Laos, the Mekong & Thailand
Our fascinating Thailand and Laos tour combines one of Asia’s best-loved destinations with its least well known neighbour with immediate contrasts both apparent and intriguing. After the bright lights of Bangkok, it’s Luang Prabang in Laos - little more than a village by comparison, with quaint French colonial buildings and a charmingly slow pace of life. The beauty of the countryside along the banks of the mighty Mekong has to be seen to be believed as we learn about the many ethnic communities in this remote part of Indochina. We also explore some of the lesser known corners of Thailand - the scenic far north-east (the Golden Triangle) and the haunting remains of the Burma-Thailand railway in the south. And that’s all before spending some wonderfully relaxing days on the beaches of the Gulf of Thailand.
Bangkok is without doubt one of Asia’s most vibrant cities. Outwardly it’s ultra-modern, with soaring glass skyscrapers and luxurious shopping malls. Yet at heart it’s just a traditional Buddhist society, full of hushed street corner shrines and neighbourhoods of village houses nestling around the communal courtyards lining the banks of the bustling Chao Phraya River which bisects the city. We visit all the major sights including the extensive Grand Palace complex, home of the revered Royal Family, site of the amazing Emerald Buddha, as well as discovering the city’s more intimate riverside life.
After Bangkok it’s Luang Prabang, the cultural capital of Laos and one of the few counties in the world which can be called ‘undiscovered’. Utterly charming, after decades of isolation under communist rule, it has gradually opened up to the outside world and is wonderfully devoid of mass tourism. However, unlike nearby Vietnam, the Lao people prefer a slower pace so you’ll truly be stepping back in time. Walk along sleepy streets almost completely free of traffic and you’ll find another stunning, intricately carved golden temple around almost every corner. And you’ll delight in the long-held and thriving traditional customs – such as orange-robed Buddhist monks collecting alms from the faithful. Dusk falls and the main street metamorphoses into a charming open-air market attracting the many minority tribes from the surrounding hills. Take a walk along ‘food street’ – a long narrow lane full of sizzling barbequed Mekong fish, multi-coloured salads, noodles and vegetables, all freshly prepared in vibrant kaleidoscope of colour, rushed activity and mouth-watering aromas. Prepare for a real culinary adventure.
For a remarkable two days we travel by boat along the upper reaches of the amazing river Mekong absorbing sights of a wonderfully traditional riverside life, flora and fauna. You are way off the beaten track here and the river is much narrower than downstream in Cambodia and Vietnam. The surrounding thickly forested and sparsely populated hills almost to melt into a hazy distance. Our boat is long, narrow and open-sided to the warm tropical air. With plenty of comfortable seats and tables it’s the perfect way to experience this little known but quite extraordinary country.
Crossing back into Thailand we spend a few days at the luxury Le Meridien Resort in Chiang Rai, bordering Burma and Laos and located in Thailand’s beautiful ‘Golden Triangle’. Once the centre of extensive illicit drug production, today the region’s ethnic communities have successfully changed their way of life – mainly through the efforts of the present King’s mother. We visit her villa, set high on a mountain ridge. A keen gardener, she supervised the creation of a beautifully landscaped garden that’s arguably Thailand’s finest. The cooler temperate climate is perfect for a huge range of highland flora including rare orchids.
Then there is the poignant site of the bridge over the River Kwai. This was just one of many bridges, viaducts, cuttings and embankments built under horrific conditions by thousands of Commonwealth POWs and local labourers. The 415 mile ‘Death Railway’ between Thailand and Burma claimed the lives of over 12,000 POWs and many more civilian workers. You’ll cross the bridge itself and visit the Hellfire Pass Memorial – a simple but excellent small museum full of fascinating first-hand testimonials. A walk along the line and through the huge railway cutting itself is a haunting and moving experience that will stay with you forever.
Then we drive to the Gulf of Thailand for three relaxing days on the tropical beaches of Cha Am – free to reflect on the countless remarkable sights we’ve experienced.
One of the real highlights of any visit to Asia is of course its cuisine. You’ll have plenty of chances to sample some typically Thai and Lao dishes, both in hotels and at the bustling food stalls at night markets in Chiang Rai, Bangkok or Luang Prabang. A speciality of northeast Thailand is khao soi, a tasty mixture of both boiled and crispy egg noodles with curried coconut soup. In Laos you can try some grilled fish with minced garlic, coriander and soy sauce together with the local staple - sticky rice eaten by hand.
It’s no surprise that Thailand is known as the land of smiles – the people are genuinely friendly, polite and welcoming. In Laos service may still come with a smile, but it’s a little more laid back. So come with us and explore the cultures, scenery, cuisine and people of these two amazing and very different countries.
- · A superb tour combining two of Asia’s most enchanting countries, with amazing scenery, wonderful cultural legacies and some of the world’s most engaging people
- · Explore the upper reaches of the Mekong in Laos visiting ethnic communities on a fascinating two-day boat cruise
- · Return scheduled flights from London Heathrow, Manchester and Edinburgh.
- · Stay in four and five-star hotels, including a charming riverside eco-lodge
- · Stay and tour Luang Prabang, the incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site in Laos, acknowledged as south east Asia’s best preserved traditional town
- · Visit the poignant WWII memorial at Hellfire Pass on Burma’s ‘Death Railway’ travelling by train over the infamous ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’
- · Travel through Thailand’s famed scenic and unspoilt Golden Triangle close to the Burmese border
- · Spend three nights at Chiang Rai’s renowned four-star superior Dusit Island Resort
- · Stay in vibrant Bangkok visiting the Grand Palace and stunning golden Wat Pho temple
- · Spend three days relaxing on the tropical shores of the Gulf of Thailand at the excellent five-star Hyatt Regency Resort in Hua Hin
- · Daily breakfast and eight meals included
- · Escorted by our experienced tour manager
- Return direct scheduled flights from London Heathrow
- Stay in hand-picked four and five-star hotels, including a charming riverside eco-lodge
- Daily breakfast and eight meals included