Northern Thailand and Laos cultural holiday

“A two week, small group tour through off the beaten track Northern Thailand, via the Golden Triangle and into Laos, discovering dramatic scenery and ancient cities.”

Highlights

Northern Thailand: Chiang Mai | Chiang Rai | Golden Triangle | Sob Ruak | Mekong River | Laos: Luang Nam Tha | Kao Rao limestone cave system | eco lodge on Tha River | Nam Ha National Protected Area | Akha Hill tribe visit | Nong Khiaw | boat ride on Ou River | Luang Prabang | Kuang Si Waterfalls | Phonsavan | Plain of Jars | Vientiane

Description of Northern Thailand and Laos cultural holiday

Our 2-week Golden Triangle – Thailand and Laos Tour – takes you overland from Chiang Mai through the remote and picturesque mountains of the infamous Golden Triangle to Laos’s UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang.

Once reputed for opium caravans and drug-funded warlords, today this region is known for picturesque landscapes and colourful minority, hill-tribe, peoples. We’ll travel north from charming Chiang Mai through the mountains to Chiang Rai town and discover some of the area’s famous and lesser-known sites before heading to the small town of Chiang Khong on the banks of the Mekong – our crossing point into the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

From here our tour takes you east, with stops for a hike through Nam Ha National Biodiversity Area and at the scenic riverside town of Nong Khiaw to World Heritage Luang Prabang. Explore the town’s ancient temples, local markets and well-preserved French-period architecture before continuing across more mountain ranges to another UNESCO-listed site, the remote and enigmatic Plain of Jars. A short domestic flight sees us in Vientiane – the country’s laid back modern-day capital and finishing point for our tour.

A variety of activities, range of superb landscapes and mix of both the famous and more hidden destinations along with opportunities to meet many of the region’s exceptionally friendly inhabitants and sample the sumptuous cuisine makes for a truly memorable Thailand and Laos Tour.

Features:

1. Discover the ancient temples, bustling markets and quiet lanes of Thailand's charming northern capital Chiang Mai
2. A tour of the infamous Golden Triangle region - scenic landscapes, ancient cities and of course the famous opium museum
3. Our Luang Nam Tha stay includes a stay at the excellent Boat Landing eco-lodge and a hike into Nam Ha Biodiversity Area
4. Explore the ancient temples, colonial architecture and bustling markets of UNESCO World Heritage Luang Prabang
5. A 2-night stay in picturesque northern Laos' Nong Khiaw village on the banks of the Ou River
6. ...and last but not least sample the renowned Lao and Thai cuisines in restaurants, street stalls and markets

Optional extensions

1. Add on a few days for our unique Bangkok Behind the Scenes tour
2. Stop off a night in Lampang to explore the culture and history of the former centre of the 19th-century teak trade
3. Optimise your air fare with our 4 day exploration of some of the varied and fascinating sites of Kanchanaburi Province
4. Fly from Vientiane to Siem Reap for our fabulous Angkor extension
5. Or tag on a few days quality ‘R and R’ on a tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand

Note groups sizes are 2 to maximum 12 persons with most meals (local-style) included and accommodation in boutique-style 3* hotels.

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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Check dates, prices & availability

Date
Price
Basis
17 Dec 2020
£1990
including domestic flights only
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 17 Dec 2020 departure
19 Jan 2021
£1990
including domestic flights only
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 19 Jan 2021 departure
23 Feb 2021
£1990
including domestic flights only
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 23 Feb 2021 departure
10 May 2021
£1910
including domestic flights only
Available
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12 Jun 2021
£1910
including domestic flights only
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 12 Jun 2021 departure
12 Jul 2021
£1910
including domestic flights only
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 12 Jul 2021 departure
10 Aug 2021
£1950
including domestic flights only
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 10 Aug 2021 departure
11 Sep 2021
£1910
including domestic flights only
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 11 Sep 2021 departure
11 Oct 2021
£1950
including domestic flights only
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 11 Oct 2021 departure
07 Nov 2021
£1990
including domestic flights only
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 07 Nov 2021 departure
13 Dec 2021
£1990
including domestic flights only
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 13 Dec 2021 departure
Vouchers
Accepted
Holiday type
This is a genuine small group adventure tour with group sizes limited to a maximum of 12 persons. Experience has taught us that smaller numbers 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 has proved to be more fun as you make new friends and share your experiences with like-minded people.

Minimum numbers are either 2 or 4 so, while in low season in particular, sizes can be small, there will be plenty of opportunities to meet both locals and other travellers along the way.

The tour price is based upon 2 persons sharing, twin or double rooms, while single room supplements are also available should you prefer. 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. Please note that all activities are fully flexible and most age and fitness levels can be accommodated.

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.

Environment
Overall, the intention of this tour is to combine the well-known tourist sites with off-the-beaten-track, rarely visited destinations, thus diverting tourist revenue and contact into areas not usually benefiting, as well as providing a more authentic view of the region visited. Group sizes are deliberately kept small in order to limit impact on site and communities as much as possible. (Group size is a maximum of 12 persons.) Small numbers also permit us to use local cafes plus street and market stalls for drinks, meals and shopping.

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

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

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), COPE (Vientiane) while a portion of ticket fees at: The Plain of Jars, Luang Prabang Fine Arts Centre, Luang Prabang National Museum, Wat Saket and numerous other sites goes towards restoration, conservation and local development as well as providing revenue and employment.

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.
Community

The Impacts of this Trip

We avoid any chain or international hotels and all accommodation used on this tour is independently owned by local residents

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 Lao and Thai food which we hope increases an interest and pride in the region’s cuisine.

Additional food products - for takeaway lunches, picnics etc – is 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.

