Experience an overnight train ride from Bangkok and wake up in the morning to dazzling Chiang Mai. Discover a slower pace of life on a boat journey down the Mekong River, with a night spent in the remote village of Pakbeng. Kayak around stunning Halong Bay and explore its secret beaches and caves. Challenge the family to see who can make the best pad thai in a cooking class
Visit Thailand, Laos and Vietnam on this epic family adventure. Travel by overnight train to Chiang Mai and by boat from Thailand to Laos. Witness the sights and smells of Laos’ hawker markets and climb the steps of Bangkok’s ancient Buddhist temples. Pop into Hanoi and kayak around stunning Halong Bay before heading home, filled with tales of adventure.
Breakfast Included: 14 Lunches Included: 1 Lunches Included: 2
Welcome to Bangkok, Thailand's bustling capital. This city is famous for its tuk tuks, khlong boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food. The adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm today. You can check into your hotel from early this afternoon.
Bangkok and overnight train
Begin the day with a an hour-long river cruise down the Chao Phraya River to explore the famous ‘khlongs’ (canals) . Life along these canals seems a world away from the chaotic streets of the capital. Pay a visit to Wat Pho, one of the ‘trinity’ of Bangkok temples, with a 46-metre long gold plated Buddha reclining inside. This evening, head north to Chiang Mai on an overnight train journey. Multi share train compartments are air-conditioned, with bunk beds, sheets and pillows provided. Your baggage travels in the carriage with you. There is a food and drink service available on board.
The most vibrant city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has many famous temples and an interesting old city to explore. Renowned for dazzling beauty and extremely welcoming locals, the ‘Rose of the North’ will leave you spellbound. Embark on a scenic, winding drive up a mountain (around 45 minutes) to one of the country's most stunning temple complexes, Doi Suthep. A 300-step naga-guarded stairway leads up to the temples and the climb is well worth the effort. The hypnotic atmosphere of chanting Buddhist monks and sweeping views of the city make this a most memorable experience.
Hit the road with two wheels on a cycling tour of Chiang Mai. During the past few years Chiang Mai has developed a thriving cycling culture, with the emergence of numerous local clubs, teams and several homegrown events. In the evening take part in a Thai cooking class and see which member of the family can make the best Pad Thai!
Take a journey through rural countryside to the Thai border town of Chiang Khong (approximately 5.5 hours). Formerly known as 'Juon', peaceful riverside Chiang Khong remains an important market town for the surrounding hill tribes and for trade with Laos. Stretch your legs with a stroll around town and, if time allows, perhaps fit in a visit to nearby Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Luang. In the evening enjoy a final Thai drink and dinner while Laos beckons from across the mighty Mekong.
Cross the border into Laos and board a slow boat for the two-day journey down the mighty Mekong River to Luang Prabang. The journey is a relaxed experience, mirroring the slow pace of village life and allowing time to experience the breathtaking scenery up close. The river boat is basic in nature, with a toilet, covered roof, and open sides to take in the fresh air. There are seats in the front of the boat and a small open area in the back where you can have a nap on the mat, play cards, read or have lunch. Dock at the small town of Pak Beng (after about 8 hours) and head to a local guesthouse for the night.
Reboard the boat and cruise to the Pak Ou Caves. An important religious site overlooking the river at the junction of the Mekong and Ou Rivers, the revered Pak Ou Caves consist of two sacred limestone caverns filled with Buddha images of all styles and sizes, brought by devoted villagers over the centuries. The lower cave, known as Tham Ting, is entered from the river by a series of steps and can easily be seen in daylight. The higher cave, Tham Phum, is deeper and requires a torch for viewing.
Afterwards, continue to the atmospheric World Heritage-listed city of Luang Prabang, a favourite of many travellers (approximately 7 hours in total). Nestled in the hills of northern Laos where the Mekong and Khan rivers meet, the city is claimed to be ‘the best preserved city in South East Asia’ by UNESCO.
Once the heart and soul of the ancient Lao Kingdom and designated a World Heritage site in 1995, Luang Prabang is endowed with a legacy of historic red-roofed temples and French-Indochinese architecture. The city is also home to some of the country's most refined cuisine, a multi-ethnic population and a rich culture. Enjoy a guided tour around the Traditional Art & Ethnology centre, a non-profit museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, and interpretation of its traditional arts and lifestyles. In the afternoon, head south of town to the beautiful Kuang Si Falls, a picturesque, multi-level cascade that offers fantastically blue pools that are perfect for a mid-afternoon dip. Back in Luang Prabang this evening you’ll have free time to make further discoveries, including walking around the popular Night Bazaar.
Today is mainly a travelling day as the you drive south from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng (approximately 7 hours). Take in the mountain scenery and snippets of small village life along the hilly highway to Vang Vieng. Situated on the Nam Song River, Vang Vieng is surrounded by towering limestone karsts and is a great place to walk through local markets or along the riverside and just watch the world go by.
Start the day with a hearty breakfast before heading out on a hike to Tham Jang Cave. Tham Jang was used as a bunker to defend against marauding jęen hór (Yunnanese Chinese) in the early 19th century. The caves are steeped in history and are an incredible natural phenomenon. There are some steep steps to climb but the view is worth it.
After lunch, you are free to explore on your own. Maybe jump onboard a kayak to explore at water level. Or a wander around town.
Continue by bus to the Laos' capital, Vientiane (approximately 4 hours). Possibly Asia's most laidback capital, Vientiane is a city where daily affairs are conducted at a relaxed pace. Hardly touched by the modernisation that has completely changed the face of other cities in Southeast Asia, it has a wealth of cultural delights to discover on foot, or for the less energetic, by jumbo (tuk tuk). Faded colonial mansions, tree-lined boulevards and old temples create an atmosphere of timelessness, particularly in the older part of town along the Mekong River. We make a visit to Wat Si Saket, the oldest temple still standing in Vientiane and home to almost 7,000 Buddha images. Visit COPE, an Intrepid Foundation-sponsored organisation dedicated to assisting those who have been injured by the multitude of unexploded devices across the country. This is an excellent cause and a chance to educate yourself about Laos' devastating war history.
This morning is free, enjoy your last breakfast in Laos before being transferred to the airport by midday.
Fly to Hanoi and enter the third country on this trip – Vietnam. Arrive in the late afternoon and check in to the hotel. Relax with your group leader, who will prepare you for the last few days of your holiday.