MEKONG MOMENTS – LAOS ADVENTURE
|GROUP SIZE||Maximum 18 people|
|GROUP MINIMUM||1 person (all our trips are guaranteed departures)|
|START DAY||Saturday at 3 PM|
Upon arrival in Bangkok airport from Luang Phrabang (Laos) at around 3:30 PM
Southeast Asia’s best-kept secret is the strikingly beautiful and exceptionally friendly country of Laos. Surrounded by Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma and China, Laos is truly the heart of Indochina. Even with its turbulent history of invasion and civil war, the Lao people show a remarkable kindness and ability to adapt. Now peaceful, Laos is beginning to attract the more adventurous travelers who seek a look into the past of how Southeast Asia used to be.
Discover the hidden treasures of this ancient land and one time French colony with VegVoyages while we explore lush jungles and forests, cruise the mighty Mekong River and learn about the fascinating but often overlooked culture and heritage of one of Asia’s best kept secrets. Sultry tropical jungles, rugged limestone mountains and caves, rural villages and rushing rivers make this journey an adventure lover’s delight.
A picturesque country full of spectacular views, winding jungle roads and tranquil Buddhist temples; we’ll visit remote jungle villages, old-French colonial outposts, epic waterfalls, the UNESCO rated town of Luang Prabang, the mysterious Plain of Jars and protected national parks along with the lively yet charming capital of Vientiane. We’ll traverse along the mighty Mekong River, boat through limestone caves and canyons and relax in the Mekong trading outpost of Savannakhet as well as explore the centuries old ruins of an ancient Khmer civilization that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Join VegVoyages for our Laos adventure and make new friends with the welcoming people of this fascinating country while you put on a few extra pounds feasting on delicious Lao vegan cuisine. Feel the thrill of boating down ancient rivers; experience the serenity of nature on remote jungle hikes and the timeless ways of village life. Learn to cook tasty Lao vegan food, swim in clear springs, enjoy a rejuvenating 2-hour traditional Lao massage and take home cherished memories from this ancient and peaceful land on our VegVoyages’ Mekong Moments: Laos adventure!
15 nights accommodations (combination of heritage hotels, traditional Lao cottages, eco-lodges, colonial-era villas, traditional wood riverside bungalows, charming bed & breakfasts, hillside cabins, an air-conditioned overnight sleeper train and Flight from Laos to Bangkok on last day of adventure)
42 meals (15 breakfasts, 14 lunches, 13 dinners)
VegVoyages Adventure Leaders & Local Guides
* Airport pick up is provided only if you arrive a day or two earlier than the tour date. If you would be arriving three days or more early, please arrange for your own airport pick up.
International airfare, airport departure transfer, visa for Laos, personal travel insurance, gratuities and items of a personal nature.
|START DATE||November 21||November 19||November 18|
|END DATE||December 6||December 4||December 3|
|START DAY||Saturday||Saturday @ 2:30 PM||Saturday @ 2:30 PM|
|END DAY||Sunday||Sunday @ 3 PM||Sunday @ 3 PM|
Sawasdee! Welcome to Thailand! Legendary Bangkok with its temples, klongs (canals), skyscrapers and excellent cuisine is a truly unique and cosmopolitan city. Built in the 1780′s by King Rama I, Bangkok (or Krung Thep as it is called locally) is a colorful mixture of the old and new (we do recommend you to arrive a day earlier than the trip so that you have a chance to explore this metropolitan city). Your adventure start in the afternoon at 3 PM with orientation meeting where you’ll have the chance to meet your fellow travelers while we discuss the adventure ahead. Then, we’ll have time to freshen up and enjoy delicious vegan dinner before heading out to the train station to catch our train to the Laotian border. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Sabaidee! Welcome to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic! Arriving at the border, we’ll cross the Mekong River and hop aboard our boat and head down the mighty Mekong to the one-buffalo town of Champassak. With its laid back pace, quiet temples and decaying colonial-era buildings, it’s hard to believe that at one time this was the royal capital of an influential kingdom. It’s also hard to believe that just a short distance away are the incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site ruins of Wat Phou – an ancient Khmer temple complex built by a powerful civilization that ruled centuries ago. As the sun sets over Champassak, we’ll learn the art of making Lao noodles before enjoying a feast of tasty local dishes for dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Fifteen minutes outside the sleepy old capital lies Wat Phou – a striking ancient pre-Angkor Khmer Hindu temple complex and one of the oldest Hindu temples in Southeast Asia. Wat Phou, which means “mountain temple or monastery”, was built using the Hindu philosophy of harmony between man and nature. Many of the structures you’ll see today were built by Suryavarman II, the Khmer Emperor responsible for Angkor Wat. In the morning, we’ll explore these incredible ruins, then set out further down the Mekong River to the 9th century remains of Wat Tomo. Returning to our villas, you’ll have time to freshen up before we meet for a fusion dinner, complete with, yes, vegan pizza. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
