Day 1: Vientiane. Arrival in Vientiane. Transfer to the hotel. Sightseeing in Vientiane. The capital city and seat of government sits in a bend of the Mekong River amidst fertile alluvial plains. Vientiane (pronounced 'Wieng Chan' by the locals) is a laid-back city with interesting wats and lively markets. Overnight in Vientiane. Highlights:
- Pha That Luang (Great Sacred Reliquary or Great Stupa), built between the 11th and 13th centuries AD, it is the most important national monument in Laos, a symbol of both the Buddhist religion and Lao sovereignty.
- Patuxai, a large monument in the style of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the huge arch at the end of Thanon Lan Xang has a stairway that leads to the top levels of the monument, providing a good view of the city.
- Ho Pha Keo, the former royal temple of the Lao monarchy built in 1565 by King Setthathirat and now converted into a museum containing some of the best examples of Buddhist sculptures found in Laos.
- Wat Si Saket, constructed in 1818 by King Anouvong in the early Bangkok style, small niches are carved into its interior walls, containing more than 2,000 silver and ceramic Buddha images.
- Wat Si Muang, this temple is one of the most popularly used temple grounds in the city, as it contains the city pillar and acts as the home of Vientiane's guardian spirits.
- Talaat Sao, the Morning Market - actually open all day selling a wide range of fabrics, jewellery and electronic goods.
Day 2: Vientiane-Vang Vieng. By vehicle from Vientiane to Vang Vieng. Journey north in Vientiane Province on Route 13 passing through Thalat and Phonhong. Sightseeing in Vang Vieng including Tham Chang and Tham Xang Caves. This small town north of Vientiane is nestled in a scenic bend in the Nam Song River. The west bank of the river is lined with tunnels and caverns and the limestone cliffs are beautiful. Highlights:
- Tham Chang Cave, used as a bunker against marauding Chinese in the early 19th century. Tham means cave and Chang is steadfast.
- Tham Xang Cave, also called Elephant Cave, it contains a few Buddha images and a Buddha footprint plus the elephant shaped stalactites which give the cave its name. Overnight in Vang Vieng. Includes: (B).
Day 3: Vang Vieng-Luang Prabang. By vehicle from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang. Journey north passing through Ban Phatang and Muang Kasi. Overnight in Luang Prabang. Includes: (B).
Day 4: Luang Prabang. Sightseeing in Luang Prabang, the ancient capital city of the Lan Xang Kingdom, is famous for its historic temples and beautiful setting surrounded by mountains. In 1995 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Highlights:
- Wat Xieng Thong, built in 1560 and situated on the banks of the Mekong River, it is the most beautiful monastery in Luang Prabang and shows the typical Lao art style with old religious artifacts and some ancient masterpieces of Lao art.
- Wat Wisunalat (Vat Visoun), built in 1513 during the reign of Chao Wisunalat, it is the oldest operating temple in Luang Prabang with a collection of gilded wooden Buddhas from the 15th and 16th centuries.
- Wat Mai, constructed in 1821 during the reign of King Manthatourath, it was once the residence of Phra Sangkharaj (the Patriarch of the Buddhist clergy).
- Wat That Luang, the ashes of King Sisavang Vong are interred inside the large central stupa, which was erected in 1910. The inside of the huge sim dating back to 1820 contains a few Luang Prabang Buddhas and other artifacts.
- Wat Saen, Thai style wat built in 1718 and restored in 1957. The abbot Ajannn Khamjan who was ordained here in 1940 is one of the most revered monks in Luang Prabang and perhaps in all of Laos. Overnight in Luang Prabang. Includes: (B).
Day 5: Luang Prabang. Excursion by car to Kuang Si Waterfalls located in a perfect natural setting near Luang Prabang this multi-tiered waterfall tumbles over limestone formations into a series of turquoise pools. It is a nice place for bathing and having a picnic. Ban Tha Baen, quaint, Khmu village with a traditional hydro-rice mill. Overnight in Luang Prabang. Includes: (B).
Day 6: Luang Prabang-Pakbeng. Transfer to the pier to board the local charter slow boat via Pak Ou Caves from Luang Prabang to Pakbeng. Journey west along the Mekong River, through the Luang Prabang Range. Pak Ou Caves, these are two caves (Tham Thing, a lower cave and Tham Phum) located in the steep rock cliff at the confluence of the Mekong River and Ou River. They are full of Buddha images of varying styles, ages and sizes. Ban Xang Hai, located near the Pak Ou Caves, this village was once a "Jar-Maker Village" and nowadays the community fill the jars (which come from elsewhere) with the local rice whiskey. Overnight in Pakbeng. Includes: (B).
Day 7: Pakbeng- Huay Xai (No local guide). By local charter slow boat from Pakbeng to Huay Xai. Journey west along the Mekong River in north-western Laos through part of Udomxai Province, a mountainous province with a mixture of some 23 ethnic minorities. Transfer to the hotel. Overnight in Huay Xai. Includes: (B).
