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Hidden Laos

From $3,995

  • Trek beyond the usual tourist destination of Luang Prabang to witness the hill tribe cultures of Laos’ seldom-visited north
  • Explore pre-Angkorian temples, like Vat Phou Champasak, which is older and far less touristed than Cambodia’s Angkor
  • Search for the endangered Irawaddy dolphin in the Mekong River
  • Immerse yourself in the world of Laos' fascinating hill tribes and learn about their culture

Nestled between Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, Laos is a haven for a kind of simple, unhurried lifestyle that is hard to come by in the more developed nations of the Indochina Peninsula. Designed in conjunction with our guide, Sylvain Curtil, who speaks fluent Lao, this adventure focuses on the pristine, less traveled southern and northwestern corners of the country. In the south, you’ll visit the ruins of grand temples that predate those at Angkor in Cambodia. And in the northwest you’ll enjoy interactions with Khmu and Tái Deng hill tribes who maintain a traditional lifestyle largely unchanged for generations—on a trek where you’re unlikely to see any other westerners. With all this delightful country has to offer, it’s the perfect destination for those making their first trip to Southeast Asia, and for those seeking a new perspective on this exotic region.
 

Day 1: Welcome to Vientiane, the capital of Laos

Welcome to Southeast Asia! After landing in Bangkok, Thailand, you’ll take a connecting flight (QV442 9:35am to 10:35am) to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. An MTS representative will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your elegant, boutique hotel, located in a quiet neighborhood of Vientiane. The day is free to get out and explore the city on your own. Your guide and group will gather early this evening for a brief orientation and a welcome dinner at the hotel’s La Signature Restaurant, where you’ll enjoy the city’s best French fine dining experience.

  • Dinner
  • Accomodation:Ansara Hotel

Day 2: Fly to Oudomxay and take a scenic drive to the idyllic Muang La Resort

This morning we’ll transfer to the airport for our flight to Oudomxay (QV501 11:40am to 12:30pm). Oudomxay is located along the Nam Beng River and is dominated by the stupa-topped Mount Phou That. After passing Oudomxay, we’ll travel a further 15 miles to the village of Muang La along a picturesque mountain road with no traffic. When we reach Muang La, we’ll enjoy a delicious lunch of regional fare. After lunch, we’ll check into our idyllic resort located along the shores of the river, our home for the next two nights. There we will be time to take advantage of the resort’s sauna, hot springs and/or spa treatments. Should you wish to go for a short walk, you can observe the daily life of the locals or see the nearby salt mine. The group will gather for dinner tonight at Muang La Resort to enjoy some of the best food in Northern Laos.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Muang La Resort

Day 3: Enjoy a round-trip hike through mountain villages to Ban Phongsavanh

After breakfast, we’ll leave the resort by foot and follow the Nam Pak River before turning off on a small mountain road along the side of a hidden valley. In perfect peace and quiet, we’ll begin our trek along a narrow mountain trail through the lush forest to reach the Khamu village of Huay Ho, where life flows at a relaxed pace. Here, we’ll learn about the lives of the villagers, their animist beliefs and ceremonies, and the different tools they use in the fields around the village. After another 45 minutes, we’ll reach the Lao Loum village of Ban Phongsavanh, which sits at the heart of a beautiful little valley, and then continue following the course of a mountain stream through rice fields to the top of the mountain for a picnic lunch.

