This trip includes flights, which makes travelling easy and allows for maximum time in each destination. A private motorboat makes the slow trip down the Mekong River a peaceful experience, when observing the stunning scenery and remote village life, and visiting a cave crowded with shrines is all done at a relaxed pace. Unwind in the laid-back jungle town of Luang Prabang and watch as orange-clad monks gather offerings from locals. See the important sights of Phnom Penh on a full-day guided tour around the Cambodian capital. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek (Killing Fields) are sobering experiences you won’t forget
Immerses yourself in the region’s rich historic and cultural heritage. Vibrant and busting Bangkok is the quintessential Asian city that doesn’t sleep – a great place to start your journey. With its laid-back charm, Laos is sure to captivate. The Mekong River remains its lifeblood, but we find the country’s heart and soul in the former royal enclave of Luang Prabang. Cambodia beckons with the glories of the Angkor period that is still evident in the magnificent temples and monuments carved from stone. Phnom Penh is like a ‘phoenix rising from the ashes’, as it leaves its recent turbulent past behind. Beautiful Vietnam completes our Indochina adventure with its traces of French colonialism interspersed with the glorious oriental heritage of the Vietnamese people. Exciting Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), magical Hoi An, colonial Hanoi and spectacular Halong Bay all combine to make up a stunning kaleidoscope.
Breakfast Included: 20 Lunches Included: 3 Lunches Included: 5
Welcome to South East Asia. Arrive into Bangkok today, where you’ll be transferred to the centrally located Hotel. A pre-trip briefing will be held in the evening at 6pm to meet the other members of your group and to discuss the itinerary. Please check for a welcome notice on the Peregrine noticeboard located in the reception area of your hotel. The notice should provide the name of your trip leader, along with the exact time and location of the meeting. After the group meeting in the evening, perhaps adjourn to a nearby restaurant and enjoy a first meal together (this is optional and at your own expense). The rest of the evening is free to enjoy a quiet drink or visit the bustling night markets of Bangkok.
Today take the one-and-a-half-hour flight from Bangkok to Chiang Rai. This scenic town is a lot more relaxed than neighbouring Chiang Mai. Visit the privately owned Wat Rong Khun, more commonly known as the White Temple. This contemporary temple is constantly being added to and its strange design features references to Buddhist mythology, human sin and pop culture icons such as Michael Jackson, Harry Potter and Superman. In the evening visit the buzzing Chiang Rai night markets, where you can snack on delicious Thai cuisine or shop for souvenirs and handicrafts.
Today leave Chiang Rai before dawn to travel for around two hours to Chiang Khong. After crossing the border, take a shuttle bus across the Mekong River to Huay Xai, which is your first stop in Laos. Transfer to the pier and board a slow boat for the trip down the Mekong River. The pace is very relaxed - a perfect way to observe the scenery and local life up close. The private boat has toilets on board, comfortable seats, dining tables and plenty of room to stretch your legs. In the evening arrive into Pakbeng, a village situated at the junction of the Mekong and Beng rivers. Hmong and tribal Thai people are frequently seen on the main street, where vendors sell local textiles and handicrafts. You will spend the night in a lodge right by the river. Before then, enjoy the memorable experience of a Baci Ceremony, organised as a welcome by the Chaman of Pakbeng and the people of the village. This is the perfect way to begin your journey into Laos, putting the spirits on your side. The ceremony aims to bring the 32 souls (khouan) that look after you back to your body and attract beneficial influences. The Baci ceremony is performed at all important events in a person’s life.
Notes: Due to the remote location of Pakbeng, the accommodation tonight is of a lower standard than our usual Peregrine Hotels but still clean and comfortable.
Today continue down the Mekong River in your private slow boat, gaining more insight into local rural life along the way. Stop in at Pak Ou, where the famous Tam Ting Cave is home to thousands of Buddha statues. Continuing on, pay a visit to Ban Sang Hai village where potent rice wine is made. Travel time down the river varies greatly with the water level, but if all goes to plan you should arrive into Luang Prabang by early evening. This sacred town, with its gleaming temple roofs, French architecture and mountainous backdrop, is claimed to be ‘the best preserved city in South East Asia’ by UNESCO.
In the morning, you may like to rise early to witness the daily procession of monks collecting alms from the villagers - a practice that dates back centuries. Following breakfast visit the town's major temples, including the magnificent Wat Xieng Thong. After the tour, walk around the local shops and find hand woven handicrafts. Next, visit the National Museum at the former Royal Palace, a building that combines French colonial and traditional Lao architecture. In the afternoon head south of town to the beautiful Kuang Si Falls. Back in Luang Prabang this evening, perhaps explore the popular night market or enjoy a traditional Laos massage. A late night in Luang Prabang isn't really an option, as the town observes a nightly curfew of 11.30 pm.
