Thailand & Laos Adventure Trip Notes

Thailand & Laos Adventure

Last Modified: 21 Jul 2016
Thailand & Laos Adventure
Trip code: TLSV
Validity: 01 Jan 2016 to 31 Dec 2016
Travel from Bangkok to Vientiane experiencing the delights of northern Thailand and the laidback river lifestyle of Laos. Join us on a voyage of discovery and relaxation, taking in the bright lights of Bangkok in Thailand, the age-old charms of Luang Prabang in Laos and the temples of Vientiane. Travel down the mighty Mekong River and become immersed in the tranquillity of remote villages and friendly locals along the way.
Table of Contents
StyleAccommodationFinish point description
ThemesAccommodation NotesFinishing point instructions
Is this trip right for you?Meals introductionEmergency contact
Why we love itMealsVisas
MapTransportWhat to take
ItineraryMoney mattersClimate and seasonal information
Itinerary disclaimerGroup leaderHealth
Physical ratingSafetyTravel insurance
Included activitiesJoining pointA couple of rules
Important notesJoining point descriptionResponsible Travel
Group sizeJoining point instructionsThe Intrepid Foundation
Your fellow travellersFinish pointFeedback
Style
Original
Themes
Explorer
Is this trip right for you?
- This trip involves some long travel days. Simply sit back, relax, watch the scenery go by, and embrace travelling like a local.
- Laos is less developed than many other South-East Asian countries. The roads can be bumpy, delays are common, and accommodation can be basic but always clean and comfortable. A little bit of patience will go a long way towards your enjoyment of this beautiful country!
- One night is spent on the Mekong River in Pakbeng, a very remote and quiet town.
- It can be quite cool from November to February, so make sure you have some warm gear packed for this period.
- Due to dam construction upstream, water levels aren't as reliable as in previous years. When the Mekong River is at its lowest from February to April, part of the journey may occasionally need to be made by land.
Why we love it
- Combining two great countries in two weeks, you'll discover the best of both worlds, from Thailand’s lively markets and hypnotic temples, to Laos' riverside exotica and stunning scenery
- Travel adventurously just like the locals – an overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and a two day boat journey down the Mekong River. Pass incredible rural scenery and spend a night in the remote village of Pakbeng
- Discover the highlights of refined Luang Prabang with a guide, and enjoy free time to make your own explorations and discover why UNESCO rate this city so highly
- There are many chances to do good while you travel, like the Intrepid foundation supported COPE, dedicated to helping those injured by unexploded ordinance
Map

