Today is arrival day so there are no activities planned. You are free to relax, explore the city & adjust to the frantic pace and humid heat of Bangkok. Please arrive at our start point hotel before 6pm for an important group meeting where you will meet you Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and the other group members. Please look for a sign on the hotel's notice board for the time and location of your group meeting. At this meeting your CEO will ask to sight your travel insurance, check that you have a visas for Vietnam and complete some other paper work. Please note that you MUST arrive on tour with your Vietnam visa. Please refer to the visa information section of these trip notes for more information on obtaining your Vietnamese visa. After your meeting, you may choose to head out for an optional dinner to further get to know your CEO and fellow group members. We spend this evening in Bangkok. Our hotel is located in China Town, next to the central train station and MRT (Subway), and is only a short USD2 taxi ride from Khao San road and the central shopping area of Siam Square, MBK, Siam Paragon, etc. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. The hotel has a small pool and wifi is available at extra cost.
Enjoy a one-hour long tail boat tour of Bangkok's famous klongs, or canals. Our boat trip finishes at the Royal Temple of Wat Po. Our included guide will introduce you to Thai Buddhist culture and show you the famous reclining Buddha. When your guided tour ends there will still be time for some afternoon shopping, a visit to Grand Palace or a stroll through the backpacker area. We will meet back at the hotel within easy walking distance to the train station where we board our overnight train to Chiang Mai. Tonight's accommodation is an overnight sleeper train. Beds are dormitory style, with bunks on two layers along the side of the train carriage. There are curtains along each bunk for privacy. Your luggage will be accessible during the journey. The train has air-conditioning and clean bedding is provided for each bunk. There are both western style and asian style toilets at the end of each carriage. Food and drinks are served on the train but you can always bring your own food from the shops and restaurants in the train station. Note: Due to disruptions of Thai trains in the north during the monsoon season, trips running July through October may be upgraded to a flight and extra hotel night in Chiang Mai. Approx travel time: Overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: 12-13 hours.
We arrive in the early morning and have free time to explore for the rest of the day. To fill your free time you can chose from a large range of optional activities or stroll the city independently. Surrounded by rolling hills, Chiang Mai is the cultural center of Thailand. Enclosed by a moat and crumbling walls, the old city features great cafes, shops and over 300 temples. Many visitors come here to attend cooking courses, massage classes or yoga lessons. It is also a mecca of handicraft production, with a long history of silverwork, woodcarving, pottery-making and weaving. A trip out to the countryside is available for those interested in riding elephants or cruising down a stream on a bamboo raft. The fun does not end when the sun goes down, as the night bazaaar opens. The bazaar is a series of covered markets, shops and stalls that offer the best selection of handicrafts in Thailand. Late afternoon we set off to visit the temple complex, Doi Suthep. Here we can delve deeper into Thai Buddhist culture and we may be fortunate enough to witness the chanting of the monks. We overnight in Chiang Mai. Our hotel is well located within walking distance to Chiang Mai Night Bazaar and other city destinations. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Free wifi is available. Approx travel time: Private transport Chang Mai to Doi Suthep temple: 45 mins each way.
A 5 hour bus drive takes us to Chiang Khong where our guesthouse affords spectacular views of the Mekong River. Enroute we can visit Wat Rong Khun - the dazzling White Temple. Wander the local food market or sit back and enjoy the slow pace of life as we spend our last evening in Thailand peering across the Mekong into Laos. We spend one night in Chiang Khong, a small border town which is a part of the trade route between Laos and Thailand. Free wifi is available in the lobby at no charge. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Approx travel time: Private transport Chiang Mai to Chiang Kong: 5 hours
We cross the river border today to Laos by small local boats to Ban Houay Xai and Lao Immigration. Once we have completed the immigration process we take a songthaew (local bus) to our traditional slow boat. As we travel down the Mekong River you slowly adjust to the relaxed pace of life in Laos. A predominantly mountainous country, we have unsurpassable views of the riverside villages, the tropical jungle and the mountains. Our private boat is reasonably comfortable and spacious. A toilet is available on board. Fruits, tea and coffee, are provided free of charge for you to enjoy and other drinks, such as water and soft drinks are all available for purchase on the boat. It can be quite cold from November to February so make sure you have some warm gear packed. We overnight in Pak Beng village, a stopover for local traders heading to Luang Prabang. As for tourists, the town offers an interesting vibe and good introduction to Laos. Our guesthouse is located some 200 meters from the pier. All rooms are double or twin share with Fan and en suite bathrooms. Approx travel time: Songthaew hotel to border: 10 min Songthaew to boat: 10 min Chiang Kong to Pak Beng: 8-10 hours depending on river conditions