In the afternoon, we’ll follow a trail with magnificent scenery, passing through local farms. We will learn how the local people forage for plants and herbs to use for food and medicine. We’ll also visit the hidden temple of Wat Hoytinphabath, which houses a 35-meter-long reclining statue of Buddha. Numerous effigies and symbols glorifying Buddha can be found in the central temple, including the Buddha’s footprints embedded in stone. The temple flows harmoniously with its surroundings and exudes an inspiring serenity. After leaving the village, we’ll follow a dirt road along the River Huay Ya back to the resort, arriving in the late afternoon for a well-deserved rest and dinner.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Muang La Resort

Day 4: Cruise the Nam Ou River to Nong Khiaw

After breakfast, we’ll drive to the charming village of Muang Khua in Phongsaly Province to observe rural life and wander beneath its iconic starburst palms. We’ll enjoy lunch together in the village before boarding a boat down the Nam Ou River to Nong Khiaw. En route, we’ll stop off in Muang Ngoi, a quaint village nestled at the foothills of a giant limestone outcropping and only accessible by boat. After visiting Muang Ngoi, we’ll board our boat and continue down the Nam Ou to Nong Khiaw. Our lodge is a peaceful haven with 15 private bungalows, each with their own patio overlooking the river, full bathroom, mosquito netting and refrigerator. After checking in, we’ll take in a short tour of the town and its surroundings with time to unwind in the private bungalows at the lodge before dinner. The sound of the nearby cicadas will make for a restful sleep tonight!

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Nong Khiaw Riverside

Day 5: Visit the Pak Ou Caves and cruise to the historic town of Luang Prabang

This morning we’ll have some time to rest during a three-hour drive to Luang Prabang. After a few hours, the Nam Ou joins with the Mekong River at a juncture known as Pak Ou, where we’ll stop and take a short boat ride to the Pak Ou Caves. Locally referred to as Tam Ting, these two caves are carved out of towering limestone cliffs and contain thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues. The images range in size from a few centimeters to the size of a human, and the detail of each one is truly astounding. Afterwards, we’ll lunch along the riverbanks near the caves and then cruise down the river towards Luang Prabang. We’ll stop along the way at Ban Sang Hay, a village where we can watch the locals make homemade rice wine, or lao lao. We’ll arrive in Luang Prabang and check into our elegant hotel for dinner and overnight.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Burasari Heritage

Day 6: Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang

Set between the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, Luang Prabang is an enchanting town filled with historic temples and colonial style buildings, which earned it UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1995. After breakfast, we’ll begin the day at the National Museum (Royal Palace), a modest but graceful building combining traditional Lao and French beaux-arts motifs. This turn-of-the century royal residence has been preserved to remain just as it was when the royal family last lived here, and it provides unique insights into the history of Laos. Afterwards, we’ll visit the richly decorated temples of Wat Mai, Wat Sene and Wat Xieng Thong, the region’s most prized treasures.

This afternoon, we’ll visit the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center, dedicated to exploring the rich diversity of Laos' ethnic minorities, where we’ll see traditional costumes, tools and artifacts on display. We’ll then continue on to Wat Visoun, the oldest temple in Luang Prabang, which dates back to 1513 and contains a collection of antique wooden Buddhas. While in the area, we’ll visit the nearby Wat Aham before climbing the hillside stairs to the small temples atop Mount Phou Si, the 100-meter hill perched above the center of the town. We’ll return to our hotel at the end of the day, and the evening is free for you to explore town, visit the evening hill tribe market, or choose from one of Luang Prabang’s restaurants.

  • Breakfast/Lunch
  • Accomodation:Burasari Heritage

Day 7: Meet the artisans of Luang Prabang and swim in the Kuangsi Waterfalls

We’ll get an early start this morning for the opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of saffron-clad Buddhist monks collecting alms from the faithful residents and tourists. This tradition is unique to Laos—the only Buddhist nation that still preserves the procession. We’ll then head back to the hotel for breakfast before setting out to visit the morning Phosi Market, where diverse offerings such as dried buffalo skin, local tea and saltpeter among the chickens, vegetables and hill-tribe weavings are for sale. We’ll continue on to visit Ock Pop Tock, a non-profit organization that seeks to preserve traditional weaving techniques, a trade which was once an important source of income for many Lao families but is slowly fading out as modern technology has evolved. We will spend time learning about the process of silk weaving, from the initial stages of creating the dyes to the final process of loom weaving.