After breakfast, we depart for Savannakhet. “Savan”, as the locals call it, with its worn colonial shop houses, an almost deserted town square anchored by an aging Catholic church, numerous temples – both Taoist and Buddhist alike, and a five-centuries-old wat, is a laid-back old Mekong trading outpost that has a relaxing charm to it ringing of a bygone-era. Upon arrival, we’ll take a stroll through the old town learning about its glorious past history ending our walk with sundowners on the banks of the mighty Mekong River. As the colors of the day turn to night, we’ll join our friend’s family at their home for local folk music, dance and a yummy home-cooked vegan dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
After breakfast, we’ll visit a traditional wet market where we’ll learn about the local bazaar scene as well as the fresh herbs and veggies used in traditional Lao dishes. From the market, we’ll say goodbye to Savan and heading north to the Mekong town of Thakek. On the way, we’ll stop at an auspicious Buddha Cave that sits amongst stunning limestone cliffs containing 229 bronze Buddhas said to be over 300 years old. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
In the morning, we get back on the road less traveled for a breathtakingly scenic journey to our home for the next two days in the National Biodiversity Conservation Area of Phou Hin Poun – a protected semi-evergreen forest area studded with limestone karsts and incredible caves. Here, we’ll be staying just outside the small village of Ban Phou Ngeng in traditional wooden chalets near the Hinboun River. On arrival, we’ll hike into the countryside exploring the surrounding villages and dense jungle learning about the local way of life and flora including the medicinal plants the forest has offered people for centuries before returning to our riverside chalets for dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
We’ll be on the river most of the day, as we set out upstream to visit the spectacular Kong Lor Cave. Spectacular is putting it lightly, as the Kong Lor Cave is seven and half kilometers long. Hopping aboard local boats, we’ll navigate the Hinboun River where thick jungles meet limestone cliffs and small villages. Our journey up river doesn’t end at the mouth of the cave, as we’ll actually travel through the cave not by foot – but by boat. In the evening, we’ll join in a local game while enjoying cold beers and fresh lime juice before learning how to make the vegan version of one of the most famous dishes in Laos: spicy tum maak houng (papaya salad). After mixing up a good batch of tum maak houng, we’ll sit down for dinner on the banks of the Nam Hinboun. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Vientiane – the most laid back and charming capitol in all of Southeast Asia! Viang Chan, as it is properly called, is the biggest and most bustling city in Laos – which, with its welcoming relaxed pace, pleasantly says something. The history of this sleepy capital dates back well over 1,000 years and is full of golden years, conquests, takeovers and desertions. Arriving in the afternoon, we’ll visit Tat Luang Stupa, the country’s most prominent landmark and a symbol of national identity. Then, we’ll have time to freshen up for our rejuvenating traditional 2-hour Lao massages. As the sun sets over the capital, we’ll settle down for a tasty vegan fusion dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Laos has the distinction of being the most bombed country per capita in the world where thousands of tons of bombs were dropped by the US during their secret war. With that in mind, we’ll spend the morning at the Cooperative Orthotic & Prosthetic Enterprise, or COPE, which helps to rehabilitate victims of these weapons of past wars that still claim limbs (and lives) every year by providing them with artificial limbs and training. This visit will help you understand a problem facing not just Laos, but many countries in the world. We’ll also spend the day exploring the colonial-era boulevards and striking temples. For lunch we’ll dine at Makphet, a unique café that helps scores of ex-street kids start a new life, and they also cook up some darn good food too! After lunch, we’ll be guests of the Lao Disabled Women’s Development Center where women with disabilities are taught skills to become self-sufficient. We’ll end our second day in Vientiane by visiting Buddha Park. After the park, you’ll have the rest of the day free to explore on your own, whether it’s visiting a temple, checking out the city’s hip cafes’ or simply relaxing at a food stall along the Mekong River. (Breakfast, Lunch)
Bidding adieu to the city, we set out on the road to Ban Nam Song. Nestled on the edge of the Song River, we’ll be staying in bungalows overlooking the water and limestone cliffs that fill the horizon. After lunch, we’ll board kayaks and explore the surrounding countryside set amongst some truly stunning scenery. As the sun sets over the jagged peaks, we’ll gather around the campfire for our introduction to Hmong culture. The Hmong, a separate ethnic group, have their own culture, heritage, food, language and traditions. Primarily farmers from the hills, the Hmong trace their origins to China and have settled throughout Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Our journey north today takes us on one of the most scenic roads in the country as we make our way through central Laos with stunning views of lush peaks, verdant valleys and ethnic hill tribe villages. Arriving in Xieng Khouang, we’ll be staying just outside of the provincial capitol in hillside cabins. It’s hard to believe that this tranquil valley was completely ravaged by bombs just over thirty years ago with the majority of the villages being destroyed. After freshening up, we’ll sit down around the fire for snacks and a delicious vegan dinner of local delicacies while learning about the rich, and at times tragic, history of Xieng Khouang and the mysterious Plain of Jars. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
