After an energetic stay in Bangkok and Chiang Rai it all slows down aboard the Luang Say cruise that meanders downstream through tranquil river scenes to Luang Prabang the spiritual UNESCO World Heritage city. From here the south awaits, again keeping the Mekong close by as your explore the lush forests and dramatic waterfalls of the Bolaven Plateau, the river scenes of the 4,000 Islands and the laid back capital of Vientiane - a world away from our everyday life.
Day 1: Depart on your overnight flight to Bangkok.
Day 2: On arrival met and private transfer to your hotel for 2 nights in Bangkok.
Day 3: Bangkok full day city tour.
Day 4: Transfer to airport for short flight to Chiang Rai (2 nights). Private transfer to your hotel.
Day 5: Chiang Rai. Full day tour: Elephant Adventure, Hill Tribes & Mae Kok River.
Day 6: Drive to Mekong River. Cross into Laos for 2 day Luang Say Cruise. Overnight Luang Say Lodge.
Day 7: Relax on the Mekong. Just you, the river and unbeatable scenery. Luang Prabang 2 nights.
Day 8: Up early for Alms procession and city walking tour.
Day 9: Morning Tour to Kuang Si Waterfall.
Day 10: Flight to Pakse, southern Laos. 1 night Bolaven Plateau on top of an extinct volcano. Afternoon hike to waterfalls and unique landscapes.
Day 11: Follow Mekong by car to 4,000 islands stopping at Wat Phou temple. 2 nights on Don Khong island.
Day 12: Irrawaddy dolphin boat tour. Visit Khone Phapeng & Li Phi waterfalls on Cambodia border.
Day 13: Fly to Vientiane, the Capital, for 2 nights.
Day 14: Full day private guided City tour.
Day 15: Fly home via Bangkok.
Day 16: Arrive Home.
Day 1: UK Airport / Bangkok
Depart on a choice of overnight flights to Bangkok.
Day 2: Bangkok
On arrival you will be met by your private guide and transferred to your choice of hotel for 2 nights.
Depending on your arrival time we can arrange a choice of tours to introduce you to this exciting city.
Day 3: Bangkok - City Tour (B / L)
After breakfast your private guide will pick you up for a comprehensive tour of Bangkok. First stop will be the golden, glittering temples at Bangkok’s most famous landmark, the Grand Palace.
Walk up to Wat Saket and the Golden Mount for panoramic views of Old Bangkok, before enjoying an exciting Tuk Tuk ride to Ban Baht (Monks Bowl Village). Then visit Wat Suthat and Sao Ching-Cha (Giant Swing).
For lunch sample delicious Thai cuisine, before continuing your afternoon exploring the Chao Phraya River aboard a local style "Long Tail Boat". Spend a few hours travelling along the ancient canals, where a more traditional side of the city still prevails.
Finish the day at the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), one of most famous temples and silhouettes in the city. Back at the hotel by late afternoon.
Extra...If this isn’t your first visit to Bangkok we can offer a range of tours that explore other parts of the city and beyond.
Day 4: Fly Bangkok (B) / Chiang Rai
A relaxing start today before being picked up for your short flight up to the northern city of Chiang Rai.
On arrival you will be met and transferred to your choice of hotel for 2 nights. Depending on your arrival time we can arrange a tour of the town or you can relax for the rest of the day.
Day 5: Chiang Rai - Elephant Adventure, Hill Tribes & Mae Kok River (B / L)
After breakfast you’ll be picked up by your private guide for a quick visit to Wat Phra Kaew, Chiang Rai’s most revered Buddhist temple and where legend tells the Emerald Buddha was revealed when a bolt of lightning struck the temple.
Then head on to the Mae Kok River for an exciting long tail boat ride to a Karen hill tribe village, home of the elephant camp. Historically Karen’s have specialised as elephant mahouts and after a gentle introduction to your pachyderm set off for an hour’s ride through the jungle, passing through paddy fields and across rivers. Return for a traditional lunch and time to explore the village.
The hills of Northern Thailand are home to many of the country’s minority hill tribes and each has their own characteristics, culture and customs. This afternoon hike with your guide to the surrounding Yao and Akha hill tribes and be shown round their villages. End your walk at a beautiful waterfall where you can take a dip.
On the way home stop at the Chiang Rai Handicraft Centre, famous for its pottery and cotton fabrics. Back at the hotel late afternoon and evening free.
Day 6: Chiang Rai / Laos / Mekong Cruise (B / L / D)
A change of pace today as you head to the Mekong for a leisurely 2 day cruise down this magnificent river. Leave Chiang Rai on a winding road that heads into the hills and soon offers a tantilising glimpse of the river that forms the natural border to Laos. Arrive in time for a short, atmospheric transfer across the river. Entry to Laos is an easy process as the cruise company will arrange your visa.
The converted rice barge sets sail at 9.00am. Sit back in your reclining cushioned chair as the lazy path south begins. You can’t help but relax as a cooling breeze takes away the heat and river village life becomes less evident as you make your way into Laos. The river is hemmed in by rolling hills and its flow broken by jagged rocks; the whirlpools and eddies agitate the surface betraying the danger that lies beneath. Not quite African Queen, but the river is very much alive, a stimulating force that requires skilful handling.
Lunch is served on board before you visit a local riverside village. A cheeky welcome from the boys is almost guaranteed, as your guide takes you around the varied styles of housing that reflects the different tribal people living together in the village. Time to experience village life and enjoy the butterflies, pigs, chickens and ducks that rush around your feet. You are welcome to bring simple presents such as paper and pens for the children, but please avoid sweets as there is limited dental health.
Dock at Pakbeng in the late afternoon and check in at the Luang Say Lodge, whose string of comfortable bungalows run out along the riverbank. Time for a shower before watching the sun set from the raised terrace bar and enjoy a dinner overlooking the Mekong River.
Day 7: Mekong Cruise to Luang Prabang (B / L)
Today it feels that the less you see the more you experience, as the hills climb higher, the trees grow taller and river life revolves around the odd fishermen, water buffalo and perhaps one of the elephants still used for logging. The peace is occasionally broken by the long tail speedboats laden with people fully equipped in crash helmets to Luang Prabang from Thailand in just 6 hours.
After lunch on board visit Ban Baw a very old village that is made up of 3 different ethnic groups: the Lao Loum (the ethnic majority in Laos), Tai Lue and Shan. The village has a great weaving heritage and also makes Lao Lao, a local rice whisky that is surprisingly palatable in small quantities. Both can be bought during your visit. Depending on the season it’s worth exploring the paddy fields that surround the village.
You final stop is the Pak Ou Caves that rest high in the limestone cliffs and house thousands of Buddha statues that were hidden from the looting Chinese Haw. The caves were converted into Buddhist temples in the 15th century and are used as a site for old Buddha images that can no longer be venerated in a temple, either because they are damaged or the temple they were displayed in has been destroyed.
Late afternoon arrive in Luang Prabang. Arriving by boat seems a very natural way to arrive and as you walk up the steep steps that lead up to the city, you instantly feel the history and unspoilt nature of this royal city and UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll be met by your private guide and transferred to your choice of hotel for 3 nights. This evening don’t miss the night market that runs through the city centre and is surrounded by restaurants and bars.
Day 8: Luang Prabang - Private Guided Almsgiving & City Tour (B / L)
It feels to some that the city is bathed in Buddhism and this feeling is at its most accessible each morning as monks rise early for the silent alms procession. Today rise at dawn to watch this beautiful, understated and authentic tradition with your private guide. On the way back to the hotel they will take you to the Morning Market, a feast of local and somewhat unusual (to us) produce.
After a leisurely breakfast join your guide for a private guided Walking tour around this beautiful World Heritage town, visiting a number of Wats (temples), the Royal Palace and central market.
Luang Prabang is best experienced by foot (we can arrange a car) and is home to a growing number of niche shops and galleries. The morning finishes with a climb up the 328 steps up Phousi Mountain for superb views of the area. Lunch will be in a local restaurant and then the rest of the afternoon is free.
Day 9: Luang Prabang - Private Guided Kuang Si Waterfall Tour (B / L)
This morning head out to the countryside with your private guide to visit the Kuang Si Waterfall, whose multi-tiered cascading falls tumble down jagged limestone reliefs into emerald pools.
Quite a climb but worth it as you can cool off with a swim in the pools.
The tour ends with a visit to the Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Centre, established to showcase the weavings of the Lao-Tai peoples. Other handicrafts such as paper making are also featured and the proceeds go back to the people who make them.
The quality is good, so you might want to make room in your case for a few presents.
Day 10: Fly Luang Prabang / Pakse (Southern Laos) - Bolaven Plateau (B / L)
Early transfer to the airport for the short flight to Pakse, gateway to the south. On arrival you’ll be met by your private guide and transferred to the Tad Fane Resort for 1 night. This is located high on the Bolaven Plateau, formed by an ancient volcano and one of the most scenic spots in the region, full of beautiful landscapes made up of forests, rivers and waterfalls. At an altitude of over 1,000 metres, the scenery is very different to that seen in most of the country and even at the hottest time it rarely rises above 27°C.
Check-in, enjoy lunch and then your private guide will rejoin you for an afternoon tour that involves a leisurely 3 hour hike exploring the plateau. This hike goes through a local village, coffee plantations, over a hanging bridge and on to the plains. Huge boulders, epiphytes and wild orchids abound. Large pine trees grow here, giving it a wholly different character of landscape. One of the prime draws is Tad Fane Waterfall whose twin streams dramatically cascade into a 200m deep gorge. Evening free and as you will be relatively high up you may need a jumper or light jacket in the evening.
Southern Laos is one of the most beautiful and least developed parts of the country, where the Mekong River breaks down into a myriad of arms and channels that surround tiny islands, sandbars and islets to create a water world, home to rare flora and fauna including the freshwater dolphin. During the rainy season this section of the Mekong fills out to a breadth of 14km, the river’s widest reach along its 4350km journey from the Tibetan Plateau to the South China Sea.
Day 11: Bolaven Plateau to Si Phan Don with visit to Wat Phu and Phou Asa (B / L)
After breakfast come back down to river level and continue south to Si Phan Don, where the Mekong splits to create an archipelago of thousands of sandbars and where it gets its more familiar name of 4000 Islands. En route you’ll have the chance to visit the Khmer Temple complex of Wat Phou. This represents the easternmost border of the Khmer empire. Climb to the top and you get a great view of the Mekong River snaking south.
You’ll also visit an elephant camp and get the chance to watch the mahouts in action before climbing aboard for a ride to the top of Phou Asa, home to a series of mysterious ruins and a great view across the wetlands.
Continue on to the island of Don Khong by car and boat. Check in to the Sensothxeune Hotel for 2 nights and enjoy dinner overlooking the Mekong and watch the twinkling lights of fishing boats as they float by.
Day 12: Si Phan Don - 4,000 Islands Boat Tour (B / L)
Today your guide will collect you for a day exploring the southern border. Start with a boat ride to the largest waterfalls in Asia on Cambodia’s border. Khone Phapeng & Li Phi Falls were the major obstacles which thwarted the French in their efforts to open the Mekong River to navigation. Here also live some 50-100 Irrawaddy dolphins. If you’re lucky you'll them.
Lunch will be at a local restaurant.
This afternoon walk along the small gauge railway and Colonial Bridge that were built by the French to circumnavigate the falls and open up the region. Back at the hotel late afternoon.
Day 13: Si Phan Don (B) - Fly Pakse / Vientiane
Morning airport transfer and short flight to Vientiane. On arrival met and transferred to your choice of hotel for 2 nights. If you’re expecting the usual hectic Asian capital you’ll be surprised by Vientiane’s quiet, laid back atmosphere. While the city is the largest in Laos, it somehow manages to maintain its charm as it slowly develops into a modern city.
The French influence is immediately evident with tree lined streets, but you’ll also see Thai, Chinese and Soviet architecture that gives the city a rare type of timelessness. Against this background artsy little cafes, restaurants and galleries are starting to spring up as the city starts its next stage of life.
The collision of cultures in Vientiane has resulted in a superb variety of restaurants and is a great place to spend your final couple of evenings, perhaps stopping for a drink and watching the sun set over the seemingly ever present Mekong River before settling down for dinner.
Day 14: Vientiane - City Tour
This morning enjoy a private guided tour of the city’s historical highlights. Start at beautiful Wat Sisaket, whose walls are home to thousands of miniature Buddha statues and was the only temple left intact after the Siamese invasion in 1828. Then head over to Hor Pha Keo, a religious museum showcasing a fine collection of Lao and Khmer art. Continue on to Patouxai, the Victory Monument, with panoramic views of town.
Finally end up at That Luang, the holiest site in Laos and its national symbol.
After lunch in a local restaurant, travel to Xieng Khouan Buddha Park. Here a renegade monk formed his own sect and began to carve magnificent, eerie statues out of concrete, based on Hindu, Buddhist and Brahman iconography. He began in 1958 and continued on until the Communist takeover of Laos in 1975, when he fled across the border to Nong Khai, Thailand and sculpted a new park. This is a surreal “Buddhisneyland” full of interesting photographic opportunities!
Day 15: Vientiane / Bangkok / UK Airport
Day free until the airport transfer and flight home via Bangkok. Arrive home the following morning.
Each featured itinerary is really a starting point from which to create your ideal holiday.
We can include as much or as little as you like, mix and match hotels, excursions and experiences, add extra nights and change the destinations you'd like to visit.
The common thread is that each is a privately guided holiday, allowing you to travel where and when you want, with your own private transport and dedicated guide.
- Return scheduled international flights (optional if you would like to arrange your own)
- English speaking, local guide & driver
- Choice of hotel accommodation
- Transport in private air-conditioned vehicles
- Domestic flights detailed in itinerary
- Admission fees to all attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
- All meals as detailed (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
- Entry visas International airport departure taxes if payable locally
- Optional Tours / Excursions
- Any meals not listed in the itinerary
- Personal expenses
- Tips for Guides / Drivers (discretionary)
- Travel insurance
- Any camera or video fees charged at sites
The hotels below are there as examples, designed to act as a starting point from which to create your holiday. There are plenty of alternatives to choose from and when we quote we will include other suggestions so we get to understand your likes and dislikes. Quite often clients mix and match hotel categories throughout their holiday.
Hotels in Bangkok
The bustling but beautiful city of Bangkok understandably provides a wealth of hotel choice.
Hotels in Chiang Rai
Intimate and relaxed Chiang Rai has a wealth of activities and sights to offer
Luang Say Cruise Accomodation
Relax on your reclined cushioned chair as you cruise down the Mekong.
Hotels in Luang Prabang
Explore the sights and sounds of this magical UNESCO World Heritage city
Hotels in Bolaven Plateau
Dramatic scenery is in abundance atop this extinct volcano
Hotels in Don Khong (Si Phan Don)
A charming island south of Laos
Hotels in Vientiane
An abundance of charm and a laid back welcome make Vientiane and its French colonial architechure a must see