Tailored from £3,250 per person excl. flights
14 Days Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Phonsavan, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh
14 Days Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Phonsavan, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh
This spectacular adventure holiday takes in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, following the course of the mighty Mekong River and highlighting the remarkable ancient temples which line its route. Thailand, known for its long, idyllic beaches and the exciting capital of Bangkok is where the experience begins, before we enter the mystical country of Laos where time seems to have stopped for the kind-hearted people you meet along the way. Your Southeast Asian travel experience concludes in Cambodia, where the ancient Khmer Empire remains on full display, and yet modernity is starting to make itself felt as the country recovers from its recent past.
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.
If you rise early, you will be rewarded with the ages-old sight of locals making merit by giving alms to a parade of saffron-robed monks from the city’s temples. Mist covered, with rays of the rising sun breaking through, you will feel as if you are in another world. After breakfast, you take a guided walking tour that takes in the stately Wat Xieng Thong with its sweeping roof and rare reclining Buddha. We also visit the hemispherical Wat Wisunalat, representing the earliest style of Laos architecture and Luang Prubang’s oldest operating temple. We then go to Phu Si Hill to take in panoramic views of the city and deep gulps of fresh Laos air. After lunch we visit the lovely, multilevel Kuang Si Falls, where you can wash away the day’s exertions in a series of turquoise clear pools. In the evening your guide will point you towards the street in Luang Prubang,which has a run of intimate, mostly French restaurants, with food and atmosphere which would not be out of place in the small rues of Paris.
Today we travel to Phonsavan in the remote Xieng Khuoang Province, an area dominated by pine forests and green hills that is peppered with craters from the massive bombing campaign during America’s secret war with Laos, against the Red Hmong tribal people. You will see local villages consisting of colourful wooden houses and soon spot the neighbourhood cowboys raising their cattle in violently coloured cowboy hats. The weather is cool and fresh here due to its high altitude. You spend the night in a simple hotel in Phonsavan.
After breakfast we make our way to the Plain of Jars, an ancient site where there are hundreds of large stone jars scattered across the plateau. Little is known about the age or purpose of these vessels, though they are estimated to be about 2,000 years old and were burial urns or possibly for distilling alcohol. Your imagination will run riot as you approach the clusters. In the afternoon, we fly to Vientiane. Probably the world’s sleepiest and unlikeliest capital city, Vientiane has grown considerably in the last couple of decades and is home to the country’s largest and most majestic temples. It is a very relaxed place populated by friendly and easy-going people and your guide can point you to some great dining options in town or by the river.
Today we explore Vientiane starting with the oldest remaining temple in the city, Wat Si Saket, built in the early 19th century. We then visit Haw Pha Kaew, the former royal temple of the Lao monarchy and home to some of the best examples of Buddhist sculptures to be found in Laos. We also visit Pha That Luang, the most important national monument in Laos and symbol of both the Buddhist religion and Lao sovereignty. The morning concludes with a visit to Patuxai Monument – Vientiane’s answer to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris – where you can ascend the stairs for a wonderful view of the city. In the afternoon you are free to explore the Talat Sao Morning Market, which is confusingly open in the afternoon. Tonight why not try a lively, local music venue where tourists rub shoulders with locals, in a vibrant setting? Your guide will be happy to suggest some different venues depending on your personal taste.
Departing Vientiane by plane for the fabled town of Siem Reap you will arrive in the evening. Siem Reap, the former capital of the great Khmer Empire and now a burgeoning city full of sauntering lanes and stalls proffering local artisan ware. You will meet with your local guide, who will brief you on everything you would like to know about the area. In the evening, your guide will offer to show you around the town itself, and will suggest the most edifying dining options available, from international restaurants to hidden Cambodian culinary gems.
Today has been designed to make sure you discover the best of the Angkor temples. Travelling by private transport, you will avoid the crowds and have the chance to truly realize the sheer magnificence of the individual archaeological sites that make up the Holy City. Built over the course of 600 years, the Angkor Kingdom ran an empire, which extended from the Bay of Bengal in the west to the South China Sea in the east and from southern China in the north down to the tip of continental Southeast Asia. Your guide will provide detailed information on how these temples were built, and what purpose each one had within the complex. Angkor Wat itself, erected in the 12th century, stands as a powerful symbol of Cambodia, and, built in the remarkable high classical style of Khmer architecture, will perhaps form the centrepiece of your memories, long after you have returned home.
After breakfast, we will travel to Banteay Srei, a temple famed for its intricate carvings depicting battles, scenes of conquest and Khmer daily life: it is often referred to as the ‘jewel of Khmer art.’ Built in the 10th century and dedicated to the Hindu God, Shiva, this red sandstone temple will capture some of your most memorable photos. In the afternoon, we journey to Tonlé Sap River and the floating village of Chong Khneas. The river is the home to many Cham and Vietnamese communities living on floating villages around the lake. The Chong Khneas community welcomes curious tourists and the local people benefit financially from this community tourism initiative. Having said that we urge all travellers to be respectful and conscientious of people at work and children at play as we meander around the school, hospital and family dwellings, all floating on the water.
After some free time in the morning to have one last look around Siem Reap we will transfer to the airport for your domestic flight to Phnom Penh. Cambodia’s capital has really come into its own in recent years. Repopulated after Vietnam ousted the Khmer Rouge in 1979, the rebuilding and development of this vibrant city continues to pick up pace. It is now a great place to explore and day and nightlife are flourishing, as is the local arts scene. The evening can be spent relaxing at your own pace. We like to recommend the Foreign Correspondent’s Club - situated on the waterfront; it is a famous and historical location, with three floors of cane furniture a fantastic international menu and mouth-watering cocktail creations.
Today you take a tour of the capital, beginning at the Royal Palace, which is the home of the current Cambodian Monarch, King Sihamoni. Next there is the option to go around the Tuol Sleng Prison where prisoners of the Khmer regime were held and killed. Although disturbing, it is an incredible historic account of comparably recent events in the country and highlights the changes that have taken place since it was closed. We stop for lunch at Pour un Sourire d’Enfant. This is a fantastic project that has rescued thousands of children from scavenging on the rubbish dumps around Phnom Penh. 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.
Your Indochina 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.
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