Grand Indochina Tour (16 Days/15 Nights)


15 nights

£2445

Introductions
Image

Grand Indochina Tour (16 Days/15 Nights)

Explore Indochina on this 16 Days/15 Nights Journey starting in Luang Prabang and finishing in Siem Reap!


15 nights

from £2445

Description

Experience the best of Indochina on this 16 days/15 nights tour to Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Highlights
  • Luang Prabang: City tour, local villages, Caves, markets and Temples
  • Vientiane: Sacred sites, Temples and city tour
  • Hanoi: Sightseeing
  • Halong Bay: Cruise and lunch on dock
  • Hue: Sightseeing, boat trip, the old town
  • Ho Chi Minh City: Cu Chi Tunnels, history and Chinatown
  • Cai Be: Observe the lively activities of local merchants trading from vessels
  • Phnom Penh: Sightseeing plus a traditional Khmer foot massage
  • Siem Reap: Ancient city tour and the ruins

Deluxe, Deluxe Plus and First Class hotel option is available. Please call for a quote.

Additional Information

INCLUDED IN THE TOUR PRICES ARE:

  • Vietnam visa approval number processing fee    
  • Accommodation & daily breakfast   
  • Transportation on tour in air-conditioned vehicles    
  • Local English speaking guides    
  • Entrance fees for all sight-seeing tours  as specified in the itinerary    
  • Meals as specified in the itinerary    
  • Bottled water for sightseeing tours  
  • International air ticket reconfirmation

NOT INCLUDED IN THE TOUR PRICES ARE:

  • Vietnam visa stamping fee     
  • Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar visa     
  • International airfares  
  • Beverages during included meals    
  • All personal expenses    
  • Personal insurance    
  • Gratuities for guide, driver, waiter/waitress, bell boy, boat crew etc.    
  • All other services not mentioned in the itinerary   
Pricing
Feb 2024
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Jonny Blue-gold

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Description

Luang Prabang – Arrival

Arrive at Luang Prabang and transfer to hotel. After check in, take a brief city tour to the former Royal Palace (currently the National Museum); Wat Xieng Thong; Wat Sen and Wat Visun. End the day by enjoying a sunset view from the top of Mount Phou Si. Afterwards, visit the Night Market to observe local hill tribe's selling their wares.
Overnight in Luang Prabang.

Sala Prabang Hotel

Property Location Located in Luang Prabang, Sala Prabang Hotel is minutes from Wat Sen and Golden City Temple. This hotel is within close proximity of Night Market and Heritage House.

Meals Included: Room only

DESTINATION

Luang Prabang

Nestled in the lush jungle of northern Laos, the ancient city of Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is rich in culture, history, and natural beauty. Known for its tranquil temples, colonial architecture, and stunning mountain views, Luang Prabang has become a popular destination for travelers seeking a unique and authentic Southeast Asian experience.

Luang Prabang was once the capital of the Kingdom of Laos and served as an important center of Buddhist learning and culture. Today, the city's many temples and monasteries continue to attract visitors from all over the world, who come to marvel at the intricate carvings, gilded statues, and serene gardens.

One of the most famous temples in Luang Prabang is Wat Xieng Thong, which dates back to the 16th century and is considered to be one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in Laos. Other notable temples include Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham, which is famous for its intricate golden bas-reliefs, and Wat Sensoukharam, which boasts a stunning golden stupa.

In addition to its temples, Luang Prabang is also known for its stunning natural scenery. The city is situated at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, and its surrounding mountains offer breathtaking views of the lush jungle and winding rivers below. Visitors can take a leisurely boat ride down the Mekong River, explore the nearby waterfalls and caves, or trek through the rugged terrain to discover hidden villages and ancient ruins.

One of the most popular attractions in Luang Prabang is the morning alms-giving ceremony, where Buddhist monks walk through the streets collecting offerings of food from the local people. Visitors can join in this tradition by offering food to the monks and participating in the ceremony, which is a deeply spiritual and moving experience.

Luang Prabang is also a great place to sample the local cuisine, which is a blend of Lao, Thai, and Vietnamese flavors. Some must-try dishes include laap, a spicy meat salad, and khao soi, a fragrant noodle soup. Visitors can also visit the night markets to sample street food and shop for handmade crafts and souvenirs.

Overall, Luang Prabang is a unique and enchanting travel destination that offers a glimpse into the rich history and culture of Laos. With its stunning temples, natural beauty, and vibrant culinary scene, it's no wonder that so many travelers choose to visit this hidden gem in Southeast Asia.