Afterwards, we’ll drive for 20 miles to the Kuangsi Waterfalls, which cascade down a multilevel limestone formation creating a series of turquoise blue pools that are perfect to swim in on a hot day. The jungle and dense woods surrounding the falls are filled with wildlife and offer footpaths should you care to take a stroll. On the way back to Luang Prabang, we’ll stop at several villages including a Kamu village, a Hmong village, and Lao Loum Village—the principal ethnic group in Laos. Dinner is on your own again tonight.

  • Breakfast/Lunch
  • Accomodation:Burasari Heritage

Day 8: Fly to Pakse and drive to the 4,000 Islands of the Mekong River

After breakfast, we’ll transfer to the airport to catch our flight to Pakse (QV513 10:30am to 12:20pm). Upon arrival, we’ll drive to town for lunch in a local restaurant and then take a two-hour drive to the stunning 4,000 Islands. This region is so called because of the characteristic islands and churning waterways of the Khone Papheng Falls—the largest falls in southeast Asia and the main reason why the Mekong is not fully navigable into China. We'll continue on to Khong Island, the biggest island in southern Laos. In this region, the Mekong is over 14km wide and has thousands of islands between the riverbanks.

Our comfortable guesthouse is located on Khong Island (aka Don Khong), with spacious rooms, each with their own patio. After checking in, the rest of the evening is free to dine wherever you’d like, be it at the hotel or in one of the local restaurants.

  • Breakfast/Lunch
  • Accomodation:Pon Arena

Day 9: Island hop in the Mekong River

From Don Khong, we’ll travel by boat to the islands of Don Det and Don Khone; if we’re lucky, we’ll catch a glimpse of the Irrawaddy dolphins. The islands are connected by an old railway bridge and the larger island, Don Det, is famous throughout Laos for the cultivation of coconut, bamboo and kapok. On Don Khone, we’ll visit Ban Khon Village, the island’s main village with several old French villas. Our island-hopping adventure continues on to Taat Somphamit (Li Phi Falls), where we’ll explore a raging set of rapids at the western end of Don Khone. After our visit, we’ll board a vehicle and drive northwards to Champasak, stopping at Phou Asa Park for an exciting two-hour elephant ride past wetlands and villages. We’ll end the day at The River Resort in Champasak, a deluxe eco-lodge with a swimming pool and beautifully decorated private guest villas, where we’ll enjoy a delicious dinner.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:The River Resort

Day 10: Visit the temples of Champasak

Today, we’ll travel north along the east bank of the Mekong by vehicle to visit Vat Phou Museum and Vat Phou Champasak (“Mountain Temple”), one of the best-preserved examples of major Khmer architecture, some 200 years older than Angkor Wat itself. The core monument of this site consists of a main temple on the upper terrace, six shrines on the middle terrace, two palaces and Nandin Hall on the lower terrace. After visiting Vat Phou Champasak, we’ll pass through the small town of Champasak, where French colonial buildings offer a stark contrast to Vat Phou. Our journey continues on to the wood-carving village of Ban Nong Bune, before returning to our hotel for a festive farewell dinner.

  • Breakfast/Dinner
  • Accomodation:The River Resort

Day 11: Depart from Pakse and connect to Bangkok

After breakfast, we’ll transfer to Pakse International Airport for connecting flights to Bangkok and home.

  • Breakfast

Nov 30, 2015 - Dec 10, 2015

Jan 24, 2016 - Feb 03, 2016

Feb 14 - 24, 2016

Nov 27, 2016 - Dec 07, 2016

pricing

2015 / 2016 Prices
$3,995 (11-15 members)

$4,595 (6-10 members)

$4,895 (4-5 members)

$555 internal airfare – Bangkok/Vientiane/Oudomxay & Luang Prabang/Pakse
$1100 single supplement