As a small company our support projects are localised and targeted and we currently assist aid schemes in both northern Thailand and Myanmar’s Shan State. Previous projects organised by All Points East specifically in Laos include building a new roof and toilet block for a primary school in Don Khone Nua Village and assistance to a school in Ban Nam Chang.

All guides and most leaders are local, while any foreign leaders employed have lived in the local communities for long periods and are experienced in customs, culture and as much as possible, language.

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.

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.

By limiting groups to a maximum of 12 persons we aim to reduce the impact on both local communities and the environment whilst allowing for greater genuine interaction with said communities. It also results in a higher guide/customer ratio thus offering a greater facility for supervision and individual assistance and allowing us to use smaller hotels and restaurants and employ the services of more genuinely ‘local’ operators on a personal and friendly basis rather than dealing with establishments primarily equipped for larger groups.

Climate

4 Reviews of Northern Thailand and Laos cultural holiday

4 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 02 Mar 2020 by

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


Picnic by the river cooked by local guides after a trip on the River Ou to visit a local village

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


Everything very cheap in Laos so you need less money than you might think for 2 weeks.

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


Yes, we visited local villages and bought produce direct from them

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


A great holiday overall but we did appreciate a few days on our own at the end in a nice hotel with a pool. I would have liked
sometimes to stay in hotels with a pool but there was only 1 on the tour and one at the end (which was not great and very cold)
Our guide, Pascalle, was very nice and extremely helpful, but as he had never done the trip before his knowledge with sorely
lacking. On other touring trips the guide with us for the whole 2 weeks has been much more informative.

Read the operator's response here:

So glad you enjoyed your tour to Northern Thailand and Laos and have happy memories. It's always lovely when people do have time for a bit of a chill out
at the start or end of a tour and glad you liked the choice of hotel. Some of the places you stay on this itinerary are a bit off the beaten track and pools aren't
easy to find. Sorry you didn't find your tour leader Pascal informative on aspects of the itinerary, but we ensure that tour leaders are based in the region
and are accompanied by knowledgeable local guides at each port of call. This helps us with our commitment to employing local people and is definitely an
added bonus when they can cook a fine picnic!

Reviewed on 02 Jan 2020 by

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


Most memorable was having to use the local style toilet facilities after spending hours sitting in the minibus....Enjoyable, Jungle trek with bbq, river trip with bbq our tour guide Phong.

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


Double check the standard of hotel accommodation matches your booking and expectations.Be prepared for long journeys in a not so comfortable minibus.Too much crammed into one day.Be prepared for early starts 08.30, late finish 17.30 with quick turnaround and out for dinner, no time to relax or use the pool if the hotel has one or take a shower. Travel light as recommended..

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


It definitely benefited locals as you visit many many villages and are expected to purchase local products which were nice but became monotimous and a burden on excess luggage, or just simply make a donation.I cant say there was any reduction to environmental impact or conservation, nowhere did i see people (locals) worry about using plastic bags or water bottles and in many villages or small towns garbage was strewn all over the place including in rivers and streams.


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


Too many Temples and Stupas, every village and town at least 3 or 4 each
time, fortunately others in our group thought the same. Despite the downside elements it was different, exciting and enjoyable....minibus transport in Chiang Mai and in Vientiane was luxurious and very comfortable unfortunately for the
main part of the tour through Laos with long journeys over horrendous terrible road surfaces the minibus was basic, hard seats and very uncomfortable it really done your back no favours...All guides were excellent especially
Phong. 3.7 / 5.0, mainly due to long days and uncomfortable minibus.

Read the operator's response here:

Thank you so much Timothy for your feedback. So glad you enjoyed the holiday overall, it is indeed one of our most off the beaten track tours and takes
you into some of the more remote parts of Northern Laos complete with their lack of Western 21st century facilities. For some visitors, this is indeed the
highlight – hope we made this obvious before your travelled, if not, at least your feedback will ensure others appreciate this. We do try and make things as
comfortable as possible on the longer journeys and provide spacious air con minibuses – although, apart from saying it’s part of the adventure, we can’t do
much about Lao roads. We particularly note your comments about how responsible you felt the tour is. Our aim is to conduct our tour in as responsible
manner as possible and enlighten local staff and passengers as to good practices particularly with regards to such things as single use plastic, but in remote
towns and villages it is slow progress . We certainly don’t intend for you to ever feel obligated to make purchases, but any purchases you choose to make do
enable remote communities to benefit from low level tourism. We also eat locally and stay locally in order to contribute.

Reviewed on 03 Dec 2019 by

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


Visiting the Hill tribes and also the Plain of jars sites. The images of those people and places will stay with me as will the insights into the challenges of their lives.
The COPE centre about rehabilitation of those injured by ' bombies' was also very thought provoking about the whole situation.

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


Take clothes that will dry easily overnight and don't need ironing. Even if you used the laundry service it didn't always come back fully dry and definitely not ironed.

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


Yes although I would encourage people to buy more from the hill tribes direct as there is not only a big mark up in the city but middle men get the profit. ( night markets are also often people from the hill tribes selling direct as well). One area for development was the large number of plastic water bottles used. Could not a large container be used and then a bottle be refilled form this ( this happened on one of the boat trips).

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


You see a whole variety , with both a bit of Thailand and then in Laos both countryside and towns. Amazing differences in temperature and life style between them all. We learned so much about the challenges of development and the mixed blessing in having partnerships ( vast amount of Chinese investment and influence going on).

Reviewed on 15 Feb 2014 by

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


Visiting Luang Prabang

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


Travel light as there are a lot of one night stays

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


Certainly benefited local people because we ate in local restaurants

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


Very good

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