Day 1 - Bangkok
Arrive in Bangkok and get to grips with this awesome city. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have these ready for your leader. If you arrive early perhaps take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, or head to the magnificent Grand Palace. As one of the world’s largest marketplaces, Chatuchak Market is also a great place to visit. In the evening, maybe indulge yourself with a Thai massage.
Day 2 - Bangkok - overnight train
Start the morning with a sightseeing walk led by your leader checking out the local scene away from the normal tourist trail. Stop for some local snacks, see some cool street art and stroll through many back streets to see how many people live and work in these small suburbs of Bangkok. Finish in the China Town area and rest of the day is yours to do what you like: shop and haggle for bargains or check out Chinatown. Head north to Chiang Mai in the evening on an overnight train (approximately 13 hours), sleeping in an air-conditioned berth. Multi-share compartments are air-conditioned and have bunk beds with sheets and a pillow provided. Your baggage travels in the carriage with you. There's also a food and drink service available on board (they don't let you go thirsty here).
Day 3 - Chiang Mai
Arrive in Chiang Mai in the morning. The day is yours – see how many activities you can pack into 24 hours. There are over 120 temples in the city centre alone. You can set off on an excursion to the top of Doi Suthep. There's a few hundred steps to climb, but the views are well worth it. Maybe treat yourself to a traditional Thai massage, or even partake in a cooking class so you can impress your friends in the kitchen when you get home. The night bazaar is a great chance to practice those ever-important bargaining skills.
Day 4 - Chiang Khong
Take a public bus from Chaing Mai to Chiang Kkong via Chiang Rai )approx 6.5 hours) Explore this quiet town that sits on the Thai side of the Thai-Lao border. Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Luang are both well worth a visit while you are here. Perhaps rent a bicycle to explore the surrounding countryside and the banks of the Mekong. Your accommodation tonight is a basic guesthouse.
Day 5 - Mekong River - Pakbeng
This morning you will complete border formalities at Huay Xai before boarding a slow boat for a trip down the Mekong River (approximately 7 hours). This is where the real relaxtion starts, as you ease into proper holiday mode. Read a book, play cards, swap travel stories or just watch the amazing scenery pass by. Arrive in Pakbeng late in the afternoon and have a wander around this colourful village. This place is at the junction of the Mekong and Beng rivers. Remember, 'nam' means 'river', so if you say 'Nam Beng River', you're saying 'river' too many times.
Day 6 - Luang Prabang
Continue on the private slow boat, stopping to stretch your legs and explore the Pak Ou Caves, which contain hundreds of Buddha statues. Arrive in Luang Prabang in the evening and wander the streets of ‘the best preserved city in South East Asia’ (ie really, really old and exotic and beautiful). Get a load of those French villas. And that sunset over the Mekong...
Day 7 - Luang Prabang
Enjoy free time for optional activities today. There are many on offer. A trip to Kuang Si Falls is highly recommended if you feel like a swim in nature (and when you see these waterfalls, you probably will). Or visit a Buddhist temple. Afterwards, we think you deserve a rest. Find an herbal steamroom or maybe play some pentanque with the locals (it's a bit like boules). Don’t expect them to go easy on you.
Day 8 - Luang Prabang
Enjoy some free time. Whether it's cruising around town or heading to those waterfalls that an Instagram filter couldn't even make more pretty, this is another day in paradise. By now you may have discovered the delicious (and amazingly inexpensive) night market food, which is always a great excuse to mingle with locals and dine with other travellers. For lunch, before the market opens, you might want to try some delicious noodle soup at one of the top-notch French cafes along the main drag. If you feel like learning, drop in to the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre
Day 9 - Vang Vieng
Transfer in a private mini van to the village of Vang Vieng (approximately 6–7 hours). This beautifully located adventure gateway lies on a bend in the Nam Song (that's a river, remember). Take in the views of mountains, rivers and big limestone cliffs that are so close you'll feel like you could reach out and touch them. Cross the river and explore the huge caves that line the West Bank. There will be plenty of time to make your own discoveries.
Notes: The mountain scenery on the way to Vang Vieng is spectacular, but the roads are pretty winding. Travel medication may be a good idea if you're prone to motion sickness.
Day 10 - Vang Vieng
Spend your day checking out the caves, lagoons and forests as you please. There are more outdoor activities on offer here than you could poke a stick at, so just ask your leader for a recommendation. A solid option is the Tham Jang. It's a short trip from town, and has a cool spot to swim if you're not game to enter the cave itself. If you are game, rent a torch and let the exploring begin (season depending).
Day 11 - Vientiane
Finish up in Laos’ classy capital, Vientiane by catching a public bus from Vang Vieng (approx 5 hours). Swap your instant coffee for a latte and white rice for a baguette before snapping a few pics at Wat Sri Saket. Your tour leader will show you around this French and Chic city. Say goodbye to your bestest travel mates and swap Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat details over an optional group dinner tonight.
Day 12 - Vientiane
Your trip finishes after breakfast and you are free to depart anytime.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Meals Included: Breakfast: 2 Lunches: 0 Dinners: 0
Laos means laaaid-back. This is one of the most chilled-out countries going around
Two days of cruising down the Mekong River in a traditional-style boat is one Southeast Asia's classic trips, with more photo-ops than you can shake a bamboo cane at
Travel just like a local on an overnight train in Thailand. When in Rome...
The UNESCO-listed city of Luang Prabang is a serious slice of exotica. Between the French villas and the blazing sunsets over the Mekong, you won't know which way to look
You know those pictures of Laos you always see on the internet, the ones of cascading turquoise pools drenched in gorgeous rays of sun? That's Kuang Si Waterfalls and you get to swim there if you choose
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