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Ansara Hotel — Vientiane


Burasari Heritage

Muang La Resort — Muang La


Nong Khiaw Riverside — Nongkhiaw


Pon Arena — Khong Island


The River Resort — Champasak


  • Trek beyond the usual tourist destination of Luang Prabang to witness the hill tribe cultures of Laos’ seldom-visited north
  • Explore pre-Angkorian temples, like Vat Phou Champasak, which is older and far less touristed than Cambodia’s Angkor
  • Search for the endangered Irawaddy dolphin in the Mekong River
  • Immerse yourself in the world of Laos' fascinating hill tribes and learn about their culture

Nestled between Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, Laos is a haven for a kind of simple, unhurried lifestyle that is hard to come by in the more developed nations of the Indochina Peninsula. Designed in conjunction with our guide, Sylvain Curtil, who speaks fluent Lao, this adventure focuses on the pristine, less traveled southern and northwestern corners of the country. In the south, you’ll visit the ruins of grand temples that predate those at Angkor in Cambodia. And in the northwest you’ll enjoy interactions with Khmu and Tái Deng hill tribes who maintain a traditional lifestyle largely unchanged for generations—on a trek where you’re unlikely to see any other westerners. With all this delightful country has to offer, it’s the perfect destination for those making their first trip to Southeast Asia, and for those seeking a new perspective on this exotic region.
 

DAILY itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Vientiane, the capital of Laos

Welcome to Southeast Asia! After landing in Bangkok, Thailand, you’ll take a connecting flight (QV442 9:35am to 10:35am) to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. An MTS representative will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your elegant, boutique hotel, located in a quiet neighborhood of Vientiane. The day is free to get out and explore the city on your own. Your guide and group will gather early this evening for a brief orientation and a welcome dinner at the hotel’s La Signature Restaurant, where you’ll enjoy the city’s best French fine dining experience.

  • Dinner
  • Accomodation:Ansara Hotel

Day 2: Fly to Oudomxay and take a scenic drive to the idyllic Muang La Resort

This morning we’ll transfer to the airport for our flight to Oudomxay (QV501 11:40am to 12:30pm). Oudomxay is located along the Nam Beng River and is dominated by the stupa-topped Mount Phou That. After passing Oudomxay, we’ll travel a further 15 miles to the village of Muang La along a picturesque mountain road with no traffic. When we reach Muang La, we’ll enjoy a delicious lunch of regional fare. After lunch, we’ll check into our idyllic resort located along the shores of the river, our home for the next two nights. There we will be time to take advantage of the resort’s sauna, hot springs and/or spa treatments. Should you wish to go for a short walk, you can observe the daily life of the locals or see the nearby salt mine. The group will gather for dinner tonight at Muang La Resort to enjoy some of the best food in Northern Laos.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Muang La Resort

Day 3: Enjoy a round-trip hike through mountain villages to Ban Phongsavanh

After breakfast, we’ll leave the resort by foot and follow the Nam Pak River before turning off on a small mountain road along the side of a hidden valley. In perfect peace and quiet, we’ll begin our trek along a narrow mountain trail through the lush forest to reach the Khamu village of Huay Ho, where life flows at a relaxed pace. Here, we’ll learn about the lives of the villagers, their animist beliefs and ceremonies, and the different tools they use in the fields around the village. After another 45 minutes, we’ll reach the Lao Loum village of Ban Phongsavanh, which sits at the heart of a beautiful little valley, and then continue following the course of a mountain stream through rice fields to the top of the mountain for a picnic lunch.

In the afternoon, we’ll follow a trail with magnificent scenery, passing through local farms. We will learn how the local people forage for plants and herbs to use for food and medicine. We’ll also visit the hidden temple of Wat Hoytinphabath, which houses a 35-meter-long reclining statue of Buddha. Numerous effigies and symbols glorifying Buddha can be found in the central temple, including the Buddha’s footprints embedded in stone. The temple flows harmoniously with its surroundings and exudes an inspiring serenity. After leaving the village, we’ll follow a dirt road along the River Huay Ya back to the resort, arriving in the late afternoon for a well-deserved rest and dinner.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Muang La Resort

