Thailand & Laos: Overland Bangkok to Luang Prabang (12 days)
The confluence Thailand, Laos & Myanmar - a place where scenery and cultural heritage flourish. These are windows into the life of ancient Indochina and Siam.
Our 12 day adventure begins in Northern Thailand, a place inspired by modern and ancient temple architecture. Travel overland from Bangkok to Luang Prabang, a world heritage destination cited by Unesco as "the most traditional city in southeast Asia." Along the way, experience traditional Lao life on a slow and gentle passage along the Mekong River. An optional 4 day extension to Cambodia includes a visit to Angkor Wat, a world famous archaeological legacy. We invite you to immerse yourself in the people, sights, tastes and sounds of this region.
Tours of Exploration is committed to responsible travel and respecting the culture, environment and people at every destination. To accomplish this we provide assistance at every step of the journey. Travelers are given information about the destination, its values, customs and rules. We offer pre-departure advice on how to prepare for your journey.
We choose to travel in a way that supports and respects the local economies, environment, culture and projects that are benefiting the region. A portion of each trip supports an ecofund that is donated directly to a local project. We think it is important to observe the local pace of life while respecting boundaries and traditional values and not imposing our culture. Join us to create incredible memories that will last a lifetime.
2017 Departure Date & Costs
Daily based on 2 or more persons (12 days)
Tour cost: $ 2,370 USD per person based on twin share
Single supplement: $ 480
Single travelers can request to be matched with a travel mate
4 Day Siem Reap Extension $ 425 USD per person
Airfare additional - ask for pricing on inter-Asia & International airfare
Deposit required at time of booking: $ 400 per person
Balance is required 60 days prior to departure
Day 1: Bangkok
Fly in to Suvarnabhumi Airport where you will be met by your escort and transferred to your hotel for 2 nights.
Day 2: Bangkok (B)
Start your travels with a cruise on the Chao Phraya. The water offers a unique vantage point to view the speeding city and contrast that with the slower paced life on the banks of the. The day will be full of cultural attractions such as Royal Barges Museum to learn about the importance of water to the ancient and modern people of Thailand. Standing 81 m high, Wat Arun (a.k.a. Temple of Dawn) sports the tallest prang (tower) in the country. Also along the banks is the Grand Palace, a stunning example of the ancient Siamese court and the former home of the King of Bangkok. The Grand Palace is a complex of over 100 buildings that were designed for specific uses, such as funerals, receptions and coronations. Wat Phra Keo, built to honour and house the Emerald Buddha Temple, is a sight not to be missed while visiting the capital. Once the cruise is complete we will return to the hotel. The afternoon and evening can be used for leisure or you can participate in excursions to the Golden Mount. On the fringe of both the old city and modern Bangkok, the 80m climb to the top is rewarded with 360 degree views of the city. You can ask your guide for a walking tour of atmospheric Chinatown or prepare for the next two weeks by pampering yourself with a traditional Thai massage, a visit to one of Bangkok’s world renowned spas or a yoga class. In the evening an optional dinner and classical performance. Enjoy dinner at the Ramayana restaurant and then attend the Aksra Hon Lakorn Lek Theatre which features orchestra and traditional dances as well as lek rod puppetry. $ 60 additional cost if desired.
Day 3: Bangkok – Ayutthaya – Lopburi – Phitsanulok (B,L)
Today you will travel to Bang Pa In which reflects Thailand’s multi-national influence with British, Chinese and Thai architecture. From here we will begin our scenic boat journey to Ayutthaya, the former capital, evident by the numerous palaces, shrines, monestaries and chedis. In Ayutthaya we will visit Wat Yai Chaya Mongkol which hoses a 7m reclining Buddha and a leaning chedi and the ruins of Wat Chai Wattanaram, which was uncovered from a blanket of vegetation less than 50 years ago. If you’re feeling the need to stretch your legs you can climb the 79 steps of the Golden Monument. From Ayutthaya you will continue to Lopburi. In addition to its history and culture, this town is infamous for troops of monkey’s that often frequent the local shrines. You will take in the city’s ruins, wats and shrines from the seat of a pedaled rickshaw and visit the Royal Palace before continuing to friendly Phitsanulok. If time permits you escort can take you to a local favourite, the Bird Garden, housing indigenous and endangered species or Wat Ratburana to observe or participate in its curious offering rituals. Here you can enjoy dinner on your own orjoin your escort for dinner at one of Phitsanuloks famous night markets and bizarres. Again participate or observe Thai culture consisting of deep-fried insects, catching food flung to you by the chef or taste local cuisine before spending the night in the Topland Hotel.
