LAOS - MEKONG SYMPHONY
Although he who walks behind an elephant may feel very secure, he is likely to get splattered with elephant dung.
– Laotian Proverb
Highlights of the journey
- Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre
- Rural northern Laos and its hill tribes
- The mighty Mekong river
Welcome at the airport by your local guide. After check-in at your hotel, you can enjoy a guided tour of the capital city arranged according to your arrival time. Your tour will include (as time permits): That Luang, the national monument of Laos with its 45m high golden stupa - Wat Sisaket and other temples - the famous city markets.
We will share some recommendations for dinner (cost not included). Overnight stay at your hotel.
Transfer to Vientiane Airport for your mid-morning flight to Oudomxay. On arrival, you will set off for Muang La Lodge where you will take a late lunch. Set between mountains and a river, the lodge comprises just 10 rooms and benefits from a nearby thermal spring. The lodge is a haven of peace and tranquility, with a massage pavilion facing the river, a traditional scented sauna and two hot water baths filled with naturally salty water from the hot spring, the lodge is without doubt the "Pearl of Northern Laos".
You will have free time to relax and enjoy the lodge in the afternoon and a dinner in evening.
Hotel: Muang La Lodge
You will leave the lodge in a 4x4 to visit two typical Lao communities; the Ikhos people and the Hmong people. Your route offers stunning views as you climb to 1000m above sea level. The first village is an isolated Ikhos community and you will take lunch in the village which offers more magnificent views. The Ikhos people originate from Tibet and Yunnan Province in China, their way of life remains untouched by our modern world.
After lunch, you will continue on to the Hmong village of Ban Tauser (a short trek of around 45 minutes). In the village, you will see a different way of life to the Ikhos people. The Hmong people originate from the high steppes of Tibet. Livestock (pigs, buffaloes etc.) plays an important part in village life and consequently the villagers give a great deal of care and attention to their animals. The path leading to the isolated village gives you another chance to enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside and a few minutes from the village is a viewpoint with a unique 360 degree panorama of the region. Returning to the lodge at the end of the day.
In the evening, you will take part in a Baci or Welcome Ceremony. In Laos, animist beliefs still persist and one part of these beliefs is that people have 32 souls, one in each of the 32 body parts. These souls (or Khouanes) tend to escape and risk being eaten by evil spirits, creating diseases and bad luck. The Baci ceremony recalls these souls to the body.
In a room family and friends gather and an altar of flowers is made. From this altar radiate strands of cotton symbolizing ties with the world of souls. Cakes, fruits, alcohol, incense sticks, candles are silver are set to encourage the souls to return home. A wise old man who specializes in this ceremony officiates, and surrounded by the family and friends, he first lights the 4 candles placed at the top of the altar and prays to the gods. In meditation and using ritual formulas, the wise man urges the 32 souls to return to their home and benefit from the offerings.
The ceremony ends with wishes being made and the cotton strands are fixed on the wrists of the people present to retain the returned souls. The attendees then celebrate the return of their souls. The ceremony will be followed by a typical meal in a local house with the local people. This traditional meal is accompanied with local cider: Lao Hay.
Hotel: Muang La Lodge
After breakfast, you will take a stroll along the banks of the Nam Pak to the Khamu village of Wang Wanh, where the villagers make sacks from the fibres of the local plants. You will be welcomed by a local family in their rice fields, surrounded by the hills, and immerse yourself in the traditional way of life of the villagers. Accompanied by your local guide, you will learn all about the daily life of the villagers and their work in the fields, with their faithful friend - a water buffalo. From choosing the right seeds, planting the seeds, transplanting cuttings and to the crucial stage of the harvest; you will learn all about the life of the local farmers. After your interesting morning, it's time to relax and enjoy your lunch which is taken in the farm "sala', giving a 360° panorama of the wonderful countryside in the valley.
After lunch, you will cross the Nam Pak on a bamboo raft to go to the Khamu village of Vieng Kham. The villagers are well-known for their weaving skills creating wonderful silks and sarongs. You will continue on to the village of Muang La to visit the local school and the temple of Chiao Pha Kham Sing which houses a sacred statue of Buddha and is now a place of pilgrimage.
You will return to the lodge in the middle of the afternoon to relax and reflect on the wonderful experiences of your day in the Lao countryside.
Reliable and comfortable trekking shoes required!