Itinerary
Day 1 Bangkok
Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand. Thailand's bustling capital, Bangkok is famous for its tuk tuks, khlong boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place, and have your insurance details and next of kin information ready for collection. Bangkok has so much to offer those with time to explore, so perhaps arrive a day or so early and take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, uncover the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road, or indulge in some Thai massage. After the meeting tonight perhaps gather your fellow travellers together and tuck into some into world famous street food.
Optional Activities
  • Bangkok - Bangkok by Bike Urban Adventure - THB1904
  • Bangkok - Grand Palace - THB500
    Accommodation
    Hotel (1 nt)
    Day 2 Bangkok
    Begin the day with a river cruise down the Chao Phraya River to explore the famous ‘khlongs’ (canals) (approximately 1 hour). Life along these canals seems a world away from the chaotic streets of the capital. Pay a visit to Wat Pho, one of the ‘trinity’ of Bangkok temples, with a 46-metre long gold plated Buddha reclining inside. Even the feet of this statue are incredible, three metres long and intricately decorated with mother of pearl. The temple grounds are equally fascinating, filled with beautifully decorated stupas, halls, and shrines. This evening you’ll head north to Chiang Mai on an overnight train journey, accommodated in air-conditioned sleeping berths (approximately 13 hours). Multi share compartments are air-conditioned, with bunk beds; sheets and pillow provided. Your baggage travels in the carriage with you. There is a food and drink service available on board.
    Included Activities
    • Bangkok - Khlong boat (canal) tour
    • Bangkok - Wat Pho Temple
      Optional Activities
      • Bangkok - Thai Massage - THB250
      • Bangkok - Jim Thompson's House - THB150
        Accommodation
        Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
        Day 3 Chiang Mai
        The most vibrant city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has many famous temples and an interesting old city area. Renowned for dazzling beauty and extremely welcoming locals, the ‘Rose of the North’ will leave you spellbound. Chances are, you won’t want to leave. Embark on a scenic, winding drive up a mountain (around 45 minutes) to one of the country's most stunning temple complexes, Doi Suthep. A 300-step naga-guarded stairway leads you to the temples, and the climb is well worth the effort. The hypnotic atmosphere of chanting Buddhist monks and sweeping views of the city make this a most memorable experience.
        Included Activities
        • Chiang Mai - Doi Suthep temple
          Accommodation
          Hotel (1 nt)
          Day 4 Chiang Mai
          Today is free for you to explore, but there are also a few optional activities you can join if you want. Perhaps join a local cooking class today and discover the secrets of real Thai cuisine. You'll learn the key ingredients, how to use them, and what to use in their place if you can’t get them at home. As well as taking your own comprehensive recipe book with you after the class, you'll feast on the fruits of your labour for lunch. Get active with a bicycle tour to discover the city and surrounding countryside from a different perspective, or be spirited away on an early morning Chiang Mai tour that puts you at the epicentre of Buddhist rituals. Learn to meditate, offer alms to monks, and make an offering at a temple. In the evening you can choose to wander through the enormous, colourful Night Bazaar, and perhaps relax at a fine restaurant along the riverfront. Make sure to sample some delicious traditional northern Thai food – the signature dish is kao soy, yellow wheat noodles in a curry broth, traditionally served with chicken or beef.
          Optional Activities
          • Chiang Mai - Thai cooking course - THB800
          • Chiang Mai - Bicycle tour - THB950
          • Chiang Mai - Urban Adventures - Mind & Soul - THB2300
            Accommodation
            Hotel (1 nt)
            Day 5 Chiang Khong
            Take a journey through rural countryside to the Thai border town of Chiang Khong (approximately 5.5 hours). Formerly known as 'Juon', peaceful riverside Chiang Khong remains an important market town for the surrounding hill tribes and for trade with Laos. Stretch your legs with a stroll around town, and if you find youself with time, then Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Luang are both well worth a visit while you’re here. Then maybe enjoy a final Thai drink and dinner, while Laos beckons from across the mighty Mekong.
            Accommodation
            Guesthouse (1 nt)
            Day 6 Pakbeng - Mekong River
            Board a slow boat for the two-day journey down the mighty Mekong River to Luang Prabang. The journey is relaxed, so you can experience the slow pace of village life and the breathtaking scenery along the river up close. The river boat is basic in nature, with a toilet, covered roof, and open sides to take in the fresh air. There are seats in the front of the boat and a small open area in the back where you can have a nap on the mat, play cards, read or have lunch. Dock at the small town of Pak Beng (after about 6 hours) to spend the night. Hmong and tribal Thai people are frequently seen on the main street, where vendors sell local textiles and handicrafts.