But it’s a beautiful country too.  Luang Prabang in central Laos is perhaps the best example of Laos’ natural beauty. Also home to the 30 golden temples that have gotten it recognized as a UNESCO world heritage sites, read on to find out why a holiday in Luang Prabang and all its natural glory is a brilliant idea.

The Joy Of Giving image

Luang Prabang’s library is a chance for tourists to come to the aid of poor children in Luang Prabang. You can make a donation here which will fund the library’s purchase new books for the children. You can even ride on a boat and deliver books to the children living yourself. This can be quite a fulfilling experience. Religion is very important in Lunag Prabang as evidenced by the locals giving alms to the 200 or so monks who gather at Luang Prabang's main street at sunrise every single day. The alms giving ceremony dates back centuries. Tourists can participate in the ceremony as well. The entire experience can be surreal and you are expected to be on your best behavior throughout. Remember to dress modestly and not get in the way of anyone if you are not taking part in the ceremony.  A holiday in Luang Prabang can be an opportunity to give back to the world for some.

Journey To A Much Simpler Time image

Entering the village of Ban Phanom on the banks of the Nam Khan River in Luang Prabang is almost like cutting yourself off from the modern world. The village’s chief source of income is textile and so you will see all the families here working away at their looms during the day as they weave products for the night market. Once upon a time, Ban Phanom used to supply goods to the royal family and even now the hand-woven products made here now have retained their high quality as the same techniques and materials are still used. Buying items directly from the villagers is a better alternative to buying them at a higher price from the night market. If you wish to avoid the crowds, the best time to visit Ban Phanom will be in the afternoon. The Pak Ou caves situated right where the Mekong River meets the Nam Khan is seen as a holy site by many of the locals. The two caves between them contain over 4000 Buddha relics as well as a shrine to the river spirit. It is pitch black inside the caves so you are going to need a torch to find your way through them. The fascinating Royal Museum near Thanon Sisavangvong Boulevard is well worth a visit. The museum was established inside a building that was built to serve as a palace for King Sisavangvong in the 20th century. The museum has multiple exhibits that will take you on a trip through Laos’ checkered past starting from the volatile times of the Lane Xang Empire, through the colonial era right to the formation of the communist government that now governs Laos. The museum also displays the different branches of Laos’ culture and history, Open on all days except Tuesdays, you have to see this museum during your holiday in Luang Prabang.

Nature And Its Wonder image

So, why is there such a big fuss over Luang Prabang’s natural beauty? Well for a place that claims to be the "Jewel in Laos Crown", Luang Prabang sure does deliver. Kuang Si Waterfall, the biggest waterfall in Luang Prabang, is testament to that fact. 29km south of the main city of Luang Prabang, the waterfall is three-tiered with amazing bright blue pools at the bottom of the 50feet drop. Trekking through the tropical jungles surrounding the waterfall can be a fun experience as well. The journey to the waterfall is quite enjoyable as it gives you the unique opportunity to meet many of the locals who have stuck to their ancient traditions. Mount Phousi represents a 150feet climb to the top. The view from the top especially that of the sunset, is awe-inspiring. A lot of people come here to watch the sunset so you should consider an early morning climb and see the sunrise if you wish to avoid the droves. The Elephant Sanctuary Village, 15km Southeast from Luang Prabang, is a great place to meet elephants that have been rescued from poachers. Here, you can get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures. If you wish you can ride the animals, go on day-long excursions, and even bathe the elephants.

Reward Your Tummy image

Luang Prabang mostly offers traditional Lao cuisine. That means the dishes here will contain sticky rice, many different kinds of paste and sauces and delicious desserts. Fish and pork are extremely popular too. The herbs, spices, and ingredients used in the food here can get you salivating just from the smell. During the course of your holiday in Luang Prabang, you will come across your fair share of restaurants that serve delicious food at cheap prices. You have the likes of Tamnak Lao that offer dishes at reasonable prices whilst also serving mildly flavored dishes suited to foreign palates. Upscale restaurants such as Apsara Restaurant & Bar offer local cuisine as well as a taste of French cuisine among various others cuisines.

Wet Season image

The end of May signals the start of the rainy season as this is when the monsoon first hits Laos. During the first few months, rain does not last longer than a few hours each day. The average temperature loiters around 27 °C. When August begins, it starts raining more often. The rainy season reaches its peak in September. This when there is rainfall throughout the day. The temperature falls to the lower 20s. You should not plan your holiday in Luang Prabang during the rainy season as it is very likely that the rain will interfere with your plans. If you are willing to risk it, tickets cost less during this time of the year and hotels are available.

