Our captivating tour journeys through Laos encompassing some of the most fascinating parts of the country, exploring not only its historic and cultural heritage but also its natural wonders. Beginning in the old French capital of Vientiane sail through the un-spoiled riverside villages of Laos stopping for two nights at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang with its dazzling wood carved monasteries and ancient Buddhist traditions.
Continue cruising upstream before disembarking in the remote Golden Triangle of northern Thailand with its ancient temples and its remarkable tribal culture and artistry before spending your final days of the tour exploring Chiang Rai and the surrounding areas including its numerous temples.
We are also offering a fascinating post-tour extension spent exploring Asia’s most magnificent archaeological remains - the Khmer Temples of Angkor, Cambodia - a UNESCO World Heritage Site built between the 7th and 11th centuries including some 70 ruins covering an area of 200 square miles.
Optional extension to Angkor, Cambodia from 17th – 21st February 2018
London / Bangkok
Depart London Heathrow on a Thai Airways overnight flight to Bangkok.
Bangkok / Vientiane
On arrival in Bangkok connect to an onward Thai Airways flight to Vientiane. On arrival transfer to the RV Laos Pandaw and board the boat for a 10 night cruise. Lunch and an afternoon tour of the delightful French City, including visits to Sisaket Temple, the only ancient temple remaining intact after the defeat of the Siamese in 1828. It is located in the centre of the old city, where it was built in 1818 by King Anouvong. Also visit the President’s wall and Wat Prakeo Temple.
Return to the boat and set sail with a welcome dinner on board.
Cruising the Mekong
Today, cruise up the Mekong, passing lush jungle scenery and tiny riverside villages. Enjoy a morning presentation of the history of Laos.
Lunch on board. In the afternoon take part in a cooking demonstration on the upper deck. Moor overnight in Ban Xanakham.
Morning cruising. Lunch on board followed by an afternoon visit to the French administrative town of Pak Lai with many colonial buildings and a bustling local market. Return to the ship at Ban Muang where the ship moors overnight. Dinner on board.
Ban Park Bor Village
Morning cruising with lunch on board. Afternoon walking tour of Ban Park Bor Village, home to members of the Kmu tribe. This is a typical Mekong village, set on the banks of the river amidst lush jungle. The Khmu people are the largest minority group in Laos comprising of 11% of the total population. There are a number of Khmu refugees in the USA whom fled the Vietnamese war.
Return to the ship at Ban Muang where the boat will moor overnight. Dinner on board.
Ban Mouang Khai Village
Pass through the Mekong water control lock at Xayaburi Hydro Electric Power Plant (itself an interesting and perhaps controversial tourist attraction).
Lunch on board. Late afternoon walking tour the local village of Ban Mouang Khai. Dinner on board.
Head ashore and transfer by mini-bus to the nearby Kuang Si Waterfall, before continuing to visit a nearby butterfly garden and Pak Ou Cave Elephant Camp for retired working elephants. Continue to the ancient city of Luang Prabang, Laos’ cultural capital, a well preserved World Heritage Site with many Buddhist temples and an interesting former royal palace.
Lunch on board. Following this explore the city by tuktuk. Visit Wat Mai and Wat Xieng Thong temples. Later on there is also a buzzing night market to explore and many delightful cafés and restaurant. There will be an option to visit Mount Phousi a 100 m high hill in the centre of the old town at sunset. Dinner at a local restaurant.
For those who have visited previously Luang Prabang we can offer alternative sightseeing. Please let us know if this is of interest.
In the morning, there will be an opportunity to see alms-giving to monks in Luang Prabang. Return to the boat for breakfast on board. Morning walking tour of the National Museum and the morning markets, where you get a real flavour of the local culture.
Lunch at a local restaurant. An afternoon of leisure to explore the beauty of Luang Prabang with the opportunity to visit the local project, Big Brother Mouse, a non-profit Lao-owned project which helps young Laotians develop new skills such as literacy, as they build the foundations to become a self-sufficient Lao publishing house. Their aim is to supply their published books to readers who typically have never had books before.
Return to the boat in the late afternoon with a traditional Laos dancing display on the upper deck. Dinner on board.
Pak Ou Buddha Caves
Morning sightseeing by local boat exploring the unique Pak Ou Caves, one of the most respected holy sites in Laos dating back thousands of years. The two caves are a Buddhist sanctuary and contain over 4,000 Buddha icons. The lower cave is called Tham Ting and the upper cave Tham Theung, and both boast miniature Buddhist figures that are mostly made from wood. Positioned around 50 feet above the river the caves provide you with views of the spectacular limestone cliff faces. Sail upstream on the beautiful Mekong towards Ban Bo. Return to the boat and continue cruising.
After lunch, enjoy a cooking demonstration on the upper deck to learn more about the Laotian cuisine. Dinner on board.
Morning walking tour of Pak Beng’s market town. This small village lies half-way between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang, perched high on the banks of the Mekong River. There is a small wat to be found in the hills not far from the village. It is an example of a Buddhist temple from the former Lanna Kingdom. Many of the old temples had been destroyed during wars with the Thai Kingdom 300 years before.
After lunch, explore Ban Pak Sip, a traditional riverside village full of charm and life. Dinner on board.
Enjoy a scenic cruise to the border between Laos and Thailand at Huay Say and cross into Thailand.
Lunch on board. Transfer to Chiang Khong, a pretty Thai port town, and an important market town for local hill tribes and for trade with Northern Laos.
Farewell cocktails and dinner on board the ship.
Golden Triangle / Chiang Rai
Morning disembarkation from the boat in Chiang Sean to explore the Golden Triangle, the point where Northern Thailand converges with Laos and Burma and where the Ruak and mighty Mekong rivers join. While its peaceful, untouched landscape has more recently become a draw for visitors, the Golden Triangle – a term coined by the CIA – gained notoriety in the 1920s as one of the world’s most prolific opium producers. Visit the House of Opium museum, where the exhibits include a display of tools and objects used to plant, harvest and trade opium, such as pipes, scales, weights, knives and scrapers.
Lunch at a local restaurant before transferring to the five star Le Méridien Chiang Rai Resort where one night is spent. Afternoon orientation tour of Chiang Rai visiting the Wat Rongkun, known as the ‘White Temple’. This quirky masterpiece is the work of local artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat. Its design is richly symbolic of Buddhist teachings and contains many beautiful statues. Also visit Wat Phra Kaew, the original home of the translucent green Buddha which graces the Emerald Buddha Temple in Bangkok.
Return to the hotel with dinner at a local restaurant.
Chiang Rai / Bangkok
Check out of the hotel and visit a local market before proceeding to Baan Dum (the Black House) which is the proud work of Thawan Duchanee, a Chiang Rai born Thai artist.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Those who are joining the optional post-tour extension will depart for the airport. The main group will continue to Mae Chan and drive to the Doi Mae Salong area to visit the local hill tribes. Doi Mae Salong is a mountain only 6 km from the border with Burma. This mountain is famous because a Kuomintang military division created a settlement near it in 1961 after having been expelled from Burma.
Transfer to the airport to take a Thai Airways evening flight to Bangkok. Dinner under own arrangements at the airport.
Bangkok / London
Just after midnight take a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to London Heathrow arriving early this morning.