THE RICHNESS OF LAOS:
ASIA'S UNDISCOVERED GEM
The summer rains come to an end in September, leaving the country a vivid green and the landscape looks everywhere freshly washed. Fall is our favorite time to visit Laos. The heat is less, many flowering trees are in bloom and the water level is high, which means the waterfalls are at their peak of beauty, surging with water. We begin in the south and explore the ancient ruins of Champasak, the high altitude coffee growing Bolaven Plateau (the French call Bolaven coffee the champagne of coffee), with its many cascading waterfalls. Then move north to Vientiane, Laos' capital with its mix of modern and ancient and its pleasant vibe. Our next stop is a visit to the enigmatic Plain of Jars, where an unknown people hollowed out huge boulders over 2000 years ago, archaeologists have still not unraveled this mystery. Our final stop is to the hypnotically beautiful and spiritual city of Luang Prabang. A UNESCO World Heritage Site with many temples and monks, and an aesthetic that combines French colonial with traditional Lao, the city has entranced people for centuries, and we at Champaca Journeys have fallen under its spell, and will show you what we find so fascinating about Luang Prabang. Prepare for a journey that both stimulates and relaxes as we explore this remarkable land.
DAY 1: MONDAY, Sept. 14
Arrival in Laos
We arrive in Pakse in southern Laos, from either Bangkok or Siem Reap. Pakse is large town in sleepy southern Laos and we will base ourselves at the luxurious River Resort in the Champasak District. Our first afternoon will be devoted to relaxing at the resort, using the pool, spa, gazing at the Mekong River as it glides lazily past us, and then we'll have a welcome dinner under the stars.
Overnight at River Resort.
DAY 2: TUESDAY, Sept.15
Explore Champasak and other ancient ruins
After our breakfast, we start our visit to the fascinating pre-Angkorian ruins of Vat Phu Champasak, one of Southeast Asia's most dramatically situated temples, dating back to the sixth century, and predating Angkor Wat in Cambodia. We cross the Mekong river by boat to Ban Tomo, a small lowland Lao village, where we take a short walk to the hidden temple which was built to dedicate to Lord of Shiva's wife during the 9th century.
Overnight at River Resort
DAY 3: WEDNESDAY, Sept.16
Day visit to the Bolaven Plateau
After breakfast, we start our journey to the Bolaven Plateau, known for its cooler temperatures, and excellent coffee growing conditions, such that the French colonists of Lao deemed Bolaven coffee the champagne of coffee. We visit a plantation to observe the process of coffee cultivation and production (and to taste the coffee). The plateau is also home to several spectacular waterfalls and we'll visit these falls that cascade off the mountains through dense forest.
Overnight at River Resort
DAY 4: THURSDAY, Sept. 17
Pakse to Vientiane
After breakfast, free time at leisure until transfer to the airport for our 2:20 p.m. flight to Vientiane, capital of Laos. Upon arriving in Vientiane at 3:30 we drive to the centrally located Ansara Hotel, our home for the next 2 nights. Early evening stroll along the Mekong River to watch the street scene of vendors, outdoor aerobics classes, people watching and sunset over the Mekong River.
Overnight at Ansara Hotel (D)
DAY 5: FRIDAY Sept. 18
Today is devoted to visiting Vientiane's major sites: the famous and
sacred That Luang Stupa, Patuxay Park, home of Vientiane’s Arc
de Triomphe, Vat Sisaket, the oldest temple with thousands of
miniature Buddha statues and the former royal temple of Hor
Prakeo, once home of the famous Emerald Buddha statue.
We then visit a renown weaving studio to see some of the textiles
for which Laos is justly famous. Late afternoon return to hotel.
Overnight at Ansara Hotel (B, L)
DAY 6: SATURDAY, Sept. 19
After breakfast, we journey by vehicle to Buddha park, known for its vast collection of giant Buddha statues in pleasant garden setting, then continue to a traditional salt processing factory. We then travel on to ThaNgone village for lunch, enjoyed while cruising on a boat on the Nam Ngume river. Mid-afternoon return to hotel, the rest of the day at leisure.