            Notes: Our guesthouse here is very basic -– standard accommodation in this small, remote trading port. It can be quite cool from November to February so make sure you have some warm gear packed for this period. Due to dam construction upstream, water levels aren't as reliable as in previous years, and when the river is at its lowest from February to April, part of the journey may occasionally need to be made by land.
            Included Activities
            • Mekong River - 2 day boat trip
              Accommodation
              Guesthouse (1 nt)
              Day 7 Luang Prabang
              Reboard the boat and cruise to the Pak Ou Caves, before arriving in the former royal capital of Luang Prabang (approximately 7 hours). An important religious site overlooking the river at the junction of the Mekong and Ou Rivers, the revered Pak Ou Caves consist of two sacred limestone caverns filled with Buddha images of all styles and sizes, brought by devoted villagers over the centuries. The lower cave, known as Tham Ting, is entered from the river by a series of steps and can easily be seen in daylight. The higher cave, Tham Phum, is deeper and requires a torch for viewing. The atmospheric World Heritage-listed city of Luang Prabang is a favourite of many travellers. Nestled in the hills of northern Laos on the confluence of the Mekong and Khan rivers, the city is claimed to be ‘the best preserved city in South East Asia’ by UNESCO. The city and its people retain a refined, yet relaxed, air and it’s a wonderful place to wander the side streets and dusty lanes and seemingly step back into another era.
              Included Activities
              • Luang Prabang - Pak Ou Cave
                Accommodation
                Hotel (1 nt)
                Day 8 Luang Prabang
                Once the heart and soul of the ancient Lao Kingdom (Lan Xang) and designated a World Heritage site in 1995, Luang Prabang is endowed with a legacy of historic red-roofed temples and French-Indochinese architecture, not to mention some of the country's most refined cuisine, a multi-ethnic population and rich culture. Enjoy a guided tour around the Traditional Art & Ethnology centre, a non-profit museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, and interpretation of its traditional arts and lifestyles. In the afternoon, head south of town to the beautiful Kuang Si Falls, a picturesque, multi-level cascade that offers fantastically blue pools that are perfect for a mid-afternoon dip. Back in Luang Prabang this evening you’ll have free time to make further discoveries, including walking around the popular Night Bazaar.
                Included Activities
                • Luang Prabang - Traditional Arts and Ethnology Museum
                • Luang Prabang - Kuang Si Waterfalls
                  Accommodation
                  Hotel (1 nt)
                  Meals
                  1 breakfast
                  Day 9 Luang Prabang
                  Today is free for your own explorations. It’s worth getting up in the misty early morning to view the procession of saffron-robed monks on their daily outing collecting alms, a practice that dates back centuries. The people of the town wait out the front of their houses with food for the monks to collect and take back to the temple. It is done early, as the monks cannot eat anything after midday. By giving food to a monk you ‘het bon’ or make merit, which should augur well for your next life. Make sure you don't miss Wat Xieng Thong, the most enchanting of Laos’ monasteries. Inside you'll find monks eager to practice their English with you. A large hill called Mt Phu Si dominates Luang Prabang's skyline, topped by a glittering golden stupa. You can climb the 328 zig-zag steps up to the sacred gilled stupa and big drum of the Phu Si Temple for a panoramic view of Luang Prabang and its surrounds. The Dara Market sells everything and is a great spot to browse. If you'd like to experience more local culture, consider taking a long boat across the river to a traditional Laotian village.
                  Optional Activities
                  • Luang Prabang - Royal Theatre - USD20
                  • Luang Prabang - Mt Phu Si - USD2
                  • Luang Prabang - Wat Xieng Thong - USD2
                  • Luang Prabang - National Museum - USD4
                    Accommodation
                    Hotel (1 nt)
                    Meals
                    1 breakfast
                    Day 10 Vang Vieng
                    Take the bus through dusty villages and winding mountain roads to Vang Vieng (approximately 7 hours). The mountain scenery on the drive is as impressive as that of your destination. En route, take in scenes of small village life at various points along the hilly highway. Situated on the Nam Song River, Vang Vieng is surrounded by towering limestone karsts and is a great place to walk through local markets and along the riverside.
                    Accommodation
                    Guesthouse (1 nt)
                    Meals
                    1 breakfast
                    Day 11 Vang Vieng
                    There’s plenty to do in and around Vang Vieng, known as an adventure town thanks to its unique and varied surrounding country. The area is renowned for its many caves, many of which are easily accessible from the town. Perhaps the most famous is the cave of Tham Chang, a beautiful cavern fed by a natural spring making it a perfect spot for a refreshing swim. Hire bicycles to explore further afield, or if you’re looking to relax or perhaps learn more about local niche industry, you can visit an organic mulberry farm just outside town and enjoy a meal there.
                    Optional Activities
                    • Vang Vieng - Bicycle hire - USD2
                      Accommodation
                      Guesthouse (1 nt)
                      Day 12 Vientiane
                      Continue by bus to the country's capital, Vientiane (approximately 3.5 hours). Possibly Asia's most laidback capital, Vientiane is a city where daily affairs are conducted at a relaxed pace. Hardly touched by the modernisation that has completely changed the face of other cities in South-East Asia, it has a wealth of cultural delights to discover on foot, or for the less energetic, by jumbo (tuk tuk). Faded colonial mansions, tree-lined boulevards and old temples create an atmosphere of timelessness, particularly in the older part of town along the Mekong River. Pay a visit to Wat Si Saket, the oldest temple still standing in Vientiane and home to almost 7,000 Buddha images. Visit COPE, an Intrepid Foundation-sponsored organisation dedicated to assistance those who have been injured by the multitude of unexploded ordinance across the country. This is an excellent cause and a chance to educate yourself about Laos' devastating war history. This evening, maybe join your fellow travellers for a celebratory dinner as your adventure comes to an end.
                      Included Activities
                      • Vientiane - COPE visit
                        Optional Activities
                        • Vientiane - Tuk Tuk to Buddha Park - USD25
                        • Vientiane - Vientiane temples - USD1
                          Accommodation
                          Hotel (1 nt)
                          Day 13 Vientiane
                          There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
                          Meals
                          1 breakfast
                          Itinerary disclaimer
                          ITINERARY CHANGES Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.