Day 4: Cruise the Nam Ou River to Nong Khiaw

After breakfast, we’ll drive to the charming village of Muang Khua in Phongsaly Province to observe rural life and wander beneath its iconic starburst palms. We’ll enjoy lunch together in the village before boarding a boat down the Nam Ou River to Nong Khiaw. En route, we’ll stop off in Muang Ngoi, a quaint village nestled at the foothills of a giant limestone outcropping and only accessible by boat. After visiting Muang Ngoi, we’ll board our boat and continue down the Nam Ou to Nong Khiaw. Our lodge is a peaceful haven with 15 private bungalows, each with their own patio overlooking the river, full bathroom, mosquito netting and refrigerator. After checking in, we’ll take in a short tour of the town and its surroundings with time to unwind in the private bungalows at the lodge before dinner. The sound of the nearby cicadas will make for a restful sleep tonight!

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Nong Khiaw Riverside

Day 5: Visit the Pak Ou Caves and cruise to the historic town of Luang Prabang

This morning we’ll have some time to rest during a three-hour drive to Luang Prabang. After a few hours, the Nam Ou joins with the Mekong River at a juncture known as Pak Ou, where we’ll stop and take a short boat ride to the Pak Ou Caves. Locally referred to as Tam Ting, these two caves are carved out of towering limestone cliffs and contain thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues. The images range in size from a few centimeters to the size of a human, and the detail of each one is truly astounding. Afterwards, we’ll lunch along the riverbanks near the caves and then cruise down the river towards Luang Prabang. We’ll stop along the way at Ban Sang Hay, a village where we can watch the locals make homemade rice wine, or lao lao. We’ll arrive in Luang Prabang and check into our elegant hotel for dinner and overnight.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Burasari Heritage

Day 6: Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang

Set between the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, Luang Prabang is an enchanting town filled with historic temples and colonial style buildings, which earned it UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1995. After breakfast, we’ll begin the day at the National Museum (Royal Palace), a modest but graceful building combining traditional Lao and French beaux-arts motifs. This turn-of-the century royal residence has been preserved to remain just as it was when the royal family last lived here, and it provides unique insights into the history of Laos. Afterwards, we’ll visit the richly decorated temples of Wat Mai, Wat Sene and Wat Xieng Thong, the region’s most prized treasures.

This afternoon, we’ll visit the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center, dedicated to exploring the rich diversity of Laos' ethnic minorities, where we’ll see traditional costumes, tools and artifacts on display. We’ll then continue on to Wat Visoun, the oldest temple in Luang Prabang, which dates back to 1513 and contains a collection of antique wooden Buddhas. While in the area, we’ll visit the nearby Wat Aham before climbing the hillside stairs to the small temples atop Mount Phou Si, the 100-meter hill perched above the center of the town. We’ll return to our hotel at the end of the day, and the evening is free for you to explore town, visit the evening hill tribe market, or choose from one of Luang Prabang’s restaurants.

  • Breakfast/Lunch
  • Accomodation:Burasari Heritage

Day 7: Meet the artisans of Luang Prabang and swim in the Kuangsi Waterfalls

We’ll get an early start this morning for the opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of saffron-clad Buddhist monks collecting alms from the faithful residents and tourists. This tradition is unique to Laos—the only Buddhist nation that still preserves the procession. We’ll then head back to the hotel for breakfast before setting out to visit the morning Phosi Market, where diverse offerings such as dried buffalo skin, local tea and saltpeter among the chickens, vegetables and hill-tribe weavings are for sale. We’ll continue on to visit Ock Pop Tock, a non-profit organization that seeks to preserve traditional weaving techniques, a trade which was once an important source of income for many Lao families but is slowly fading out as modern technology has evolved. We will spend time learning about the process of silk weaving, from the initial stages of creating the dyes to the final process of loom weaving.