Dry Season image

The dry season starts from November, lasting till April of the following year. Weather in Luang Prabang is as good as it gets during these months, making it the perfect time for a holiday in Luang Prabang. With rainfall so rare, things do get hotter especially in April which is the hottest month of the year. But, as long as you carry plenty of sunscreen, water, and a hat, you will be fine. As this the best time of the year for a holiday in Luang Prabang, tickets are more expensive. Many of the hotels are booked to their maximum well in advance. If you do wish to go for a holiday in Luang Prabang then you have to act quickly and get all the booking issues sorted out.

Alms Giving Ceremony Highlights image

As the sun rises in Luang Prabang around 200 Buddhist monks depart from their various temples to gather their daily meal. The tradition of alms gathering dates back to the 14th century, yet still today locals wake early to prepare the food for the monks and wait quietly by the roadside to give their gifts. Although the main purpose is for locals to give alms to the monks, you will also notice small children kneeling with baskets in the hope that the monks will share some of their alms with them so that they can take food back to their family.

This daily ceremony is both peaceful and spiritual and gives you a wonderful opportunity to experience an ancient Lao tradition. The procession is quite lengthy and therefore not suitable for very young children or those who cannot sit quietly for more than a few minutes. If you are taking photographs it is best to step back from the front of the line to avoid causing offence. If you are not making an offering maintain an appropriate distance and do not under any circumstances get in the way of those making an offering. Visitors should also remember to be there before the monks arrive and never ever to follow the procession.

Good to Know image

There are many unspoken rules regarding etiquette when attending an Alms Giving Ceremony, firstly shoulders, chests and legs must be covered in modest clothing as a mark of respect. You should also remain at a suitable distance from the monks and do not interrupt the procession under any circumstances. Therefore photographs may be taken, but from a distance and never use a camera flash.

When seated, shoes and socks must be removed with your feet tucked underneath as you observe the ceremony in absolute silence. Female attendees must keep their head lower than the monks when giving alms and they must not talk to or touch the monks at any time, even when making an offering. Suitable offerings include some simple food which you can probably arrange at your hotel or buy from a local market en-route, if you buy alms on the street do not negotiate on price as this is also considered highly disrespectful.

Luang Prabang Library image

Tourists are invited to keep the Luang Prabang Library boats on the water and delivering books to schools. You can participate by dropping off a book which the library will then sell on to raise more funds. Alternatively you can buy a map or a souvenir at the library or even buy books to go in a book bag that will be sent to a village.

If you want to bring some books for the children then try and make sure they are school text books. In addition to the boats there are also book bags given to more than 100 surrounding villages with weekend reading activities also taking place for the Khmu schools. The book bags are made from quilted material with pockets in which to place the books, there is a strap attached for the bag to be hung from a tree as there are often no shelves available at the school or village.

Location: The library is located close to the main Luang Prabang night market on Sisavangvong Road opposite the Mai temple and next door to the radio station.


Remarks: Luang Prabang Library also receives some government and foreign charity funding to help Lao children to read. You can also make a donation with 100% of the funds directly given to the children’s library. The library is run by a Head Librarian who is also the Programme Coordinator for Community Learning International, she will be happy to answer any questions you may have and is also responsible for scheduling the boats in addition to running an online blog so you can follow the library’s progress after you’ve departed.

How to get there image

Tad Sae waterfall can be reached by hiring a tuk tuk to take you to the banks of the Nam Khan then renting a boat across to the waterfall. Prices vary so it’s best to check before you leave as you may be able to share transportation but you can expect to pay around 200,000 kip for the tuk tuk which will include waiting time and the return journey back. Tour operators will be the best people to talk to as they usually organise mini-van excursions during the rainy season at the cost of about 50,000 kip per person which is considered good value. You may have to pay an additional 10,000 kip for the boat across.

Itinerary Stops
Attractions
Mount Phousi

Mount Phousi

Introduction

Rising 150 metres above the centre of town, Mount Phousi cuts a distinctive figure on the Luang Prabang skyline. The hill is popular as a place to watch the sun rise or set over the Mekong River. From the summit you can enjoy a spectacular 360 degree outlook across the city and its many temples, and out over the surrounding landscape to the mountains in the distance. Count on spending a couple of hours for the climb and descent, with several stops to see the temples, rest under the shady trees and admire the magical views.

There are hundreds of steps to negotiate, but the climb is gentle enough for anyone who is in reasonable health. For a complete experience, go up Mount Phousi on one side and use the other set of steps to make your way down again. You can pray and make offerings at several temples along the way. Next to Wat Chomsi at the top of the hill you can buy flowers to offer for blessings, as well as caged birds. The Laos believe that if you set a bird free you will enjoy good luck and happiness in the future.