                          OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

                          24th of August Departure & 7th of September Departure Please be advised the Traditional Arts and Enthology Centre in Luang Prabang will be closed for the Boat Racing Festival and new exhibition installation from 31st of August to 16th of September. During this time this included activity will be replaced with an included visit to the National Museum. We apologise for this amendment.
                          Physical rating

                          Included activities
                          Bangkok - Khlong boat (canal) tour
                          Bangkok - Wat Pho Temple
                          Chiang Mai - Doi Suthep temple
                          Mekong River - 2 day boat trip
                          Luang Prabang - Pak Ou Cave
                          Luang Prabang - Traditional Arts and Ethnology Museum
                          Luang Prabang - Kuang Si Waterfalls
                          Vientiane - COPE visit
                          Important notes
                          A single supplement is available on this trip at time of booking. Please see trip notes for further information.

                          Group size
                          Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
                          Your fellow travellers
                          GROUP TRAVEL
                          As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.

                          SINGLE TRAVELLERS:
                          Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.

                          A single supplement is available on this trip. The following days are excluded from the single supplement:

                          Day 2 Overnight train
                          Day 6 Mekong River (Pak Beng)
                          Accommodation
                          Guesthouse (4nt), Hotel (7nt), Overnight sleeper train (1nt)
                          OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
                          The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.

                          TWIN SHARE
                          Accommodation on this trip is on a twin basis.

                          CHECK-IN TIME
                          Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.

                          PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
                          If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.

                          WINDOWLESS ROOMS:
                          Some hotels in Laos have windowless rooms, or windows that don't necessarily have a view. This is often due to high population density in large cities, however local building standards also don't require rooms to have windows. We do request rooms with windows, however they aren't always available.
                          Meals introduction
                          While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
                          Meals
                          4 breakfasts
                          Transport
                          Longtail boat, Overnight sleeper train, Private Bus

                          OVERNIGHT TRAINS
                          Overnight sleeper trains in Thailand are air-conditioned with sleeping berths down both sides of the carriage. The carriage is multishare, and there are curtains that close over the beds. A sleeping sheet and a pillow are provided, and our luggage travels in the carriage with us. There is a western and Asian-style toilet located at the end of the carriage, with carriage lights staying on during the night.
                          Money matters
                          SPENDING MONEY
                          When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).

                          We recommend USD260.00 for meals not included.

                          The official currency of Thailand is the Baht (THB).

                          The official currency of Laos is the Kip (LAK) however, US$ are also widely used throughout Laos.

