Thailand, Vietnam & Laos holiday

“Discover a spectacular, little known region on this three week tour through remote northern Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.”


Thailand: Chiang Mai | Mae Fah Luang | Sob Ruak Opium Museum | Mekong River | Chiang Saen | Chiang Khong | Laos: Lanten people | Eco lodge on banks Tha river | Hike in Nam Ha National Protected Area | Akha people | Hmong village and Lao hill tribe | Boat ride on Nam Ou River | Cave temples at Pak Ou | Luang Prabang temples | Phonsavan and Plain of Jars | Xieng Khouang or Mouang Khoun | Mine Action Group | Visits to Hmong and Khmu settlements | Vieng Xai Caves | Vietnam: Pu Luong National Park | Stay in White Tai village | Mountains of Northern Vietnam | Mu Cang Cha rice fields | Sapa | Fansipan Mountain | Sleeper train from Lao Cai town to Hanoi | Tour of Hanoi

Description of Thailand, Vietnam & Laos holiday

Discover a part of Southeast Asia that few travellers reach, exploring the remote northern regions of Thailand, Vietnam and Laos on this small group holiday. Until as recently as a century ago, this mountainous area was just a space on the map marked as ‘unexplored’. Today, it’s still little visited, but incredibly beautiful and well worth exploring.

This overland tour takes you from the former Golden Triangle region of Thailand, through the mountainous landscapes of northern Laos and on to the green scenery and magnificent peaks of northwest Vietnam, where numerous hill tribe people live.

Charming, friendly Chiang Mai in Thailand is the start point of this holiday, before taking in beautiful Luang Prabang in Laos, the fascinating Plain of Jars, the limestone landscapes and Vieng Xai Caves of Sam Neua Province, and Sapa, a lovely old hill station where you can relax with a coffee and meet the many hill tribe people who live in this area. From here, take the train to Hanoi, where the tour ends. Throughout this exciting journey you’ll be able to sample the different cuisines of Laos and Vietnam in restaurants, cafes, markets and even on a picnic in the jungle.

If you are free to travel for a little longer, cruising Halong Bay and spending a night on a traditional junk makes a wonderful extension.

Travel Team

If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. The Travel Team.

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18 Jul 2020
including domestic flights only
Click here to enquire about or book the 18 Jul 2020 departure
15 Aug 2020
including domestic flights only
Click here to enquire about or book the 15 Aug 2020 departure
15 Sep 2020
including domestic flights only
Click here to enquire about or book the 15 Sep 2020 departure
15 Oct 2020
including domestic flights only
Click here to enquire about or book the 15 Oct 2020 departure
16 Nov 2020
including domestic flights only
Departure Guaranteed
Click here to enquire about or book the 16 Nov 2020 departure
17 Dec 2020
including domestic flights only
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Holiday type

Small group holiday

This is a 'small group adventure' - you will be sharing your experiences with like minded people. Group sizes are limited to a maximum of 12 persons, a genuinely small group. Experience has taught us that smaller groups are less intrusive to local cultures and environments whilst allowing more interaction with local people. Furthermore it means greater flexibility on a day to day basis and on a social level it proves to be fun. Whether you are travelling alone or with friends/family its good value, and a great way to meet new people! The intention is to travel as a group of friends rather than a typical tour group, so don't expect stick-on name badges or any following the umbrella.

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

Our aim is to provide a genuinely small group, low impact tour including a mixture of popular and off the beaten track sites on our itinerary. By limiting groups to small sizes (maximum 12 persons) we aim to reduce the impact on both local communities and the environment whilst allowing for greater interaction with said communities.
It also results in a higher guide/customer ratio thus greater facility for supervision and individual assistance and allows us to use smaller hotels and restaurants and employ the services of more genuinely ‘local’ operators perhaps not otherwise well equipped for larger groups.

By combining the well-known tourist sites with rarely visited destinations this diverts tourist revenue and contact with responsible tourism into areas not usually benefiting as well as providing a more authentic view of the region visited. Rarely visited sites and districts on this tour include: Luang Nam Tha, Nam Ha Protected National Biodiversity Area, Xieng Khouang ancient city, Sam Nuea and Viengxay Caves, (all Laos) plus Pu Luong National Park, Tu Le and Nghia Lo districts, Vietnam.

Providing suitable, relevant information for our customers; to help them to gain a wider understanding of our style of tourism that focuses on learning, genuine interaction with the local communities, reciprocity and cultural exchange processes is also a key element of this tour.

As with all our tours national park visits are included and activities such as birdwatching offered which we hope will encourage protection of the natural environment and provide financial incentives for doing so.

All hotels are small and independently owned with proven responsible travel credentials and all (fully-licensed) guides and drivers are locally employed.

Meals are provided in either locally-run restaurants or local-style cafes, market and street stalls. All products are locally sourced and all staff are local residents. The emphasis is also very much on traditional Thai, Lao and Vietnamese food which we hope increases an interest and pride in the region’s cuisine.

Additional food products - for takeaway lunches, picnics etc – are deliberately purchased from local bakeries and /or fresh produce markets rather than chain supermarkets.

All transport is locally owned – whether minibuses or boats and tuk-tuks for shorter journeys.

With regards souvenirs our clients are also encouraged to buy from either markets or outlets attached to aid and educational organizations such as Luang Prabang’s Ock Top Pop for example rather than the large, purpose-built souvenir stores.

