23-day adventure – North Thailand and Laos

remote active holiday

Laos Tour Package Overview
quick-lookWe begin in the exotic city of Bangkok, visiting the glittering Grand Palace before departing for the UNESCO listed, Ayutthaya. We spend a couple of days exploring the ancient runes, gaining insight into the splendor of the city’s past. We travel via train to the lush mountainous northern part of the country. Wander the night bazaars of Chiang Mai and indulge on a traditional Thai massage or tantalize your taste buds at endless amount of food stalls! Experience a thrilling 1200m descent on mountain bikes from the summit of Doi Suthep and then head to the Mae On Valley and climb the magnificent cliffs of Crazy Horse Buttress. Spend a free day in Chiang Mai, taking an authentic Thai cookery class, visit a renowned Elephant Reserve or simply explore a few of the hundreds of temples dotted throughout this city. We cross into landlocked Laos, a stunning, diverse and beautiful country, far less visited than its neighbours. We take a long tail boat on the remote Nam Tha, into the heart of Laos. We continue north to Luang Nam Tha before heading to the quiet town of Nong Khiaw. Another spectacular river journey, carving its way through the Karsts mountains leads us to the beginning our 3-day trek. We visit local Khmu and Hmong tribes, staying in the homes of villagers. Traveling along the Mekong we visit the World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang. The temples, night bazaars and friendly locals will leave you wanting more. Explore the stunning tiered waterfalls of Kuang Si and swim in the refreshing turquoise blue pools. Then to go the adventurer’s enclave of Vang Vieng before kayaking down the rapids of the Nam Lik. We end our journey where we began, in the intoxicatingly sensational city of Bangkok!

Highlights
Ancient ruins of Ayutthaya
Rock climbing in the Mae On Valley Mountain biking
The lush jungles and mist shrouded mountains of Laos
Boat trip up the remote Nam Tha
3-day village and hill tribe trek
Kayaking and cliff jumping in Vang Vieng
UNESCO listed Luang Prabang Swim in blue lagoons amongst waterfalls
Night markets and delicious food

Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrive in Bangkok
Welcome to Bangkok, a pulsating city of fascinating contrasts! Glistening temples stand beside towering skyscrapers, while traditions of the past mix with a modern cosmopolitan metropolis. Bangkok with its soulful charm is a city you won’t forget.
You will have the afternoon free to discover hidden temples, energetic markets or indulge in authentic Thai street food! In the evening we’ll have dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 2 – Wat Phra Kaew & Grand Palace

In the morning we will explore the awe-inspiring ancient home of the Thai Royal Family. The Grand Palace is nothing short of amazing and also holds Thailand’s most sacred site, Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
The afternoon will be free to explore. In the evening, we will drive via a/c mini-bus to Ayutthaya, the old capital of Siam.

Day 3 & 4 – Ayutthaya

Ancient monasteries and ornate temples dot the landscape of this once thriving ancient capital of Siam. Ayutthaya was destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century and the remains of this UNESCO World Heritage Site give a glimpse of the splendour of its past. Day 3 & 4 will be spent exploring this laidback city the best way possible – on bicycle! Or, for the Easy Rider in you, rent a scooter, hit the open road and discover this ancient land.
Tantalize your taste buds at one of the best food markets we’ve ever discovered! The Bang-Ain night food market stretches for an incredible half-mile selling everything from fresh grilled fish and hand picked mango to the classic Pad Thai, all using the freshest of ingredients. This is a food lover’s dream!
Overnight 1st class, a/c sleeper train to Chiang Mai

Day 5 – Chiang Mai 

We arrive in Chiang Mai, set amongst dramatic mountains, lush countryside, and jam packed with over 300 temples. The walled city of Chiang Mai is truly the ‘jewel of the north’. With over 700 years of history, this is the perfect place to wander through hidden back alleys and stumble upon ancient chedis, temples and ornate teak houses. The rest of the day will be yours to explore this visually striking and laidback city.
Spend the evening discovering the Chiang Mai nightlife. Explore the many wares of the famous Night Market. Indulge in a Thai Massage or sample the local street fare. Chiang Mai has some of the best food in Thailand! And for the intrepid, why not try a Chiang Mai specialty… fried grasshoppers anyone?

