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Welcome to Laos! Airport arrival transfer and hotel check in. Vientiane is a fascinating capital, with a fusion of Lao, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, French, and American influences. This charming and easygoing city will provide a smooth introduction to Laos. After a short rest, an orientation walk of Lao Capital is a pleasant way to spend the day, strolling around some of the city’s most historical sites and seeing some of the French colonial architecture. We observe the sunset by the Mekong Riverside until the late evening and experience the city lifestyle of the local Lao people.
After breakfast we visit the oldest Buddhist monastery in Laos - Wat Si Saket – and the former royal temple of Haw Pha Kaeo, built to house the famed Emerald Buddha. Today it serves as the national museum of religious art. Learn about Laos’ tragic past and present suffering at the COPE Centre, an organization that works with victims of unexploded bombs and mines. Next visit Pha That Luang, the symbol of both Buddhist religion and Lao sovereignty and stop to view the imposing Patuxay monument - Vientiane’s own Arc de Triomphe. Later in the afternoon explore the hundreds of Hindu and Buddhist sculptures scattered throughout Buddha Park. End the day with a sunset dinner besides the Mekong River.
We leave the capital early and journey north through lush countryside to Vang Vieng. Along the way we will stop at the colourful market of Thalat, where local hill tribes come to trade and shop, and also visit the archaeological site of Vang Xang that dates back to the 11th century. Arriving at Vang Vieng, nestled on the banks of the Nam Song River is our delightfully rustic and rural hotel. The remainder of the day offers free time, perhaps opt to explore the local caves, take a bicycle ride through the surrounding countryside or go tubing along the river.
This morning we explore the famous caves of Tham Jang once used by the local people as a hideout during Chinese invasions. We observe the lifestyles of the local people at Ban Huai Ngai village before making our way further north to the UNESCO World Heritage listed city of Luang Prabang. This town with its gleaming temple roofs, fading colonial architecture and stunning mountain backdrop has been claimed by UNESCO to be "the best preserved traditional city in South East Asia". There is little traffic on Luang Prabang roads and monks in orange robes scurry in all directions carrying umbrellas to shade themselves from the sun.
Consider rising early this morning to view the daily ritual of saffron-clad monks and their procession down the streets collecting alms. Later we commence our tour of this enchanting city, starting with a visit to the oldest temple in Luang Prabang, Wat Visoun, and the banyan tree-graced grounds of Wat Aham. Stop at the Ock Pop Tok weaving centre before visiting the former Royal Palace, now a national museum and home to Buddha artifacts. In the afternoon we stop at ethnic minority villages before arriving at the beautiful Khouangsi waterfall. Dip in the turquoise pools or take a walk along the forest trails. Tonight there is the option to learn to cook tasty local cuisine at a local restaurant.
Discover more of Luang Prabang’s holy sites with a morning visit to Wat Sene and the magnificent Wat Xieng Thong. Sit back and enjoy the views of tranquil countryside as we cruise upstream on the Mekong River to reach the mysterious Pak Ou caves. Crammed with Buddha images of all shapes and sizes, these two caves stand in the lower part of a limestone cliff overlooking the river. Along the way sample local rice wine at the village of Ban Xanghai and shop for local handicrafts at the village of Ban Phanom, known for its hand weaving.
Today is a free day for you to enjoy Luang Prabang at leisure. For the adventurous, we can help organise elephant rides, cycling and kayaking.
Spend the morning further exploring this delightful city before hotel check out and included departure transfer to the airport.