Laos Unknown Hill Tribes (13n/14d)

Entry to the caves at Pak Ou

Entry to the caves at Pak Ou

Day 1.    Arrival – HoueiSay
On arrival at the Lao border checkpoint at HoueiSay pier, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Today you are free at your leisure to explore this town, visiting the local market and villages nearby. The surrounding areas of HoueiSay are home to 34 ethnic minority groups, the second most ethnically diverse province in Laos. Overnight in HoueiSay

Day 2.    HoueiSay – Luang Namtha
Early morning we head out the town to Luang Namtha, this will be a bumpy ride driving along dirt roads, uphill and downhill. The scenery is great and wonderful which makes it worth it; we visit hill tribe villages along the road at Muang Phouka and other surrounding area. Luang Namtha, which is located on the banks of the Namtha River, is a land of rugged mountains and beautiful tropical forests and shares its border with China and Myanmar. We arrive in Luang Namtha in late evening. Overnight in Luang Namtha (B)

Day 3.    Luang Namtha – Ban Nalan
Heading out of the town, we take a short drive to Ban Chalernsuk, a Khmu minority village 20 kilometres away from Luang Namtha. We get well and truly off the beaten track as we trek into this beautiful mountain region, using the local tracks. Today’s trekking may be tough at times with some steep uphill and down hill climbs, but the experience is unique and rewarding. The friendly Khmu hill tribe people conquer this small village; they have a primitive and basic lifestyle. We arrive at Ban Nalan by late afternoon; here we have a chance to understand a little more about the local culture and their daily lifestyle as we spend time with a Khmu family. We enjoy a local dinner and will reside as guests at the Khmu family house, the best way to experience authentic village life. The accommodation is simple dormitory style, no western facilities. (Home stay). (B, L, D)

Day 4.    Ban Nalan – Ban Namlu – Luang Namtha
Today’s trekking leads us along the bank of the river to Ban Namkoy, passing picturesque landscape of forests and rice fields. The forests here vary from a few isolated trees to overgrown bamboo. On arrival at Ban Namkoy we embark on a three-hour walk uphill. This trek is a real challenge, however some physical preparation will enable you to maximise your enjoyment from the walk. As we pass through several hamlets, we are sure to attract attention from the locals, as visitors are not frequently encountered in this remote part of the country. At the small village of Ban Namlu, we meet up with our truck and drive back towards Luang Namtha Town. Overnight in Luang Namtha (B)

Day 5.    Luang Namtha – Xieng Kok – Moung Sing
Early this morning, we travel by road to Moung Sing, also home to various hilltribe communities. There is a significant Chinese population and a lot of trade goes on between here and China. We stop along the way at the Akha hill tribe village. This ethnic group originally lived in China but immigrated into Laos over a century ago. They have a vibrant culture and an interesting history. We depart this village, heading westbound, travelling over bumpy roads to Xieng Kok, which is a border town near the golden triangle. In late afternoon, we drive back to Muong Sing with stopover at the Lantern minority village. Overnight at Moung Sing (B)

Day 6.    Muong Sing – Luang Namtha – Oudomxay
Early morning, we visit the bustling colorful Morning Market and the impressive Ethnologic museum, dedicated to the region’s ethnic minorities. This local market also attracts numerous ethnic minorities that converge from the surrounding mountainsides or valley to barter and trade their goods. We visit these sights before making our way back to Luang Namtha and then to Oudomxay. On this rough and scenic journey, we see very few travellers, mostly rural dwellers who are just as interested in finding out about our lives as we are of theirs. Overnight in Oudomxay (B)

Day 7.    Oudomxay – Nong Khiow – Luang Prabang (road and boat)
We depart early for our drive to Nong Khiow, where we board a traditional boat down the Nam Ou River to Luang Prabang. This tranquil 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”. Enroute we visit the mysterious Pak Ou Caves where thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues are crammed into the two caves carved out of a towering limestone cliff. Continue down river to Ban Sang Hay village to sample the local rice wine known as Lao Lao. Arrive in Luang Prabang in the late afternoon and transfer to hotel. Overnight in Luang Prabang (B)