                          The most convenient and cheapest way to obtain local currency is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM). ATMs are now available in most towns and visa cash advances are available in major banks. The use of credit cards is restricted, mainly to major hotels. Foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded can be very difficult to exchange; clean bills in small denominations are most useful. Traveller's cheques can be difficult to change.

                          All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.

                          EMERGENCY FUNDS
                          Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.

                          TIPPING
                          If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Although can be difficult to source we advise you to carry small notes of local currency each day to make tipping easier.

                          The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:

                          Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest US$1. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.

                          Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest US$2-US$3 per day for local guides.

                          Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest US$1-US$2 per day for drivers.

                          Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$2-US$4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

                          In total, we recommend you budget approx US$5-US$10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.

                          At your group meeting on Day 1, your tour leader will discuss with you the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your group leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members. This is often the easiest way to avoid the hassles of needing small change and knowing when and what is an appropriate amount to tip.

                          Please don't tip with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult.

                          The receipt of commissions or kickbacks in exchange for recommending particular shops or services is ingrained in the culture of the tourism industry. Rather than turning a blind eye to this unavoidable issue in some areas, Intrepid has established a centralised fund whereby contributions from recommended suppliers are collected and distributed back into the business. Intrepid aim to provide the best value trips in the market, and this fund assists in keeping operating costs and trip prices low to you.

                          A priority in establishing this fund is that the experience of our traveller - you - is not compromised in any way. Please let us know via the feedback form completed after your trip if we are successfully meeting this objective.
                          Group leader
                          All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.

                          Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
                          Safety
                          Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.

                          We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.

                          Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.

                          For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:

                          http://www.intrepidtravel.com/contact-us/safety

                          FIRE PRECAUTIONS:
                          Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.

                          PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
                          While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.

                          SEAT BELTS:
                          Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.

                          WATER SAFETY:
                          Take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It is expected that anyone taking part in water activities are able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.

                          Please note bike helmets are not provided on the optional cycling activity in Vang Vieng. If you wish to wear a bike helmet we recommend you bringing one from home.
                          Joining point
                          Nouvo City Hotel (Canal Wing)
                          2 Samsen Road
                          Banglumphu
                          Bangkok
                          10200
                          THAILAND
                          Phone: +66 22815596
                          Joining point description
                          Centrally located and close-by the famous Khao San road, the Nouvo City Hotel is within walking distance of many of the area's main attractions such as: Grand Palace, National Museum and Wat Po. Rooms are equipped with private en-suite, Formerly known as the New World City Hotel they have changed their name on the 1st of December 2014 to merge with the Nouvo City Hotel. We use the "canal wing" for all of our Intrepid Original trips that stay at this property.
                          Breakfast is not included but a buffet breakfast can be purchased in the hotel's restaurant.
                          Please note that no alcohol is served in this hotel but there are lots of great bars across the road
                          Joining point instructions
                          Metered taxi ranks are located outside the airport entrance on the 1st floor (gate 4 and 7). Go out of the customs hall, down to the 1st level and walk outside the airport where there is a table with a sign saying "metered taxis". The cost is the metered fare plus a THB50 surcharge. If the taxi uses the toll way it is up to an extra THB75. The total fare should be about THB400 Baht (US$11). Non-metered taxis are also available, where you will be given a docket to pay the driver a set price of THB700 (US$20).

                          Alternatively Intrepid offer a pre arranged transfer service option. Enquire with your agent and advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your trip departure. If you have purchased an arrival transfer you will be met after exiting customs. Look for exit door 6 and our representative holding a sign with your name on it.

                          If you have any problems and cannot locate our transfer representative on arrival please go to the ATTA Counter (Association of Thai Travel Agents) near exit door 6 on the same floor and ask them to call our transfer operator World Travel Idea 24hr number 081 658 2727 or 081 566 9324.