After a traditional breakfast overlooking the valley, we’re off to visit the mysterious Plain of Jars where you’ll also see huge craters still remaining from the US bombing raids decades ago. What make the Plain of Jars interesting are the thousands of large stone-carved “jars” that dot the countryside. No one knows for sure, but most scientists agree that the mysterious “jars” were used by a now unknown Mon-Khmer race around 2,000 or more years ago. Today, we’ll also be guests of a local Hmong family, where, as their guests – we’ll learn about their local customs, traditions and way of life. Returning to our cabins, we’ll have time to freshen up before dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Today we set out for the enchanting UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang. The former seat of the Laotian royal family before the revolution, Luang Prabang is a delightful, storybook-like town of winding lanes, old French architecture, cozy cafés, ornate temples and local markets. Our home for the next three days will be at a lovely inn designed in classic Lao-French fusion architecture in the heart of the old town. After arriving in this historical city, you’ll have the evening free to explore on your own and take in city at your own pace – whether it is exploring the town’s narrow-winding lanes or visiting its colorful night bazaar, or simply relaxing in one of the city’s cozy café. (Breakfast, Lunch)
We’ll start the morning with yoga, then we’ll explore enchanting Luang Prabang by foot. Our first stop will be at the old palace where we’ll learn about the town’s rich past. Then were off to the Children’s Cultural Center, a grassroots organization that teaches local children Lao arts, music and dance to help deter them from drugs and alcohol, where we’ll be special guests of the children for a unique cultural program. In the late afternoon, it’s time for our cooking class where we’ll be introduced at the town’s wet market to ingredients used for dishes indigenous to the area and under the guidance of one of Luang Prabang’s best chefs, learnt how to make a delicious vegan dinner of local delicacies! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
In the morning, we’ll head just outside of town to the very special Free the Bears Rescue Center. Definitely one of the highlights of our visit to Luang Prabang, at the sanctuary we’ll learn about the center and their very lovely guests – rescued Asiatic Black Bears. These beautiful bears once roamed the jungles of Laos and most of Southeast Asia, however due to exploitation and deforestation their populations in the wild are now seriously threatened. After helping out at the center, we’ll take a short walk through the forest to the Kuang Si Falls where we’ll have a delicious vegan picnic and time to cool off in the crystal clear turquoise pools at their base. Upon returning to town, you’ll have time to freshen up before we meet for our farewell party! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
After our morning yoga and breakfast we’ll catch our flight back to Bangkok, Thailand. Your Adventure ends upon arrival at the airport in Bangkok around 3:30 PM. Thank you very much for joining Mekong Moment – a VegVoyages Laos adventure! (Breakfast)
Our hearts are still bursting with gratitude for all that you did for us and shared with us. It’s funny, as someone who writes for a living…I’ve been having trouble finding the right words to do Laos and all of our experiences justice. When people ask us about our trip, I find myself rambling on and on, because I want to convey to them how much we did and how special it was, but the words seem to fall short. Thanks again for everything. You are exceptional, compassionate, thoughtful human beings and we sing your praises every chance we get.
We had an awesome vacation in Laos! We thoroughly enjoyed our trip. It was well organized; super interesting; and there was tons of variety in the activities. We certainly saw a lot more than we would have seen if we had organized the trip ourselves – we had so many unique and memorable experiences. But seriously… it is abundantly evident that you are dedicated to ensuring your guest’s experience is the best it could be. For that we thank you! It quickly became very clear why you have so many return customers. We certainly wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this trip to anyone with a sense of adventure – vegetarian or not!
What an amazing experience. Loved it. As I did on the journey, over and over, I still find myself saying “wow”, (wow, Lao!) whenever I’m remembering something personally or telling someone details of my trip. The smallest of incidents will bring a wow memory. Thank you for an incredible experience that I will never forget. I treasure your passion and compassion for the cultures, people, animals and places we witness. I can’t wait for my next VegVoyages Adventures.