On day 6, we approach Luang Prabang in the late afternoon. Before arriving, we will make a stop outside of town at the Pak Ou caves. This dramatic cave houses thousands of Buddha statues and images and is considered an important spiritual sight by many Lao people. After our visit, we re-board the boat and continue to Luang Prabang, arriving around 5pm. Located at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, Luang Prabang is without a doubt the most charming city in Laos and one of the loveliest towns in the whole of South East Asia. The center of the UNESCO world heritage listed town is quite small and is accessible either on foot or by bicycle. You can visit the most impressive of Luang Prabang’s 32 temples including Vat Vixoun, Vat Sene, and Vat Xiengthong. Why not pack a picnic to eat on Phousi Hill and watch the sun set over the horizon or rise at dawn to watch the monks walk through the city collecting offerings of food from the locals. Take an afternoon to browse the many textile galleries and relax and enjoy a local coffee in on of the town's cafes. We take a tour of the Ethnology Museum- a great chance to learn more about the dress and customs of the local people. We also make a half-day trip out to the stunning Kuang Si waterfalls. Don't forget your swimsuit. During our stay, we will enjoy a traditional Lao meal experience in a local home partaking in a traditional Buddhist ceremony and enjoying some Laos delicacies. We overnight three nights in Luang Prabang. Our hotel is centrally located within walking distance to Luang Prabang Night Market. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Free wifi is available. Approx travel time: Pak Beng to Luang Prabang: 8-10 hours depending on river conditions
Embark on a scenic drive through winding mountains to a village to experience a local homestay. Enjoy traditional Laotian food while getting to know your host family. Here, your local guide will explain the life of the people in this village. Typically, the group is divided into 2 or more homes in close proximity to each other. Mattresses are placed across the floor in the central living area for sleeping. Each mattress will also include a blanket, pillow and a mosquito net. Bathroom facilities are shared. The evening meal is eaten together in one of the houses. The food will be very simple and an excellent opportunity to experience typical Lao cuisine. A vegetarian option will be available. On Day 10 we drive to the picturesque town of Vang Vieng. Surrounded by limestone karsts, Vang Vieng is ideal for exploring the countryside by bicycle. Our hotel in Vang Vieng all rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Free wifi is available. Approx travel time: Private transport Luang Prabang to Homestay/Vang Vieng: 7 hours on a winding mountain road.
A drive out of the mountains takes us to one of Asia's sleepiest capital cities. Enjoy the highlights of Vientiane including Wat Sisaket, one of the city's oldest and most fascinating temples and Phat That Luang, Lao's national symbol and one of her most sacred sites. For those who like to shop, don't miss the Morning Market, which, incidentally, is open all day! Our hotel is centrally located within walking distance of all the town’s main sights. All hotel rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning, safe deposit box, and en suite bathrooms. Free wifi is available. Approx travel time: Private transport Vang Vieng to Vientiane: 3 hours
A short flight on day 12 takes us away from quiet Laos and into the bustling city of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. A leisurely walk through the Old Quarter perhaps followed by a traditional Vietnamese meal are the perfect way to start your visit to this diverse country. On day 13 we visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, his Presidential Palace and House on Stilts. The Mausoleum houses the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh, the founding father of unified Vietnam. Please note: the mausoleum and museum are closed for refurbishment from October-November each year. During the afternoon, your time is free to explore this beautiful city. Visit the Tran Quoc Pagoda, the Temple of Literature, the Museum of Ethnology or just take a walk through Hanoi's Old Quarter – a virtual maze of fascinating streets, each one traditionally devoted to a different product or industry. Late afternoon or early evening, we attend a performance of Vietnam's famous water puppets before sampling one of Hanoi's amazing eating venues. Ask your CEO to tell you more about the local Northern delicacies. We spend two nights in Hanoi. Our hotel is located in the Old Quarter. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Free wifi and a public computer are available at the lobby. Approx travel time: Flight Vientiane to Ha Noi: 1.5 hours. Transfer from airport to hotel: 45 mins There is an opportunity to exchange money or use an ATM at the airport Please note: As this is a combination trip, some of your tour members many depart in Hanoi and you may be joined by some new traveling companions on Day 13.
You can depart at any time today. We look forward to receiving your evaluation regarding this tour itinerary and your CEOs performance. We value your input into what we could improve to make this trip even better and of course love hearing about what we are already doing well! You will be sent a post tour email on your return with details on how to go in line and fill in this simple form. Thank you so much in advance. Some of your group will most likely continue traveling south through Vietnam with G Adventures. If you are interested in ongoing travel in Vietnam and Cambodia have a look at the following trips on our website: Classic Vietnam Hanoi to Saigon http://www.gadventures.com/trips/classic-vietnam-hanoi-to-saigon/AVCH/2012/ or Essential Vietnam and Cambodia http://www.gadventures.com/trips/essential-vietnam-cambodia/AVEV/2012/