Hotel: Muang La Lodge
After breakfast, you will leave for Pakbeng. After around 4hrs30mins (including comfort breaks) you will reach Pakbeng which sits on the banks of the Mekong. You will check-in toy our next hotel and have lunch before crossing the Mekong to go to an elephant camp on the opposite bank. The mahouts will take you, on the back of one of their elephants, on a 2 hour trek through the forest with beautiful views over the Mekong along the way. On your return to the camp, you can help the mahouts bathe their elephants before making the crossing back to your hotel and have time to relax before dinner at the hotel.
A sun-hat is advised for the elephant trek
Hotel: Luang Say Lodge
Early in the morning, you embark for your cruise to Luang Prabang. During your descent, you stop and meet the different people who live on the banks of this famous river.Lunch is taken on-board your boat.
In the afternoon, you will arrive at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou and visit the famous Pakhou Caves: Tham Ting & Tham Phoum. Carved into the hillside, the caves contain hundreds of statues of Buddha, in all shapes & sizes that have been housed in this sacred place for centuries. You will continue your cruise and reach Luang Prabang at the end of the afternoon where you will be transferred from the pier to your hotel.
In the evening, you can visit the Night Market where the local mountain people sell their handicrafts and silks.
Dinner at your hotel.
Hotel: Satri House
At first light (before breakfast) you will witness the Daily Alms Ceremony where monks from the town’s many temples walk through the old part of the town receiving alms (food and drink) from the local people - it's a truly unforgettable sight. After breakfast, you will visit the National Museum housed in the former royal palace of Luang Prabang. Your tour continues with Wat May & Wat Manorom, which is believed to have been built in 1375 by King Sam Sen Thai. You will continue on to Wat That Louang which was the crematorium for high dignitaries and members of the royal family.
You will take your lunch (not included) in a local restaurant. In the afternoon, you will continue to Wat Xieng Thong; one of the most beautiful temples in Luang Prabang which sits at the northern end of the peninsula. Next, to Wat Aphay, which was once known as the Monastery of Hay Padek (Padek is a strong tasting fish paste used in Lao cuisine). Then on to Wat Phraphoutthabat, the Monastery of Buddha's footprint and Wat That, the Monastery of the Stupa. Our tour concludes with Wat Sieng Mouane & Wat Choum Khong, the last examples of the Xieng Khouang style of architecture. At the end of the afternoon you will climb to the summit of Mount Phou Si to enjoy the stunning views and the sunset. On your descent, you can visit the Night Market.
Dinner at Restaurant l’Elephant.
The Alms Ceremony demands a certain level of respect & we ask that you follow the instructions of your guide.
Hotel: Satri House
Your day begins with a visit to the Ethnology Museum. After the museum, you will cross the Mekong to visit the small village of Ban Xieng Maene followed by Wat Long Khoun - the Monastery of Blessed Song which houses an ornate, carved wooden relief. Continue on to Wat Chom Pet which sits on the top of a hill overlooking the Mekong. You will have time to relax and enjoy the beautiful panorama over Luang Prabang.
After lunch (not included), you will leave the peninsula for the waterfalls at Kuang Si. This natural beauty spot is a favourite place of the local people who come to enjoy the cooler temperatures during the hot season. Lunch will be a picnic lunch prepared by one of the best restaurants in Luang Prabang and you will have some free time to relax and enjoy the falls. Return to Luang Prabang in the afternoon.
At 7.00pm, meet your driver of our 4x4 Kozlov for a ride to the restaurant Casa Lao to enjoy delicious tapas.
Ethnology Museum closed on Mondays. Guide at your service for the afternoon.
Hotel: Satri House
Free time to browse around the peninsula before your transfer to Luang Prabang Airport (20 minutes by car from the centre of town).
Muang La Lodge
Luang Say Lodge
Valid for travel before 31 December 2017.
The total price includes:
- Accommodation based on two people sharing.
- All meals specified in the programme (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
- All transfers as specified, in private car or air-conditioned van.
- All excursions as specified in the programme.
- All entry fees.
- A guide service for all excursions.
The total price does not include:
- Domestic & International flights (domestic flights will be quoted at the moment of reservation).
- All meals not specified in the programme.
- All services not specified in the programme.
- Fees for Lao visas ($30 - $40) USD per person (depending on nationality) plus one passport photo.
- All insurances including cancellation insurance/ travel insurance/ repatriation or lost luggage insurances.
- All tips.