Arrival - Bangkok
Welcome to Bangkok! Upon arrival you will be transferred to your hotel and the remainder of today is at your leisure to relax and enjoy. Overnight in Bangkok.
After breakfast at your hotel, meet with your guide and head out of your hotel for a sightseeing in the City of Angels using exclusively public means of transportation. Take a public boat to Tha Thien pier where you disembark to visit Wat Po the home of Thai massage and the reclining Buddha. Continue to visit the Grand Palace. The Royal Grand Palace is the nation’s landmark and the most revered royal monument and host of the mysterious Emerald Buddha, the most revered Buddha image in Thailand. Appropriate dress is required (or can be rented on site). Walk or Tuk Tuk across the royal fields of Sanam Luang and eventually push up to the backpacker’s mecqua of Khao San Road (approx 20 minutes). Back to the Thai Champs Elysées, Rachadamnoen, where you’ll get in tuk-tuks to reach a local Thai restaurant for a delicious lunch.
After lunch, walk to the end of the avenue to the historical Klong (Canal) Saen Saap, board the klong “bus-boat” and cross the city to the west. Disembark for a short walk in Ratchathewi boat station to visit Jim Thompson’s House Museum. After the visit, the opportunity is given for shopping in one of the 5 huge shopping complex of the area (MBK, Siam Square, Siam Center, Siam Discovery, Siam Paragon), or simply return to your hotel by BTS. Overnight in Bangkok.
Bangkok - Luang Prabang (B/D)
Your guide will meet you at your hotel and assist with your transfer to the airport for your flight to Luang Prabang. Upon arrival at Luang Prabang airport, your guide will be waiting to greet you and transfer you to your hotel.
A half-day orientation of Luang Prabang gives you a brief, yet informative, look in to the history and culture of this small town. The first stop will take you to a Wat (temple), the spiritual center of Laos’ Buddhist culture. You might have the opportunity to speak with monks or novices who live at the temple and gain insight into the spiritual life of the Lao people. Your next step will be at Phou Si Mountain, located in the center of town. Climb the 328 steps that lead to the top of the hill where you will be rewarded with marvelous views of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, the neighboring mountain ranges, and the city buildings. The sunset views are particularly spectacular as the sun casts glorious colors over the peaceful scenery below. Descend the steps on the opposite side of the hill and stroll to the nearby colorful Night Market. Every evening along the main street, the area’s ethnic minorities gather to sell their handicrafts. The quiet evening atmosphere and soft lights of the stalls combine to create a magical market setting from which to shop for souvenirs.
This evening enjoy dining at L’Eléphant, one of the city’s best restaurants. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang (B/L/D)
For early risers, there is a very special dawn visit to watch the monks collecting the alms. As the sun begins to rise, long lines of orange-robed monks leave their pagodas and walk barefoot down the streets collecting offerings from Luang Prabang residents. It is a beautiful, serene ceremony that highlights the spiritualism of the Laos people. Return to the hotel for breakfast.
Transfer by vehicle to the Historical Old Town of central Luang Prabang where your tour begins at the fresh market. Accompanied by your guide, walk through the rows of stalls looking at what is on sale. The locals come here every day to shop for vegetables, fruits and other exotic specialties and delicacies. The market is adjacent to the National Museum, your next stop. Once the Royal Palace of Laos, the National Museum is filled with art, artifacts, and jewels and a visit examines the history and rich culture of the country (closed on Tuesdays).
After this, continue your tour of Luang Prabang by visiting some of the city’s most important temples. Start at Wat Visoun, where you will see the famous Watermelon Stupa, shaped like the fruit from which it takes its name. This temple was destroyed in 1887 by the invading Black Flags from China, and was restored in 1930 by Buddhist monks and local people. We will also visit Wat Aham where you will see the altar of the 2 guardian spirits of Luang Prabang.
Enjoy lunch in town at Tamarind restaurant where you will have a chance to sample unusual local specialties not available back home.
This afternoon, head to Ock Pop Tok to experience textiles in Laos- the history, methods, and cultural significance. You will have a chance to design and/or dye your own scarf. Take a break at Le Patio Café, located inside the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center (TAEC), and sip a local brew of coffee. Then, take a tour of TAEC, a museum dedicated to exploring the rich diversity of Laos’ ethnic minorities. Traditional costumes, tools, and artifacts are on display alongside in-depth descriptions and written histories. It is a great opportunity to gain insight in to the Lao people.