Day 4: Phitsanulok – Sukhothai – Lampang (B,L)
Morning begin with a visit to the sacred bronze Buddha statue Phra Buddha Jinaraj at Wat Maha That, shrines so important that even the Kings made pilgrimages to worship here. Next door is a large market with antiques, food and trinkets. The next stop is Sukhothai to visit a historical park, one of Thailand’s most impressive World Heritage Sites. You can also marvel at the gigantic Buddha statue at Wat Sri Chum before we carry on to Lampang. In Lampang a traditional horse drawn carriage will give us a tour of the old city. Not to be missed are Wat Ched Sao, with it’s 20 stupas and solid gold 15th century Buddha and Baan Sao Nak, a century old teak mansion. The saying is “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” But Lampang is a great city to do as the Thai’s do. The many restaurants are great places to sample local Thai flavours and spices and finish the day with a Thai massage before turning in at the Lampang River Lodge. Time permitting we might have time for visit the Elephant Conservation Centre where elephants are respected and trained to either work or return to the wild.
Day 5: Lampang – Phayo – Chiang Mai (B,L)
The freshness of the morning offers a great opportunity to meet locals and observe Thai culture with a visit to the local market. A stop will be made the pleasant town of Phayo to see the largest lake in Thailand you continue on to Chiang Mai. This eclectic city has evolved into a modern city, without the chaos of Bangkok, without losing its countryside feel, history or culture. 2 nights accommodation.
Day 6: Chiang Mai (B)
Day to explore Chiang Mai is home to some of the country’s best and most diverse handicraft artists that we will see at some of the local handicraft The afternoon can be at leisure or your escort can give you a walking tour of the Old City, take you to some of the cities fine museums. The world renowned night market is a fantastic opportunity to buy souvenirs and meet locals at the hundreds of stalls shutting down the city’s streets.
Day 7: Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai (B,L)
Wat Doi Suthep, at 1,056m, this temple is only accessible by 290 steps, but remarkable views from the top make the effort worthwhile. From here you will continue to Chiang Rai. After lunch you will visit Ban Lorcha, a hill tribe community project. We will then continue on to the famous “Golden Triangle,” the convergence of the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. Overnight at the Rimrok Resort.
Day 8: Chiang Rai – Houei Sai – Pakbeng (B,L,D)
Today you will exit Thailand by walking down to the river bank, cross the river via motorized canoe and enter Laos on the other side and begin our river excursion on a private boat down the Mekong. The river scenery and local villages give a glimpse of well preserved culture and landscape. We will stop at several villages to get a better understanding of rural life on the banks of the Mekong. This day of travel will be a chance to relax after a week of exploring cities and temples. Watch the pilot expertly maneuverthe boat around sand bars and pinnacle-like rock emerging from this historic river. Take in the surrounding hills carpeted in teak and palm, water buffalo working rice paddies and remote fishing villages with bamboo huts is sure to be a highlight. Overnight Pakbeng lodge overlooking the Mekong River.
Day 9: Pakbeng – Luang Prabang (B,L,D)
Wake up early to experience everyday life in Laos. The best ways to begin the day is to visit women from the local villages of minorities set up their stalls and sell their goods at the market. On route to Luang Prabang we will visit the Pak Ou Village and caves, home to a myriad of Buddha images. The Mekong is an important route for migratory birds and waterfowl and river bank species, as well as other wildlife, can be spotted as we cruise to our destination. The river remains a primary mode of transportation in this land with few roads so we will pass many local boats delivering commodities and messages to the villages on its banks. We will visit some of the villages that these goods are destines for and see locals making traditional rice alcohol. Our river journey will conclude in the ancient city of Luang Prabang; which is a cultural gem and a UNESCO World Heritage City. Arguably the most well preserved city in South East Asia, this former capital not only offers temples and statues but beautiful scenery as well. 3 nights accommodation.
Day 10: Luang Prabang (B,D)
Today is full of sightseeing and temples. Visits will include examples of typical Lao architecture at tranquil Vat Xieng Thong and its chapels, carvings and mosaics. In the afternoon you will visit Vat Visoun and That Makmo showing a diversity of cultural influences and architecture. You will walk to Vat Aham, a major shrine in the city and Vat Mai with its five-tiered roof that took more than 70 years to complete. The National Museum (Former Royal Palace) gives a glimpse into the life of the King, located next to the river reinforcing the influence this mighty body of water had on the people of the region. Climb through the forest to the top of Mount Phousi for a view of the city and countryside and complete the day by taking in the sunset at Vat Phrabaht Tai on the banks of the Mekong.
