Tailored from £4,950 per person excl. flights
16 days Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Pakbeng, Luang Prabang, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kep
16 days Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Pakbeng, Luang Prabang, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kep
This experience takes in some of the many highlights of Southeast Asia by following the course of the mighty Mekong River. Arriving in Bangkok, the gateway to the region, you explore the city with your local guide before next day's encounter with the mysterious Golden Triangle in northern Thailand. Crossing the Mekong you will enter into Laos before following one of the world’s great rivers through Pakbeng and onto sleepy Luang Prabang. The river leads you on into the ancient Kingdom of Angkor in Cambodia. A stop in the increasingly cosmopolitan city of Phnom Penh is followed by some relaxation time in up and coming Kep where can explore Kampot and enjoy tropical paradise on Rabbit Island.
We will meet you on arrival at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK) airport, look out for the Wayfairer welcome sign, and transfer to Siem Reap for the night on a B&B basis. Depending on your arrival time your local guide will meet you at the hotel tonight to brief you about your tour, take you around the city and recommend some great dinning options. Your unforgettable journey starts here!
Starting early on this busy day, we set out to discover the wonderful contrasts of Bangkok. You will explore the glittering Grand Palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho with its spectacular 46-metre long Reclining Buddha. After lunch we go to the airport and fly to Chiang Rai in the north of Thailand, near the mysterious Golden Triangle, bordering Myanmar and Laos. This evening you can browse through the bustling Chiang Rai Night Bazaar, where hill tribe people and lowlanders gather to sell their handicrafts.
We start early today with a two-hour trip to the Thai border town of Chiang Khong. We then cross the border by boat to Huay Xai in Laos where your guide can help you get your Laos entry visas on arrival. We board a private boat for a two-day personalised cruise down the river at a serene pace past beautiful jungle scenery and small traditional-style villages. We will stop at Pakbeng, a friendly town where the Mekong meets the Beng River. The town has regular tribal visitors and vendors along the street sell local textiles and handicrafts, designed to brighten up a house located anywhere in the world.
We continue cruising south along the Mekong River and stop to stretch our legs and explore the amazing Pak Ou Caves, which contain hundreds of Buddha statues, before arriving in Luang Prabang late afternoon. Luang Prabang has been claimed by UNESCO to be ‘the best preserved city in Southeast Asia’ and is the perfect place to wander the streets and back alleys and discover why so many people fall in love with this beautiful town with its gleaming temple roofs, fading French architecture and stunning mountain backdrop.
Today we enjoy a relaxed half-day walking tour of this charming UNESCO listed city. We visit all the main sites including the ancient stupa of Wat Visoun, Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Aham and Wat Mai. But the most enjoyable experiences are those of just soaking up the unique atmosphere of the town and exploring its many hidden coves and narrow alleyways. There are always monks on hand eager to practice their English and explain the intricacies of their faith for those interested. In the afternoon we climb the more than 300 steps to mount Phu Si to take in panoramic views of the city and the Mekong River. In the evening the Night Market is the perfect place to try your hand at gentle bartering. Unlike other markets in Asia, this is an almost relaxing shopping experience. Tribes people come from their villages to sell their colourful embroidered wares.
Rising with, or a little before, the sun will allow you to witness an age old tradition as processions of saffron-robed monks set out on their early morning alms rounds. Locals prepare sticky rice and other offerings to make merit. It’s a truly amazing sight and one that Luang Prabang is famous for. A visit to the morning market follows and your guide will explain the many weird and wonderful things that are on sale. Afterwards we will take a short drive to a weaving village where workers use traditional looms practicing the age old techniques brought here to Laos over 1200 years ago. These techniques are taught to a number of carefully selected interns to ensure that they are never lost. We’ll receive an informal tour that that shows us silkworm farming, silk spinning, dying and weaving. On request, it is possible to have your own private tuition to discover these techniques for yourself.
This morning we leave the town behind and drive deep into the rainforest to visit the multilevel Kuang Si Falls. The spectacular falls are set in an equally stunning environment of virgin forest and jungle. The limestone mountains create the perfect backdrop for the series of turquoise clear pools that you can cool down in. Upon our return to the town we invite you to participate in a traditional Baci ceremony. Baci is an animist ritual used to celebrate important events and occasions, like births and marriages and also entering the monkhood, departing, returning, beginning a new year, and welcoming something or someone important. The ritual of the Baci has become a national custom.
