The North and South of Laos: today part of the same country but for a long time they were separate kingdoms, although inhabited by the same ethnic group. Two local aspects united by the Mekong River, a common culture and language, that history and circumstances have sometimes separated but then recovered again without ever really dispelling them. What is certain is that both regions deserve to be discovered because no visitor can prevent himself from succumbing to the bewitching charm of their beauty and, especially, their unique atmosphere.
Day 1: LOUANG PRABANG
Arrival late morning, reception and hotel transfer. In the afternoon a tour of the peninsula formed by the Mekong and Khan rivers, where the more remarkable temples are concentrated. We visit the Wat Visounnarat, a replica of the original temple built in 1519, the oldest in the city; Wat Aham, residence of the first Buddhist patriarch in Laos; Wat May, former headquarters of the Chief of the Buddhist Church in Laos; Wat Sène, built in 1718, the first Temple of Luang Prabang in Thai style, with a yellow and red roof; Wat Sop, one of the rare temples done in the Xieng Khouang style. Finally, Wat Xieng Thong, one of the jewels in the crown, significant at the entrance to the city and among one of the sites classified as World Heritage by UNESCO, and considered private property to the royal family since 1975. Along the way we will be able to admire the many colonial buildings, remnants of the French era. Then a climb to the Summit of Phou Si hill in order to admire the sunset over the Mekong valley and the main street, where the night market is held.
2nd Day: Louang Prabang
National Museum visit in the former Royal Palace. The building itself is not fetching, however the collection of donations to the Crown is of interest. Then a boat trip down the Mekong River to the sacred caves of Pak Ou, at the confluence of the Nam and Mekong rivers. Here a stop over in a village at the edge of the river to observe the traditional activities of the locals, especially in the production process of rice alcohol. For over 3 centuries, pilgrims have come to Pak Ou to give Buddha statues as an offering or to give thanks: There are today more than 4,000,in all shapes, materials and sizes, stored well inside the cave. The caves are shallow, but are at the heart of a spectacular site right in the middle of a cliff. You get there by taking stairs that are carved in the stone. If the first is of mainly religious interest, the second, higher up, presents some beautiful limestone formations. Returning to Luang Prabang in the afternoon, to visit a village of weavers and the workshop of the grandson of the royal goldsmith, who still continues today the family tradition and makes silver coins of very high standard.
3rd Day: Louang Prabang
Day off, with a guide at your disposal to complete the visits according to a program that you can put together on the spot, in function of what you have already seen and with your preferences. Among the proposed options are a visit to the morning market, temples possibly not seen on day 1, the small museum of Traditional Arts and ethnologic (TAEC), where objects of daily use are exposed, clothing and craft products from the tribes in northern Laos. Or even a weaving centre just outside the city, an organization created to preserve traditional know-how while offering an opportunity for work to young women from the villages in the region. An elephant ride leaving from a camp 20 klms from Louang Prabang. Or simply, strolling in the streets to find secondary temples, old colonial houses, souvenir shops, or even trying out one of the many spas to discover the art of the Laos massage.
4th Day: LOUANG PRABANG – PAKSE – CHAMPASSAK
Departure by Lao Airlines to Pakse. Transfer by road in the direction of Champassak province and to the Khmer site of Vat Phou. Much older than Angkor Wat, this complex is built on the side of a hill overlooking the Mekong River, offering from its upper levels a very beautiful view over the river. Of mysterious origins, this site was always much revered by the kings of Angkor, who sent donations and offerings until the last days of their empire. Visit and settling in a small resort in the center of the provincial capital, or further on to the banks of the Mekong River.
5th Day: CHAMPASSAK – ILE DE KHONE
Transfer by road to a coastal village and departure by boat in the southernly direction, toward the area of the so-called “4.000 islands”. Landing at Don Det at the site of the north terminal and the old railway track, built by the French to circumvent the falls that made the Mekong impassable. In a field, the remnants of an old locomotive is all that is left of the colonial era which gave Laos, for a time, its first railway. Continuing up to the rapids of Li Phi, visit and booking into the resort. Rest of the day is free to relax and to profit from the exceptional environment, strolling in one’s own time, observing life and local attractions.
6th Day: ILE DE KHONE – BOLOVENS
Back on land, a visit to Phapheng waterfalls, the most important in south-east Asia and amongst the widest in the world. Then going by road to Bolovens plateau (about 2h30). Visiting one of the many waterfalls in the region (depending on the season and the water levels), as well as ethnic minority villages. The fertility of the plateau had been recognized by the early French settlers, who started the first agricultural farms, especially for coffee. Later on, during the war between Vietnam and the United States, people who lived along the Ho Chi Minh trail came here to flee from the American bombing. Booking into a resort in the heart of a tea and coffee plantation.
7th Day: BOLOVENS – PAKSE
End of plateau visits and return to Pakse for the next stage.
End of suggestions.