Late this afternoon, experience the wonderful flavors of Lao cuisine with a Lao cooking class. Led by Chef Mr. Chantanong from The Residence Phou Vao, the cooking course is a fun, hands-on way to learn about the ingredients involved and techniques used to create the local cuisine. The cooking class can be organized in the main kitchen or outside, in front of the pool, overlooking the Phousi mountain.
At the end of the course, sit down to enjoy a delicious dinner which you have helped prepare. Participants will also receive a book of Lao recipes and a certificate from the chef. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang (B/L/D)
This morning venture to Luang Prabang’s peninsula where the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers merge. The beautiful Wat Xieng Thong is located here and a visit to the temple unveils golden gates, ornaments, and colorful murals. After exploring the temple, walk to the nearby pier to board the ‘Nava Mekong’ a traditional river boat that will enable you to enjoy a leisurely paced cruise up and down the mystical Mekong River.
As you leave the peninsula of Luang Prabang behind you, you witness rural life and peaceful sceneries on the banks of the river as you cruise upstream. After just a bit more than an hour, you reach Pak Ou caves at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou River giving its name to the location. In these 2 caves are displayed hundreds of sacred centuries-old Buddha images which are the object of pilgrimages during the Lao New Year festivities around mid April. The venue offers amateur photographers endless possibilities. The boat then keeps cruising in the vicinity of the caves and will moor during lunch time at the foot of beautiful limestone cliffs. A selection of typical Lao dishes will be served onboard. Cruise back to Luang Prabang and return in the early afternoon.
On the way back to town, visit 2 villages, Ban Xang Khong and Ban Xien Lek, where traditional Lao textiles and Saa (Mulberry) Paper are produced.
The remainder of today is at your leisure for additional sight-seeing or relaxing in this charming city until dinner this evening at Couleur Café. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang – Vientiane (B/L/D)
This morning transfer to the airport for your flight to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. (QV 101, 1150 - 1230, subject to change without prior notice from the airlines).
On arrival, your luggage will be transferred to the hotel while you enjoy your lunch at Makphet. Makphet is a charity-run restaurant that supports street children by providing them training and a job at the vocational restaurant. The food served is delicious, made from fresh ingredients, and prepared in a kitchen which meets the highest international standards of hygiene. Continue to Makphet Restaurant for lunch.
This afternoon, visit “Les Artisans Lao”. Here the trainees transform recycled and renewable materials such as bamboo, palm, and mulberry leaves into quality notebooks, stationary and printer paper. Carved wood materials and coconut based products are also crafted here. By visiting the centre, you help promote poverty alleviation by supporting the creation of livelihood opportunities for disadvantaged groups as they learn a new, sustainable trade. Drive along the Mekong River and continue to the Patuxay monument, Laos’ version of the Arc de Triomphe. Stop here to climb the stairs to the top of Patuxay to enjoy a panoramic view over the city.
Before sunset, enjoy a stroll along the Mekong River banks and stop, if you wish, to enjoy a cold drink at one of the many riverside food stalls.
This evening, dinner is at Chez Philippe restaurant, one of the best tables in town, renowned for its French dishes served in a cozy and intimate atmosphere. Overnight in Vientiane.
Start this morning with a visit to That Luang, the holiest site in Laos. Constructed by King Setthethirat in the 16th century, the temple is resplendent as the sun is shines upon its towering golden spire. Continue down Lane Xang Avenue the serene Wat Sisaket, the only temple left intact after the Siamese (Thai) invasion in 1828. It is one of the most beautiful temples in the capital, and its breezy teak covered hallways are filled with thousands of miniature Buddha statues. Continue on to the nearby Wat Phra Keo. Used as a religious museum, Wat Phra Keo displays a collection of both Lao and Khmer works of art.
Enjoy lunch at “Le Central” restaurant, a French style bistro run and managed by French expatriates. The food is delicious “home style” French cuisine with just the right twist to turn each dish into a feast for the eyes!
This afternoon is free for you to enjoy shopping, more sightseeing, or a spa treatment. Pamper yourself after a day out by a stop at a local Spa where professionally trained masseuses will take care of you by using different kinds of techniques and natural products to relieve your tensions accumulated during the day.