Day 6 – Crazy Horse and the Mae On Valley

We escape the city and head into the Mae On Valley (1 hour). The stunning 60-metre limestone cliffs of Crazy Horse Buttress await us. It is quite simply, the best place to rock climb in Northern Thailand. We don helmets and harnesses, spending the day climbing with members of the Thai National Team and internationally qualified instructors. The day’s finale is a heart-thumping 200-foot abseil into the biggest cave at Crazy Horse.

Day 7 – Free Day in Chiang Mai – Relax in the city or go on one of the unforgettable experiences mentioned below.
Learn how to cook authentic Thai cuisine – even better, you’ll get to eat it too! You’ll explore a local market, picking your produce and making a series of dishes, from classic curries, to spicy starters and sweet desserts.
Be an Elephant Mahout – visit a nature reserve dedicated to helping abandoned and neglected elephants. Here you’ll feed and bathe these gentle giants in their natural habitat. Informative, responsibly ran and highly rewarding.

Day 8 – Descent of Doi Pui, mountain biking in Doi Suthep National Park
We ascend by 4×4 jeep to the summit of Doi Pui, high above Chiang Mai. We begin our descent of over 1200 metres on single track and rarely used trails through pine forest, deep jungle, and remote villages, past waterfalls and along mountain ridges. A well-deserved lunch is provided. From novice to expert, down Smuggler, Highlander or Hunter – the choice of descent is yours!

Day 9 – Through the Golden Triangle to the Land of a Million Elephants 

Driving through the infamous Golden Triangle (where Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet), we head to the Thai/Laos border, crossing the mighty Mekong and entering into Laos by ferry. Visit the thriving Wat Jom Khao Manilat or get a Laos/Swedish massage at the Laos Red Cross. We spend the night in the market town of Huay Xai.

Day 10 – Up the Nam Tha

Early dawn greets us as we embark upon traditional wooden boats, beginning our 200km journey up the remote and rarely travelled Nam (river) Tha. The river carves its way into the centre of Laos, through dramatic limestone cliffs, jungle and villages – places only accessible by boat or foot. It is here that life goes on, much as it has for centuries past. We will spend the evening in the homes’ of our boatmen, experiencing traditional family life in the village of Ben Pheng.

Day 11 – Nalè to Luang Nam Tha

Wake up to tea and a hearty breakfast before we continue up the Nam Tha. We’ll reach the tiny village of Ban Nalè for lunch. Afterwards, we take a local ‘songthaew’ down dirt roads towards the northern city of Luang Nam Tha, close to the Chinese border and surrounded by the magnificent Nam Ha Protected Area. We spend the evening here in a local guesthouse.

Day 12 – The Road to Nong Khiaw 

We drive to Nong Khiaw, a sleepy town along the Nam Ou nestled between majestic 5000ft high limestone mountains. Seek out the caves where locals hid during the Vietnam War or alternatively, this is the perfect spot to sit back and watch the world go by. We spend the night in wooden huts next to the quiet river.

Day 13-15 – Trek into the Jungle 

We take a boat one-hour up river and arrive in Muang Ngoi Neua. It is a small fishing village set amongst a dramatic backdrop of limestone mountains, dense jungle, fields of rice paddies and hidden caves. From here we trek further into the jungle, discovering an impressive waterfall and passing through villages inhabited by the Hmong and Khmu tribes along the way. We will stay overnight in the homes of villagers, and spend the last evening of our trek in Muang Ngoi Neua.

Day 16 – The Mighty Mekong to Luang Prabang 

We continue our adventure onto one the most spectacular river journeys in the country, converging onto the Mighty Mekong – the lifeline of Laos. We arrive in the UNESCO-protected ancient capital, Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang is World Heritage listed, and for good reason. The former royal capital has outstanding examples of temples and traditional Laos architecture, alongside buildings with a distinct European flair, reminiscent of when Laos was part of French Indochine. Combine this with a fantastic night market, great food and friendly locals and you’ll understand why we love this town as much as we do! Luang Prabang is small and best explored on foot or bicycle.

