Enjoy a boat trip on the sun-kissed Mekong River, observing stunning scenery and riverside French villas along the way. Stop by the Pak Ou Caves, known for the hundreds of shrines and miniature Buddhist statues that line their walls.. Unwind in the laid-back jungle town of Luang Prabang. Watch as orange-clad monks gather offerings of rice, fruit and sweets from locals before sunrise in a daily alms giving ceremony. A full-day of sightseeing in Vientiane includes visits to the capital’s most dazzling attractions, including the golden Pha That Luang (or the Great Stupa), the most sacred monument in the Laos.. 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.
Laos and Cambodia are home to some of the most beautiful countryside, temples and architecture in the world. Let yourself slip into the relaxed way of life of these magnificent nations and soak up the atmosphere as you boat along the Mekong River and explore magnificent temples in Luang Prabang. Enjoy the whimsy of French colonial architecture meshed with Buddhist temples in Vientiane. Then travel to Cambodia to gain an insight into its dark history and marvel at the extravagant archaeological treasures of the Khmers, the iconic temples of Angkor. You’ll have plenty of time to explore, discover, taste and experience Laos and Cambodia on this illuminating voyage.
Breakfast Included: 9 Lunches Included: 2 Dinner Included: 3
Arrive in beautiful Luang Prabang, the jewel in Laos’ crown. Take your included transfer to the hotel. After settling into your room, your journey begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. Following this important meeting, you will be welcomed to the country with a tradition Baci ceremony. The ceremony, which aims to bring the 32 souls (khouan) that look after you back to your body and attract beneficial influence, is traditionally performed at all important events in a person's life. Afterwards, enjoy a free evening to explore this charming, French-influenced riverside town.
Wake early to participate in the alms giving ceremony, one of the most sacred Buddhist traditions in Laos, where locals offer food to monks in order to seek spiritual blessing. Alms giving takes place daily as the sun rises, beginning on the main street of Luang Prabang before spreading out to side streets. Follow the locals as they kneel down, ready to give offerings of rice, fruit and sweet snacks to the monks. Later that morning, spend time learning about Laos’ diverse ethnic groups at the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre. Afterwards, enjoy an essential activity in Luang Prabang – a boat ride on the Mekong River. It's a great chance to see the riverside from a different angle, with all its stately French villas, trees, and slow-paced two-wheeled traffic. Further along the stream, outside of town, you visit the Pak Ou Caves, located at the confluence of the rivers Mekong and Ou. Enjoy lunch on the boat along the way.
In the morning, visit Ock Pop Tok, an inspiring fair trade social enterprise that provides a sustainable source of income for female artisans in Luang Prabang. Their dedicated team shows women how to make a better living from their skills. The organisation then employs women to design, make and sell beautiful textiles and handicrafts at three shops across the city. Later take a short ride out of town to visit Kuang Si Waterfall. Its glorious blue-green cascades make for one of Laos' most photogenic attractions, and the pool at its base is great for swimming in. There is time to visit the nearby Bear Rescue Centre as well. In the evening, sit down to dinner at Khaiphaen, a Friends-International enterprise dedicated to improving the welfare of disadvantaged youth through skills-training.
Fly to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, in the early morning. Though not as visually impressive as Luang Prabang, this city is renowned for its food and has some must see sights. Its main streets are awash with a variety of high-calibre restaurants that serve a remarkably diverse span of cuisines from across the globe. Embark on a guided sightseeing tour of the city, stopping in at Wat Si Saket, Hor Prakeo, Patuxai (Victory Gate) and That Luang along the way. You’ll also visit the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE), a remarkable not-for-profit organisation that makes rehabilitative devices and medical equipment accessible to people with physical disabilities in Laos.
Another flight today takes you to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Please note that as this is a combination trip, your group composition as well as your leader will change today. The flight will be unescorted, but transfers to and from the airports are included. There will be a meeting with your new group at 6pm. If you have free time in the afternoon, 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 Friends International. You might decide to go for a drink at the Foreign Correspondents' Club afterwards.
Notes: The restaurant run by Friends International 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 Genocide 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. 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, have a red band tied around your wrist to keep you safe in your travels and see the temple’s fascinating Pagoda art.
Note: The Tuol Sleng Genocide 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. After a relaxing morning at your hotel, travel into the countryside to a local farming community, walk through rice fields and learn about Cambodian stilt homes and life in a typical farming village. Hear about the myriad ways a non-government organisation called Husk Cambodia works directly with this community to improve the lives of Cambodian families. End the day with a stop for a sunset drink at a scenic point overlooking the countryside.
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 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. 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. After lunch it’s off to the Ta Prohm temple, which has large trees embedded in the stone foundations of the structure – powerful symbols of nature.
Note: 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
Embrace a very early start today if you wish to experience a sunrise visit to the Angkor complex (this is optional). From here, continue onto Banteay Srei. You'll see it's not a huge temple, but thanks to its intricate stone carvings it is sometimes referred to as ‘the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art’. At this point you can either head back to your hotel or carry on exploring more temples, such as Preah Khan. This temple contains a maze of vaulted corridors and is another complex that has been largely reclaimed by the jungle. Your ticket for the Angkor ruins also lets you spend more time exploring this site. Otherwise you might like to take a free afternoon to explore the town. If you have time, perhaps indulge in a traditional Khmer massage. Tonight you will enjoy a final dinner at a great restaurant in town serving local cuisine.
Your trip comes to an end after breakfast this morning.