For your final evening in Laos, a unique, traditional Lao ceremony is prepared. The Baci is performed in celebration of an important event such as weddings, births, or for welcoming guests and is a means of expressing good will and good luck to others. The Lao believe that each person has 32 spirits which constitute their spiritual essence and the Baci is the ritual used to call back any escaped spirits in to the body. During the Baci, special flower trays and food treats are prepared which are then touch by the participants while a Buddhist mantra is chanted. After the chanting is completed, cotton threads are tied around the participants’ wrist whilst they receive an individual blessing.
Afterwards, as is tradition, all participants will sit down to share a delicious meal. Enjoy authentic Lao cuisine in the comfort of your hosts’ home and spend time talking and interacting with the friendly locals. Overnight in Vientiane.
Vientiane – Phnom Penh (B)
Your guide and private car will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport onward flight to Phnom Penh.
Upon arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport, you will be greeted by your guide and transferred to your hotel right in the heart of the city. Phnom Penh was once considered one of the most beautiful cities in the Orient, and despite its recent turbulent history it still retains a colonial charm as much of its original architecture remains. Cambodia’s capital is a bustling city majestically located at the confluence of the mighty rivers of the Mekong and the Tonlé Sap. Wide tree-lined boulevards and many colonial-era buildings reflect the glorious days and add to the charm of the city where Asian traditions meet Western customs in a fascinating way.
Relax and unwind after your flight as you will have some time at leisure. Enjoy an atmospheric sunset river cruise and watch how Phnom Penh’s popular riverfront awakens to life while tasting the local coconuts, a popular and refreshing drink. Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh (B)
After breakfast at the hotel, depart on a city tour in a typical cyclo. First, visit Wat Phnom, which is situated near the northern boundary of the city. The original temple was built in 1372 by a rich Khmer lady named Penh, who found a collection of statues of the Buddha washed up on the river bank and decided to house them on a nearby hill ("Phnom"). The site contains some good examples of Khmer architecture and statues.
You will visit the most remarkable sights Phnom Penh has to offer. First, you will head to the National Museum which was designed by George Groslier and the Ecole des Arts Cambodgiens. The museum was built in traditional Khmer style in 1917 and was inaugurated in 1920 by King Sisowath. It houses the world's foremost collection of ancient Khmer archaeological, religious, and artistic artefacts from the 4th to the 13th centuries. Over 5,000 pieces are on display, constituting the repository of the Kingdom's cultural wealth. In addition, the roof space is home to a large bat colony!
Continue on foot to the Royal Palace. This palace dates back to 1866 and was the last palace built during the French colonial period. The same complex houses the Silver Pagoda, named for the over 5000 heavy silver tiles that cover its floors. Its original name is Wat Prakeo, meaning Temple of the Emerald Buddha. In this temple you will view a collection of Buddhas in gold, silver, crystal, and bronze. Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh – Siem Reap (B)
Mid-morning, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight across Cambodia to Siem Reap, the gateway to the majestic temples of Angkor and a charming little city. Your guide will meet you and accompany you while you check into your hotel. Settle in and refresh.
After a lunch break, depart by Tuk Tuk on a very special sightseeing tour of the famous Angkor Wat. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolising the Mount Meru, home of the gods. The divine residence of Vishnu, the King himself was to reside here after his death. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Moreover, Angkor Wat is well known for the over 2.000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken some thirty years of intensive labor. Today, Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia's national flag as the temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Siem Reap - Bangkok (B/L)
After breakfast, head out to Beng Mealea, a temple tucked away deep in the Cambodian jungle. During the one hour drive, you will get a glimpse of the beautiful Cambodian countryside.
Along the way, your English speaking guide will explain a bit of the history of the region and point out sights along the way. Upon arrival, explore Beng Mealea. This temple is often missed out by the crowds but offers excellent opportunities to take pictures and is often regarded to as one of the most adventurous temples in Cambodia. Continue on to Koh Ker, an area only recently opened to tourists. Here you will see various temples from the 10th century, including the massive Prasat Thom. Enjoy a delicious Picnic Lunch at the temples. After your visit, drive back to Siem Reap town. The remainder of this afternoon is at your leisure until transferring to the airport for your onward flight.
Optional Helicopter Flight :
Fly from Siem Reap directly to Beng Mealea and Koh Ker. You will have an incredible view of Angkor Wat as you view the entire temple complex from the air. This is the best way to grasp the sheer enormity of the former Khmer empire.
Upon arrival in Bangkok you will be transferred to your hotel for an evening at your leisure. Overnight in Bangkok.
Bangkok - Departure (B)
This morning is free for last minute shopping or sightseeing before transferring to the airport for your departure flight.