Day 17 – Luang Prabang 

For centuries, in the calm of early morning a procession of hundreds of monks from the town’s 33 temples have walked the streets, clad in orange robes collecting alms. Devoted Buddhists specially prepare and offer food to the passing monks and they eat only what is given to them in this daily procession. This is an awe-inspiring and incredible experience to witness.
After a hearty breakfast, we will continue onto the fairy tale-like Kuang Si Waterfalls. The trail begins at an Asiatic Bear Sanctuary and follows up a steep hillside surrounded by jungle. As we continue through the jungle, water can be seen cascading gently over limestone cliffs, collecting in magnificent turquoise pools, eventually leading us to the biggest waterfall at Kuang Si, an impressive 50-metres high. Welcome to paradise! It is here that we will stop for lunch. The afternoon is free to swim, relax or for those that want to, continue on to the top of the falls.

In the evening we’ll indulge in a traditional Laos BBQ, and have the rest of the evening free to relax, explore the markets or experience the nightlife.

Day 18 & 19 – Vang Vieng*

In the morning we will drive to Vang Vieng, a bustling town, surrounded by superb karsts crags and caves, situated along the Nam Song. This is an adventurer’s playground! Whether you’d like to indulge in a ‘memorable’ tubing experience, explore some of the nearby caves, go rock climbing on the crags, cycle to surrounding villages or simply relax and beat the midday heat along the river, the choice is yours.

*Activities mentioned are not included in the tour price.

Day 20 – Kayaking on the Nam Lik 
We begin kayaking in the village of Hin Heup, starting a relaxed paddle down the Nam Lik, passing by jungle and local villagers. Continuing further, the rocky banks become steeper and the river faster moving. We then scout our line before descending a set of grade 2-3 rapids! A traditional Laos style lunch is served on banana leaves along the riverside. We have time to relax, swim or for a pure adrenaline rush, jump off a 60-foot cliff! We kayak for a little while longer on tranquil waters before heading back to Vang Vieng. We stay overnight here.

Day 21 – Vang Vieng to Bangkok

We have the morning free in Vang Vieng before heading to the Thai town of Nong Khai. After border formalities we will take a 1st class overnight sleeper train back to the frenetic streets of Bangkok.

Day 22 – Bangkok

We arrive in the morning and have one last day free to explore this incredible city. Shop ‘till you drop at MBK, cruise the narrow back-roads of Chinatown, treat yourself to a traditional Thai massage, eat from the fantastic street food stalls, discover Bangkok’s canals and waterways, find absolute bargains at the Night Market and the backpacker haven of Khao Sahn Road or just sit back and see where this fantastic city takes you!
We’ll have a group farewell dinner at a local restaurant in the evening.

Day 23 – Fly Home 

Unfortunately it’s the end of this adventure. Lost Earth Adventures group services end after breakfast. Transfers to the airport are complimentary. See you next time!

Additional Details

Tour Price: £1775 per person
Departures and Dates: 12 October 2013; 09 November 2013; 08 February 2014; 08 March 2014; 25 October 2014; 22 November 2014

All tours are guaranteed to run.
Your Tour Includes:

    13 nights guesthouse accommodation
    4 nights hotel accommodation
    3 nights home-stay accommodation
    2 overnight 1st class AC sleeper trains
    Meals as detailed in trip dossier (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=Dinner)
    Airport transfers to and from the airport on the first and last day
    All transportation for duration of tour (unless otherwise specified)
    Entrance fee and guided tour to Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Palace
    Bicycle rental in Ayutthaya
    Admission to Kuang Si Waterfalls
    1-day rock climbing in Mae On Valley (including all equipment and qualified guides)
    1-day mountain biking in Doi Suthep National Park (including guide, equipment and national park fee)
    1-day kayaking on Nam Lik
    2 Fully Qualified, First Aid trained Western Leaders
    1 English speaking local guide

What’s Not Included:

    Travel insurance (mandatory)
    Items of a personal nature (drinks, snacks, souvenirs, etc.)
    International flights
    Laos visa
    Entrance fees in Ayutthaya (admission ranges from free to £1)
    Activities not included in itinerary (i.e. cycling, caving, climbing, tubing in Vang Vieng
    Tips to local guides
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