•    The most popular time to visit Mount Phousi is in the late afternoon, in time to watch the sun set over Luang Prabang and the surrounding countryside. It can get quite busy at this time of day, however.
•    For a far more peaceful experience, try getting up early to catch the sunrise from the top of the hill, but be aware that it can be hard to get clear photographs of the view until the heat of the sun has burnt off the early morning mist.
•    The Thanon Phousi staircase consists of 355 steps that zigzag up to the summit, but it is well paved and offers several resting places along the way.
•    Halfway up the hill is the Wat Tham Phousi shrine, which features a big-bellied Buddha nestled in a grotto and a reclining Buddha.
•    At the top of Mount Phousi is the golden Wat Chomsi, which was built in 1804.
•    Bring a bottle of water to drink as you climb up the hill, and also a hat and some mosquito repellent. You can also buy drinks and snacks at the peak.
•    There is a modest admission charge.

Royal Palace Museum

Royal Palace Museum

Introduction

Set in a spacious, well-tended garden just off one of Luang Prabang’s main boulevards (Thanon Sisavangvong), you will find the fascinating Royal Palace Museum, which is also known as Haw Kham. The museum is well worth a couple of hours of your time if you want to learn more about Lao history and culture.

Although the current main building dates from the early 20th century, the exhibits stretches back several centuries to trace the turbulent past of the Lane Xang kingdom and the colonial era, through to the present day. Originally the residence of the king, the museum was designed in the French Beaux-Arts style, with many tasteful accents of traditional Lao culture.

When the communists came to power in 1975, they took over the palace and sent the royal family to re-education camps. The palace was converted into a museum that was opened to the public in 1995 after careful renovation, and remains in good condition. The grounds contain a number of other buildings including a new exhibition hall and a chapel (Haw Prabang), and a statue of King Sisavangvong. You can take excellent photos of the museum compound from the Mount Phousi steps that descend to Thanon Sisavangvong.

•    The museum used to be a Royal Palace, which was built in 1904 for King Sisavangvong after the previous palace was destroyed by invaders in 1887.
•    The royal apartments have been faithfully preserved, and offer a fascinating glimpse into the lifestyle of the king and his family.
•    The exhibits include royal religious objects, weapons, statues, screens and paintings from centuries past.
•    In the mirrored Throne Hall, you can see the crown jewels of Laos.
•    Make sure you visit the room that features murals depicting everyday Lao life in the 1930s.
•    A new pavilion houses the 2,000 year-old, 83-centimetre Prabang Buddha, which is made from solid gold.
•    The garage contains the last king’s collection of cars.
•    A reasonable fee is charged to visit the Royal Palace Museum.
•    After paying your entrance fee you will have to leave your shoes, bags and any photographic equipment in the lockers (free of charge) before entering the exhibit halls.
•    The best time to visit if you want to beat the crowds is early in the morning.
•    Drama or dance performances are usually held several evenings a week at the National Theatre next door.

Wat Wisunarat (Wat Visoun)

Wat Wisunarat (Wat Visoun)

Introduction

Dating back to 1513 and the reign of King Wisunarat (Visoun), Wat Wisunarat is Luang Prabang’s oldest temple and was once home to the Prabang Buddhas. The history of the temple is colourful with it being originally crafted from wood before being burned by Black Haw riders in 1887. The Black Haw riders were part of the Black Flag military rebel group led by a Chinese commander at the end of the 1880s. Post invasion, it was rebuilt using stucco and brick and retains some original pieces including a stupa that was created in 1503 along with some other small Buddha icons although many were stolen during the Haw raid.

Over the years the temple has also acted as a Museum of Religious Arts and as such now homes an array of religious artefacts and precious items relating to both Buddhism and the royal family. The temple is a celebration of early Lao architecture with wooden windows reflecting the Wat Phou Temple in the South of the country coupled with stucco work that is classic Luang. Restoration work was carried out in 1895 and then again in 1932.

The Wisunarat temple is home to a small selection of richly gilded Buddhas and some ancient stones dating back to the 15th century. The stones were donated by Prince Phetsarat following the Black Haw bandit invasion. The Haw left with most of the priceless Buddha images made from jade, gold and precious gems by breaking open the stupa. Prior to invasion, Wat Wisunarat was once home to the revered Pha Bang Buddha from 1507 to 1715 which can now be viewed at the Royal Palace Museum.

