14D/13N - LAOS & CAMBODIA EXPLORER
Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Huay Xai, Pakbeng, Luang Prabang, Phonsavan, Vientiane, Phnom Penh, Siemreap
Laos and Cambodia are the two hidden gems of the former French Indochina. Starting in Bangkok, we explore the bustling Thai capital before flying to Chiang Rai, then crossing into Laos and spending a week in this unique, but little-known country. We take the slow boat to Luang Prabang, where royal palaces and temples tell the story of the rich Lao culture and heritage. A visit to the mysterious Plain of Jars takes us even further back in time to an archaeological site said to be 2000 years old, whilst nearby Hmong villages remind us also of the country’s cultural diversity. The capital, Vientiane, is a sleepy yet charming town on the Mekong River, with its old buildings still exuding the mood of the French colonial days. Just in the last couple of years the Kingdom of Cambodia has arisen from the ashes of war and internal strife, and its monumental treasures are again on show to travellers. The incredible temple complex near Siem Reap has astounded archaeologists since its rediscovery and subsequent recovery from the jungles, 150 years ago. The famous Angkor Wat is but one of many glorious monuments in that area. Phnom Penh, now reconstructed, still contains vestiges of the French colonial era in its historic architecture.
Why we love it:
• Laos and Cambodia are the two hidden gems of the former French Indochina
• Starting in Bangkok, you will explore the bustling Thai capital before flying to Chiang Rai, then crossing into Laos and spending a week in this unique, but little-known country.
• Take a slow boat to Luang Prabang, where royal palaces and temples tell the story of the rich Lao culture and heritage.
• A visit to the mysterious Plain of Jars takes you even further back in time to an archaeological site said to be 2000 years old, whilst nearby Hmong villages remind you of the country’s cultural diversity.
• Vientiane is a sleepy yet charming town on the Mekong River, with its old buildings still exuding the mood of the French colonial days.
• Just in the last couple of years the Kingdom of Cambodia has arisen from the ashes of war and internal strife, and its monumental treasures are again on show to travellers.
• The incredible temple complex near Siem Reap has astounded archaeologists since its rediscovery and subsequent recovery from the jungles, 150 years ago - boasting the incredible Angkor Wat.
• Phnom Penh, now reconstructed, still contains vestiges of the French colonial era in its historic architecture.
Day 01: Bangkok
◦ When you arrive in Bangkok you will be transferred to the comfortable and centrally located hotel.
◦ A pre-trip briefing will be held in the evening, to meet the other members of your group and discuss the trip itinerary. Please check for a welcome notice on the Peregrine notice board located near the hotel lifts. This will provide you with your tour leader's name and the exact time and location of your welcome meeting.
◦ Until this meeting we encourage you to get out and discover the delights that Bangkok has to offer, especially trying some of Thailand’s famous cuisine. After the group meeting in the evening, you may adjourn to a nearby restaurant and enjoy a meal together (this is optional and at your own expense).
◦ The rest of the evening is free - perhaps a quiet drink or a visit to the bustling night markets of Bangkok.
Day 02: Bangkok - Chiang Rai
• You will enjoy a city tour of Bangkok. You will visit the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), a must for first-time travellers to Bangkok.
• You will also visit Wat Pho, home of the famous Reclining Buddha. (When visiting temples and palaces in Thailand, please dress conservatively in order to respect the local culture).
Day 03 - Huay Xai - Pakbeng
• Today is a very early start, you will we need to leave Chiang Rai before dawn to travel approximately 2½ hours to Chiang Khong.
• After completing border formalities we take a songthaew across the Mekong River to Huay Xai our first stop in Laos.
• For centuries Huay Xai was a disembarkation point for Yunnanese caravans led by the Chinese Muslims on their way to Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, in ancient Siam. Today it is a hustling ferry town on the banks of the Mekong River.
• You will transfer to the boat pier, where you will board a slow boat for the trip down the Mekong River.
• The pace is very relaxed - a perfect way to observe the local lifestyle close up. Our private slow boat has plenty of room to stretch your legs,toilet on board, comfortable seats and dining tables to sit around and play cards, swap travel stories or enjoy a good book. The scenery is stunning, the pace is slow and it's the perfect way to relax into the slower pace of Laos.
• You will arrive in the evening in Pakbeng; a colourful village situated at the junction of the Mekong River and the smaller Beng River, hence the town’s name ‘Pak’ meaning ‘mouth’ in Lao.
• Hmong and tribal Thais are frequently seen on the main street of Pakbeng, and small vendors along the street sell local textiles and handicrafts. You will spend the night in a basic hotel.
• Please be warned that the accommodation standard is very basic, but also bear in mind that you are travelling in a remote area.
• Please have an open mind and come with an adventurous spirit!
Day 04: Luang Prabang
• You will continue your private slow boat journey down the Mekong River, gaining more insights into local rural life along the way.