                          Check in time at the hotel is after 14.00
                          Finish point
                          Manorom Boutique Hotel
                          Hengboun Noy Street, Ban Haysok, Chanthaboury District,
                          Vientiane Capital Lao P.D.R.
                          Vientiane
                          LAO PDR
                          Phone: +856 (21) 250 748
                          Fax: +856 (21) 251 140
                          Finish point description
                          Manorom Boutique Hotel is located close to Lao National History Museum and Great Sacred Stupa (Pha That Luang). It includes a 24 hour front desk and free wifi internet in public areas.

                          Rooms include private facilities, air-con, TV, free wifi and safe deposit box.
                          Finishing point instructions
                          A pre booked departure transfer is available to purchase - please advise flight details at least 2 weeks prior to departure to have this service provided.

                          If you have a transfer to the Vientiane Airport your transfer driver will collect you from your hotel 1.5hrs (90mins) before your flight time for domestic flights and 2.5hrs before your flight time for International flights. If your transfer has not arrived within 15minutes of the scheduled pickup time please call our transfer operator Khong Island Travel +66 856 20 55503065.

                          Wattay International Airport is only 15 minutes drive from the hotel. Reception can also help organise a taxi to the airport.
                          Check out time is 12pm.
                          Emergency contact
                          While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.

                          We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.

                          You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.

                          For general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist, or visit us at www.intrepidtravel.com/contact-us

                          In case of a genuine crisis or emergency, you can reach our local operator on the number below.


                          Intrepid's Thailand Office: +66 898 103 722
                          Visas
                          As a general rule most countries expect that your passport has a minimum of 6 months validity remaining. Please ensure the name on your passport matches the name on your booking and airline tickets. Your passport details are required to complete your booking. Your consultant will contact you when this is required.
                          Take a copy of the main passport pages and other important documents with you, and leave another copy at home with family or friends.

                          Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.

                          THAILAND:
                          If entering by air most nationalities will be granted a 30 day stay on arrival.

                          If entering by a land border, you will be granted a 15 day stay only (some exceptions are citizens of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and Japan who are eligible for 30 day visa at land borders). A visa extension can be obtained in Thailand at an immigration office for approx. 2000THB or alternatively you can apply for a Thailand visa in advance from your embassy or consulate that will allow a 30 day stay when entering at an overland border.
                          If planning to enter Thailand via a land border multiple times during your travels, we recommend you pre-obtain a 60 day multiple entry visa from you embassy or consulate before you travel rather than attempting to obtain a visa at the border on multiple occasions which may result in being denied re-entry into the country.

                          LAOS:
                          We ask all our travellers to obtain their Laos visas at the border, and NOT in their home country. Your tour leader will assist you in obtaining a Laos visa, generally at the border, depending on the current state of affairs, as it can vary.

                          Please ensure that you have at least 1 passport photos and up to US$60 cash (this may vary too) to fulfil the requirements. There will also be an Immigration Fee of USD1. To assist us in processing your Laos visas, please provide your agent with accurate passport details prior to the departure of your trip as these details will be passed on to our leader.

                          When crossing the border you will most likely see a lesser entry fee than what you have paid. This is due to the leader having to use a local agent to process the visa which allows the group to cross the border as quickly as possible.

                          BORDER CROSSINGS:
                          Your visa application form may require you to state the dates on which you enter and exit that country. Please note we suggest you list your date of entry a few days before, and date of exit a few days after, your intended dates in case you encounter any delays or problems en route. The following are the international/administrative border crossings for this trip:

                          Day 6 Thailand to Laos
                          The Thailand border is Chiang khong
                          The Laos border is at Houy Xai

                          To help calculate the exact dates of these crossings we have found the following website useful - http://www.timeanddate.com
                          What to take
                          What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes).

                          Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.

                          Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:

                          http://www.intrepidtravel.com/pdf/trips/packinglist.pdf
                          Climate and seasonal information
                          WET SEASON:
                          During the rainy months (approx. June to October), our mode of transport can be changed at short notice due to weather conditions.

                          FLOODING:
                          On rare occasions we experience floods in Laos between Luang Prabang and Lak Sao of which may require group members to make alternative travel arrangements and book a flight to continue the itinerary. Any required flights will need to be covered by the traveller (see emergency funds section) and would cost approx. 100USD. This is a rare occurrence.

