Day 1 - Bangkok
Welcome to Bangkok, Thailand's bustling capital. This city is famous for its tuk tuks, khlong boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food. The adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm today. You can check into your hotel from early this afternoon.
Day 2 - Bangkok city tour and o/n train
Begin the day with a an hour-long river cruise down the Chao Phraya River to explore the famous ‘khlongs’ (canals) . Life along these canals seems a world away from the chaotic streets of the capital. Pay a visit to Wat Pho, one of the ‘trinity’ of Bangkok temples, with a 46-metre long gold plated Buddha reclining inside. This evening, head north to Chiang Mai on an overnight train journey. Multi share train compartments are air-conditioned, with bunk beds, sheets and pillows provided. Your baggage travels in the carriage with you. There is a food and drink service available on board.
Day 3 - Doi Suthep
The most vibrant city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has many famous temples and an interesting old city to explore. Renowned for dazzling beauty and extremely welcoming locals, the ‘Rose of the North’ will leave you spellbound. Embark on a scenic, winding drive up a mountain (around 45 minutes) to one of the country's most stunning temple complexes, Doi Suthep. A 300-step naga-guarded stairway leads up to the temples and the climb is well worth the effort. The hypnotic atmosphere of chanting Buddhist monks and sweeping views of the city make this a most memorable experience.
Day 4 - Cycling and Cooking class
Hit the road with two wheels on a cycling tour of Chiang Mai. During the past few years Chiang Mai has developed a thriving cycling culture, with the emergence of numerous local clubs, teams and several homegrown events. In the evening take part in a Thai cooking class and see which member of the family can make the best Pad Thai!
Day 5 - Chiang Khong
Take a journey through rural countryside to the Thai border town of Chiang Khong (approximately 5.5 hours). Formerly known as 'Juon', peaceful riverside Chiang Khong remains an important market town for the surrounding hill tribes and for trade with Laos. Stretch your legs with a stroll around town and, if time allows, perhaps fit in a visit to nearby Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Luang. In the evening enjoy a final Thai drink and dinner while Laos beckons from across the mighty Mekong.
Day 6 - Mekong River
Board a slow boat for the two-day journey down the mighty Mekong River to Luang Prabang. The journey is a relaxed experience, mirroring the slow pace of village life and allowing time to experience the breathtaking scenery up close. The river boat is basic in nature, with a toilet, covered roof, and open sides to take in the fresh air. There are seats in the front of the boat and a small open area in the back where you can have a nap on the mat, play cards, read or have lunch. Dock at the small town of Pak Beng (after about 6 hours) to spend the night. Hmong and tribal Thai people are frequently seen on the main street, where vendors sell local textiles and handicrafts.
Day 7 - Luang Prabang
Reboard the boat and cross the border into Laos. Cruise to the Pak Ou Caves, an important religious site made up of two sacred limestone caverns that overlook the junction of the Mekong and Ou Rivers. The caverns are filled with Buddha images of all styles and sizes, brought by devoted villagers over the centuries. The lower cave, known as Tham Ting, is entered from the river by a series of steps and can easily be seen in daylight. The higher cave, Tham Phum, is deeper and requires a torch for viewing. Afterwards, continue to the atmospheric World Heritage-listed city of Luang Prabang, a favourite of many travellers (approximately 7 hours in total). Nestled in the hills of northern Laos where the Mekong and Khan rivers meet, the city is claimed to be ‘the best preserved city in South East Asia’ by UNESCO.
Day 8 - Luang Prabang
Once the heart and soul of the ancient Lao Kingdom and designated a World Heritage site in 1995, Luang Prabang is endowed with a legacy of historic red-roofed temples and French-Indochinese architecture. The city is also home to some of the country's most refined cuisine, a multi-ethnic population and a rich culture. Enjoy a guided tour around the Traditional Art & Ethnology centre, a non-profit museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, and interpretation of its traditional arts and lifestyles. In the afternoon, head south of town to the beautiful Kuang Si Falls, a picturesque, multi-level cascade that offers fantastically blue pools that are perfect for a mid-afternoon dip. Back in Luang Prabang this evening you’ll have free time to make further discoveries, including walking around the popular Night Bazaar.
Day 9 - Vang Vieng
Today is mainly a travelling day as the you drive south from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng (approximately 4 hours). Take in the mountain scenery and snippets of small village life along the hilly highway to Vang Vieng. Situated on the Nam Song River, Vang Vieng is surrounded by towering limestone karsts and is a great place to walk through local markets or along the riverside and just watch the world go by.
Day 10 - Kayaking
Start the day with a hearty breakfast before heading out on a hike around the town, crossing the bridges and tracing a path around the karst limestone hills to get a real feel for this cracking little town. After lunch, jump onboard your kayak to explore at water level. There will be time to stop and relax, and perhaps even take a swim too. Return to your hotel tonight for a good dinner and a great night's sleep.
Day 11 - Vientiane
Continue by bus to the Laos' capital, Vientiane (approximately 3.5 hours). Possibly Asia's most laidback capital, Vientiane is a city where daily affairs are conducted at a relaxed pace. Hardly touched by the modernisation that has completely changed the face of other cities in Southeast Asia, it has a wealth of cultural delights to discover on foot, or for the less energetic, by jumbo (tuk tuk). Faded colonial mansions, tree-lined boulevards and old temples create an atmosphere of timelessness, particularly in the older part of town along the Mekong River. Pay a visit to Wat Si Saket, the oldest temple still standing in Vientiane and home to almost 7,000 Buddha images. Visit COPE, an Intrepid Foundation-sponsored organisation dedicated to assisting those who have been injured by the multitude of unexploded devices across the country. This is an excellent cause and a chance to educate yourself about Laos' devastating war history.
Day 12 - Hanoi
This morning, enjoy your last breakfast in Laos before being transferred to the airport. Fly to Hanoi and enter the third country on this trip – Vietnam. Arrive in the afternoon and check in to the hotel. Relax with your group leader, who will prepare you for the last few days of your holiday.
Day 13 - Halong Bay
This morning jump on the bus and drive to Halong Bay (approximately 3 hours). Surrounded by clusters of karst limestone cliffs topped by rainforest, this is an incredible and unique place. Settle into your junk boat, which will be your home for the next night, and drift out into a secluded harbour with some 2,000 limestone islands jutting out of the waters of the Bac Bo Gulf.
Day 14 - Halong Bay
This morning, enjoy a kayaking tour around the wonderful Halong Bay. Visit isolated caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites, and climb out onto beaches of the South China Sea. There are some unexpected caves and currents so its really important to always stay with the group and wear your life jacket, however confident you may be as a swimmer. After lunch, return to Hanoi for your last night as a group, enjoying a farewell dinner and perhaps some last minute shopping.
Day 15 - Departure day
This trip ends after breakfast and you are free to leave the accommodation at any time. For those who have booked a flight inclusive package you will be transferred to the airport to catch your onward flight home.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
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