• Just before arriving at Luang Prabang you will stop at Pak Ou (meaning ‘mouth of the Ou River’), where the famous Tam Ting Cave houses thousands of Buddha images of various shapes and sizes, all brought there by devoted villagers.
• You will also stop at the village of Ban Sang Hai, where they make the potent local rice-wine.
• Your travel time will vary greatly, depending on the water levels, but you will hopefully arrive in Luang Prabang in the early evening.
• This beautiful town, with its gleaming temple roofs, fading French architecture and stunning mountain backdrop, has been claimed by UNESCO to be ‘the best preserved city in South East Asia’.
Day 05: Luang Prabang
• In the morning you will have the option to rise early to view the procession of monks on their daily outing collecting alms, a practice that dates back centuries.
• The people of the town wait out the front of their houses with food for the monks to collect and take back to the temple.
• It is done early, as the monks cannot eat anything after midday. By giving food to a monk you ‘het bon’ or make merit, which should augur well for your next life.
• Following breakfast you will visit the major temples, including the magnificent Wat Xieng Thong, which nestles at the meeting of the Mekong and the Nam Khan Rivers, and Wat Wisunalat, which is the oldest temple in the city.
• After the tour you will have the chance to walk around the local shops, which are known for hand weaving and other interesting artifacts. You will have the chance to try your hand at bargaining here.
• You will visit the National Museum at the former Royal Palace next, an interesting structure that dates from the early years of the 20th Century and combines traditional Lao architecture with French colonial influence.
• The collection of treasures and artifacts reflects the richness of Lao culture, dating from the days of the early kings right through to the last sovereign, who was deposed in 1975.
• In the afternoon you will embark on another highlight of the stay - a 29-kilometre journey south of town to visit the beautiful Kuang Si Waterfalls.
• In the evening back in Luang Prabang you will be free to make further discoveries including walking around the popular Night Bazaar.
• Another great optional activity is to sample a traditional Lao massage and herbal sauna.
Day 06: Phonsavan
• In the mid-morning you will harness your spirit of adventure and travel on a private bus to remote Xieng Khuang Province, an area that was devastated by American bombing between 1964 and 1973.
• The high altitude means that the weather will be relatively cool. You will visit the province’s old capital of Muang Khun that was largely destroyed in the bombing raids, as well as the nearby villages, home to the Hmong hill tribe who have an interesting local culture and colourful history.
• The Hmong people wear distinctive costumes and live at high altitudes. You will spend the night in a basic hotel in the small town of Phonsavan, which is the province’s current capital.
Day 07: Phonsavan - Vientiane
• In the morning you will visit the Plain of Jars, an archaeological site where hundreds of large stone jars are littered all over the plateau.
• It is said that these jars are over 2000 years old, but there is no reliable way of dating them and archaeologists are still mystified as to their original purpose (opinions vary from burial urns to rice whisky vats).
• You will then be transferred to the airport to catch a flight to Vientiane - the capital of Laos.
Day 08: Vientiane
• A city tour will acquaint you with the major sights of the capital.
• You will visit the imposing Patuxai monument (also known as the Anousavari, which translates as ‘Victory’ in Lao), which is Vientiane's version of the Arc de Triomphe and dominates the city's main thoroughfare.
• It was also nicknamed the ‘Vertical Runway’, which refers to the fact that it was built in the 1960s with funds that the US Government had given to the Lao Government for the expressed purpose of extending the runway at the airport!
• Wat Si Saket is the oldest temple in the city, and Wat Prakeo, the former royal temple, previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha image before the Siamese took it in the late 18th Century.
• You will visit both temples and the most famous structure in Laos, the That Luang stupa.
• We enjoy an included dinner at the Makphet Restaurant in Vientiane. This restaurant is run by Peuan Mit an organisation founded by Friends-International in Vientiane in 2004, in partnership with the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare to address the needs of street children and young people in Laos. We are happy to support this organisation and the food is amazing!
Day 09: Vientiane - Phnom Penh
• You will be transferred to the airport, where you will say goodbye to your Lao tour leader and fly to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Please note: it is unlikely that you will be escorted on this flight.
• When you arrive in Phnom Penh you will be transferred to a comfortable and centrally located hotel
• A Cambodia trip sector briefing will be held in the evening. Please check for a welcome notice on the Peregrine notice board located near the hotel lifts. This will provide you with your tour leader's name and the exact time and location of your Welcome Meeting.
• Keep in mind that you will need to again bring your travel insurance details with you to the meeting.
• There is nothing planned until this meeting, so we recommend you take to the streets of Phnom Penh and explore the city.
• After a pre-trip briefing, you will adjourn for dinner in the restaurant run by the Friends organisation (closed on public and school holidays when you will dine at an alternative restaurant).
• During your free time after dinner, you might even choose to have a relaxing drink at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, a great way to spend your evening.
