THE RICHNESS OF LAOS:
ASIA'S UNDISCOVERED GEM
December in Laos is considered the cool season, though it's correct to note that in the tropics it never gets truly cold, you can expect the most pleasant temperatures this time of year. With the monsoon season long finished, the chance of rain is small. Pleasant weather, with enough water to keep the waterfalls flowing and flowering trees to add to the beauty of the country make this an ideal time to visit. The journey commences in southern Laos near the town of Pakse where 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. Our next destination is Vientiane, the capital, with its mix of modern and ancient, a very pleasant and low key city with a great vibe. Next a short flight takes us to Phonsavan. Outside Phonsavan are the enigmatic Plain of Jars, where an unknown people hollowed out thousands of huge boulders over 2000 years ago, archaeologists are still debating the reason for this impressive feat. There are 3 Plain of Jars sites, some in meadow, others in forest and all are equally imposing and mysterious. We next fly north to Luang Prabang. 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 this captivating town. The journey ends with a flight from Luang Prabang to Bangkok, Thailand. Prepare for an experience that both stimulates and relaxes as we explore this remarkable land.
DAY 1: THURSDAY, Nov. 30
Arrival in Laos
A mid-morning flight from Bangkok brings us to Ubonratchathani in Thailand. Our guide and driver will meet us at the airport and transport us the 2 hours to Champasak in southern Laos.
Overnight at River Resort (Dinner)
DAY 2: FRIDAY, Dec. 1
We begin our day with a 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. In the afternoon 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 3: SATURDAY, Dec. 2
Bolaven Plateau, waterfalls and coffee plantations
This morning we drive 2 hours 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 4: SUNDAY, Dec. 3
Our own boat will take us to visit various islands, communities, and temples along the Mekong River. We can enjoy the many interesting sights from the boat, and stop for some shore excursions. Afternoon to relax at the hotel with its 2 pools, award winning spa and beautiful grounds.
Overnight at River Resort (B,L,D)
DAY 5: MONDAY, Dec. 4
Pakse to Vientiane
Morning flight to Vientiane, capital of Laos. After a short rest, we start visiting the major sights of the capital; including the Vat Sisaket, the oldest temple with thousands of miniature Buddha statues and the former royal temple of Hor Prakeo, which previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha Image.
Overnight at Green Park Boutique Hotel (B)
DAY 6: TUESDAY, Dec. 5
Start the day with visits to some of Vientiane's most interesting monuments, the famous and sacred temple; That Luang Stupa and Patuxay, modeled after Paris' Arc De Triomphe. Then visit a textile studio where you can both observe the weaving process as well as purchase some of the textiles for which Laos is renown. Lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, and then afternoon free to explore on your own, or with guides.
Overnight at Green Park Boutique Hotel (B)
DAY 7: WEDNESDAY, Dec. 6
Further exploration of Vientiane
Today we visit to the Buddha park, a private park devoted to the Buddha and full of interesting and quirky statues which has given the venue its fame. The park contains unique pieces of Hindu and Buddhist sculpture, and is set in an attrractive garden. We then continue to Tha Ngone village. Here you will get to see how locals prepare (and also sample) a delicious Lao dessert of sticky rice, coconut milk and sugar syrup cooked inside bamboo tubes (Khao Larm). Lunch on a small boat as we float along the Nam Ngume river. Late afternoon return to hotel.
Overnight at Green Park Boutique Hotel (B, L)
DAY 8: THURSDAY, Dec. 7
Vientiane to Phonsavan
Free time this morning before we depart for the 2:00 p.m. flight to Phonsavan. Upon arrival we transfer to hotel, and then we begin our visit to Plain of Jars, Site 1. A well curated museum explains the history of the area, and provides theories for the origin of the jars. The site is impressive, with hundreds of jars dotting the plains, some weighing up to 20 tons.
Overnight at Vansana Plain of Jars Hotel (B,D)
DAY 9: FRIDAY, Dec. 8
Plain of Jars
Today we visit Site 2 and Site 3 of the Plain of Jars. Few people make the journey to these sites, so we are likely to have the area to ourselves. While they have fewer jars (though there are still hundreds at each site), their setting is even more beautiful, in hilly forest.
Over night at Vansana Plain of Jars Hotel (B,L)
DAY 10: SATURDAY, Dec. 9
Plain of Jars to Luang Prabang
Visit to visit local market before transfer to the airport for a short flight to Vientiane. After a short layover in Vientiane we continue to Luang Prabang to arrive late afternoon. Time permitting we will walk to top of local hill to watch the sunset.
Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel (B,D)
DAY 11: SUNDAY, Dec. 10
Morning visit the the former palace of the Royal Family, now the national museum, which displays a fascinating collection of the artifacts reflecting the richness of Lao culture dating from the days of the early kings to the reign of the last sovereign. Next we will climb up to the top of Phousi hill for the panoramic view of the city and Nam Khan and Mekong river city, as well as sunset on a clear day. From there, we stroll along the hillside to Vat Tham before heading back to the hotel by Tuk Tuk.. We also visit the oldest and the most magnificent temple in Luang Prabang; Vat Xieng Thong, a magnificent piece of architecture, which nestles at the meeting of the Mekong and the Nam Khan River. The temple structures are decorated in various ways with gilded stuccoes as well as doorways and the main sim has a marvelous 'tree life' mosaic pattern on an outer wall. Afternoon free.
Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel (B, L)
DAY 12: MONDAY, Dec. 11
An optional early start gives you the fantastic opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of saffron-clad monks collecting offerings of alms from the faithful residents. From there you will visit the morning market, return to hotel. We then embark on a cruise upstream on the Mekong River, with many stunning views also of the tranquil countryside. Our destination is the mysterious Pak Ou Caves, two linked caves crammed with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes left by pilgrims. Along the way, we stop at the village of Ban Xanghai, to observe the process of rice wine distillation (as well as taste the product).
Over night at Mekong Riverview Hotel (B, L)
DAY 13: TUESDAY, Dec. 12
This morning we will visit the Traditional Art and Ethnology Centre, before departing for Kuang Si Waterfalls, 45 minutes away. These are travertine falls, found in only a few places and beautiful as the limestone above the falls lends the water an attractive turquoise color and forms a series of terraces that add to the beauty and uniqueness. We swim and enjoy a picnic lunch at the falls, set in mature rain forest. The area is also home to a sanctuary for rescued bears, which is well run and provides interesting commentary about the plight of these rare Asian black bears.
Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 14: WEDNESDAY, Dec. 13
Departure, Luang Prabang to Bangkok
After your breakfast, free time at leisure to enjoy the atmosphere in this city. Before transferring to the airport for 12:15 p.m. flight to Bangkok. (B)
PRICES & REGISTRATION INFORMATION
(Inclusive of accommodations, meals noted on itinerary, 6 internal flights, ground and boat transportation, entrance fees, services of licensed English speaking Lao guide and driver, services of USA based trip leader)
$5000. (Based on double occupancy)
$5500. (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 on this journey are with Lao Airlines, Lao Skyways Airlines, Bangkok Airways and Thai Vietjet Air.