The sweet scent, fragrance and sheer beauty of frangipanis are an irresistible invitation to the traveller. Banks of overgrown trees, peppered with scarlet flowers, contrast with the burnt sienna robes of monks and novices and resplendent gold and claret Wats in an amazing display of colour. Add to this the stunning cliffs, river activity, vibrant markets and aroma of spicy food and coffee that provide the backdrop to a wonderful tour, intended to relax the mind and body.
Laos is a fascinating and extraordinary country, formerly under French Colonial rule and control by the Pathet Lao. Like Vietnam, market reforms were introduced in the late 1980s. The IMF has helped fund growth but Laos remains poor. About 30% of the population lives below the poverty line. Yet, Laotian people are very hospitable and exude calmness and a sense of well-being. Their lifestyle is simple and relaxed. If invited into a home please do accept.
Think about combining Laos with Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam. Understand even more the cultural diversity and rich histories. Absorb geographic differences, the beautiful environment and traditional ways of life of more than 50 ethnic groups. As with all tours these are tailored to suit your specific interests to maximise your travel experience.
Day 1 - Arrival - Vientiane
Assuming a morning arrival, this half day city tour enables you to see the major temples of Vientiane including the oldest, Wat Sisaket, with its thousands of miniature Buddha statues, and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, formerly housing the famous Emerald Buddha Image. We also visit the national icon of Laos, the majestic and fortress-like That Luang Stupa, stopping along the way to take some pictures of the imposing Patuxay Monument, Vientiane’s own Arc de Triumph. Overnight is in Vientiane
Day 2 - Vientiane - Vang Vieng
After an early breakfast we depart the capital for our northern journey. Our drive is about four hours, passing through spectacular countryside before we drive up into the mountains. There will be photo opportunities along the way and a stop at a colourful local market where various hill tribes come to trade goods and buy provisions.
Vang Vieng is extremely scenic with its backdrop of cliffs and green paddy fields that resembles an oriental silk painting. Serenity, tranquility and harmony provide a captivating experience for travellers. You arrive in for lunch at the Organic Farm. Here you can eat traditional Lao food, sample roasted goat cheese and taste the local mulberry wine. After lunch we visit the famous Than Jang Cave, once used by local people as a hideout from Chinese invaders. The rest of the afternoon is free to explore the magic of Vang Vieng by foot, bicycle or a leisurely river trip. Overnight is in Vang Vieng
Day 3 - Vang Vieng - Luang Prabang (Baci Ceremony)
This morning we drive further into the mountains, where we will see spectacular scenery and numerous hill tribe villages. We lunch at an altitude of approximately 1,300 meters above sea level, surrounded by the endless mountain peaks of this remote region.
After lunch we continue on along Route 13, stopping for photo opportunities and arrive in Luang Prabang early evening. After check in at your hotel and a freshen-up enjoy an evening at the Traditional Baci & Cultural Show. The Baci Ceremony is a complex mixture of Animism and Buddhism, calling back our own spirits. It is a popular and important event for major life events in Laos, such as weddings, births, travel and the return of loved ones. The ceremony is followed by traditional dance and then dinner at a restaurant. Out of respect formal dress is required. A traditional Lao shoulder scarf is provided on request. Overnight is in Luang Prabang
Day 4 - Luang Prabang - Full day city tour + Cooking Class
After breakfast we head off on bicycles to begin our city tour with a visit to the Royal Palace Museum, hosting a range of interesting artifacts from the Royal period. Cycling further on we see the city’s oldest temples, the magnificent Wat Xiengthong with its roof sweeping low to the ground, representing classical Lao architecture, the impressive stupa of Wat Visoun and shrine of Wat Aham.
This morning enjoy a culinary experience! You will cook a traditional Lao lunch at the Tamnak Lao Cooking School. Among the traditional dishes you may learn to cook are Lap, consisting of minced meat and fresh herbs and spices, a fish and eggplant soup and a stir-fried chicken and pork dish. Vegetarian options are catered for too. You will also learn how to make the famous Jeowbong, a traditional sauce eaten as an accompaniment to sticky rice and BBQ meat.
After lunch, relax a while at your hotel before we visit the Arts and Ethnology Centre later in the afternoon to learn about the many ethnic cultures of Laos. Enjoy a coffee at the centre’s café before we climb 150m to the top of Mount Phousi. Here you can explore the sacred gilded stupa and enjoy the panoramic view of the city with its many temples and superb landscape. Capture the unforgettable scene of sunset unfolding over the Mekong River.
Taking our time in the descent from the mountain you will be in the midst of the famous Luang Prabang Night Market. Explore the many stalls offering a wide selection of handmade textiles and handicrafts, made by ethnic Lao and hill tribe people in villages surrounding Luang Prabang where you will spend the night.
Day 5 - Luang Prabang - Kuang Sii Waterfall and Pak Ou Caves
This morning you have the option and opportunity to rise early and participate in the daily morning ritual of ‘Alms Giving’, you will experience saffron-clad monks collecting offerings or ‘Alms’ from faithful local residents. This tradition is unique to Laos, being the only Buddhist nation still preserving this daily procession.
After breakfast back at the hotel we begin our journey to Kuang Sii Waterfall. We stop along the way to visit the morning Phousi Market where locals of Luang Prabang come to do their daily shopping. You will see a variety of local foodstuffs and products including dried buffalo skin, local tea and saltpeter among the chickens, fish, vegetables and fruit; everything needed for daily life in Laos. On arrival at the Kuang Sii Falls you will have the opportunity to cool off with a refreshing swim in the topaz pools below the Falls, walk along the forest trails and visit the Bear Sanctuary. You will also enjoy a picnic lunch below the Falls.
Upon return to Luang Prabang we board our private boat for a pleasant and scenic cruise up on the Mekong River to the mysterious Pak Ou Caves. These caves are an ancient pilgrimage site and contain thousands of gold lacquered Buddha images left there over hundreds of years. On our return to Luang Prabang by boat we have the option of taking a short drive to Ban Phanom, a village famous for its hand weaving, or return to the hotel for free time to relax. Overnight is in Luang Prabang
Day 6 - Luang Prabang – Living Land Farm - Petanque game – Spa treatment
This morning we head out to the Living Land Farm, a working community farm aprroximately 5kms outside the town. There you will learn all about the process of rice growing and have an opportunity to participate in seasonal farm activities such as identifying rice seeds, ploughing with a buffalo, hand planting, weeding and harvesting rice and threshing rice seed.
You may be picking vegatables form the organic garden or catching fish to cook for your all natural, organic lunch where there will be a variety of local rice products for you to sample. We return to Luang Prabang late afternoon with the option of local and not too strenous game of Petanque game and enjoy a relaxing drink. You might also wish to have a spa treatment or massage or just relax at the hotel. Overnight is in Luang Prabang.
Day 7 - Luang Prabang – Departure
After breakfast you are free until transfer to the local airport. Luang Prabang is a great kicking-off point for other destinations such as Chiang Mai or Bangkok in Thailand, Hanoi in Vietnam or Siem Reap in Cambodia. A 2/3 country tour is well worth considering. For example a tour of Northern Vietnam, including Hanoi, Sapa and Ha Long Bay will be a fabulous addition as will a tour of Cambodia, steeped in culture and history.