Laos holiday, cultural tour
Description of Laos holiday, cultural tour
A comprehensive 13-day Laos holiday visiting the highlights of this fascinating, laidback country. Starting in the heritage city of Luang Prabang with its surrounding impressive mountain ranges and historic temples, the tour travels south via the enigmatic Plain of Jars. Mystery still remains over the source and purpose of the apparently 2000 year old jars which only adds to the intrigue surrounding the site.
Continue south to explore the sleepy riverside capital of Vientiane, home to Wat Sisaket, the oldest temple in the city which contains many historical Buddha images some dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Explore the unusual Buddha Park with its numerous Buddhist and Hindu statues and climb to the top of the Patuxay Monument to see sweeping views of the city below.
End your Laos experience with a wonderful river cruise on the luxurious Vat Phou boat. Converted from a teak wood carrier in the 1930's, the Vat Phou cruises the Mekong river to visit local villages and learn about their way of life and explores the per-Angkorian ruins of Wat Phou. Dating back as far as the Chenla kingdom of the 6th to 8th centuries, which stretched south into Cambodia and north and west as far as Thailand and Burma, the ruins tend to attract few visitors but offer some interesting stone causeways and temple carvings to discover. Cruise to the untamed and beautiful region known as the 4,000 Islands and explore the area with visits to a few of the inhabited islands, a fitting end to this unique and fascinating Laos holiday.
|Day 1||Depart the UK on an overnight flight to Luang Prabang.|
|Day 2||Land Luang Prabang and transfer to the hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure.|
|Day 3||A full day tour today. This morning there is the opportunity to rise early and enjoy watching the morning alms procession. Return to the hotel for breakfast before embarking on a city tour to visit the Royal Palace, National Museum and Wat Mai. Enjoy lunch and further explore the Arts and Ethnology Centre and Wat Visoun before climbing to the top of Mount Phousi for a panoramic view of the city. Explore the evening market. (B,L)|
|Day 4||This morning take a boat to the Pak Ou Caves which house a host of Buddha statues of all shapes and sizes. After lunch back in the city, drive to visit the Khuang Si Waterfalls and enjoy a cooling dip. There is the option to walk to the top of the falls and you can also visit the Free the Bear Foundation nearby. Return to the city for overnight. (B,L)|
|Day 5||Depart Luang Prabang today and drive south towards Xieng Khuang, home to the intriguing Plain of Jars. This is a long drive so plenty of stops will be made along the way. Arrive Xieng Khuang and take a brief city tour along with a visit to the MAG Centre, an organisation clearing the remains of war in Laos. Overnight. (B,L)|
|Day 6||Today is spent driving through Phonsovan to explore the Plain of Jars, a huge site dotted with 2,000 year old stone jars of varying sizes. Enjoy lunch and this afternoon visit Muang Khoun which is the site of a giant sitting Buddha. Return to town and overnight. (B,L)|
|Day 7||Fly to Vientiane and drive to the hotel. Enjoy the day at leisure. (B)|
|Day 8||Enjoy a full day tour of the 'city of sandalwood'. Visit Wat Sisaket and Wat Phra Keo and visit COPE, an association working to help landmine victims. Enjoy lunch before heading into the countryside to visit Buddha Park which is home to many Buddha and Hindu statues. Return to the city. (B,L)|
|Day 9||Fly to Pakse and enjoy a brief city tour before driving through numerous coffee plantations to get to the Bolaven Plateau. Visit the Tad Lo, Tad Fane and Tad Yuang waterfalls and return to Pakse stopping en-route for a local coffee. (B,L)|
|Day 10||Board a traditional longtail boat and cruise to where the Vat Phou cruise is waiting. Enjoy lunch onboard before heading out to visit the pre-Angkorian temples of Wat Phou sitting amongst the rice fields. Visit Champasak and return to the boat for a sunset drink and overnight onboard. (B,L,D)|
|Day 11||During breakfast this morning the boat will cruise to visit the lost forest temple of Oum Muang. Cruise further onto the beautiful 4,000 Islands area located along the Laos/Cambodia border. Moor overnight. (B,L,D)|
|Day 12||This morning cruise to Ban Veuthong, disembark and take a longtail boat to explore Don Det and Khone Islands. Depart the Vat Phou cruise and return to Pakse for the night. (B,L)|
|Day 13||Today is at leisure until you return to Pakse airport for the flight to Bangkok. Change carriers and fly back to the UK. (B)|
PlanetOur local Laos agent has been operating socially and environmentally responsible trips to the country for many years and has a wealth of experience and expertise in the region. They have a strong responsible travel ethos and a realisation that tourism can change local lives for better and for worse. With this in mind our agents have established a responsible travel ethos creating authentic travel experiences which mutually benefit locals and visitors.
The Free the Bears Fund (FTB) is an Australian, not-for-profit organisation established with the sole purpose of helping to protect, preserve and enrich the lives of bears. In Laos, FTB works with the Luang Prabang Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office and the Provincial Tourism Office to create a safe home for rescued bears that were illegally captured from the wild as young cubs. They are also lobbying against bear bile farms which are still legal in Laos. Visitors to Laos can visit the FTB education centre and the bear sanctuary while also visiting the Kuang Si Waterfalls.
The Vat Phou Cruise aims to support the local communities they visit and pass through and to minimise their impact on the region. In order to achieve this they offer meals to the temples in the area as alms for the monks and on the village stops the cruise donates and encourages guests to donate towards the purchase of books and stationery for the local school. All food scraps are donated to local villagers as feed for their livestock and the onboard chefs buy produce from the local communities. All recyclable materials – cans, bottles, plastic – are recycled.
PeopleOur ground agents support many local charities in Laos including the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) in Luang Prabang which is visited on this trip. The centre is dedicated to the collection, preservation and interpretation of the traditional arts and lifestyles of the country’s many and diverse ethnic groups to help safeguard the regions heritage for future generations. The centre has a permanent collection of ethnic artifacts from 30 ethnic groups and offers a fair-trade scheme for local artisans: on average 50% of the fair-trade shop income goes directly to the artists and provides over 500 families from ethnic groups in 12 separate provinces with an extra income.
Other charities financially supported in Laos by our local agents include MAG, the Mines Advisory Group. Laos has the unenviable record of being the most bombed country in the world per capita with at least 30% of bombs dropped remaining unexploded and thus still a huge threat to the lives of local people. MAG works hard to clear land of unexploded ordnance making it safe for use and opening it up to residents as farming land.
Alongside MAG, our local agents also support COPE, the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise located in Vientiane. This is a locally run, not-for-profit organisation founded to help victims of unexploded ordnance with rehabilitation and the provision of orthotic and prosthetic devices.
Fair salaries are paid to all employees and regular training is provided to support future career development. Only local guides who are aware of local customs and cultures are employed which not only keeps the funds paid to staff within the local community but also helps avoid any potential cultural clashes between visitors and locals. All guides are also required to sign an agreement with our ground agents agreeing not to take visitors in their charge to unplanned sites such as schools, orphanages etc or to ask for donations or tips. Guides are required to turn off vehicles when idling to minimise unnecessary emissions and where possible, eco-friendly modes of transport are opted for such as their collection of electric bikes used for Luang Prabang city tours.