One of the temple’s most unique features is its unusually shaped stupa designed by the wife of King Wisunarat to be a lotus flower but referred to by locals as ‘the watermelon stupa’. Another distinguishing highlight is the European-style roof which slopes in a manner not usually seen in Laos. This is largely due to the French architects who helped with the rebuilding in the late 1980s. The temple is still functioning today and is open to visitors with plenty of information available about its fascinating history.

Wat Xieng Thong

Wat Xieng Thong

Introduction

Luang Prabang is renowned for Buddhist temples of outstanding beauty with Wat Xieng Thong an outstanding example. A symbol of great historic importance, this magnificent masterpiece is characteristic of the Luang Prabang style and features an elaborate tree of life mosaic, intricately carved walls, rare Buddhist deities and a 12-metre high funeral carriage. Also known as the ‘Golden Tree Monastery’, Wat Xieng Thong acts as a gateway to Luang Prabang as it is strategically situated close to where the Mekong joins the Nam Khan River.

This site is famous as the location for the coronation of Lao kings and as an important gathering place for significant annual festivities. The original temple was created in 1560 under the royal instruction of King Setthathirath and narrowly missed invasion on several occasions, nevertheless time took hold and much-needed remodelling took place during the 1960s. The temple still remains in its original form with repairs undertaken to the roof, and gold leaf gilding and gold lacquering restoration added to the walls and entrance.

A superb piece of Lao temple architecture, Wat Xieng Thong presents a sweeping two-tiered roof and ornate mosaics including a beautiful ‘tree of life ‘glass montage on the rear temple wall. The tree portrays the tale of the founding of the temple which legend states was by two hermits who decided to create the sanctuary next to a large flame tree where the rivers met. The story continues inside with dharma wheels depicted in gold on the ceiling. Relics include a rare reclining black Buddha dating back to the reign of King Setthathirat displayed in the Red Chapel. The Buddha image was showcased in Paris in 1931 before being returned to the temple in 1964 and it is considered to be extremely unique.

Additional highlights of Wat Xieng Thong are the drum tower, the Triptaka library added in 1828 and the central sim or ordination hall which dates back to the founding of the temple in 1560. One of the more unmissable exhibits due to its sheer size is the remarkable funeral carriage which was once carried through the streets of Luang Prabang containing royal ashes, the royal urns with ashes inside reside close by with a naga or serpent king statue guarding them. Nagas and other mythical statues complete the elaborate decorations at exquisite Wat Xieng Thong.

Location
  • Description
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Description

Luang Prabang – Pak Ou Caves

Take a full-day boat trip on the mighty Mekong River to explore local villages at Ban Xiengmene and Ban Chan. Continue onto the Royal Temple at Wat Longkhoun, which once housed the royal family; visit the nearby Sackarine Caves and continue cruising to Pak Ou Caves. Explore the caves and cross the Mekong River at Ban Ou for lunch at a local restaurant. Return by road to Luang Prabang stopping en route at Ban Xang Hai (where the locals create a unique rice wine called “lao lao”) and at the Lao villages Ban Xangkhong and Ban Xienglek (well known for its handmade Jute Sar paper).
Overnight in Luang Prabang (Breakfast)

Sala Prabang Hotel

Property Location Located in Luang Prabang, Sala Prabang Hotel is minutes from Wat Sen and Golden City Temple. This hotel is within close proximity of Night Market and Heritage House.

Meals Included: Breakfast

DESTINATION

Luang Prabang

Nestled in the lush jungle of northern Laos, the ancient city of Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is rich in culture, history, and natural beauty. Known for its tranquil temples, colonial architecture, and stunning mountain views, Luang Prabang has become a popular destination for travelers seeking a unique and authentic Southeast Asian experience.

Luang Prabang was once the capital of the Kingdom of Laos and served as an important center of Buddhist learning and culture. Today, the city's many temples and monasteries continue to attract visitors from all over the world, who come to marvel at the intricate carvings, gilded statues, and serene gardens.

One of the most famous temples in Luang Prabang is Wat Xieng Thong, which dates back to the 16th century and is considered to be one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in Laos. Other notable temples include Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham, which is famous for its intricate golden bas-reliefs, and Wat Sensoukharam, which boasts a stunning golden stupa.

In addition to its temples, Luang Prabang is also known for its stunning natural scenery. The city is situated at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, and its surrounding mountains offer breathtaking views of the lush jungle and winding rivers below. Visitors can take a leisurely boat ride down the Mekong River, explore the nearby waterfalls and caves, or trek through the rugged terrain to discover hidden villages and ancient ruins.

