The lazy Mekong River is a sleepy, undeveloped river waiting to be explored. The Mekong is Southeast Asia’s longest river and is perfect for leaving your busy life behind to immerse yourself in the beautiful and exotic riverscape. On this mythical journey you will hear many legends about the river, which is hollowed out of massive limestone cliffs along both sides of its river; we make a stop at Pakou to engulf ourselves at the fascinating gilded Buddha cave on bank of Mekong River.
Day 1: Chiangrai – HoueiSay – Pakbeng
This morning you will have an early morning transfer from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong, the exit point from Thailand on the banks of the Mekong. After passing through immigration, you will cross the Mekong River to HoueiSay in Laos where your Lao guide will be waiting for you at the immigration point. After completing border formalities, you board a ready traditional boat for the trip down the Mekong River. Serene, timeless Laos is one of Asia's most unvisited, unchanged countries. This once-powerful kingdom known as Lane Xang (Million Elephants) was founded in the 14th century with the help of the Khmers, and it went on to become one of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asia until its demise in the late 19th century. Bisected and bordered by the Mekong River, omnipresent symbol of Indochina, Laos today is an amalgam of cultural influences; Theravada Buddhism, animism, France, and the socialist ideal. It is a peaceful place, and the legendary hospitality, resilience and friendliness of the Lao people is much in evidence. Laos is Old Asia preserved. As your journey downriver you will stop at some tribal minority villages such as the Hmong, Yao and Khmu. Upon arrival in Pakbeng, we visit local market; experience daily lifestyle of colorful hill tribe traders exchanges their goods. Overnight in Pakbeng (B)
Day 2: Pakbeng – Pak Ou Cave – Luang Prabang
Breakfast, as you sail downriver as a second leg, you will pass areas of unspoilt forest with little villages along the riverbanks and perhaps the odd elephant or two with his mahout. You visit a fishing village and a rice wine making village and perhaps even taste some of the infamous beverage known as Lao Rice wine. You also visit the Pak-Ou caves, where thousands of Buddha statues are stored. You arrive in Luang Prabang around sunset and transfer to your hotel. This charming city of UNESCO world heritage site, The Luang Prabang is a small, dream-like town on the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, in a beautiful mountain setting. From 1353 until 1545 it was the capital of Lane Xang before power was transferred to Vientiane. Despite the move Luang Prabang remained the seat of monarchical power and when the kingdom broke up in 1694, one of the deceased king's grandsons established a rival kingdom to those in Vientiane and Champassak. Though weakened, the Luang Prabang royalty endured until 1975, when after the reign of 63 kings it was formally dissolved. You spend the day exploring the temples and sites in what is called one of the last Shangri-La’s of Southeast Asia. You will visit Wat Xiang Thong, the most important Buddhist monastery in the country. Overnight in Luang Prabang (B)
Day 3: Luang Prabang – City Tours – Khouangsi Waterfall
An optional early start gives you the fantastic opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of saffron-clad monks collecting offerings of Alms (ubiquitous sticky rice) from the faithful residents. This tradition is very unique in Laos, being the only Buddhist nation still preserving the procession.
AM: We explore, Wat Visoun, Wat Khili and Wat Mai. Later, visit the former Royal Palace, now a National Museum (close Tuesday) where you will find ornate, gilded and brocaded reception rooms, as well as Buddha and Spectacular artifacts including the Prabang, a large holy image, which was given in the 14th century by the Khmers to King Fa Ngum. At sunset we climb the nearby temple-topped hill of Mount Phousi where you'll catch a lovely view over the town and the Mekong River.
PM: We excursion out of town to experience local lifestyle of nearby villagers and visit the most beautiful waterfall in Luang Prabang. On the way, we visit Phosi Market, where you will see such diverse offerings as dried buffalo skin, local tea and saltpeter among the chickens, vegetables and hill-tribe weavings. Laos is also known for its traditional handicrafts, and today we will visit the villages of Ban Ouay and Ban Thapene and the weaving village of Ban Phanom which are populated by Lao ethnic minority groups. We spend time at the beautiful Khouangsi Waterfall where you can splash around in the turquoise pools or walk along the forest paths. We return to Luang Prabang city by late afternoon and visit the Night Market, where you can find the lovely selection of handmade textile by local and hill tribe people surrounding Luang Prabang. Overnight in Luang Prabang (B)
Day 4: Luang Prabang – Vientiane
Silver Smith’s, the Fine Arts School and the Central Market are of interest to many people and we visit these sights prior to bidding farewell to this ancient city and catching the your flight to Vientiane. Upon arrival, we see the major temples including the oldest Wat Sisaket, a temple of thousands of miniature Buddha statues and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha Image. On the way to the famous, sacred structure of That Luang Stupa, we stop to take some pictures of the imposing Patuxay Monument, which is Vientiane’s own Arc de Triumph. We enjoy our final evening by watching sunset by the Mekong Riverside and absorbing the city at night. Overnight in Vientiane (B)
Day 5: Vientiane – Departure
After breakfast, we visit the Morning Market and the weaving village of Ban Nong Bouathong (if time permits). The tour ends after your transfer to airport for departure. (B)
Also see tour packages in:
Asia Laos History Whiz Archeology/History Cultural Journey