Day 11: Luang Prabang – Ban Xongja (B,D)
Today you will travel north through stunning landscape to the village of Hatkho, which has retained their weaving culture and Ban Taidam where silk worms are still bred. Continuing on to the highland village of Ban Chonga you will meet the Hmong culure, one of the main ethnic minorities in the highlands of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Mayanmar. *We will then return to Pak Moung for lunch and then back to Luang to take in the scenery along the Num Ou River and the culture of the city and its people. A visit to the Royal Palace in the afternoon will provide a stark contrast to the traditional lifestyles we encountered in the morning. The Kwang Si Waterfall is almost outshone by the journey there passing through Hmong and Khmu villages and rice paddies and a dip in its pool will reawaken your tired traveling body.
Day 12: Departure (B)
After breakfast, your escort will accompany you to the airport for your onward flight.
Continue to Ankor Wat in Cambodia for those interested in taking a 4 day extension.
4 Day Siem Reap Extension
Day 12: Arrive Siem Reap(D)
Arrival in Siem Reap and transfer to the Angkor Century Hotel for 3 nights. Balance of the day at leisure.
Day 13: Angkor Wat (B,D)
In the morning, visit the unique brick sculptures of Prasat Kravan, the mountain-temple of Pre Rup, Mebon Oriental, Ta Som, Neak Pean, a fountain (built in the middle of a pool and representing the paradisiacal Himalayan mountain-lake). Then visit Preah Khan temple. Built by the King Jayavarman VII, Preah Khan is, like Ta Prohm, a place of towered enclosures and shoulder-hugging corridors. Unlike Ta Prohm, however, Preah Khan is in a reasonable state of preservation and ongoing restoration efforts should maintain and even improve this situation. In the afternoon, drive to the typical Khmer countryside and visit Banteay Srei temple (10th century), regarded as the jewel in the crown of classical Khmer Art. Stop at a local village to visit families who are producing palm sugar. Visit as well Takeo, Thommanon, Chau Say Tevoda and Srah Srang (“The Royal Baths”), undoubtedly used in the past for ritual bathing, until sunset.
Day 14: Angkor Wat (B,D)
In the morning, visit the South Gate (with its huge statues depicting the churning of the ocean of milk), the ancient capital of Angkor Thom (12th century), Bayon temple (unique for its 54 towers decorated with over 200 smiling faces of Avolokitesvara), Baphuon (recently re-opened after years of restoration), the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas, the Elephants Terrace and the Terrace of the Leper King. Visit Ta Prohm, one of the area’s most beautiful temples, Ta Prohm has been left relatively untouched since it was discovered and retains much of its mystery. Its appeal lies in the fact that, unlike the other monuments of Angkor, it was abandoned and swallowed by the jungle, looking very much the ways most of the Angkor temples appeared when European explorers first stumbled upon them.
Then visit the most famous of all the temples on the plain of Angkor: Angkor Wat. The temple complex covers 81 hectares and is comparable in size to the Imperial Palace in Beijing. Its distinctive five towers are emblazoned on the Cambodian flag and the 12th century masterpiece is considered by art historians to be the prime example of classical Khmer art and architecture. Angkor Wat’s five towers symbolize Meru’s five peaks - the enclosed wall represents the mountains at the edge of the world and the surrounding moat, the ocean beyond. Sunset at Angkor Wat. Dinner and cultural show.
Day 15: Siem Reap Departure (B)
Visit a floating village, take an excursion in a traditional wooden boat on the Tonle Sap Lake, the “Great Lake” of Cambodia, one of the largest in Asia. Visit “Les Artisans d’Angkor - Chantiers Ecoles”, this centre is working with young artisans; the team creates, produce and market a unique collection of ornamental sculpture, lacquer ware, silk weaving and silk painting. The company promotes fair, sustainable development in order to provide benefits to the rural communities. Time at leisure at the local market.
Transfer to Siem Reap International Airport for departure flight to the next destination.
Tour cost includes:
- Airport transfer on arrival and departure
- Local experts provide invaluable support
- Transportation by bus, boat or other local conveyance
- Accommodation in comfortable hotels
- Most meals as indicated by (B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner with some freedom to choose your own restaurants or explore local markets with the assistance of your escort
- Tours including entrance fees&service charges
- Optional tipping
- Items of a personal nature
- Optional but recommended insurance