One of the most popular attractions in Luang Prabang is the morning alms-giving ceremony, where Buddhist monks walk through the streets collecting offerings of food from the local people. Visitors can join in this tradition by offering food to the monks and participating in the ceremony, which is a deeply spiritual and moving experience.

Luang Prabang is also a great place to sample the local cuisine, which is a blend of Lao, Thai, and Vietnamese flavors. Some must-try dishes include laap, a spicy meat salad, and khao soi, a fragrant noodle soup. Visitors can also visit the night markets to sample street food and shop for handmade crafts and souvenirs.

Overall, Luang Prabang is a unique and enchanting travel destination that offers a glimpse into the rich history and culture of Laos. With its stunning temples, natural beauty, and vibrant culinary scene, it's no wonder that so many travelers choose to visit this hidden gem in Southeast Asia.

But it’s a beautiful country too.  Luang Prabang in central Laos is perhaps the best example of Laos’ natural beauty. Also home to the 30 golden temples that have gotten it recognized as a UNESCO world heritage sites, read on to find out why a holiday in Luang Prabang and all its natural glory is a brilliant idea.

The Joy Of Giving image

Luang Prabang’s library is a chance for tourists to come to the aid of poor children in Luang Prabang. You can make a donation here which will fund the library’s purchase new books for the children. You can even ride on a boat and deliver books to the children living yourself. This can be quite a fulfilling experience. Religion is very important in Lunag Prabang as evidenced by the locals giving alms to the 200 or so monks who gather at Luang Prabang's main street at sunrise every single day. The alms giving ceremony dates back centuries. Tourists can participate in the ceremony as well. The entire experience can be surreal and you are expected to be on your best behavior throughout. Remember to dress modestly and not get in the way of anyone if you are not taking part in the ceremony.  A holiday in Luang Prabang can be an opportunity to give back to the world for some.

Journey To A Much Simpler Time image

Entering the village of Ban Phanom on the banks of the Nam Khan River in Luang Prabang is almost like cutting yourself off from the modern world. The village’s chief source of income is textile and so you will see all the families here working away at their looms during the day as they weave products for the night market. Once upon a time, Ban Phanom used to supply goods to the royal family and even now the hand-woven products made here now have retained their high quality as the same techniques and materials are still used. Buying items directly from the villagers is a better alternative to buying them at a higher price from the night market. If you wish to avoid the crowds, the best time to visit Ban Phanom will be in the afternoon. The Pak Ou caves situated right where the Mekong River meets the Nam Khan is seen as a holy site by many of the locals. The two caves between them contain over 4000 Buddha relics as well as a shrine to the river spirit. It is pitch black inside the caves so you are going to need a torch to find your way through them. The fascinating Royal Museum near Thanon Sisavangvong Boulevard is well worth a visit. The museum was established inside a building that was built to serve as a palace for King Sisavangvong in the 20th century. The museum has multiple exhibits that will take you on a trip through Laos’ checkered past starting from the volatile times of the Lane Xang Empire, through the colonial era right to the formation of the communist government that now governs Laos. The museum also displays the different branches of Laos’ culture and history, Open on all days except Tuesdays, you have to see this museum during your holiday in Luang Prabang.

Nature And Its Wonder image

So, why is there such a big fuss over Luang Prabang’s natural beauty? Well for a place that claims to be the "Jewel in Laos Crown", Luang Prabang sure does deliver. Kuang Si Waterfall, the biggest waterfall in Luang Prabang, is testament to that fact. 29km south of the main city of Luang Prabang, the waterfall is three-tiered with amazing bright blue pools at the bottom of the 50feet drop. Trekking through the tropical jungles surrounding the waterfall can be a fun experience as well. The journey to the waterfall is quite enjoyable as it gives you the unique opportunity to meet many of the locals who have stuck to their ancient traditions. Mount Phousi represents a 150feet climb to the top. The view from the top especially that of the sunset, is awe-inspiring. A lot of people come here to watch the sunset so you should consider an early morning climb and see the sunrise if you wish to avoid the droves. The Elephant Sanctuary Village, 15km Southeast from Luang Prabang, is a great place to meet elephants that have been rescued from poachers. Here, you can get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures. If you wish you can ride the animals, go on day-long excursions, and even bathe the elephants.

Reward Your Tummy image

Luang Prabang mostly offers traditional Lao cuisine. That means the dishes here will contain sticky rice, many different kinds of paste and sauces and delicious desserts. Fish and pork are extremely popular too. The herbs, spices, and ingredients used in the food here can get you salivating just from the smell. During the course of your holiday in Luang Prabang, you will come across your fair share of restaurants that serve delicious food at cheap prices. You have the likes of Tamnak Lao that offer dishes at reasonable prices whilst also serving mildly flavored dishes suited to foreign palates. Upscale restaurants such as Apsara Restaurant & Bar offer local cuisine as well as a taste of French cuisine among various others cuisines.