Afterwards, we’ll drive for 20 miles to the Kuangsi Waterfalls, which cascade down a multilevel limestone formation creating a series of turquoise blue pools that are perfect to swim in on a hot day. The jungle and dense woods surrounding the falls are filled with wildlife and offer footpaths should you care to take a stroll. On the way back to Luang Prabang, we’ll stop at several villages including a Kamu village, a Hmong village, and Lao Loum Village—the principal ethnic group in Laos. Dinner is on your own again tonight.

  • Breakfast/Lunch
  • Accomodation:Burasari Heritage

Day 8: Fly to Pakse and drive to the 4,000 Islands of the Mekong River

After breakfast, we’ll transfer to the airport to catch our flight to Pakse (QV513 10:30am to 12:20pm). Upon arrival, we’ll drive to town for lunch in a local restaurant and then take a two-hour drive to the stunning 4,000 Islands. This region is so called because of the characteristic islands and churning waterways of the Khone Papheng Falls—the largest falls in southeast Asia and the main reason why the Mekong is not fully navigable into China. We'll continue on to Khong Island, the biggest island in southern Laos. In this region, the Mekong is over 14km wide and has thousands of islands between the riverbanks.

Our comfortable guesthouse is located on Khong Island (aka Don Khong), with spacious rooms, each with their own patio. After checking in, the rest of the evening is free to dine wherever you’d like, be it at the hotel or in one of the local restaurants.

  • Breakfast/Lunch
  • Accomodation:Pon Arena

Day 9: Island hop in the Mekong River

From Don Khong, we’ll travel by boat to the islands of Don Det and Don Khone; if we’re lucky, we’ll catch a glimpse of the Irrawaddy dolphins. The islands are connected by an old railway bridge and the larger island, Don Det, is famous throughout Laos for the cultivation of coconut, bamboo and kapok. On Don Khone, we’ll visit Ban Khon Village, the island’s main village with several old French villas. Our island-hopping adventure continues on to Taat Somphamit (Li Phi Falls), where we’ll explore a raging set of rapids at the western end of Don Khone. After our visit, we’ll board a vehicle and drive northwards to Champasak, stopping at Phou Asa Park for an exciting two-hour elephant ride past wetlands and villages. We’ll end the day at The River Resort in Champasak, a deluxe eco-lodge with a swimming pool and beautifully decorated private guest villas, where we’ll enjoy a delicious dinner.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:The River Resort

Day 10: Visit the temples of Champasak

Today, we’ll travel north along the east bank of the Mekong by vehicle to visit Vat Phou Museum and Vat Phou Champasak (“Mountain Temple”), one of the best-preserved examples of major Khmer architecture, some 200 years older than Angkor Wat itself. The core monument of this site consists of a main temple on the upper terrace, six shrines on the middle terrace, two palaces and Nandin Hall on the lower terrace. After visiting Vat Phou Champasak, we’ll pass through the small town of Champasak, where French colonial buildings offer a stark contrast to Vat Phou. Our journey continues on to the wood-carving village of Ban Nong Bune, before returning to our hotel for a festive farewell dinner.

  • Breakfast/Dinner
  • Accomodation:The River Resort

Day 11: Depart from Pakse and connect to Bangkok

After breakfast, we’ll transfer to Pakse International Airport for connecting flights to Bangkok and home.

  • Breakfast

Ansara Hotel — Vientiane


Burasari Heritage

Muang La Resort — Muang La


Nong Khiaw Riverside — Nongkhiaw


Pon Arena — Khong Island


The River Resort — Champasak


Dates and Pricing

Nov 30, 2015 - Dec 10, 2015

Jan 24, 2016 - Feb 03, 2016

Feb 14 - 24, 2016

Nov 27, 2016 - Dec 07, 2016

pricing

2015 / 2016 Prices
$3,995 (11-15 members)

$4,595 (6-10 members)

$4,895 (4-5 members)

$555 internal airfare – Bangkok/Vientiane/Oudomxay & Luang Prabang/Pakse
$1100 single supplement

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