and typical of the condition of the whole complex, when it was discovered in 1860 by French naturalist Henri Mouhot. Our guide will then show us the Prasat Kravan (also known as the Cardamom Sanctuary) and Srah Srang Lake before driving to the major temple complex, heading to its undisputed jewel in the crown, Angkor Wat itself, the largest, and for most people, the most impressive temple in the complex. As dusk nears, a walk to the summit of Phnom Bakheng Hill will afford a panorama view of the whole complex, lit by the rays of the setting sun (weather permitting, of course).
DAY 3. 06 APR Angkorian heritage away from the crowds
On our last day of the trip, we drive out of the main temple complex for a visit to Banteay Srei, “The Citadel of Women”. This temple, made of red stone, has the deepest and clearest carvings, and is considered to be the most decorated temple of all the Angkorian temples. After this visit we take a walk at Kbal Spean. Located 25 kilometers away from Angkor Wat complex, this is a site of manmade and natural wonders. Along the banks of the Stung Kbal Spean River, the Khmer emperors have carved stunning figures into the surrounding sandstone. After our short hike along the river bed we head back to Siem Reap for our last night here.
Day 4. 07 APR Crossing the border to Laos
For most of the day, we will make our way from Siem Reap to the Lao Border. Driving through rural Cambodia gives us an insight into the lives of simple Cambodians. We see the evidence that the people of Cambodia still rise from the ashes left from the times of the Khmer Rouge ruthless regime. If time permits, we will stop in one of these villages to witness the simple lives of the locals, most living off the small plots surrounding their houses. Early in the afternoon we arrive at the Cambodian-Lao border. After immigration formalities on both sides of the border we arrive in Laos. From here it’s a short drive to Khone Phapheng Falls, the largest waterfall in South East Asia, and the one prominent reason why the Mekong River cannot be navigated all the way from the South China Sea all the way to China. After a quick visit to the falls, we make our way to Khong Island, where we spend our first day in Laos.
Day 5. 08 APR THE FOUR THOUSAND ISLANDS
Khong Island measures some 16 km long and 8 km wide, and it is the largest island in the South Mekong river region. This region is known as the 'Four Thousands Islands', one of the most scenic areas in Laos, where the Mekong swells to 14 km wide during the rainy season. This part of the river is dotted with islands of all shapes and sizes, from which its name derives. The island’s capital is Muang Khong, a small former French settlement. This morning we take a one-hour boat ride to Done Det Island. We then continue by traditional tuk-tuk to Khone Island for a 6 km drive to visit the Li Phi Waterfall, which thwarted the efforts of the French to open the Mekong River to navigation. We visit the small-gauge railway and the colonial bridge built by the French to bypass the falls, before we head to Ban Hang Khone to try to get a glimpse of the extremely rare Irrawaddy dolphins. In the evening we return to Khong Island for a second night in the Four Thousand Islands region.
Day 6. 09 Apr The capital of the south
After an early breakfast, we drive to Pakse, stopping en route at Phou Asa to visit the remains of a temple dating back to the 18th century. We then take an elephant ride for about two hours along the forest paths before visiting Wat Phou, the mysterious pre-Angkorian 10th-century temple. We reach Pakse, the provincial capital and a major tradepoint with neighboring Thailand, before sunset and transfer to our hotel where we spend the night.
Day 7. 10 Apr To the city of old and new
We have breakfast at the hotel and transfer to the airport for the flight to Vientiane, the Lao capital city. Upon arrival we travel to the outskirts of Vientiane, following the road along the bank of the Mekong River, to visit the Buddha park of Xieng Khuan (in Lao- 'Spirit City'), 28 km east of Vientiane. The park was created by an eccentric priest-shaman, which was heading a cult that brought together Theravada Buddhism and Hinduism. Back in the city, we visit some of its main sites of interest, amongst these, if time permits, will be Wat Sisaket, the oldest temple to have survived from the 1828 Siamese–Lao War; its cloister contains more than 8000 statues of the Buddha. We continue to Wat Ho Prakeo, the former home-temple of the Emerald Buddha statue or Prakeo, which now contains a collection of statues of the Buddha, antiques and all the most significant artifacts found in excavations around Vientiane. We then visit That Luang Stupa, a symbol of the Lao nation and the single most important monument in Laos. The monument was built to cover the original small stupa containing a piece of the chest bone of the Buddha. In the evening we visit Patouxay (modelled on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris), which was built quite recently to commemorate those who died in past wars, and today it's the most prominent landmark in Vientiane. This is where the people of Vientiane gather in the evenings, to cool off from the day's heat. We then check-in our hotel, and spend the night in the Lao capital city.
Day 8. 11 Apr To backpacker land
After breakfast, we drive out of the capital for Nam Ngum Lake, 90 km to the north, with its hundreds of small islands. Arriving by noon, we enjoy our lunch of Lao food in a lakeside restaurant. In the afternoon, we relax by taking a boat ride of about an hour, to enjoy the panoramic views of the small islands before proceeding to Vang Vieng, arriving just before sunset. We then hop aboard local wooden boats, for a sunset cruise over Nam Song River. After checking into our hotel, we shall stroll along the main street of the small town, which has quite justifiably been proclaimed as the Lao backpackers’ capital, and chill out on the wide balconies of the numerous cafés and restaurants. Overnight in Vang Vieng.
