LAOS: KINGDOM OF A MILLION ELEPHANTS

March 2019

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, in southern Laos, and visit the majestic pre-Angkorian ruins of Champasak, and the high altitude Bolaven Plateau, home to many waterfalls and coffee plantations. From Pakse we fly to the capital of Vientiane, Laos' small but lively capital, with its great vibe and interesting sights. From Vientiane another flight brings us Phonsavan, site of the enigmatic Plain of Jars where enormous stone vessels, 2000-2500 years old, are strewn across fields and forests. Final stop is the UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang. The charming and beautiful city has been named as one of the must-see places 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, luxurious, 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 16 years experience as tour guide and Champaca Journeys owner John Leupold who has made 20 visits to Laos in the past 9 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 12:50 p.m. and arrive Pakse at 2:20 p.m. After clearing customs we drive 30-minutes to the town of Champasak and check into the River Resort. Welcome dinner at the River Resort tonight. 

Overnight at River Resort (Dinner)

Following breakfast, we drive to Vat Phou Champasak, the majestic pre-Angkorian 10th century temple complex. Visit the museum and then walk to the templesWe'll break for lunch and then take boat across the river to visit the small village of Ban Tomo, and from there walk short distance through the forest to visit more ancient ruins. Late afternoon return to hotel.

Overnight at River Resort (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

The high altitude Bolaven Plateau is little explored area of southern Laos. Known for its cooler temperatures which the French colonialists found ideal for the cultivation of coffee, and dubbed Bolaven coffee the champagne of coffee. We'll visit a coffee plantation where you can observe the plants under cultivation and hear about the process of growing fine coffee. We also visit the spectacular waterfalls that plunge off the heights of the plateau and visit 2 ethnic villages where the villagers demonstrate some of their traditional crafts. Late afternoon return to hotel.

Overnight at River Resort (B,L,D)

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,L)

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)

After breakfast, we start our journey by van to Buddha Park Afternoon return to the hotel and then rest of day on your own.

Overnight at Ansara Hotel (B,L)

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 (B,D)

Today we’ll explore the areas known as Site Two and Site Three at the Plain of Jars. These sites are considered the most beautiful, yet see few visitors, and we are often the only visitors in these sites, one semi hidden in the forest, the other in a rice field. 

Overnight at Vansana Hotel (B, L)

Free time in morning on your own or with guides, then transfer to airport for early afternoon flight to Luang Prabang via Vientiane. 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)

After breakfast, we visit the national museum in the former Royal Palace, with its collection of artifacts reflecting the richness of Lao culture dating from the days of the early kings right through the last sovereign. Lunch at local restaurant, then afternoon visit to local weaving cooperative, where you can see the process of production from silk worm to beautifully finished textiles for which Laos is famed. 

Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel (B,L)

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 (B,L)

Elephant tourism is seen as controversial as it often involves mistreatment of the animals. Not this sanctuary, Mandalao. The elephants here are former work elephants, now out of work as logging, the main activity for which they were used now banned. Unlike many venues that allow elephant rides, here you walk through the forest alongside the elephants, feed them, and have a dedicated mahout (elephant handler) who will explain the history of the individual animals you encounter and the natural history of these intelligent creatures. Mandalao has been named the most ethical elephant sanctuary in the world and we are pleased to be supporting them with an additional donation for each visitor. Mid afternoon return to Luang Prabang.

Overnight at Mekong Riverview Hotel (B,L)

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.)

$4500. (Based on double occupancy)
$5000. (Based on single occupancy)

NOTE: Internal airfare, for 6 flights: Bangkok-Pakse-Vientiane-Xieng Khouang-Vientiane-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.