Northern Laos and Thailand with Joana Oliveira, November 2017


What if you could get to visit the least beaten tracks and, yet, the most emblematic parts of the Northern Southeast Asia?

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The Lao People’s Democratic Republic is the least visited country, when compared with the surrounding countries. Away from all the commotion of the seaside, Laos (still) remains a genuine and surprising destination. Thailand, the queen of southern tourism, has its spiritual centre in the North. In spite of the great affluence, this region continues to offer a plentiful of green landscapes and the authentic Thailand experience.
Having Bangkok as our departing point, we’ll get to know the northern Laos and Thailand. Along the route where we will travel by train, bus and boat, we will explore the northern area and visit the cities of Vientiane and Luang Prabang, the Mekong River and the city of Chiang Mai.

 

Itinerary

Day 1Arrival at Bangkok and night train to Nong Khai
We meet at the Hua Lamphong station and board the night train heading to Nong Khai. We will travel overnight, as we cover the Thai territory all the way up to the border with Laos. In the morning, after going through customs formalities, we cross the border by train, via the Thailand-Laos Friendship Bridge, until we get to Thanaleng. The short trip to the centre of Vientiane will be on a mini bus or taxi and we’ll be settling in shortly.


Day 2Vienciana
After we’ve recovered from the trip, we can rent a good pair of wheels and explore the city. Vientiane is the capital city of Laos, is located in the North bank of the Mekong River and is the largest city in the country. We’ll be able to appreciate some of the French colonial architecture and visit some among the many Hindu and Buddhist temples. There are a few points we cannot miss, such as: Wat Sisaket, Wat Mixay, the Presidential Palace, Haw Pha Kaeo, Wat Si Muang, the Park and the Patuxai War Monument, and Pha That Luang.
After lunch, going back to the river banks, we will visit the COPE Visitor Centre where we’ll be acquainted with the work developed by the local community in support of the landmine victims. The rest of the day and the evening will be free.

Day 3Vienciana
In the early morning, we will walk towards the morning market, while enjoying the view of the river and the morning activities. At the same time, we’ll be thinking of what to buy for our picnic style lunch. Our goal is to catch the bus and follow the snaky river up to Buddha Park. Buddha Park goes back to 1958 and displays a collection of over 200 Buddhist and Hindu sculptures.

As we return to the city, we will visit the morning market (traditional market and shopping centre). The rest of the day will be free.

Day 4Partida com destino a Luang Prabang
Early morning, we will head to the bus station. We’ll travel along the iconic road 13 towards North in the direction of Luang Prabang, driving through several small towns and also Vang Vieng. Although it is a long one, this promises to be an unforgettable trip. Travelling in daylight will allow us to appreciate the landscape and the scenery of Laos that we are sure to bring back with us as everlasting memories. In the first part of our trip, driving on flatter land, we’ll have the chance to see some towns and crops. In the second half, we’ll follow a curvier path, through mountainous and hilly areas.

Estimated arrival at Luang Prabang around 08:00 p.m., transfer by taxi or tuk tuk to our accommodation and go out for dinner.

Day 5 - Luang Prabang
Early in the morning (really early, before dawn!) we’ll go to one of the many temples to watch the Tak Bat or Alms Giving Ceremony. In this ceremony, the monks walk the streets where they are awaited by people holding baskets filled with rice (alms), candy and fruit, to offer them.

After the ceremony, we’ll do some sightseeing around town (by bicycle or on foot) and visit some of the 33 temples (Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Aham, Wat Wisunarat…).
In the afternoon, to use up all the calories gained at lunch, we will climb to Mount Phousi and appreciate the climbing and the view over the town and the rivers.

In the evening, we can go to the night market and get lost among the handicraft products and all the local tidbits on offer.

Day 6Luang Prabang
Pack your suitcase with a swimming suit and a beach towel. In the morning market, Phousi Market, we’ll buy lunch and head to the Kuang Si waterfalls.
The Kuang Si Falls are a group of multi-tiered waterfalls, the highest of which about 60 metres high. Together, they form an ensemble of striking beauty. Access to the waterfalls is through a pedestrian path.