Wet Season image

The end of May signals the start of the rainy season as this is when the monsoon first hits Laos. During the first few months, rain does not last longer than a few hours each day. The average temperature loiters around 27 °C. When August begins, it starts raining more often. The rainy season reaches its peak in September. This when there is rainfall throughout the day. The temperature falls to the lower 20s. You should not plan your holiday in Luang Prabang during the rainy season as it is very likely that the rain will interfere with your plans. If you are willing to risk it, tickets cost less during this time of the year and hotels are available.

Dry Season image

The dry season starts from November, lasting till April of the following year. Weather in Luang Prabang is as good as it gets during these months, making it the perfect time for a holiday in Luang Prabang. With rainfall so rare, things do get hotter especially in April which is the hottest month of the year. But, as long as you carry plenty of sunscreen, water, and a hat, you will be fine. As this the best time of the year for a holiday in Luang Prabang, tickets are more expensive. Many of the hotels are booked to their maximum well in advance. If you do wish to go for a holiday in Luang Prabang then you have to act quickly and get all the booking issues sorted out.

Alms Giving Ceremony Highlights image

As the sun rises in Luang Prabang around 200 Buddhist monks depart from their various temples to gather their daily meal. The tradition of alms gathering dates back to the 14th century, yet still today locals wake early to prepare the food for the monks and wait quietly by the roadside to give their gifts. Although the main purpose is for locals to give alms to the monks, you will also notice small children kneeling with baskets in the hope that the monks will share some of their alms with them so that they can take food back to their family.

This daily ceremony is both peaceful and spiritual and gives you a wonderful opportunity to experience an ancient Lao tradition. The procession is quite lengthy and therefore not suitable for very young children or those who cannot sit quietly for more than a few minutes. If you are taking photographs it is best to step back from the front of the line to avoid causing offence. If you are not making an offering maintain an appropriate distance and do not under any circumstances get in the way of those making an offering. Visitors should also remember to be there before the monks arrive and never ever to follow the procession.

Good to Know image

There are many unspoken rules regarding etiquette when attending an Alms Giving Ceremony, firstly shoulders, chests and legs must be covered in modest clothing as a mark of respect. You should also remain at a suitable distance from the monks and do not interrupt the procession under any circumstances. Therefore photographs may be taken, but from a distance and never use a camera flash.

When seated, shoes and socks must be removed with your feet tucked underneath as you observe the ceremony in absolute silence. Female attendees must keep their head lower than the monks when giving alms and they must not talk to or touch the monks at any time, even when making an offering. Suitable offerings include some simple food which you can probably arrange at your hotel or buy from a local market en-route, if you buy alms on the street do not negotiate on price as this is also considered highly disrespectful.

Luang Prabang Library image

Tourists are invited to keep the Luang Prabang Library boats on the water and delivering books to schools. You can participate by dropping off a book which the library will then sell on to raise more funds. Alternatively you can buy a map or a souvenir at the library or even buy books to go in a book bag that will be sent to a village.

If you want to bring some books for the children then try and make sure they are school text books. In addition to the boats there are also book bags given to more than 100 surrounding villages with weekend reading activities also taking place for the Khmu schools. The book bags are made from quilted material with pockets in which to place the books, there is a strap attached for the bag to be hung from a tree as there are often no shelves available at the school or village.

Location: The library is located close to the main Luang Prabang night market on Sisavangvong Road opposite the Mai temple and next door to the radio station.


Remarks: Luang Prabang Library also receives some government and foreign charity funding to help Lao children to read. You can also make a donation with 100% of the funds directly given to the children’s library. The library is run by a Head Librarian who is also the Programme Coordinator for Community Learning International, she will be happy to answer any questions you may have and is also responsible for scheduling the boats in addition to running an online blog so you can follow the library’s progress after you’ve departed.

How to get there image

Tad Sae waterfall can be reached by hiring a tuk tuk to take you to the banks of the Nam Khan then renting a boat across to the waterfall. Prices vary so it’s best to check before you leave as you may be able to share transportation but you can expect to pay around 200,000 kip for the tuk tuk which will include waiting time and the return journey back. Tour operators will be the best people to talk to as they usually organise mini-van excursions during the rainy season at the cost of about 50,000 kip per person which is considered good value. You may have to pay an additional 10,000 kip for the boat across.

