Laos, an unspoiled sanctuary with unrivalled beauty, a country which is inviting and welcoming to all who visit. With fabulous architecture, a fascinating history, delicious cuisine and warm and friendly people, you will feel so at home you will never want to leave.
Depart the UK with international economy flight to Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Arrival at Chiang Rai Airport and transfer to the hotel to check in. Overnight at the hotel.
We transfer early this morning to the border town of Huay Xay (the road journey takes approximately 2 hours).
Arrive in Huay Xai pier; you will meet with the Lao Tour guide and following your completion of border formalities we set off for our cruise down the Mekong. The Cruise boat leaves Huay Xay pier at 09:00 hrs for a cruise down the Mekong to Pakbeng. En route one stop is made to observe rural life along the Mekong and visit minority ethnic groups; then, a buffet lunch on board. Arrive Pakbeng before sunset and check-in at hotel where you can then enjoy dinner on the terrace overlooking the Mekong River.
After a full breakfast at the lodge we board the boat for the second leg of the cruise. A short stop to discover a Hmong village before having a buffet lunch on board. Continue to Pak-Ou village at the mouth of the Nam Ou River, and then visit Pak Ou Caves “Cave of a thousand Buddha’s”. On the way to Luang Prabang a brief stop is made to observe the traditional process of manufacturing local rice alcohol. Arrive at Luang Prabang before sunset.
* Optional: walk to Pakbeng market, where people from the surrounding minority villages exchange their goods.
An optional early start gives you the fantastic opportunity to participate in the daily morning ritual of saffron-clad monks collecting offerings of Alms from the faithful residents. This procession is very unique in Laos, being the only Buddhist nation still preserving this tradition. Afterwards, we have the option of visiting the local morning market, before returning to the hotel for breakfast.
After breakfast we visit the Royal Palace Museum which hosts a range of interesting artefacts and a guided audio tour (closed on Tuesday). We then begin our temple tour taking in some the cities most beautiful, including the nearby Wat Mai, next the magnificent Wat Xiengthong, with its roofs sweeping low to the ground, representing the classical Luang Prabang style, as well as Wat Visoun, known as ‘The Water Melon Stupa’ due to its shape. Then we visit the excellent Arts and Ethnology Centre which gives us a further insight into the ethnic mix and culture of Laos.
After breakfast we visit the local Phosi Market. This is the place where all the locals shop and your guide will show you the diverse offerings on display. We then drive to visit Ban Thinkeo, a Hmong minority, to learn their culture and traditions, then continue to Ban Ou, a traditional cotton weaving village. This then takes us to the beautiful Kuang Si Waterfall where you can cool off with a refreshing swim in the pools or walk along the forest trails. Enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the beautiful multi tiered falls. Afterwards you return to Luang Prabang in time to catch the sun setting over the Mekong.
Late this afternoon stretch your legs and climb Mount Phousi, which offers a spectacular sunset and a panoramic view over Luang Prabang and the Mekong River. Afterwards, strolling through the night market (open between 5 pm-10 pm) selling a large variety of local textiles and ethnic handicrafts.
We start early this morning, around 8 am for the drive to Xiengkhuang, famous for the ‘Plain of Jars‘. The road follows a twisty mountain route, and we make our first stop at Houi Hei, which offers great views of the surrounding mountains. We then continue to Ban Kiu Maknao 2, a Khmu village to explore, before arriving in Phou Khoun for lunch. We continue on the road into Xiengkhuang province, reaching our highest altitude of the day 1500 m above sea level, just after Phou Khoun. We have time to make a stop at Ban Son Boom, a Hmong village. Our final stops of the day are a reminder that this region played a major part during the Vietnam War – as we visit a hidden Buddha Cave that served as an army hospital during the war and our final stop of the day. We arrive at your hotel by early evening. (The road journey today takes approximately 7-8 hours including stops on the way).
This morning we visit the Mines Advisory Group or MAG office to learn about the work they do in clearing land mines and unexploded ordnance in the area. We then transfer onto Jar Site 1, the largest site, and Jar Site 3, located on top of a hill offering great views of the surrounding countryside. We return back to Phonsavan town, and onto the airport for your flight to Vientiane. We will be met on arrival and transferred to our hotel for overnight.
Today we have a half day tour of Vientiane which begins with the oldest stupa Wat Sisaket, with thousands of miniature Buddha statues, and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha Image. En-route to Lao’s national precious heritage, the famous and sacred structure of That Luang Stupa, you will have the opportunity to take some pictures of the imposing Patuxay Monument, which is well known as Vientiane’s own Arc de Triumph. Continue to Wat Si Muang, site of the lak meuang (pillar-stone) of Vientiane – Si Muang temple is home to the guardian spirit of the statues. You have the option to visit the excellent COPE exhibition centre, highlighting a much overlooked aspect of Laos and a major problem many of the local people face on a day to day basis in the form of unexploded ordnance as a result of heavy bombing campaigns during the Vietnam War era.
This morning we transfer to the airport for our flight to Pakbeng. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred directly onto to Champassak. Disembark at this ancient town, of the Champa Kingdom; continue by car to Wat Phou, another World Heritage Site in Laos, which became recognised by UNESCO in 2002. Wat Phou is the site of ruins which were once part of a temple built some time before Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. It contains some of the most Ancient Khmer architectures which date back to between the 7-11th centuries. In the afternoon you will drive to Don Khong, an area of 4000 islands which is the widest point of the Mekong River during the rainy season, although during the dry months the river recedes, leaving behind thousands of islands and islets. This area of the river is also famous for being the home to the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins. En route, we visit the atmospheric ruins of the Khmer temple of Oup Mong at Ban Houei Tomo, located in the forest. Arrive at Khong Island early evening.
Following breakfast, we enjoy a visit to the surrounding countryside, and embark on a long tail boat tour to Don Khone, where we disembark and have the option of exploring the island by bicycle (or Tuk Tuk), which takes you to visit the remains of the French period and Liphi Waterfall or “the Corridor of the Devil”. We return to the mainland at the fishing village of Ban Nakasang and drive further south to visit Khone Phapheng. Khone Phapheng is considered the largest waterfall by volume in South East Asia; this is a really impressive site near the Lao-Cambodian border, set within an area which is teeming with wildlife, making this area one of the most breathtaking destinations in Laos. Then we drive back to Pakse for overnight.
Today we transfer to the airport for our flight home.
Chiang Rai – 3* Wiang Inn Hotel (for information click here)
Pakbeng – Luangsay Cruise (for information click here)
Luang Prabang – 3* Le Sen Boutique Hotel (for information click here)
Xieng Khouang – 3* Vansana Xieng Khouang (for information click here)
Vientiane – 3* City Inn (for information click here)
4000 Islands – 3* Pon Arena (for information click here)
Pakse – 3* Pakse Hotel (for information click here)
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We used Emperor for a group trip to India. they were fantastic with their choice of hotels (some truly incredible) their tour guide, the whole programme and their choice of airlines for the trip. We made things quite tough for them with different members of the group travelling for different periods and arriving in and out of different airports. We specifically had some issues with one of the airlines on the return leg of our trip, through no fault of Emperor, but they did their utmost to put things right and made the journey home as pleasant as possible by meeting the cost of a lounge at the airport for us do to the shortcomings of one of the airlines checking in procedures. The pre holiday package of information was very comprehensive and we were presented with very durable luggage tags. We would have no hesitation in recommending Richard and his team in tailoring a package for a trip to India. We had an amazing culturally stimulating trip and will certainly go back to India in the future.