Day 9. 12 Apr Amidst caves and karst formations
After breakfast we drive to Tham Jang cave. Its stunning interior, with its pools of still water and limestone formations, remains unspoiled despite recent developments with the advent of tourism. We then enjoy some walks around Vang Vieng, as we visit Tham Poukham (Gold Crab Cave). We wrap up the day by a natural fresh water pool, known locally as the ‘Blue Lagoon’, where we can take a refreshing swim, cooling ourselves from the long hiking day. We then return to Vang Vieng for a second night.
Day 10. 13 Apr Winding road to the ancient capital
We leave Vang Vieng, heading for Luang Prabang, and stop at Nang Phomhom cave. We continue along a winding, mountain road with breathtaking views over some of the most beautiful scenery in Laos. We have a short stop at Phoukhoune with its lively market and fresh air, and enjoy our lunch at a local restaurant in Kiewkacham. We resume our drive to Luang Prabang, passing traditional and picturesque villages of the Hmong and Kamu people, and arrive in Luang Prabang in the late afternoon. After a short break for refreshments at our hotel, we go to explore the small but attractive night market. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 11. 14 Apr The golden Buddha caves
We leave our hotel for the boat landing and take a boat ride upstream on the Mekong River to visit Pak Ou cave in the side of a limestone cliff at the confluence of the Mekong and Ou rivers. The sanctuaries at Pak Ou consist of two large caves, repositories of thousands of images of the Buddha, which range in height from a few centimeters to two meters. En route, typical Lao villages are barely visible through the foliage. Slender canoes bob near the shore, bamboo poles and floats marking the location of nets and fish traps. After visiting the two caves, we cross the Ou River and pause at Ban Xang Hai, a village well known for its distillery of Laoh-Khao, traditional Lao rice whisky. We are invited to taste the drink, which is very common throughout the country. We then return to Luang Prabang in the late afternoon to climb to the top of Phou Si hill, from which we can enjoy a beautiful sunset – weather permitting. We then drive back to our hotel, or enjoy another evening stroll in the night market and the near by pedestrian street.
Day 12. 15 Apr Celebrating Lao New Year
Today’s early start gives us the fantastic opportunity to mix with the locals and watch the daily morning procession of monks clad in saffron-colored robes collecting offerings of alms (invariably sticky rice) from the faithful residents. This tradition is unique in Laos, which is the only Buddhist nation where this procession still takes place. We return to our hotel for a quick breakfast and then leave for the beginning of the Lao New Year celebrations. We take part by walking through the streets to buy various items including zodiac flags. We then visit the Secret Pools area and watch the crowded festival taking place on the shore of the Mekong River; a delightful part is when the locals build votive mounds of sand in accordance with their belief that the mounds give life to birds and fish. We then watch the dancing, singing and water throwing on the beach. In the evening we enjoy dinner, which includes a Baci ceremony to celebrate the New Year. At the end of this eventful day we return to our hotel for a third night in Luang Prabang.
Day 13. 16 Apr The mighty waterfalls
After breakfast we explore the morning Pho Si market, where we shall see such diverse offerings as dried buffalo skin, local tea, and saltpeter among the chickens, vegetables, and hill-tribe weavings. Laos is well known for its traditional crafts and today we get to see them in the making in local villages of Lao ethnic minority groups at Ban Ouay (a Hmong village), Ban Ou (a Laoloum village), and Ban Thapene (a Khmu village). We then continue in the direction of Kwang Si waterfall by local boat on a two-hour cruise with a stop at Ban Ou or Ban Mueng Kai. We then drive for another 5 km to the beautiful Kwang Si waterfall where we can cool off with a refreshing swim in the turquoise pools or walk along the forest trails. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 14. 17 Apr Departure from Laos
After breakfast in our hotel, we drive to Luang Prabang International airport, from which we take our departing flight home, or to our next destination.
Dates & Pricing
Trip rates valid for two confirmed travelers and above. If you are booking this trip for a party of four travelers or more, please contact us for our special rates.
Note: Trip rates are valid all year round, but are not valid for trips that occur (in whole, or in part) during Chinese national holidays: May 1st to 3rd, September 15th to 17th, or October 1st to 7th. Some surcharges might apply on December 24th to January 3rd due to high demand, or compulsory dinners in the hotels.
[email protected] reserves the right to change tour prices and programs due to changes in flight schedule, changes in airfares, and other local circumstances.
Prices are based on twin share occupancy.
Discounted rates for groups of 4 travelers and above:
4 travelers- US$2454/ person
6 travelers- US$2281/ person
8 travelers- US$2178/ person
- Applicable only for travel groups of 4 people or more booking their trip together.
4th April, 2017–17th April, 2017
- $0 Per Person (From 2 people)
- $0 Single Room Supplement
- Accommodation as per program
- Domestic flight as per program (Pakse to Vientiane)
- Meals as indicated in the program (half board basis)
- Transfers by private A/C vehicle
- English speaking guide for each area as per program
- Entry fees for all sightseeing as mentioned on the program
- Bottled drinking water
- International airport, or costs of travel to Bangkok, and from Luang Prabang
- Travel insurance
- Thai visa
- Lao visa
- Cambodian visa
- Excess luggage
- Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, etc.)
- Anything not clearly mentioned in the program
- Siem Reap- Tara Angkor Hotel 4-star (Superior room)
- Khong Island- Ponarena Hotel (Deluxe room)
- Pakse- Champasak Grand Hotel (Deluxe room)
- Vientiane- Donchan Palace Hotel 4-star (Classic room)
- Vang Vieng- Riverside Boutique Hotel 4-star (Deluxe room)
- Luang Prabang- Sanctuary Hotel 4-star (Deluxe room)
Note: the listed hotels are tentative. Final hotel list shall be confirmed upon placing a booking and paying a deposit.
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