Itinerary Stops
Attractions
Pak Ou Caves

Pak Ou Caves

Introduction

One of the most respected holy sites in Lao; Pak Ou Caves have a history dating back thousands of years. Packed with over 4,000 Buddha icons, the caves, a shrine to the river spirit and Lord Buddha, are set in a dramatic limestone cliff at the point where the Mekong joins the Nam Ou River. There are two caves to visit, the lower cave called Tham Ting and the upper cave Tham Theung, both boasting miniature Buddhist figures that are mostly made from wood.

Positioned about 50 feet above the river, Tham Ting filters in some light but a torch is required for the absolutely pitch black Tham Theung. The upper cave is home to the majority of the Buddha statues and you will need to find your way in darkness to the thousands of hidden icons. The statues are believed to have been left in the caves by local people for hundreds of years.

Pak Ou translates to ‘mouth of the Ou river’ with the first cave entrance of Tham Ting being very visible from the water; the higher cave is accessed by stairs. The Buddha images in the Pak Ou Caves assume a variety of positions, from meditation to peace and nirvana (the reclining Buddha). Both caves are shrines to Buddha, offering places of worship with the largest image in Tham Ting being a popular place to burn incense and offer prayers. The smaller cave is the more peaceful, with glimpses of the Mekong providing a breathtaking backdrop.

The caves are a very popular pilgrim site for locals and get very busy during April when the Lao New Year is in full swing with locals washing and attending to the images. The caves are not far from Ban Xang Hai village, famous for its wine production and for the making of Lao wine earthen jars; it is a great side trip where you will get the chance to try locally produced whisky and wine.

Wat Long Khoun

Wat Long Khoun

Introduction

Resting close to the river on the banks of the Mekong, Buddhist temple Wat Long Khoun has long and historically significant connections to the Luang Prabang royal family. Also known as the ‘Monastery of the Happy’ the temple once served as a sanctuary for those seeking spiritual rejuvenation including any new king who would retreat to the Wat for three days cleansing and meditation prior to his coronation at Wat Xieng Thong.

Wat Long Khoun is typical of local Luang Prabang architecture of the 18th century with two single level sections; the front part however was extended in 1937 as instructed by the then-reigning King Sisavonvang. This section is more elaborate in style and features gilded columns and intricate wood carvings.

The older part contains Jataka murals which still retain some of their original vibrancy telling the story of the 547 lives of Lord Buddha. The murals also feature local myths and legends incorporating Buddhist morals of kindness and the importance of giving. Unfortunately, revolutionary vandalism in the 1970s and damp weather resulted in some damages to the murals.

Built in the 18th century, Wat Long Khoun lies almost directly opposite to Wat Xieng Thong and was recently restored by workmen careful to use traditional techniques and materials. Renovation work was much needed as the temple was left in a state of disrepair when the monarchy was disbanded; the work was taken out by the Lao Department of Museums and Archaeology with the assistance of the Ecole Française d’Extrême Orient who went to great lengths to keep it as authentic as possible.

The original meditation room once used by kings is still intact along with the living quarters for monks built as a traditional wooden outhouse. Entrance to the 1937 portico is guarded by two large Chinese statues with the entire porch being supported by eight elegant black-and-gold columns topped with lotus petal designs. Inside, the temple features decorative deities and a variety of other statues and carvings including a red ceiling with dharma wheels, peacocks and mythical creatures intricately stencilled on.

Location
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Description

Luang Prabang – Vientiane

After breakfast, visit the Luang Prabang Market where a number of shops sell antiques and silver jewellery made by mountain tribes. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Vientiane. Arrive in Vientiane and transfer to hotel. Enjoy an afternoon city tour including Wat Simuang, Vientiane's most sacred site, and the religious museum at Wat Sisaket. The tour includes a stop at Wat Pra Keo, the original home of the Emerald Buddha that now resides in Bangkok, the 16th century That Luang Golden Stupa and the Patuxai Victory Gate. The day ends watching the sunset on the banks of the Mekong River.
Overnight in Vientiane (Breakfast)

ibis Vientiane Nam Phu

Located in the heart of the city next to the Nam Phu Fountain and 15 minutes from Wattay International Airport, ibis Vientiane provides an excellent base from which to explore the nearby historical monuments, embassies, restaurants and Mekong Promenade.The hotel is located in the city centre and is surrounded by many restaurants, cafes and banks. It is a walking distance to Wat Si Saket temple, Wat Ho Phar Keo, The Presidential Palace, Patuxai Victory Monument, Night Market, Mekong Promenade and Morning Market.

Meals Included: Breakfast