We ensure to the best of our ability that all accommodation used on this tour employs sound environmental and social practices in terms of recycling, water conservation and product sourcing as well as employment policies.

By explaining our methods and the reasons behind them local agents, guides and hotels are encouraged by us to adopt further responsible tourism practices themselves and guides and drivers are provided with additional training in this respect.

Furthermore, accommodation is specifically chosen with location in mind so that at any given destination on the tour most key sites are within easy walking or cycling distance thus keeping vehicle use to a minimum on the itinerary. This also negates the need for any form of taxis during free time as guests can walk or cycle to any points of interest.

To reduce transport all staff are locally employed. Lunches and dinners are all Vietnamese style and taken in local eateries which use 100% locally sourced products. Again, any inclusive meals consist of traditional Vietnamese fare so are heavy on vegetables and sustainably-sourced fish, light on meat and lack any dairy products.

The Impacts of this Trip

This tour includes visits to the following projects: Free the Bears and Ock Top Pop (both Luang Prabang) and Mines Advisory Group (Phonsavan).

Entrance fees and/or donations help the following aid projects: Free the Bears (Luang Prabang), Ock Top Pop sustainable silk weaving organisation, Mines Advisory Group (Phonsavan) while a portion of ticket fees at: The Plain of Jars, Luang Prabang Fine Arts Centre, Luang Prabang National Museum, Kuang Si Waterfall, Viengxay Caves and numerous other sites goes towards restoration, conservation and local development as well as providing revenue and employment.

On a general level, leaders and guides provide suitable, relevant information for our customers; to help them to gain a wider understanding of our style of tourism that focuses on learning; genuine interaction with the local communities, reciprocity and cultural exchange processes. To be aware of the potential impact of tourism on the local society, culture and environment, and to behave and dress appropriately with a respect and appreciation for local customs, mores and traditions and a respect for the ecology of areas visited. Our guides and leaders thus facilitate communication of our values to both travellers and local communities, educating them in sustainable tourism practices.


2 Reviews of Thailand, Vietnam & Laos holiday

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 08 Mar 2020 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Being on a boat on the Mekong and Oun Rivers was great. Also on 2 separate occasions our guide prepared “picnics” for us in unusual places and it was amazing to see how meals could be conjured up using a machete, available bamboo and banana plants and some ingredients from the market we had brought along.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Expect it to be fairly rustic. There are a couple of long travel days in a bus. Pack lightly. Be in decent physical shape - there are some fairly strenuous climbs and hikes.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

We ate a local small restaurants, used local guides, visited and shopped in small villages so I assume the people benefited from our tourist dollars. Because of the small group I assume the environmental impact was less than a major excursion going through. Not sure about supporting conservation, although we saw many efforts along the way to maintain and improve the local environment.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Challenging, fascinating, some guides were less than ideal. I’d give it 3 stars.

Reviewed on 26 Nov 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The absolute highlight of our trip was the interaction with our guide Pong and driver Noi during the Laos. Both went over and above expectations ensuring we
enjoyed, and occasionally were challenged by, the local, genuine experiences they organised on a number of occasions. We termed them our "Ethnic
Emersion Days" something both of us found quite outside our comfort zone initially, but are now considered our very most memorable moments! Pong's local
knowledge and contacts were the catalysts in providing a magical experience.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Have confidence in your tour leader. Relax and embrace the experiences/food/drinks offered. Yes, it can be a trifle confronting at times for some of us overly worried about hygiene issues. Go with the flow; listen and learn from your leader. We have found over the years that some guides are not overly forthcoming with information. The more questions you ask the more comfortable and pleased they are to share their knowledge. Be aware that there are some very long days driving. We were more than happy with this, however, it may not be to everyone's liking. This trip is DEFINATELY not suited to anyone who suffers car sickness as there are hundreds of kilometres of twisting mountain roads. Be aware that the listed "Homestays" are more like B & B's where one stays in clean, comfortable separate accommodation. We were very relieved and more than happy with this situation. Others, however, may be chasing the more down-to-earth ethnic village experience.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

We definitely benefited local people economically by staying at family-run establishments and eating in local restaurants. We love this aspect of the tours.
However, in reality, walking around some of the ethnic villages, poking our noses into their everyday lives, did not appear to be welcomed. On the other
hand, in other villages, our presence was greeted with open arms and associated pressure to purchase something! It is a conundrum. Yes, purchasing items
made in the villages certainly benefits both parties - however, there is only so many souvenirs one requires. The very act of encouraging tourists who are chasing pristine environments will, in turn, encourage governments and locals alike to provide and retain these tourism drawcards. Populations, particularly subsistence farmers, will always put survival before environmental. Tourists will inevitably have an impact, but this can be used to advantage in encouraging positive action towards conservation and environmental education. Time sadly is not on our side when one views areas such as Sapa which is drowning under and being destroyed by, the tourism dollar.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

The purpose of this holiday was to experience Northern Thailand, Laos and Vietnam before its charm, in our opinion, disappears. The trip was all we had
hoped and more. There was an excellent mix of ethnic exposure, gentle hikes, fabulous mountain drives, ancient and modern history, varied but always
excellent accommodation and challenging food choices tackled with relish. The off-the-beaten-track type tour isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it is ours, so for
this trip we are giving five stars as an overall rating.

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