Day 1: Tour starts in Bangkok
Arrive in Bangkok and check-in at our hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax after your flight. Alternatively, you may choose to take an optional cruise in a traditional longtail boat along the city's network of meandering waterways, known as Klongs. Stops include the Royal Barge Museum and the iconic Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn, which was built to represent the towering slopes of Mount Meru, the home to the gods of Khmer mythology.
Day 2: In Bangkok, visit the Grand Palace and Buddhist temples; take sleeper train to Chiang Mai
This morning's sightseeing takes us by bus and boat to Bangkok's iconic sights including the spectacular Grand Palace complex with its collection of palace buildings, golden stupas, temples, known as wats, and decorative statues. The most revered of the wats here is Wat Phra Kaeo, the temple of the Emerald Buddha, a small statue carved out of a single piece of jade. We leave the Grand Palace and walk to the largest wat in Bangkok, Wat Pho, famous for its impressive 46 metre gold-plated reclining Buddha. This evening we board the overnight train for Chiang Mai.
Day 3: In Chiang Mai, free day to explore or try a Thai cookery class
Thailand's second city of Chiang Mai, in the north of the country, is surrounded by jungle covered hills at an elevation of 300m and offers a respite from the heat and noise of Bangkok. Today we enjoy an orientation walk of the old walled city, with its many ancient temples. There is free time this afternoon to explore further, perhaps taking an optional excursion to the golden Doi Suthep temple that sits on a hill overlooking the city, or perhaps try your hand at Thai cookery at a class. A visit to Chiang Mai's famous night market is a must this evening; here you will find everything from t-shirts to jewellery to traditional hilltribe crafts.
Day 4: From Chiang Mai journey by road and boat along the Kok River to Chiang Rai
This morning we leave Chiang Mai and drive further north through hilltribe country to Tha Ton, a small rural town on the Kok River. Here we board longtail boats for the relaxing cruise downstream towards Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai has a large hilltribe population, attracted by the cool climate and the rolling forested hills. This evening there will be time to explore Chiang Rai's night market, well known for its many food stalls, so a great place to enjoy some street food for dinner.
Day 5: From Chiang Rai travel via the Golden Triangle across the border into Laos
Today we travel to the interesting fortified city of Chiang Saen which can only be described as a lively one street town surrounded by scattered ruins of temples, crumbling stupas and grass covered walls and ramparts. Founded in 1328, the town was once a Burmese stronghold that was destroyed and re-built many times. From here we continue on to the infamous Golden Triangle, the point of confluence between Thailand, Burma and Laos. Here you will have the option to visit the fascinating opium museum. Towards the end of the day we cross the border at Chiang Khong into Laos and drive a short distance to the small village of Ban Houei Sai, where we can settle back and begin to enjoy the slow pace of life in Laos.
Day 6: Cruise along the Mekong River, overnight in Pakbeng village
This morning we board our boat and start to cruise along the Mekong River. Travel today is slow, but this allows us to absorb the sense of remoteness and timelessness of life on the river. We pass hills covered with dense vegetation, rugged cliffs, small fishing villages with nearby rice paddies and white sandy riverbanks. The Mekong has long been the major trade route for caravans from Yunnan in China to Chiang Mai in ancient Siam. Even today there are few roads through the undulating countryside, so the river remains the lifeblood of the region. In the late afternoon we arrive in Pakbeng village for our overnight stay. Here we can enjoy the warm orange glow of the sunset over the river.
Day 7: Continue boat journey via Pak Ou Caves to Luang Prabang
This morning we continue our journey along the Mekong River towards Luang Prabang. En route we will stop and visit Pak Ou Caves where we climb steps up a limestone cliff to reach the sacred Buddhist shrine, crammed with small Buddha images of all shapes and sizes. We arrive at Luang Prabang, the country's former capital, in the afternoon. Situated among the rolling hills of the Upper Mekong River, this tranquil little town is celebrated for its exceptionally lovely setting and its sleepy vibe. We take an orientation walk which includes a visit to Wat Xien Thong, located in a delightful garden on the banks of the Mekong River.
Day 8: In Luang Prabang, free day with the option to visit the traditional village of Lao Loum
One of the most peaceful experiences in Laos is seeing hundreds of saffron-robed monks of Luang Prabang walking through the streets at sunrise collecting alms. You may choose to get up early to enjoy this experience. Today has been left free for you to enjoy Luang Prabang as you wish. You may decide to simply wander the streets and absorb the pleasant atmosphere of this former Royal capital, or perhaps visit the Royal Palace Museum. There is also the option to take a tuk-tuk trip to the traditional Lao Loum village, where you can witness women weaving, see paper-making and watch blacksmiths at work. Later this afternoon, we suggest you climb to the temple on top of the small Mount Phousi to enjoy sunset views over town.