                          SONGKRAN FESTIVAL DEPARTURE 2016
                          The Songkran Festival is celebrated to mark the Lao New Year. The festival runs from the 13th to the 15th of April. Traditionally houses and villages are properly cleaned in preparation for the New Year, flowers are gathered to decorate Buddha images, young people pour water over the elders for good luck. Songkran Festival is often referred to as the “water festival” as it is now common to throw water over each other during the festival period.

                          Our advice is to be prepared to get wet! Your leader will discuss the festival activities upon day one at the group meeting. Our 8th of April departure will experience the Songkran Festival.
                          The following departures will be operated during Songkran:
                          2nd of April
                          6th of April
                          13th of April
                          Health
                          All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.

                          You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.

                          DENGUE FEVER:
                          Rare instances of dengue fever have been reported in this region. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing, using repellent and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn.

                          Zika Virus
                          Thailand is experiencing ongoing transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus and we advise all travellers to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Given possible transmission of the disease to unborn babies, and taking a very cautious approach, pregnant women should consider postponing travel to Thailand or talk to their doctor about possible implications.

                          Please see further information about the Zika virus (and our current cancellation/change policy) on our safety page of the Intrepid website at http://www.intrepidtravel.com/contact-us/safety
                          Travel insurance
                          Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.

                          When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.

                          If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.

                          http://www.intrepidtravel.com/insurance.php
                          A couple of rules
                          Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.

                          Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. We don’t tolerate any form of sexual harassment at Intrepid, either between passengers or involving our leaders or local operators. Sexual relationships (consensual or otherwise) between a leader and a passenger are unacceptable. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.
                          Responsible Travel
                          We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller.

                          http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/rt/responsibletraveller

                          ELEPHANT PERFORMANCES & ELEPHANT RIDING:
                          While we respect each individual’s decisions while travelling, Intrepid does not include elephant rides or unnatural performance activities on any itinerary, and we recommend you bypass these activities should they be offered to you during your stay. Professional wildlife conservation and animal welfare organisations, including the World Animal Protection (formerly the World Society for protection of Animals) advise that contrary to common belief, captive elephants remain wild animals and despite good intentions, unfortunately many venues are unable to provide the appropriate living conditions elephants require and this ultimately impacts their well-being. While there is some merit in the argument that the money that you pay for the activity goes towards keeping the elephants and their mahouts employed, we know that it also fuels demand for elephants to be captured in the wild or captive bred. We thank you for your support in improving the welfare of these majestic creatures. Further information is available on the below link:

                          http://www.intrepidtravel.com/pdf/rt/51033_Elephant_Welfare.pdf

                          LOCAL DRESS:
                          When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in the predominantly hot Asian climate. In many rural areas in Asia women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.

                          The Intrepid Foundation
                          Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.

                          The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:

                          http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/

                          Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Thailand include:

                          * Friends of the Asian Elephant aims to protect and conserve the welfare of elephants - both domesticated and wild. FAE's elephant hospital provides free medical care and transportation, and is in the process of establishing a nursery in an effort to reduce the high infant mortality rate of domesticated working elephants.

                          Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Laos include:

                          * COPE works throughout Laos providing essential services to people with disabilities, more than half of whom have been injured by UXO (unexploded ordnance). They are the only provider of prosthetic, orthotic and rehabilitation services in Laos.
                          www.copelaos.org

                          * UXO Lao aims to reduce civilian casualties from land mines and increase the land available for food production and other uses. Intrepid's support for its Community Awareness program allows educational teams to visit villages disseminating safety messages.
                          uxolao.org

                          * Peuan Mit Street Children Project works with up to 1400 children every month, helping them to reintegrate back into Lao society and to prevent more children from coming to the streets. They support the children to return to school, find employment and return to their families.
                          www.friends-international.org/programs/peuanmit.asp

                          For more information, or to make a donation, please visit: http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/?projectcountry=laos

                          Feedback
                          After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.

                          http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback