Explore Thailand and Laos, travelling from Bangkok to Vientiane

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.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Bangkok, Thailand
Finish
Vientiane, Laos
Destinations
Laos, Thailand
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer
Code
TLSV
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why you'll love this trip

  • This trip combines two fascinating countries over two weeks, giving you the opportunity to discover the best of both - from Thailand's lively capital and activity-filled Chiang Mai, to the riverside tranquillity of Laos and its stunning scenery. 

  • Travel on a variety of transport - rock the night away on the rails on a sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and then drift down the Mekong on a slow boat. Explore cities by tuk tuk, songthaew, bike, canal boat and on foot. 

  • Discover just why Luang Prabang has UNESCO status as you uncover the French Colonial influence, beautiful temples, traditional arts and world reknown night market. 

  • Ensure your holiday gives back by supporting organisations like COPE, which helps those injured by unexploded ordinance left from the Vietnam war, and social enterprise restaurants like those run by Friends International.

Is this trip right for you?

  • We are covering plenty of distance in our 14 days together, which means some long travel days. 

  • Laos is less developed than some of its neighbours so roads can be bumpy, delays common and accommodation simpler in some locations. 

  • Pak Beng, where we pause to break up our Mekong journey is a remote and quiet town with little tourist infrastructure - a contrast to the traveller hubs of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang.

  • It can be surprisingly cool, especially at night from November to February. Make sure you have some warm gear packed for this period so you can be comfortable.

  • Due to dam construction upstream, water levels on the Mekong 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 overland by bus.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2019 to 31 Dec 2019.
View the 2018 itinerary
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Bangkok - Bangkok by Bike Urban Adventure - THB1904
  • Bangkok - Grand Palace - THB500
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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. Sometimes the air conditioning can make the carriage quite cold so you may want to bring a warm layer of clothing.
Accommodation
  • Overnight train (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Bangkok - Khlong boat canal tour
  • Bangkok - Wat Pho
Optional Activities
  • Bangkok - Thai Massage - THB250
  • Bangkok - Jim Thompson's House - THB150
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chiang Mai - Doi Suthep temple
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Chiang Mai - Thai cooking course - THB800
  • Chiang Mai - Bicycle tour - THB950
  • Chiang Mai - Urban Adventures - Mind & Soul - THB2317
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Mekong River - 2 day boat trip
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
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.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Luang Prabang - Pak Ou Caves
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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 market.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Luang Prabang - Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre
  • Luang Prabang - Kuang Si Waterfalls
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Luang Prabang - Alms giving
Optional Activities
  • Luang Prabang - Royal Theatre - USD20
  • Luang Prabang - Mt Phu Si - USD2
  • Luang Prabang - Wat Xieng Thong - USD2
  • Luang Prabang - National Museum - USD4
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Take a private mini van 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
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Vang Vieng - Bicycle hire - USD2
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Continue by private mini 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Vientiane - COPE visit
  • Vientiane - Wat Si Saket
Optional Activities
  • Vientiane - Tuk Tuk to Buddha Park - USD25
  • Vientiane - Vientiane temples - USD1
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

8 breakfasts

Transport

Longtail boat, Taxi, Minivan, Overnight train, Boat, Tuk tuk, Private bus

Accommodation

Guesthouse (2 nights), Hotel (9 nights), Overnight train (1 night)

Included activities

  • Bangkok - Khlong boat canal tour
  • Bangkok - Wat Pho
  • Chiang Mai - Doi Suthep temple
  • Mekong River - 2 day boat trip
  • Luang Prabang - Pak Ou Caves
  • Luang Prabang - Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre
  • Luang Prabang - Kuang Si Waterfalls
  • Luang Prabang - Alms giving
  • Vientiane - COPE visit
  • Vientiane - Wat Si Saket

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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement to have your own room is available on this trip excluding Day 2 (Overnight train) and Day 6 (Pak Beng).

Essential trip information

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