Day 10: Phnom Penh
• Cambodia has a rich and diverse history, which is especially evident in its bustling capital. From the winding Mekong River, French-inspired colonial architecture, and proud Khmer pre-industrial empire, to the more recent devastation of the Khmer Rouge – Phnom Penh remains a living relic of the country’s past struggles and successes.
• A full city tour will introduce you to the sights of Phnom Penh, a city that lies near the confluence of the Mekong and the Tonle Sap Rivers.
• The private quarters of the Royal Palace are home to King Sihamoni and are therefore closed to the public; however, you will be able to visit the Silver Pagoda that lies in the palace complex, which is the most sacred temple in the country and was previously spared from destruction by the Khmer Rouge.
• You can make an optional visit to Wat Phnom, the temple that gave rise to the foundation of the city in the 15th century.
• The bloody rule of the Khmer Rouge is a painful, but unavoidable, part of Cambodia's recent history and visits to the Tuol Sleng Prison Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek tell the story of this tragic legacy.
• (Note: These sites are a major part of sightseeing in Phnom Penh; however, if you do not wish to visit either of them, please inform your tour leader.)
• An ideal way to spend your evening to relax in a cafe by the riverfront
Day 11: Siem Reap
• You will depart the capital and fly north to Siem Reap today (Approx 1 hour). You will notice a distinct change of pace here.
• The rest of the day will be free so you can explore the colourful markets and many street food offerings.
Day 12: Siem Reap
• You spend a full day visiting the amazing temples of Angkor on a guided tour. Angkor Thom, the 'Great Royal City', is famous for its series of colossal human faces carved in stone.
• The impressive Bayon temple is the centrepiece. Angkor Wat is the largest and most complete structure. It is the only one of Angkor's temples with its entrance facing to the west (the others face east), the reason being that it was constructed as a funerary temple for King Suryavarman II and a westerly countenance was seen to represent a sunset.
• Ta Prohm temple is an incredible sight, with large trees embedding themselves in the stone foundations of the structure. This demonstrates the true feebleness of man’s creations when confronted with the powerful force of nature.
• You have the opportunity to visit the Sala Bai Hotel School where underprivileged local youths learn skills that enable them to find gainful employment in the hospitality industry. You enjoy a lunch prepared by students at the school (please note that this is closed on public holidays and school holidays and an alternative restaurant will be used).
Day 13: Siem Reap
• It is an early morning start as you travel out to Banteay Srei, famous for its detailed and intricate stone carvings. It is not a big temple, but has been sometimes referred to as ‘the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art’.
• Back at the main temple complex, Preah Khan contains a maze of vaulted corridors and is another complex that has been largely reclaimed by the jungle.
• Your ticket for the Angkor ruins enables you to spend more time exploring this memorable archaeological area.
• Indulge with a traditional Khmer massage.
• Visit the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), a place that rehabilitates animals that have fallen victim to wildlife trafficking and provides a breeding facility for highly endangered animal species. It is also a centre of education and information for the local population.
• Learn to prepare Khmer food in a local cooking class (optional).
• Enjoy a final Khmer dinner on your last night in Siem Reap.
Day 14: Siem Reap - Departure
• The tour ends after breakfast. A transfer to the airport is not included; however, your tour leader will be on hand to advise you as to the options available.
• The services of speaking local tour leaders in each country, and local guides at some sites
• Local flights: Bangkok to Chiang Rai, Phonsavan to Vientiane, Vientiane to Phnom Penh (unescorted) and Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
• Sightseeing (including entrance fees where relevant): Bangkok - the Grand Palace, Temple of the Emerald Buddha and Temple of the Reclining Buddha
• Sightseeing (including entrance fees where relevant): Thousands of Buddha images in Tam Ting Cave; Ban Sang Hai village
• Sightseeing (including entrance fees where relevant): Luang Prabang - the procession of monks, Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Wisunalat and the National Museum at the former Royal Palace
• Sightseeing (including entrance fees where relevant): Kuang Si Waterfalls; Muang Khun; Plain of Jars
• Sightseeing (including entrance fees where relevant): Vientiane - Patuxai Monument, Wat Si Saket, Wat Prakeo and That Luang Stupa
• Sightseeing (including entrance fees where relevant): Phnom Penh - Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, Tuol Sleng Prison Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
• Visit to the Angkor complex: Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Preah Khan, Banteay Srei and a sunset over Angkor Wat from Phnom Bakheng
• A night in a simple hotel in Pakbeng village home to tribal Thais and a night in a basic hotel in Phonsavan - home to the Hmong hill tribe
• Lunch at Sala Bai Hotel School prepared by underprivileged local youths learning skills to find employment in the hospitality industry
• Free time to explore Luang Prabang, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh
• Arrival transfer
• Accommodation: 12 nights comfortable hotel, 1 night basic hotel
• Meals: 13 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 dinners.
• Gratuities included for the essential services only that you will receive as part of your tour package
• International long haul flights
• Other meals
• Gratuities for non-essential services and for tour leader
• Any additional optional tours or activities during free time
• Items of a personal nature
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