Day 8.    Luang Prabang – City Tour
After breakfast, we begin our sightseeing starts with the impressive stupa of Wat Visoun, the shrine of Wat Aham, Wat Mai, then climb up to the top of Phousi Hill for an enjoyable exploration of the sacred, gilded stupa. A visit to Luang Prabang would be incomplete without ascending 329 steps to the top of Mount Phousi for an enjoyable exploration of the sacred, gilded stupa and to enjoy a beautiful sunset view of the city and its glowing reflection on the Mekong River. Overnight in Luang Prabang (B)

Day 9.    Luang Prabang – Pak Ou Cave (boat)
Today, we explore Luang Prabang further by visiting the city’s oldest temple of Wat Sene and the magnificent Wat Xiengthong, its exterior architecture is remarkable with decorated gilded stuccoes and doorways, a “tree of life” mosaic pattern set in coloured glass on the back wall and its three tiered roofs sweeping low to the ground representing classical Laotian architecture. In the afternoon we embark on a slow boat for a cruise upstream on the Mekong River, passing by lovely tranquil countryside towards the mysterious Pak Ou Caves, which are two caves crammed with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes left by devoted pilgrims. On the way, we stop at the small village of Ban Xang Hai, famous for producing local rice wine. Before returning to Luang Prabang, drive to the hilltribe village of Ban Phanom, well known for its hand weaving products. Overnight in Luang Prabang (B)

Day 10.    Luang Prabang – Vientiane – Xiengkhouang (Flight)
This morning we visit the National Museum (closed Tuesdays) at the former Royal Palace, which displays a lovely collection of the artefacts reflecting the richness of Lao culture dating from the days of the early kings right through the last sovereign. We then take a flight to Xiengkhouang via Vientiane. On arrival, we visit the “Plain of Jars”, an impressive archaeological site where hundreds of large stone jars are littered all over the plateau. The largest jar reaches a height of 3.25 metres; researchers still question the origin and significance of these jars. Overnight in Phonsavanh (B)

Day 11.    Xiengkhouang – Plain of Jars 2nd – 3rd
After breakfast we head out to the old capital of Muang Khoun province and its nearby villages, home to the Hmong hill tribe and Thai Dam people. Our excursion continues to the 2nd and 3rd Plain of jars fields, where you can obtain more scenic views. Along the way, we visit more local villages and learn about the local culture and lifestyle. Return to Phonsavanh by late afternoon. Overnight in Phonsavanh.(B)

Day  12.    Xiengkhouang – Vientiane (flight)
Today we visit the local market of Phonsavanh and nearby villages of the Hmong. You are free at your leisure until your transfer to airport for your flight to Vientiane. On arrival at Wattay airport you will be transferred to city centre. Located on the banks of the Mekong River, Vientiane is a charming and fascinating capital, with an interesting mix of Lao, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, French, Soviet and American influences. This wonderful city is best explored on foot and a guided walking tour provides you with a pleasant introduction to the main points of interest, taking in some of the city’s fine colonial architecture. We spend our evening by the Mekong River at sunset absorbing this splendid city at night. Overnight in Vientiane (B)

Day 13.    Vientiane – City Tour
Today we start visiting some the major sights, including the oldest temple Wat Sisaket, an amazing structure featuring remarkable frescoes and Buddha images. We also visit the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha Image. Enroute to Lao’s national precious heritage, the famous and sacred structure of That Luang Stupa, you will have the opportunity to take some pictures of the imposing Patuxay Monument, which is well known as Vientiane’s own Arc de Triumph. We also take a visit to the central market Talat Sao. In the late afternoon we visit the weaving village of Ban Nong Bouathong, and then we drive to the outskirt of the city to see the Buddha Park, a scattered enchanting collection of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures on the Mekong Riverside meadow, near the Friendship Bridge. There are approximately 200 religious images dating back over 500 years, which were created by a mysterious monk spreading his philosophy on life and revealing his ideas about the universe. Observing the spectacular view of over the Mekong River at sunset from one of the riverside bars is a perfect way to finish the day. (B)

Day 14.    Vientiane – Departure
After breakfast, you are free until your transfer to the airport. (B)

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