Over night at Ansara Hotel (B, L)
DAY 7: SUNDAY, Sept. 20
Vientiane to Phonsavan
Free time in the morning before transfer to the airport for12:20 p.m. flight to Phonsavanh. Transfer to hotel and then start our visit to the Plain Of Jars, Site 1. These large boulders were hollowed out by an unknown people for an unknown purpose some 2000-2500 years ago, and strewn across several sites in this part of Laos. Site 1 is the largest site and home to museum which will explain the history of these remarkable jars.
Overnight at Vansana Plain of Jars Hotel (B,D).
DAY 8: Monday, Sept. 21
Plain of Jars
Today we visit Plain Of Jars, sites 2 and 3. These sites are in field and forest and see few visitors, most of our guests find them more compelling than Site 1. Onward journey to visit Naphia, where villagers melt scrap metal and form into jewelry and utensils. Mid to late afternoon return to hotel.
Over night at Vansana Plain of Jars Hotel (B,L)
DAY 9: TUESDAY, Sept. 22
Phonsaven to Luang Prabang
Morning to visit local market before transfer to the airport for our flight to Luang Prabang. Upon arrival, transfer to hotel for check in. After short rest, we visit the oldest temple in Luang Prabang, Vat Xiengthong, a magnificent piece of architecture, which nestles at the confluence of the Mekong and the Nam Khan River. The highly decorated temple is considered one of the most beautiful in Luang Prabang.
Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel. (B,D)
DAY 10: WEDNESDAY, Sept. 23
After breakfast, we visit the national museum in the former Royal Palace, which displays a collection of artifacts reflecting the richness of Lao culture dating from the days of the early kings until the last monarch. Next we will climb up to the top of Phousi Hill for a panoramic view of the city and its surrounding rivers. From there, we stroll along the hillside to Vat Tham Temple before heading to lunch. Afternoon free to explore Luang Prabang on your own, or with guides if you wish.
Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel. (B,L)
DAY 11: THURSDAY, Sept. 24
An optional early start gives you the fantastic opportunity to participate in the daily alms giving ceremony, where hundreds of orange clad monks parade solemnly through the streets to collect alms in the form of food from the townspeople. Next stop will be the morning market, bustling with familiar and unusual wares. After breakfast we embark on a cruise on the Mekong River, with views of the tranquil countryside until we arrive at Pak Ou Caves, two linked caves crammed with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes left by pilgrims. En route we stop at the village of Ban Xanghai, to witness (and taste) the distillation of local rice wine.
Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel. (B,L)
DAY 12: FRIDAY, Sept. 25
This morning we'll visit the Traditional Art and Ethnology Centre, before we
journey to Kouangsi Waterfall. The falls are in the forest and all the more
beautiful as this is one of the few places where such limestone terraced falls
are seen. The water an aquamarine blue due to high levels of calcium
carbonate in the limestone particles that reflect light. We also visit the nearby
bear sanctuary, home to rescued Asian black bears.
Overnight in Mekong Riverview Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 13: SATURDAY, Sept. 26
Free time after breakfast to enjoy the city before transfer to airport for 12:20 p.m. flight to Bangkok. (B)
PRICES & REGISTRATION INFORMATION
(Inclusive of accommodations, meals noted on itinerary, ground and air transportation, entrance fees, services of licensed English speaking Lao guide and driver, services of USA based trip leader)
$4800. (Based on double occupancy)
$5400. (Based on single occupancy)
NOTE: International airfare, gratuities, alcoholic beverages, laundry, souvenirs, items of a personal nature and travel insurance are NOT included.
Laos is accessed most easily from Bangkok, Thailand from where there are daily flights to many points across the globe. For those who will also participate in Cambodia trip immediately preceding Laos trip; we will fly from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Pakse, Laos. Those not participating in Cambodia trip will fly from Bangkok, Thailand to Pakse, Laos. It is highly recommended that participants arrive in Bangkok at least 24 hours prior to flight to Laos, to allow for any delays in flight to Bangkok. Fares are subject to change without notice.
BANGKOK--PAKSE--VIENTIANE--XHIENGKHOUANG--LUANG PRABANG--BANGKOK, $710, Economy Class
SIEM REAP--PAKSE--VIENTIANE--XHIENGKHOUANG--LUANG PRABANG--BANGKOK,
$580, Economy Class
Fares are subject to change without notice.
Flights are with Bangkok Airways and Lao Airlines.