LAOS: KINGDOM OF A MILLION ELEPHANTS

January 2018

The former “Kingdom of a Million Elephants” is today known as Laos, a fascinating mixture of old and ancient and modern Asia. Long off the radar of visitors the country is now increasingly visited and those who come find it one of the most interesting and charming of all Southeast Asian nations. We begin this journey in Pakse, the largest city in southern Laos, and from where we visit the majestic pre-Angkorian ruins of Vat Phou Champasak, and the high altitude Bolaven Plateau, home to many waterfalls and coffee plantations. Next we fly to the capital of Vientiane, and from Vientiane another flight brings us Phonsavan, site of the enigmatic Plain of Jars where enormous stone vessels, thought to be 2000 years old, are strewn across fields and forests. Archaeologists still puzzle over the jar’s original use and date of construction. Final stop is the UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang. The city is both charming and beautiful and has been named as one of the must-see sites in Asia. A holy city for centuries it contains many Buddhist temples and hundreds of monks, lovely French colonial architecture, and a multi-ethnic mix of people and cuisines. We’ll have ample time to explore the town and its equally beautiful surroundings. The journey ends with a return flight from Luang Prabang to Bangkok.

All of our accommodations are in small, comfortable and atmospheric boutique hotels. Travel from region to region in Laos is by air, due to the long distances traveled, though within a given area we will have private vehicle at our service.

waterfall-Laos

The trip is lead by Serd, a former Lao monk now with 14 years experience as tour guide and Champaca Journeys owner John Leupold who has made 15 visits to Laos in the past 7 years. Both of these men know and love Laos and will ensure that your trip is memorable.

Mekong Sunset monk resting, Laos Rice fields, Laos

Day-By-Day Itinerary

Depart Bangkok with Lao Airlines at 3:30 p.m. and after brief stop in Savannaket arrive Pakse at 6:00 p.m. After clearing customs we drive 40-minutes to the town of Champasak and check into the River Resort. Welcome dinner at the River Resort tonight. 

Overnight at River Resort (Dinner)

The Khmer Empire once extended to this part of Laos and the city constructed in the 5th and 6th century is now an atmospheric and beautiful  shadow of its one time glory. We explore the ruins of the civilization, and then visit some other smaller ruins hidden in nearby forest.

Overnight at River Resort (Breakfast, Lunch)

After breakfast we drive to the nearby Bolaven Plateau. The higher altitude of the plateau bring cooler temperatures and this combination of cooler temperatures and fertile soil make for excellent coffee growing conditions. So fine that the French colonists called Bolaven coffee 'the champagne of coffee.' We will visit coffee and tea plantations, and sample their brews. The plateau is also known for its spectacular rushing waterfalls and we will visit some of these. We'll stay the night at a working coffee plantation in their very attractive hotel.

Overnight at Sinouk Resort (B,L,D)

Today we visit more waterfalls, textile centers, and small local villages as we have another glimpse into life on the plateau. Late afternoon return to Champasak.

Overnight at River Resort (B,L)

Morning free at hotel, then transfer to airport for 90 minute flight to Vientiane, capital of Laos. This city is still considered traditional Asian, with interesting blend of Lao, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, French and American influences. After getting settled in our hotel, we explore some of the nearby ancient temples for which the city is famous.

Overnight at Ansara Hotel (B)

After breakfast we begin our exploration of Vientiane, visiting the major sites, Wat Sisaket, the oldest temple with its thousands of miniature Buddha statues and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo which formerly housed the emerald Buddha. Late afternoon visit to Patuxay Monument, known as Vientiane’s own Arc de Triomphe, from whose parapet one can obtain a bird’s eye view of the city.

Overnight at Ansara Hotel (B)

Breakfast in Vientiane, then transfer to airport for short flight to Xieng Khuang in central Laos where the famed Plain of Jars is located. The jars are immense stone vessels, each carved from a single boulder, and archaeologists still dispute their use and age. Hundreds of jars are strewn over a vast plain, and we’ll have ample time to wander across the area known as Site 1.

Overnight at Vansana Hotel, Xieng Khuang (B,L,D)

Today we’ll explore the areas known as Site Two and Site Three at the Plain of Jars. These sites see fewer visitors yet have more beautiful locations with hilly terrain and remnant forest.

Overnight at Vansana Hotel, Xieng Khuang (B, L)

Free time in morning on your own or with guides, then transfer to airport for early afternoon flight to Luang Prabang, an ancient holy city with many temples and resident monks. Luang Prabang has been chosen by many people and many publications as one of the most beautiful and atmospheric cities in Southeast Asia, and we have the next few days to uncover its charms. In the late afternoon we make the 10 minute climb to the temple of Phousi Hill to observe sunset, then explore the night market.

Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel (B)

An early morning wake-up call permits us the opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of orange-clad monks collecting alms from the faithful residents. From there we will visit the morning market, and return to hotel for breakfast. We next embark on a cruise upstream on the Mekong River, which provides beautiful views of the tranquil countryside. Our destination is the mysterious Pak Ou Caves, two linked caves crammed with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes left by pilgrims. Returning to Luang Prabang we stop at the village of Ban Xanghai, to observe distilling of local rice wine.

Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel, Luang Prabang (B, L)

After breakfast we visit The National Museum at the former Royal Palace, which displays an interesting collection of the artifacts reflecting the richness of Lao culture dating from the days of the early kings to the last sovereign. After lunch we visit the oldest and the most magnificent temple Wat Xiengthong, dating from 1560. Late afternoon and evening free.

Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel (B,L)

As visitors to Luang Prabang tell us they want time to simply idle and wander this lovely city, today we provide you with just such an opportunity. For those with particular interests to indulge, you will have both guides available to you to assist you in whatever you should choose to do.

Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel, Luang Prabang (B, D)

Late morning transfer to airport for flight to Bangkok at 12:20 p.m.

(B)

prices & registration information

(Inclusive of food and beverages where indicated; bottled water in vehicle; accommodations; ground transportation; entrance fees; services of licensed Lao guide and driver; services of USA-based trip leader.)

$4800. (Based on double occupancy)
$5400. (Based on single occupancy)

NOTE: Internal airfare, for 5 flights: Bangkok-Pakse-Vientiane-Xieng Khouang-Luang Prabang-Bangkok not included in above price. Price of $590 is subject to change.

NOTE: Gratuities, alcoholic beverages, meals not listed on itinerary, laundry, souvenirs, items of a personal nature, international and domestic airfare and travel insurance are NOT included.

General Information

This journey involves travel to the Asian gateway city of Bangkok, Thailand. There are many routes and prices for this trip from USA or point of origin and participants are required to book their tickets with enough time so as to arrive in Bangkok at least one day prior to commencement of Laos trip.

This 13-day Laos trip involves 2 international flights, from Bangkok, Thailand to Pakse, Laos and Luang Prabang, Laos to Bangkok, Thailand. (NOTE: it is possible to begin trip from other Asian countries, please inquire if interested). Additionally there are 4 flights within Laos. The cost for these 5 flights is currently $590 (additional to cost of land portion of trip), though this fare may fluctuate.