Day 9: From Luang Prabang, visit Kuang Si Waterfalls; afternoon flight to Vientiane
After breakfast we travel by bus to the beautiful Kuang Si Waterfalls, around 45 minutes from Luang Prabang, with a short stopover at Wat Mai temple. Passing forested hills and several ethnic minority villages we arrive at the limestone falls that cascade into several clear pools below. We return to Luang Prabang for our afternoon flight to the Laos capital of Vientiane.
Day 10: In Vientiane, morning city tour; free afternoon with the option to visit the Buddha Park
This morning we explore the low-rise French colonial capital and explore some of the main sights including the Victory Gate, a Triumphal Arch affording us good views of the city; That Luang stupa, said to contain a hair of the Buddha; and Wat Sisaket, packed with fine Buddha images. The afternoon is left free, you may choose to take a visit out of the city to the Buddha Park. In the evening, it is pleasant to promenade along the banks of the Mekong whilst the sun sets over the Thai city of Nong Khai across the border on the western bank.
Day 11: Fly to Phnom Penh in Cambodia, visit Royal Palace and National Museum of Arts
Leaving Laos we fly to Cambodia and another of Indochina's charming French colonial capitals, Phnom Penh. Here we visit the National Museum of Arts, which contains a notable collection of Khmer Sculpture that has been rescued from the temples of Angkor, giving us a flavour of things to come. We also explore the ornate Royal Palace with its stunning Silver Pagoda.
Day 12: In Phnom Penh, visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the 'Killing Fields'
Today we continue our sightseeing in Phnom Penh and discover some of Cambodia's dark history. We pay a visit to the emotive Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, once a high school that became the Khmer Rouge's main torture and interrogation centre. We then take a short drive out of the city to the infamous 'Killing Fields' of Choeung Ek, a grim place featuring a huge glass tower memorial filled with human skulls, a truly sombre reminders of the scale of Pol Pot's atrocities. Some people may find Tuol Sleng and the 'Killing Fields' distressing. In the afternoon there is time to explore Phnom Penh further perhaps visiting one of the many bustling markets in the city such as the Russian market; alternatively or we can arrange a private good luck blessing at a local monastery or a cooking class so you can try your hand at Khmer cuisine.
Day 13: Drive to Siem Reap; late afternoon visit Angkor Temples for sunset
We make an early start for today's drive to Siem Reap, we will pass through small provincial towns and stop somewhere for lunch along on the way. Later in the day after we have checked in to our hotel in Siem Reap we begin our exploration of the ancient temples of Angkor. This incredible ruined city, built between the 9th and the 15th centuries is spread out over some 400 square kilometres, scattered with walled cities and magnificent stone temples, sculptures, causeways and reservoirs, amongst forested areas. Today we will visit some of the earliest of Angkor's temples including Ta Keo, Kravan, East Mebon and Pre Rup. We stay for sunset over the historic temples.
Day 14: From Siem Reap, return to Angkor to explore temples of Ta Prohm, Banteay Srei and Angkor Wat
Today we pay a visit Ta Prohm, lying half consumed by the jungle and made famous by the movie 'Lara Croft'; Banteay Srei, a small temple with exquisitely carved lintels, and finally the most iconic of all - Angor Wat itself. Built in the early 12th century by King Suryavarman II Angkor Wat was first a Hindu and later a Buddhist temple and it is without doubt the epitome of Khmer architecture, a huge three-step pyramid adorned with nine towers, covering an area of 2.5 square kilometres. Its Hindu past is apparent in the beautifully preserved bas reliefs depicting episodes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata stories.
Day 15: From Siem Reap, option to see sunrise at Angkor Wat; explore Angkor Thom; afternoon flight to Bangkok
We have a few final hours this morning to visit the temples one last time. You may choose to make an early start and watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. This morning after breakfast we visit the temples of King Jayavarman VII, including the walled city of Angkor Thom, home to the Bayon, with its serenely beautiful faces and the Terrace of Elephants. Later today we bid farewell to Angkor and fly back to Bangkok.
Day 16: Tour ends in Bangkok
Our tour ends after breakfast. If you have time you may wish to wander through Chinatown for a different flavour of the city or visit one of the many markets or shopping malls.
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