Day 1. To Bangkok
Morning depart from London Heathrow with direct Thai airways flight to Bangkok.
Day 2. Luang Prabang via Bangkok
Arrive Bangkok and onward connection with Lao Airways to Luang Prabang. Barci welcome ceremony with music and dance. Remainder of day at leisure. Four nights at Satri House.
Day 3. Luang Prabang
Dawn visit to observe the long lines of orangerobed Monks leaving their Pagodas to receive offerings of food from the residents of Luang Prabang. It’s a unique experience. After breakfast, city tour includes the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum, Wat Mai, a Temple renowned for its golden bas-reliefs. Next see Wat Xieng Thong, perhaps the most photographed Temple in Luang Prabang, and the unique Wat Visoun, entirely rebuilt after its destruction in 1887 by the invading Black Flags from southern China. In the courtyard of Wat Visoun stands the Watermelon Stupa; shaped like the fruit it takes its name from. After lunch visit the excellent Arts and Ethnology Centre giving further insight into the ethnic mix and culture of Laos. Also visit the weaving and textile villages of Ban Xangkhong and Ban Xienglek before returning to the Old Town to climb Mount Phousi and enjoy the stunning views across Luang Prabang as the sun sets.
Day 4. Luang Prabang - Cooking Class and Pak Ou Caves
Another opportunity, if wished, to see the procession of Monks receiving their food as dawn rises. After breakfast explore Lao cooking, with a masterclass under the expert instruction of a chef from the Roots and Leaves Restaurant. The class starts with a visit to the fresh produce market. After the demonstration, lunch is an opportunity to ‘enjoy’ your morning's efforts! (Please note: there will be other guests joining you at the cooking school). An afternoon departure by boat up the Mekong River to the Pak Ou caves, housing thousands of Buddha statues, hidden from the looting Chinese Haw in times gone by. The statues range from a few centimetres to the size of a human.
Day 5. Luang Prabang – Day walking excursion with Elephant and Bamboo Raft rides
Walk in the footsteps of French explorer Dr. P. Neiss, who once surveyed the local tribes around Luang Prabang. First visit the Elephant village for a brief introduction into the great work they do there. Talk with the veterinarian in the hospital and feed the gentle giants. Later take an elephant ride through an interesting countryside to a delightful waterfall and stop for a traditional Lao lunch. After a short 1.5km trek arrive at the Nam Khan River – board a charming bamboo raft complete with pillows and mats and elegantly sip tea or coffee. It takes 30-60 minutes depending upon the current to reach the jetty.
Day 6. Luang Prabang - To Vientiane
At leisure until midday flight to Vientiane. Two nights at Settha Palace.
Day 7. Vientiane Market and City Tour
Early morning visit to the fascinating local market of Thongkhankham, where a bewildering array of foods and produce are on offer. After breakfast city tour to include: Wat Sisaket, the only Temple to be left intact after the Siamese invasion in 1828. It’s arguably the most beautiful Temple in Vientiane and houses thousands of miniature Buddha statues within its walls. Next is Wat Phra Keo, now a religious museum, with many Lao and Khmer works of art on display. Also see the Patuxai monument - also called Anousavari – climb the steps to the roof for fabulous views; visit That Luang, the holiest place in Laos, and Wat Simuang, the most popular and venerated Temple in Vientiane. Stop at Talat Sao, the morning market, for souvenirs – look out for silk and silver jewellery. After lunch visit the quirky Buddha Park, an enchanting collection of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures situated on a Mekong Riverside meadow outside of the city centre. The statues were created by a mysterious Monk to spread his philosophy on life and revealing his ideas about the universe.
Day 8. To Pakse, Bolaven Plateau, Tad Lo Waterfalls
Morning transfer to the airport for flight to Pakse. On arrival start the journey east across the Bolaven Plateau, passing by many plantations producing coffee, tea, cardamom and bananas. The area is also famous for its many waterfalls; the most beautiful is Tad Fan. During high waters, the scene is spectacular with twin waterfalls plummeting into the deep gorge below. Visit the ethnic minority group villages of Alak, Nge and Katu. Take a sunset swim in the waterfall. Overnight at Tad Lo Lodge.
Day 9. To Don Daeng via Paxuam Waterfall and Wat Phou
After breakfast head out of the plateau, stopping first at the attractive Paxuam Waterfall, then onto Champassak and Wat Phou, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its ruins were once part of a Temple built some time before Angkor Wat in Siem Reap - between 7th -11th C - and contain some of the most Ancient Khmer architectures. In the afternoon boat trip across the Mekong to the island of Don Daeng. Two nights at the La Folie Lodge.
Day 10. Boat trip to Don Khone
After an early morning breakfast, return to the mainland and drive to Ban Hatsaikhone, and board a boat for a tour of the 4000 Islands. Reach picturesque Don Khone by lunchtime. Later explore the island by bicycle to see old French Colonial buildings and the lovely Liphi waterfall. Or continue by boat to see to seek out the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins. Return to the mainland, visiting Khone Phapheng, considered, by volume, to be the largest waterfall in South East Asia. Late afternoon return to Don Daeng.
Day 11. To London via Pakse and Bangkok
Transfer to Pakse airport to board Lao Airlines flight to Bangkok connecting onwards with Thai Airways to London.
Per Person on a Double/ Twin share basis £3,100.00
Single room supplement £595.00
International & internal flights in economy class.
Accommodation in a double/twin sharing room with en-suite facilities.
Daily breakfast throughout. Lunch at cookery class on Day 4 and Picnic lunch on Day 5.
Services of English speaking guide during sightseeing.
Transfers as per the itinerary by air-conditioned car.
Excursions, sightseeing and entrance fees as per the itinerary.
Full ATOL Bonding.
Any optional Excursions.
Any expenses of a personal nature.
Mahout for a day
Nothing quite compares with working with elephants: spending the day with them, washing, scrubbing, feeding and being as one under the watchful eye of the Mahout.