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 lush and vibrant. Fall is our favorite time to visit Laos. The weather is pleasant, 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 Vientiane, the capital, with its mix of modern and ancient, a very pleasant and low key city with a great vibe. From Vientiane we ride the newly inaugurated high speed train to the ancient holy city of Luang Prabang. Formerly an 8-hour trip by road, the train takes a mere 2 hours. Hypnotically beautiful Luang Prabang is often labelled the most attractive city in southeast Asia. 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. Next we travel overland by comfortable vehicle, seeing the mountains, tiny ethnic villages, rivers and forests in Laos to reach Phonsavan. Phonsavan is home to the enigmatic Plain of Jars, where an unknown people hollowed out huge boulders over 2000 years ago, archaeologists are still trying to explain the reason for this impressive sight. From Phonsavan we journey by air to southern Laos, near the town of Pakse we spend several days exploring the Mekong River by comfortable boat, visiting the ancient ruins of Champasak, which predate Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the high altitude coffee growing Bolaven Plateau, with its many cascading waterfalls, lush forests and coffee plantations. The journey ends with a 2-hour drive to Ubon Ratchathani in neighboring Thailand where we catch a flight to Bangkok. Prepare for a journey that both stimulates and relaxes as we explore this remarkable land.
DAY 1: WEDNESDAY, Sept. 21
Arrival in Laos
Early afternoon flight from Bangkok brings us to Vientiane, capital of Laos. After getting settled into our hotel we will have short walking tour of the city (hotel has ideal central location) and welcome dinner this evening.
Overnight at Green Park Boutique Hotel (Dinner)
DAY 2: THURSDAY Sept. 22
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 Green Park Boutique Hotel (B, L)
DAY 3: FRIDAY, Sept.23
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 Green Park Boutique Hotel (B, L)
DAY 4: SATURDAY, Sept. 24
Vientiane to Luang Prabang
This morning we board the new high speed train that will whisk us to Luang Prabang in great comfort and a mere 2 hours (this formerly was an 8-hour road trip). Observe the countryside as it rushes by, and then transfer to hotel in Luang Prabang upon arrival. We have some time to relax, then take a walking tour of this beautiful city, ending with sunset views from Mount Phousi of Mekong River and the city. Dinner in one of Luang Prabang's award winning restaurants.
Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 5: SUNDAY Sept. 25
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. From there, we stroll along the hillside to Vat Tham Temple before heading to lunch. In the afternoon 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)
DAY 6: MONDAY, Sept. 26
Explore Luang Prabang
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 7: TUESDAY, Sept. 27
Today you have plenty of time for relaxation, which is an ideal activity in Luang Prabang, as previous groups have clamored for an extra day in this idyllic place. We take you to Ock Tock Pop weaving collective, just outside of town in the morning for a 2-3 hour visit. You will observe the silkworms, the silk making process, the dyeing procedure, the weavers at work and finally the abundance of beautiful new silk products, as well as examples of many antique silk garments. Late morning return to Luang Prabang, and the rest of the day you have guide and trip leader to assist with any needs or further exploration of Luang Prabang, or you might choose to visit one the many exquisite spas, shop, wander, or idle on your own. We have a surprise planned for the evening, and then a special dinner.
Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel (B,D)
DAY 8: WEDNESDAY, Sept. 28
Luang Prabang to Phonsavan
We have a 7-hour drive today to reach Phonsavan. The drive will take us through small ethnic settlements where our guide who is acquainted with the villagers will introduce us to his friends. The view of the hills, forests, rivers is one that few outsiders see, and provides great opportunities for photographs. We stop for picnic lunch and interesting sights. Mid to late afternoon arrival to Phonsavan and check into hotel. Dinner at one of Phonsavan's fun eateries.
Overnight at Vansana Plain of Jars Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 9: THURSDAY, Sept. 29
Plain of Jars
We begin the day with a 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. Later in the day we visit the local market, full of food and some handicrafts, and have time in late afternoon to relax in some of the new and interesting cafes in town.
Overnight at Vansana Plain of Jars Hotel (B).
DAY 10: FRIDAY, Sept. 30
Plain of Jars to Vientiane
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 to make jewelry and utensils. Mid to late afternoon return to hotel. A late afternoon flight brings us to Vientiane where we spend the night.
Overnight at Ansara Hotel (B,L)
DAY 11: SATURDAY, OCT. 1
Vientiane to Pakse
Morning flight takes us to remote rural south Laos. We then 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 Shiva's wife during the 9th century.
Overnight at River Resort (B,L)
DAY 12: SUNDAY, Oct. 2
Bolaven Plateau Exploration
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 (B,L)
DAY 13: MONDAY, Oct. 3
Mekong River Exploration
Our own boat will take us to visit various islands, communities, and temples along the Mekong River. A day to relax as we view many interesting sights from the boat, and stop for some shore excursions. Afternoon to relax at the pools or spa of hotel.
Overnight at River Resort (B,L,D)
DAY 14: TUESDAY, Oct. 4
Free time until noon when we depart for Ubon Ratchathani airport in Thailand to catch late afternoon flight to Bangkok. (B)
PRICES & REGISTRATION INFORMATION
(Inclusive of accommodations, meals noted on itinerary, ground, air and boat 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 to and from Bangkok, Thailand, Laos visa, 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. 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.
While domestic fares cost is included, price can vary if there is change in cost prior to purchase.
Flights are with Lao Airlines, Lao Skyways Airlines and Thai Vietjet Air.