Day 8: Huay Xai-Chiang Khong-Tachileik. Sightseeing in Huay Xai. By vehicle from Chiang Khong (Lao border) to Mae Sai (border Myanmar). Arrival in Tachileik (Thailand/Myanmar border). Sightseeing in Tachileik. Visit the Myanmar-Thai border bridge, see the Two Dragon Monastery, Baying Naung Statue and take in the atmosphere of this typical Golden Triangle town. Overnight in Tachileik. Includes: (B).
Day 9: Tachileik-Kengtung. By vehicle from Tachileik to Kengtung. Overnight in Kengtung. Includes: (B).
Day 10: Kengtung. Sightseeing in Kengtung. Tucked away in the far eastern corner of Shan State, Kengtung is a sleepy but historic centre for the state's Khun culture, surrounded by Wa, Shan, Akha and Lahu villages. It is a very scenic town as it is built around a small lake and is dotted with ageing Buddhist temples and crumbling British colonial architecture. Highlights:
- Wat Jong Kham, features a tall gilded zedi topped by a gold hti inlaid with silver, rubies, diamonds, sapphires and jade, and hung with tiny gold bells. Legend says Jong Kham dates to a visit by Gautama Buddha and that the zedi contains six strands of his hair.
- Wat Pha Jao Lung, 19th century temple which gets its Burmese name Maha Myat Muni from a 1920 replica of the Mandalay Maha Myat Muni image.
- Wat Pha That Jom Mon, located on the hill south of town, this wat features an older wood and plaster sanctuary with good tin work.
- Wat Mahabodi Vipassana, a forest-style monastery where monks practise intensive meditation.
- Haw Sao Pha Kengtung, this is considered the most outstanding example of Shan style palace architecture in Myanmar. The stucco and teak structure combining Buddhist temple-style pavilions with Islamic-looking domes, is said to have been inspired by the suggestions of a visiting Muslim Indian prince.
- Central Market, sells mostly fresh produce and household goods to people from the whole area including nearby hill tribes. Some handicrafts are also available.
- Water Buffalo Market, daily on the western outskirts of town. An interesting place to wander and watch the negotiations. Overnight in Kengtung. Includes: (B).
Day 11: Kengtung. Excursion to visit local hill tribes. Wa People: they are darker-complexioned and stocky; one of the better known of the smaller ethnic groups. They used to practice headhunting as a part of their fertility rites until fairly recently. Palaung People: descended from Mon-Khmer stock and they inhabit the Kalaw area; they were amongst the earliest inhabitants of Myanmar and are famous for growing tea - unlike other minorities, they have never grown opium.
Lahu People: Lahu women are skilled in weaving cloth, both on back-strap and foot-treadle looms, producing delicate patchwork trims, and unusual embroidery work. The Black Lahu women wear the most distinctive costumes within this tribe. They wear a black cloak with diagonal cream stripes. The top of the sleeve is decorated in bold colors of red and yellow. Lahu men produce excellent crossbows, musical instruments, and other items made of wood, bamboo and rattan. Akha (Kaw) People: Like most other Hilltribes, the Akha have no written language so their history was carried to this century on the backs of many colorful legends, proverbs and rituals handed down from one generation to the other. Akha are able to at least recite the male line of their family back to the "beginning." Overnight in Kengtung. Includes: (B).
Day 12: Kengtung-Heho-Inle Lake. Transfer to the airport. Flight from Kengtung to Heho. By vehicle from Heho to Inle Lake. Journey east on Highway 4 to Shwenyaung and then due south on Highway 43 towards Inle Lake. Overnight in Inle Lake. Includes: (B).
Day 13: Inle Lake. Boat trip on the Inle Lake includes Ywama and Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda. Inle lake, located in Shan State is beautiful, with very calm waters dotted with patches of floating vegetation and busy fishing canoes. High hills rim the lake on all sides. The lakes shore and islands bear 17 villages on stilts, mostly inhabited by the Intha people. Overnight in Inle Lake. Includes: (B).
Day 14: Inle Lake. Excursion by vehicle and boat to Kakku. By boat to a small village on the eastern shore of Inle lake. Continue by vehicle into the mountains through a beautiful landscape. Visit Pa O villages on the way. Continue to Kakku. Return via Taunggyi and Nyaungshwe. Overnight in Inle Lake. Includes: (B).
Day 15: Inle Lake-Heho-Yangon. By vehicle from the Inle Lake to Heho. Journey north to Shwenyaung and continue west on highway 4 to Heho. Flight from Heho to Yangon. Transfer to the hotel. Afternoon at leisure. Overnight in Yangon. Includes: (B).
Day 16: Depart. Transfer to the airport. End of services. Includes: (B).
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