This morning we leave delightful Laos behind and fly south to the Kingdom of Cambodia. Having settled into your new home, relaxed and lunched we invite you for an introduction to the magical temples of Angkor. This afternoon your exploration of Angkor begins with a visit to the ancient city of Angkor Thom, built by the most prolific of all temple builders, King Jayaverman VII. Within the great walls are numerous temples, palaces and residences and you will be able to explore to your heart’s desire with your knowledgeable local guide explaining the significance and reverence as you go.
We start early this morning at Ta Prohm, one of the highlights of any visit to Angkor, where giant trees spread their roots across the ruined temples. Leaving this amazing jungle temple behind, we continue our exploration of Angkor with a visit to Banteay Srei. This is another of the highlight temples, built in pink sandstone it boasts the finest and most intricate of all the carvings to be found in Angkor. We’ll also stop at the Land Mine Museum. This small self-guided museum offers a fascinating insight into Cambodia’s troublesome past and its continuing problems with unexploded ordinance. After lunch we take a break from the temples and head out to one of the lesser-visited floating villages. The Tonle Sap Lake is the pulsing heart of Cambodia and is where many Cambodians make their daily living. Everything here happens on the lake; schools, shops, karaoke parlours, and floating pigsties.
This morning you can enjoy the sunrise at Angkor Wat! The sun rises from behind the 5 towers of the temple and even though it’s a busy time we can always find our own little quiet corner to escape the crowds and appreciate the moment. We bring a packed breakfast and stay at Angkor while the majority of visitors return to their hotels for breakfast. We then take a detailed tour of one of the largest religious monuments anywhere in the world. In the afternoon we visit some of the lesser-visited temples including the majestic Preah Khan, the healing temple of Neak Pean, and finally we will watch the sun set into the landscape of rice fields and sugar palms from the crematorium temple of Pre Rup.
A short flight takes us back to the capital and you will start to explore the city today, beginning at the Royal Palace, which is where the current Cambodian Monarch King Sihamoni calls home. Inside the Palace complex we will explore the manicured gardens and the Silver Pagoda with its floor made from over 5000 silver tiles. Inside is a life sized Buddha encrusted with thousands of diamonds. Then we move on to the National Museum. Here we find the world’s finest collection of Cambodian sculpture housed in French built Khmer styled building that is one of the most beautiful in the country. We then take to an alternative mode of transportation and take a cyclo tour including some of the architectural landmarks of the city. We conclude our afternoon with a refreshing drink on the balcony of the Foreign Correspondents Club overlooking the river and the busy streets.
Today we take a closer look at the recent past and learn about the Khmer Rouge regime and its impact on Cambodia. Although the Khmer Rouge ruled the country for less than four years, this chapter of history devastated the county, its heritage and its people. Toul Sleng is a former high school that the Khmer Rouge used as a centre for torture and interrogation; it now serves as a museum and a memorial. Another important landmark of Cambodia’s tragic past are the Choeung Ek Killing Fields just outside the city and it is a very emotional place to visit and learn about Cambodian history during the time of the Khmer Rouge regime. Leaving this chapter of Khmer history behind we head south and make our way towards the coastal town of Kep.
Nearby Kampot is a wonderful riverside town with some of Cambodia’s best-preserved colonial architecture. The town itself is small and easy to explore by foot. We can pay a visit to a pre-Angkorian pagoda cave known as Phnom Chhnork. This offers some beautiful natural scenery and depending on the time of year we may be able to join in with the locals and help them working in their fields. This region is famous for its production of fruit, vegetables and pepper and again depedning on the season it may be possible for you to visit some local plantations. A sunset cruise on the river is a wonderful way to end the day before you return to your hotel.
Today we take a short boat ride to Rabbit Island. This is a beautiful little island just a short way off the coast from Kep. There are no developments here other than some very simple family-run bungalows and restaurants. Seaweed farming is the only other activity on the island. The golden sand beach here is perfect for swimming and palm trees offer shade at the waters edge. If you’re feeling adventurous you can enjoy squid fried in local Kampot pepper. If this doesn’t take your fancy then swim, have a massage and simply relax on this idyllic island paradise.
We make a leisurely start this morning so there is time for a last swim or walk along the beach before we make our way back from Kep to the capital as the end of your journey draws near. In the evening we take a short sunset cruise on the Tonlé Sap River. You will pass Cham houseboats, floating villages and watch the sun set behind the majestic Royal Palace. There is no better way to watch the sunset for one last time in Cambodia.
Your adventure finishes after breakfast today. If there is time, take a last stroll along the waterfront or stop for coffee in one of the local coffee houses lining small alleyways and reflect up on the last two weeks of exploits and cultural discovery. We will then transfer you to Phnom Penh airport (PNH) in good time for your onward journey.