On our way back to Luang Prabang we’ll be able to visit some villages, for example, Ban Ou. Back to Luang Prabang, we’ll visit the Wat Siphouthabath Monks’ School, from where we can watch the sunset.


Day 7Sailing the Mekong River
In order to experience the true Mekong pace and the essence of Laos, we will slowly travel all the way to the border with Thailand, in Huay Xai, riding a slow boat.

Morning departure for boat ride in the Mekong River to Pakbeng. The Mekong River is one of the world’s largest; approximately 1535 km long, it is the 13th longest and the 10th most voluminous. The name Mekong originates from Thai languages and means Mae Nam Khong, where Mae can be translated as Mother, and Nam as water.

We will have lunch aboard and visit the Pak Ou Caves, Tham Ting and Tham Phoum. Throughout the day, there will be time to rest and share our experiences.

Dinner and sleep in the small location of Pakbeng. The boat will be tied to the pier until the next day, and we’ll be able to enjoy dinner and the rest of the evening as we wish.

Day 8Boat ride in the Mekong River
Morning departure, at around 09:00 a.m., and boat trip to Huay Xai. The day will be spent aboard and we’ll visit a Khmu village (limited to availability and time of the year).

Arrival at Huay Xai around 05:00 p.m.. Back to dry land, in Huay Xai, we’ll keep on travelling towards the bridge (by tuk tuk, taxi or mini bus) and, after customs formalities, we’ll find ourselves in Thai soil once again.

The night will be spent in the small location of Chiang Khong, overlooking Laos on the other side of the river, as the Northern Thailand awaits us.

Day 9Departure to Chiang Mai
In order to enjoy our ninth day to the fullest, we will take the first morning bus heading to Chiang Mai.
Our itinerary will take us through the Northern region, all the way from the Chiang Rai province to Chiang Mai.

We’ll get to the northern capital, the second largest city in Thailand. Thais claim that nothing can be compared to the beauty and the kindness of the people in Chiang Mai. With its over 300 temples, it is known as the country’s spiritual capital.

After dropping off our luggage at the hotel, we’ll have some free time to explore the “little square” i.e., the walled city.

Day 10Chiang Mai
We’ll leave in the morning towards Talat Warorot, a market where we’ll be dazzled by a variety of smells, colours and sounds. Visitors may also buy supplies for the rest of the day.

All the supplies bought and packed, we’ll travel to the Doi Inthanon National Park. Doi Inthanon is Thailand’s highest mountain - 2565m in height – and is part of the Doi Inthanon National Park. The visit will allow you to enjoy exotic luxuriant views, crawling with waterfalls. Free time allowed to explore the park and see the Namtok Mae Ya, Namtok Mae Klang and Namtok Wachirathan waterfalls, the Tham Bori Chinda Cave, several temples, etc.

Return to Chiang Mai and rest of the day free.


Day 11Chiang Mai 
In the morning of our last day in Chiang Mai we’ll head early to the park and the PhraThat Doi Suthep Temple.

The temple is located at the top of mount Doi Suthep, over 1000 metres high and indulges us a privileged view over the city. Once we’ve arrived at the Park, we’ll only have to climb up around 300 steps to get to the temple. As we go up, we can appreciate the view and the Naga snake sculptures along the way until the very top.

After the visit to the temple and the park next to it, we’ll return to the city where other temples can be visited, such as, for example, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh and Wiang Kum Kam, just before we take a tuk tuk, a taxi or a songthaew to get to the railway station.

In the evening, we’ll take the train to Bangkok. Sleep in the train.


Day 12Arrival at Bangkok
Arrival at Bangkok around 07:00 a.m. and end of the journey.

 

How much I’m planning to spend: Approximately 900 € (plane fare not included)

The package includes:
+ Bangkok – Nong khai train
+ Vientiane – Luang Prabang Bus
+ 2-day boat ride in the Mekong River
+ Chiang Khong – Chiang Mai Bus
+ Chiang Mai – Bangkok Train
+ Accommodation in double or triple room


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