This morning you will visit a traditional Lao textile-weaving centre. You’ll be taken by a guide through the centre and learn how this important project supports local Laotian artisan women and the community. The project is called Ock Pop Tok, or East Meets West, after its co-founders – a Laotian girl and English woman. The rest of the day is then free. There are many of optional activities to keep you busy. Perhaps try your hand at preparing some traditional Laotian food in a cooking class. You could visit the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, a not-for-profit museum dedicated to promoting the diverse cultures and traditions of Laos' ethnic groups. Guided tours and seminars are available on request. If you feel like getting active, why not climb the 328 steps up Mount Phu Si in the centre of Luang Prabang's old town? The hill is crowned by a gilded stupa, That Chomsi, where you can enjoy spectacular views over the town and surrounding forest. Afterwards, you may like to wind down with a traditional Lao sauna and massage at the massage parlour opposite Wat Visounnarat.
Today take a 45-minute flight from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. On arrival into the capital, your leader will take you on a short orientation walk so you can get your bearings. The friendly city of Vientiane features a lot of French-inspired architecture and cuisine, so ask your leader where to find the best bakeries.
Today embark on a tour around the major sights of Laos' capital. Visit the imposing Patuxai monument, which is Vientiane's version of the Arc de Triomphe. Call in at the oldest temple in the city, Wat Si Saket, and the former royal temple of Haw Phra Kaew. This previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha image before the Siamese took it in the late 18th century. Discover the golden stupa of Pha That Luang, which is an important Buddhist monument and the national symbol of Laos independence. Tonight enjoy an included dinner at the Makphet Restaurant in Vientiane. Peuan Mit runs the restaurant, which is an organisation that supports the needs of street children and young people in Laos.
You will be transferred to the airport, where you will say goodbye to your Lao tour leader and fly to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Please note: it is unlikely that you will be escorted on this flight, but when you arrive in Phnom Penh you will be transferred to a comfortable and centrally located hotel. A Cambodia trip briefing will be held in the evening. Please check for a welcome notice on the Peregrine notice board located near the hotel lifts. Keep in mind that you will need to again bring your travel insurance details with you to the meeting. There is nothing planned until this meeting, so perhaps stroll the streets of Phnom Penh and explore the city, taking in the interesting French colonial architecture. The National Museum, with its collection of classic Khmer craftsmanship, is well worth a visit. Dinner tonight will be at the restaurant run by the Friends organisation. You might decide to go for a drink at the Foreign Correspondents' Club afterwards.
Notes: The restaurant run by the Friends organisation is closed on public and school holidays. Alternative dinner arrangements will be made during these times.
Today a full city tour introduces you to the sights of Phnom Penh, a city that lies near the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. The private quarters of the Royal Palace are home to King Sihamoni and are closed to the public. You will, however, be able to visit the Silver Pagoda that lies in the palace complex, which is the most sacred temple in the country. Phnom Penh remains a living relic of the country’s past struggles and successes. Your included visits to the Tuol Sleng Prison Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek tell the story of the tragic legacy of the Khmer Rouge. There is an optional visit to Wat Phnom, the temple that gave rise to the foundation of the city in the 15th century. An ideal way to spend your second evening here is to relax in a cafe by the riverfront.
Notes: The Tuol Sleng Prison Museum and Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are major parts of the experience here, but if you don't wish to visit them, please inform your tour leader.
Fly north to Siem Reap (approximately 40 minutes) where the great temples of Angkor await. For lunch you'll visit the Sala Bai Hotel School where underprivileged local youths learn skills that enable them to find gainful employment in the hospitality industry. Here you can enjoy a meal prepared by students at the school. Later you head out of town to a working Monastery to learn more about the life of a Monk and Theravada Buddhism. Buddhism in Cambodia is a way of life that most people incorporate into their daily life. You will get to meet the Monks, enjoy a sacred water blessing for good luck and prosperity and see the fascinating Pagoda art at this temple. On the way back into town you will visit Angkor Children’s Hospital Friends Centre to learn more about the hospital’s activities. The Friends Centre features rotating art and photography exhibitions as well as the work of founder Kenro Izu.
Notes: The Sala Bai Hotel School is closed on public and school holidays, so on these days an alternative restaurant will be used.
Siem Reap – Angkor Wat
Spend a full day visiting the amazing temples of Angkor on a guided exploration. Angkor Wat is the largest and most complete structure, and the only one of Angkor's temples that has its entrance facing west – the others face east. Then there is Angkor Thom, the 'Great Royal City', a temple is famous for its series of colossal human faces carved in stone. Of all the temples visited today, Bayon temple is the centrepiece, with over 200 smiling carved faces and more than 50 gothic towers. After lunch you will head to the Ta Prohm temple, which has large trees embedded in the stone foundations of the structure – a powerful symbol of nature. In the afternoon you will travel into the countryside to a local farming community, take a walk through the rice fields and learn about Cambodian stilt homes and life in a typical farming village. Husk Cambodia - a non government organisation is working directly with this community and you will get to hear the wonderful support they are providing to help improve the lives of Cambodian families. End the day with a stop for drinks at a scenic point overlooking the countryside before returning back to our hotel.